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Collections at Coughton Court

The West Front of Coughton Court, Warwickshire, with the 16th-century Gate Tower in the centre and two 18th-century-era wings on either side.
Coughton Court's West Front | © National Trust Images / Robert Morris

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 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.

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

The Tabula Eliensis

A legacy of heightened tensions between England and Spain, the Tabula Eliensis records the experience of the Catholic gentry between 1588 and 1594.

This painted cloth presents nearly 1,000 years of the history of Ely in Cambridgeshire through painting, heraldry and text.

The Spanish Armadas

In 1588, Philip II of Spain assembled the largest fleet ever seen in Europe and set sail towards England. Spanish – and Catholic – conquest felt certain. Known today as the defeated Spanish Armada, this was the first of several invasion attempts.

During these turbulent years, Queen Elizabeth I and her advisors questioned the loyalty of the Catholic gentry. Between 1588 and 1596, at times of high alert, they repeatedly ordered that influential Catholics should be interned.

These gentlemen were held at Ely, Broughton and Banbury. Their heraldic crests are recorded on the painted cloth.

A history of Ely

Ely Cathedral is shown at the top in the centre of the painted cloth. The text to either side discusses the importance of charitable foundations and the former role of monasteries in society.

This is surrounded by an early history of the monastery at Ely, followed by a sequence of the 40 Knights whom William the Conqueror stationed at Ely.

The middle section contains a series of portrait roundels of monarchs to Elizabeth I, with their abbots, priors, deans and bishops of Ely.

Beneath these are the arms of the Catholic internees, including Thomas Throckmorton of Coughton Court.

A Tudor mystery

The painted cloth was made in England in 1596. It is not known who made or commissioned it, or how it came to Coughton Court.

It measures 2.8m x 2.2m and is formed from two pieces of canvas, painted in oil. It was probably used to decorate and help insulate a room.

By recording the experiences of the Catholic gentry, the cloth also delivered several symbolic messages.

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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