"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Winter Festival

Last weekend Coughton Court was holding a Winter Festival which gives you an opportunity to see the house decorated for a traditional family Christmas and to visit festive market stalls set up in the stableyard. I persuaded D to go along with me on Friday to have a look round.

The house has been home to the Catholic Throckmorton family since 1409. The house is full of secrets and intrigue with connections to several dangerous plots. Francis Throckmorton, executed for acting as an Informer between the Spanish Ambassador and Mary Queen of Scots, was a cousin of Sir George Throckmorton, Lord of the Manor of Coughton. The house is also linked to the Gunpowder Plot as Sir Everard Digby, one of the Plotters, who supplied arms and horses for the plot, had rented Coughton Court from Thomas Throckmorton, who was away at the time, to use as a base for a Midlands uprising. The Tower Room is shut during the winter but it was possibly used for Mass during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries when attempts were made to stamp out Catholicism. It also contains a priest-hole where priests could hide from priest hunters. If you are ever in the area the house, gardens and churches are well worth a visit.

On arrival we made a beeline for the Kitchen Restaurant - well I had been Christmas shopping in Solihull all morning (highlight of that trip was the discovery that the wonderful Hawkins Bazaar Shop had returned to Touchwood Shopping Centre - the ideal shop to get a few stocking fillers).

I felt greatly revived after a cup of tea and a slice of coffee and walnut cake.

The restaurant had several Christmas decorations including this tree.

We had a look round some of the festive stalls selling items such as jewellery, cheese, pickles and chutneys, pies, vintage garden tools, candles, sweets, hats, Christmas decorations and hand decorated glass.

There were lots of Christmassy decorations around the Stableyard.

Two thirty arrived and it was our time to make our way to the house to see the Christmas decorations.

The house looked beautiful - although I've only included a few photos as I had the usual problems with dim light, no flash etc. etc. I did actually get as far as putting a monopod in the car boot with the thought that this might help steady the camera. But realising that, unlike my tripod, it doesn't have a swivel head and the fact that I would probably have constantly been moving the brackets up and down to adjust the height, I decided it just wasn't worth the effort.

The house looked beautiful but the highlight had to be the salon at the end of the tour which contained a large Christmas tree in one corner of the room and you could listen to a choir singing Christmas carols.

On my way out of the house I met the lovely gentleman in the photo below. I think he was probably a volunteer and when he could see I was having problems with the camera he insisted I include him in my photo as he thought his light coloured coat would give the camera something to focus on :) If he does ever visit this blog I would just like say thank you :)

I can never resist a second hand bookshop (or any bookshop for that matter!!) so we popped in to have a look round before we left.

I must revisit Coughton Court early next summer as there is a beautiful walled garden which I have never had time to look round on previous visits.


Countryside Tales said...

I had no idea pies and pasties could be considered sexy!

What a beautiful place. The inner courtyard reminds me of Hever castle where Ann Boleyn grew up. I've just been reading about the Throckmorton who acted as go-between for Mary QS so it was lovely to see his house.

Maybe your mystery man wasn't a volunteer at all, but a jovial spirit from bygone times.....

Dartford Warbler said...

What a beautiful house! Those old walls could tell some interesting stories.

I can imagine the wonderful, Christmassy atmosphere on the day you visited. I hope you are able to return and enjoy the walled garden next summer.

Thank you for visiting my blog after my break from blogging. It is good to be back!

Wendy said...

It looks a fascinating place. I love old houses with stories of plots and intrigue - although even just looking at a priest hole makes me feel claustrophobic! These lovely old rooms with all that wood and old furniture and big fire places can look so Christmassy, too - a wonderful atmosphere.
I can never resist a second hand bookshop either.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales Ha Ha re: first your first sentence - would tend to agree :)

So glad you enjoyed the house - when I was writing the post yesterday I found a great little book I bought when last at Coughton Court concerning the Throckmortons and various Catholic plots from Tudor times - an incredibly interesting period of history :)

Loved your last sentence - I had exactly the same thought!

Dartford Warbler Many thanks. I do love old houses - history just seems to seep from everywhere as you walk round.

I am really glad you are blogging again - have really missed your posts. There are times I think when we can need a break from it :) Look forward to reading your next post :)

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - Many thanks. There seem to be a lot of priest-holes in NT properties round here - they make me feel claustrophobic too!!!

The Christmas atmosphere there was wonderful as you say :)

Managed for once to avoid temptation in the bookshop!

SeagullSuzie said...

Maybe your photo helper was a friendly Christmas ghost! Lovely place to visit. I do like the holly and berries, pine cones and other foliage with the candles on the windowsills its a very pretty decoration. Walnut cake-yummy.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Many thanks. I had the same thought about my photo helper :) I wish I could have taken photos of more of the Christmas decorations - some of the rooms looked lovely :)

Em Parkinson said...

Fabulous house - thanks for a great tour. I;m ashamed to say that, what with it being late morning and with a rumbling tummy, the coffee cake is sticking in my mind most!

David Turner said...

Another beautiful house and it's nice to see the Christmas decorations going up :-) The large Christmas tree looks very impressive indeed and it must have been very pleasant being able to listen to the Christmas carols as well :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Em Parkinson - Many thanks :) Actually have to say the cake was a little disappointing (could have been a bit fresher in my view!!!). Wished I'd had the Winter Vegetable Soup instead!

David Turner - Many thanks. The Christmas decorations were great and I really enjoyed listening to some of the carols - a nice touch :)

Chris Rohrer said...

Yes on your slice of cake!!! What a nice place to enjoy a cup of tea and gorgeous scenery!

I am still laughing at the idea of a priest hole. So that's where they disappear!:)

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks Chris :) Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!

Priest-holes are just brilliant aren't they? :) So many old manor houses round here have them :)

Tricia Ryder said...

Looks like a rewarding visit... and the Christmas decorations look great. Just wish more houses were open during the winter...

and the cake sounded rather good too :)

Ragged Robin said...

Tricia Ryder Thanks Tricia. It is a shame more houses aren't open at the time of the year. Baddesley Clinton and Packwood House now seem open all year but without checking I'm not sure about Charlecote and Coughton Court (think it may just be some days over Cmas period). Went to Packwood House today - a nice new cafe has opened there (very impressed).

Cake was not quite as fresh as I would have liked which is unusual!

Lou Mary said...

Looking around a lovely old house in it's Christmas attire sounds a wonderful way to spend a day! There is something really festive and warming about markets. I love them! I really love your last photo - the pot looks so colourful and festive!

Ragged Robin said...

Lou Mary Many thanks :) Yes the Christmassy Festive Markets are wonderful - quite a few NT properties have had them round here but sadly only had time to visit one. Unfortunately I suspect my son was rather bored!!

I'm really pleased by the way that you managed to get the trainee job at KWT - you must be over the moon :) Well done :)

Pete Duxon said...

i like Coughton, the walled garden is highly recommended

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon Thanks Pete. I will try and return early next summer to see the walled garden (and go on the roof!!!). I've found a much quicker route to get there :)