Elizabethan places: Coughton Court

coughton-courtBacon, like many Elizabethans, like to frame complex arguments in pithy metaphors composed of familiar parts. One of my favorites comes from a letter of advice he wrote to Queen Elizabeth in 1584, when he was only 23. The topic is how to deal with the English Catholics and their perennial unrest. Her majesty (Dread Sovereign, to use his term of address) must decide if she will “suffer them to be strong, to make them better content, or if you will discontent them, to make them weaker.”

Making them stronger is too risky. She would only succeed in enabling them to seek revenge for past injuries. Furthermore, the only way to make them happier is to make her faithful subjects (Protestants) unhappier.

And here comes the quote I like: “To fasten a reconciled love with the loosing of a certain, is to build houses with the sale of lands.”

It’s the second half that I like as a lovely, compact expression of foolish bartering. If you sell the land to get the money to build the house, where do you think you’re going to build that house? Goose!

Coat-un Court

That’s how it’s pronounced. Not Coffton, nor Cotton, nor yet Coxxton. It’s in Warwickshire, not far from Stratford-upon-Avon. I took the bus, sparing myself the heavy traffic on the A46. This was late June, 2009, and one of my lovelier trips, I must say.

Why, you ask? Because all of lovely green England is abloom with bright flowers! Especially roses, including fragrant eglantine that twines into trees. Coughton Court has exceptionally fine gardens. Let’s start with flowers and save the history for last.



Well, they don’t line up very nicely in WordPress. I took dozens of pictures of flowers that day; I couldn’t help myself. And there were all the other lovely aspects of the gardens around the house.


hedgeAll these pretty little walled gardens, the delight of the late medieval / early modern period in which this house was built. They liked to make peek-a-bos in hedges so you could spy from one garden to the next. I like them too!vista

Artfully planned views everywhere I turned. 








And one more because it’s irresistible.

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A little history, as promised

The estate has been in the Throckmorton family since the fifteenth century. The present house, or at least the grand gatehouse in the center, was built by Sir George Throckmorton during Henry VIII’s reign. He was a favorite of the king, although he nearly got in serious trouble by favoring Catherine of Aragon and opposing the Reformation. He must have been a favorite, indeed!

The Throckmortons of Coughton Court remained stubbornly Catholic throughout the succeeding centuries. According to the Wikipedia article, the fines they incurred for this intransigance helped keep the building intact. No money for renovations!

They kept the estate, though, through the long centuries down to 1946, when they sold it to the National Trust. You won’t learn anything from the NT’s new, super-stylish website. They’ve styled themselves into near illegibility. Apparently their main market consists of pre-teens with microscopic attentions spans. They still perform their wonderful service, of course, in maintaining and making accessible the architectural and horticultural treasures of the United Kingdom.

Absolutely worth a day out, and for the love of everything green and beautiful, take the bus!

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