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Collections at Coughton Court

Image of the Tabula Eliensis, an oil painting on linen depicting monks, knights, bishops and kings and queens from William Rufus to Elizabeth I.
The Tabula Eliensis in the Tower Room at Coughton Court | © National Trust Images / John Hammond

Coughton Court is home to over 2000 historic items, many of which can be seen on a visit. Take a closer look at two of the most important items in the collection – the Throckmorton coat and the Tabula Eliensis.

The property is now closed for winter.

The property is now closed for winter. We look forward to welcoming you back on 10 February 2024.

The Throckmorton Coat

In 1811, Sir John Throckmorton, 5th Baronet of Coughton Court, entered a bet to prove that a coat could be made in just one day – from sunrise when the wool was on the backs of two sheep, to sunset when the brown tailored coat rested on his shoulders.

A sure bet

He laid down a 1,000-guinea bet – equating to around £64,000 today. Luckily, Sir John won and wore it to dinner that night. You can see the very coat on display in the Saloon along with a portrait of him wearing it. These pieces of history are presented alongside family chattels, books and photographs.

The sixteenth-century Gate Tower on the West Front at Coughton Court, with a row of pyramid-shaped topiary hedges and a lawn at the front
The Gate Tower on the West Front at Coughton Court | © National Trust Images / Robert Morris

Recreating the historic coat

To celebrate the 600-year anniversary of the Throckmorton family at Coughton, a twenty-first-century version of the coat was created and presented to Mrs McLaren-Throckmorton’s grandson, Magnus Birch.

Inspired by the collection

Created by Herefordshire-based textile artists Rebecca Griffiths and Victoria Geary, who run the company 'Pretty Rubbish', the coat was made from a variety of fabrics and recycled material, taking inspiration from the intricate family history and visual information gathered from Coughton Court.

Every design on the new coat comes from an idea, design or image found in the house including lace detail found in family portraits, patterns found on books and wallpaper as well as designs from the dole gate and the family crest.

They used the traditional tailcoat idea and incorporated ideas like 'hidden pockets' and encased buttons. These details reflect the Thockmorton family’s commitment to Catholicism as demonstrated in the house by the numerous priest holes.

Gate Tower on the West Front at Coughton Court, Warwickshire
Gate Tower on the West Front at Coughton Court | © National Trust Images/Robert Morris

The Tabula Eliensis

Discovered in a roof-space in 1900 by Sir William Throckmorton, the Tabula Eliensis is a protest document against the treatment of Roman Catholics who remained loyal to the Pope. It commemorates those recusants (Catholics who refused to attend the Church of England) who were imprisoned by the government.

A controversial cloth

It was made in England in 1596 during the reign of Elizabeth I, when religious tensions ran high with a series of plots to overthrow the Queen. Families such as the Throckmortons who lived at Coughton were seen as potential enemies of the State.

Made in secrecy

It’s not clear who made it, but the tabula would have been made in great secrecy, as their lives would have been at risk if they had been discovered. It was probably made by the artists of a similar cloth in Ely Cathedral. The cloth is over nine feet wide, formed by two pieces of canvas, and the whole surface is painted in oil.

Its purpose was to be displayed during Mass and was probably carried from house to house by an itinerant Catholic priest.

Identifying victims and culprits

Near the top of the cloth is a representation of Ely Cathedral, a city where many Catholics were imprisoned.

After the inscriptions are several heads in roundels. Those in blue are kings and those in brown are monks and clerics. Towards the bottom of the tabula one can make out the heads of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth.

The seven panels at the bottom contain the shields of the families who were imprisoned by the government. The shield of Thomas Throckmorton is in the fifth panel.

See the protest up close

Go back in time to a state of unrest and gaze upon the Tabula Eliensis in the Tower Room.

Sideboard with silver and china tea set alongside family photographs in Lady Lilian's Room at Coughton Court, Warwickshire.

Coughton Court's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Coughton Court on the National Trust Collections website.

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