After a winter break where the local country houses and attractions mainly close, it is good to see that come March they start to open again. With the sun shining and temperatures in the mid teens the crowds flocked to Ragley Hall and Coughton Court in Warwickshire close to the historic market town of Alcester.
With Ragley Hall advertising a free weekend while staff were trained interested punters came out in force blocking the roads and forcing the house to close its gates at 1pm! with the grounds heaving.
Coughton Court a few miles away was benefitting from the Ragley Hall lockout as visitors were flooding in to an alternative house and gardens.
Coughton Court is an English Tudor country house, which has a long crenelated façade directly facing the main road, at the centre of which is the Tudor Gatehouse, dating from 1530; this has hexagonal turrets and oriel windows in the English Renaissance style. The gatehouse is the oldest part of the house and is flanked by later wings, in the Strawberry Hill Gothic style, popularised by Horace Walpole.
The Throckmorton family has owned the Coughton estate since 1409. The estate was acquired through marriage. Coughton was rebuilt by Sir George Throckmorton, the first son of Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton Court by Catherine Marrow, daughter of William Marrow of London. Throckmorton would become notorious due to his almost fatal involvement in the divorce between King Henry and his first wife Catherine of Aragon.
It has extensive gardens and river walkways, along with two churches that visitors can explore.
Ragley Hall was designed by Dr Robert Hooke, and was built for the Edward Conway, 1st Earl of Conway and completed in 1680. The Great Hall is thought to have been decorated by James Wyatt in 1780.
The house was used as a hospital during the Second World War and then refurbished between 1956 and 1958 when it was opened to the public. It was used as a location in the 1982 television version of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and played the role of the far more grand Palace of Versailles in an episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, titled The Girl in the Fireplace, first broadcast in May 2006.
Key history resource: Wikipedia