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Pix & Notes: Baddesley Clinton

I visited Baddesley Clinton (in 2009, my first research-only trip to England. It’s one of mybaddesley_clinton favorite stately homes, the one I would live in if I had a different life to live and wanted to spend it in the English countryside (which I love, but not that much.)

This is one of the places where I had to hoof it fleetly to catch the train back to Stratford-upon-Avon, where I was staying. This because I eccentrically refuse to drive a car whilst in England. Partly because of the wrong-side-of-the-road thing, partly because I like to rubber-neck, and partly because it seems rude to pollute other people’s countries by burning additional fossil fuels. Eccentric; I said it already!

bad_clint6I must have taken the train from Stratford to Lapworth and then walked 1.5 miles, which isn’t very far. So this isn’t the place I’m remembering, whence I had to walk as fast as I was able for about 3 miles. They do tend to run together over time.

The train lets you off at a station-less stop. You hike along a narrow two-lane road with high hedges on either side cutting off the view. Peugeots zoom past you at a hair-raising speed. You see no other pedestrians or cyclists. You reach the entrance to the stately property and gratefully turn onto a narrow lane, free of Peugeots, lined with graceful rows of ancient trees between whose trunks you admire the rolling greenery dotted with sheep or cows. Then at last you come around a corner and enjoy an artfully crafted first glimpse of the historical building you’ve walked so far to see.

A whirlwind history

(From the booklet.) A Saxon called Baeddi first cleared this site in the Forest of Arden. Then along came the de Clintons in the thirteenth century, undoubtedly Normans. They sensibly dug the moat. If you owned anything worth capturing, like a daughter with a dowry or a hall full of plate, you needed a defensible dwelling. Not to mention all the handy fish.

John Brome, a lawyer from Warwick, acquired the manor in 1438. That’s the guy that attracted my interest. They don’t say which Inn of Court he belonged to, but it could have been any of them. Gray’s is known to have existed from at least 1370. This is just the sort of house my legal gentlemen would reside in between court terms, if I ever let them leave London, which I don’t, because Francis Bacon rarely left. He stuck close to the royal court, which followed the monarch, usually to the palaces up and down the Thames. One of these books, though, they’re all heading out some rural county. Then they’ll stay in house modeled on Bad Clint, moat and all.

Brome’s heir was a daughter, who married Sir Edward Ferrers. He remodeled the place, leaving it in more or less the shape we find it today. The house remained in the Ferrers family until 1980, when they were able to leave it to the National Trust with a sufficient endowment to take care of it. Thoughtful people! There’s an Edward Ferrers in Wikipedia in my period of interest (c.1573–1639.) He gets a mention because he was a Member of Parliament. He can’t be a Bad Clint Ferrers, though, because his father was from Fiddlington in Devonshire.

The Quartet

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Marmion Edward Ferrers

We skip merrily past the intervening generations to the late nineteenth century. In 1867, Marmion Edward Ferrers married Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen, a name you could not make up. Shortly after, Rebecca’s aunt, Lady Georgiana Chatterton and her husband Edward Heneage Dering moved in too. The four friends devoted themselves to the arts and religion. That latter may have been mentioned to discourage the sorts of thoughts I know you were all thinking when you first heard about that foursome. Two Eds, a Dulcibella, and a Lady Chatterton? Which religion did they say they were practicing?

 

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Rebecca Dulcibella’s self-portrait
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Lady Chatterton

Rebecca and Ed Dering married after their other spouses died. I smell trouble, but the National Trust doesn’t indulge in such unsavory fantasies. Besides, Lady C, the oldest of the group, died in 1876 and Marmion in 1884 — a long time to wait between murders with a marital motive.

Rev. Joseph Kelly moved in to keep things kosher, Catholic-style, saying mass every Sunday in the private chapel. Edward and Rebecca married after Kelly left in 1885. Well, they pretty much had to, didn’t they?

Edward died in 1882; Rebecca held on until 1923. The house passed to Marmion’s nephew’s son, a Ferrers, who was forced to start selling off the furnishings to keep the house afloat. After a period of struggle, trying to figure out how best to preserve this lovely historic building, the family managed to hand it off to the National Trust.

Rebecca was an accomplished painter. Now that I’ve spent so much time on these folks, I have to show you the portraits she painted, which was not my intention at all when I first started this post!

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Lady Chatterton’s lover, Edward Dering

Floor plans should be mandatory

Even the National Trust booklet is better than average, with a handy floor plan right inside the front cover! Without a floor plan in the book, I have to stand in a corner trying to sketch the layout in my notebook, rigorously refusing to look up at the inevitable, helpful volunteers who stand around accosting visitors, eager to share their scanty knowledge of the worthies who last lived in the house. I have nothing against either the worthies or the volunteers, but that’s not what I’m there for. I need a hat that says, “Please don’t bother me; I’m trying to think.” A t-shirt won’t do, since in England, I’m probably wearing a raincoat.

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I feel like this is turned around… You walk in through the entrance hall and work your way to the left, not the right. The rooms toward the right — the darkened ones — aren’t open to the public, dash it all!

There’s plenty of space for two artistic, religious couples, both for sleeping and for spreading out to separate corners to read, write, and paint. Lady Chatterton and Edward Deering wrote novels, by the way; romances, which achieved some critical acclaim, but never the commercial success they hoped for. They’re on the shelves in the library, which is the room that most attracted me. A really nice place to work. Or loll about reading romances.

