Saturday, October 07, 2006

Coughton Court to Alcester (five mile round trip)

Our plan was to park at Coughton Court, tour the house, walk to Alcester along the River Arrow, visit the Alcester Roman Heritage Centre, then return to Coughton Court to watch the morris dancers. The first disappointment came on our arrival at Coughton Court, when we discovered that the house had closed for the day fifteen minutes earlier because of a wedding.

The Throckmorton family still lives in Coughton Court, as they have since the fifteenth century, although the property is now open to the public as part of the National Trust. The house has a fascinating history—like Baddesley Clinton (see this blog's inaugural post), it was associated with the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, since the Throckmortons, like the Ferrers, remained a Catholic family after the Reformation. Unusually, there are two churches on the grounds of Coughton Court—a medieval Anglican church, and a Catholic church built in the middle of the nineteenth century, after Catholic Emancipation.

Since we were unable to tour the house (which we had visited in August 2000 and found especially impressive), we started our walk to Alcester, keeping close to the east bank of the River Arrow. Alcester is a lovely old market town, full of black and white half-timbered houses (one of which featured a special window which revealed the original wattle and daub construction). It would be possible to spend an entire afternoon exploring the town, but we made a bee-line to the Roman museum—we had less than two hours to tour the museum and return to Coughton Court for the morris dancing.

The highlights of the museum, for me, were the Roman milestone with an inscription to the emperor Constantine, a collection of coins from the 1st to 14th centuries CE, and a set of Roman roof tiles (Kenilworth also seems to have been a center of roof tile production; evidence of Roman tile kilns has been found in the area). Alencestre was a Roman settlement, protected by a small fort, near the confluence of the Rivers Arrow and Alne and at the junction of two Roman roads (the modern A46 roughly follows the course of one of these roads). The museum was well worth a visit, but we rushed through it so that we would have time for a cup of tea before walking back to Coughton Court. (For a searchable catalogue of the Alcester museum, with photographs of the objects in the collection, click here.)

We arrived back at Coughton Court just as the morris dancers—with their ribbons and bells and black face—were boarding their coach bus to go home.

Will's blog has a new post which gives an interesting and entertaining picture of a day at Kenilworth School. Clara's blog offers fascinating insight into milestones, such as the one we saw in the Alcester musesum.

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