The house on the whole felt comfortable to me. Nice-sized rooms, neither big enough to be drafty nor small enough to feel cramped, lots of leaded windows set into deep stone walls, and the long landing and gallery upstairs so you could get to your room without passing through all the intervening ones — a floor plan I particularly dislike. 

Interior

Interior pix were scanned from the booklet. Now I remember the place, I realize I would rather live in Eastbury House in Barking, and not just because I’m a city girl at heart. But Bad Clint is the model for my characters who live in their country manors most of the time, like Benjamin Whitt. We never go there in the books, but I like to know what my people are up to even when I’m not with them. Nosy, huh? They think so. (Shhh.)

Also, I wouldn’t like living in a house with a moat, not without moat people to tend it and plenty of carp to eat the algae. Then the Labrador would be in there all the time, chasing the fish. A great big mess! But it’s fun to take pictures of moated houses.

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The great hall, in another of Rebecca’s paintings. Really not big enough for the roasting of oxen and feasting with many retainers. Definitely a quieter, more lawyerly, hall.
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The kitchen, as it was in the early 1900s.

 

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A bedroom, with a fireplace bigger than the bed. In Victorian times, when fuel was more scarce, it might only rarely have been lit.
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And the lovely library. I could work here, no problemo.

Exterior

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The inner courtyard and main entrance

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In case you take your boat across the moat

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The gardens

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A tree covered in deliriously fragrant eglantine
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They have a moat AND a lily pond.

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References

Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire. 1998. The National Trust.

 

 

 

 

Pix & notes: Coughton Court

I visited Coughton Court in 2009, on the first trip I made purely for book research. It was June Coughton Courtand every rose in England was blooming. I was staying in Stratford-upon-Avon and eccentrically insisted on using public transportation to get around. The bus driver on the A435 seemed surprised and disgruntled at having to stop at this unusual place to let me off and rigorously refused to understand my English. Luckily, some of the passengers — old folks with shopping baskets — leapt to my assistance. You don’t get that kind of fun when you drive!

The Throckmortons

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Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, from the National Portrait Gallery

Members of this illustrious family have been living in this spectacular house since the mid-sixteenth century, which makes them ancient in our day, but newly feathered in Francis Bacon’s. The gatehouse was built by Sir George Throckmorton, who found time between sessions of Parliament and opposing King Henry VIII’s break with Rome to father 8 sons and 9 daughters. A busy man!

And a long-suffering wife, Katherine Vaux, daughter of the first Baron Vaux of Harrowden and Elizabeth FitzHugh, descendant of Edward III. Sir George spent some harrowing months in the Tower for his pro-Catholic words and deeds, but he managed to escape hanging, probably thanks to his wife’s excellent connections.

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The irresistible Sir Walter. Portrait by Nicholas Hilliard, from the National Portrait Gallery.

 

His successor at Coughton Court, eldest son Robert, was equally committed to the Catholic cause. His Wikipedia page has obviously been edited by a Catholic — the word ‘persecution’ appears repeatedly. Watch out for those loaded words, boys and girls! ‘Prosecute’ is a neutral term describing a legal action. ‘Persecute’ is a drama word, identifying a villain and a martyr. Since two of Sir Robert’s grandchildren and one of his sons-in-law were actually convicted of conspiring to assassinate the queen, I would suggest the phrase “justifiably suspicious of” to describe the attitude of the government toward the Throckmortons of Coughton Court.

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton was the fourth of Sir George’s sons. He was brought up in the household of Catherine Parr, Henry’s last wife and a committed Protestant. (This was undoubtedly one of those child-rearing exchange programs the upper class engaged in back then.) He thus had the advantage of being on board with the new religion from the get-go. He became one of Queen Elizabeth’s most trusted diplomats. His daughter Elizabeth married Sir Walter Raleigh in 1591, getting both her and Sir Walter in hot water with the queen.

The National Trust has owned the house since 1946, although Throckmortons continue to live there today and manage the nursery.

The gatehouse

dining room Coughton CourtI scanned these photos from the National Trust souvenir book. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the house ourselves. The exterior pix are all mine. That’s the gatehouse from the front at the top of this post.

The house has a priest hole, but those things are deuced difficult to take pictures of. There is also a winding stone staircase leading up to the roof, whence you’ll find a magnificent view. Apparently this was a popular destination for dinner guests in the eighteenth century. I can imagine women in Regency dresses climbing that stair, or women wearing bum rolls to bell their skirts, but I don’t see how Georgian panniers could possibly fit.

The dining room, like most of the gatehouse, was extensively repaired and remodeled in 1956, bedroom coughton_courtpresumably by the National Trust. The lovely oak paneling and the marble chimney-piece date from the time of Charles I, who was James I’s second son. Bacon must have known him.

This room, called the Tapestry Bedroom, is a composition of Victorian elements. In earlier centuries, that tester would have been the real thing, covering the whole bed to keep rats and other things from falling on you while you sleep. It would support full curtains too, to keep out those dangerous drafts.

The gardens

The house is interesting, but it’s far from the main draw. Coughton Court has extensive grounds and several connected walled gardens, all of which are breathtakingly beautiful, especially in late June, when I was there. The grounds are 25 acres and every inch is beautifully landscaped. There isn’t a view on the property, any way you might turn, that isn’t stunning. I’d love to visit again in a different season.

References

National Trust. 2002. Coughton Court Warwickshire: House and Gardens. Norwich: Jarrold Publishing.