The stable block at Ragley Hall dates to the mid 18th century and is attributed to James Gibbs. The north court and the central block (above) were remodelled in 1780 and are the work of James Wyatt. Constructed of limestone ashlar with limestone dressings, the buildings feature stone chimneys, slate hipped roofs and continuous string course throughout. The symmetrical central court has a central round archway with Gibbs surround and flanking niches. The first floor has oeil de boeufs (small round or oval window) and a central square window. The pediment details a clock in front of an octagonal attic with oval openings.
The semi-circular side wings feature Diocletian windows above the round arched doorcases with sash windows to the first floor attic. The north court (above) also features a central round archway with Gibbs surround and first floor oeil de boeufs.
The south range of the stable block (above) consists of a loggia with fourteen Tuscan columns and entablature with triglyph frieze. The wall behind features four sash windows, in Gibbs surrounds, alternating with eight oeils de boeufs.
The buildings which make up the stable block are Grade II* Listed.
On display as part of the stunning collection held at Beningbrough Hall is the above portrait. The oil on canvas depicts Nathaniel Hone opening his portfolio and is a self portrait dating to circa 1760. Hone was a Dublin born portrait painter, miniaturist and engraver. Following his move to England, he married wealthy Mary Earle in York Minster in 1742. The couple subsequently moved to London where Hone established himself painting portraits and narrative scenes.
The top floor of Beningbrough Hall is devoted to a vibrant compendium of galleries which combine the National Portrait Gallery’s 18th century collections with temporary displays and interactive touch screen computers which aim to bring the outstanding portraits to life. Following a refurbishment in 2006, the galleries in this Baroque mansion provide an appropriate historical setting to display a wide programme of collaborations. The above oil on canvas dates to 1755 and depicts the classical scholar Robert Wood. Wood led ground breaking archaeological expeditions to Greece and the Middle East during the early 1750’s and he wrote two important works: the Ruins of Palmyra (1753) and the Ruins of Balbec (1757). The portrait is the work of the Scottish portrait painter Allan Ramsay and was painted in Rome where Wood was working as a tutor to the Duke of Bridgewater.
The circular stables at Ragley Hall were designed by James Wyatt in 1780 and one of the wings is now home to an impressive collection of carriages and coaches. Dating to 1838, the Brougham (above) is a light four wheeled horse drawn carriage. Featuring an enclosed body with two doors, the carriage has a split glazed front window which allowed the occupants to see forward.
The State Coach (above & below) was used by aristocratic families for occasions of state and for important social functions. Designed in the early 19th century, they were heavily decorated to reflect the wealth and importance of their owners. The Coach would be drawn by a pair of horses with a coachman and two footmen. The State Coach features a box seal mounted on a Salisbury boot with an undercarriage heavily carved. The interior trimming of the vehicle is fitted with Morocco leather silk with wonderful carriage laces. This model dates to circa 1890 and was made by Barker & Co. Chandos Street.
Also known as tub carts, Governess Cars (below) first appeared at the end of the 19th century. Describing both their name and their use, Governess Cars featured a deep low-hung body with a door at the back. Such carriages were suitable for small ponies and were controlled by a driver who sat in the back offside corner of the body. These beautiful and simply designed carriages were made by Brown & Son of Windsor.
On display in the Tower Room at Coughton Court is the wonderful Tabula Eliensis – Picture of Ely. Discovered in a roof-space in 1900 by Sir William Throckmorton, the Tabula Eliensis is an oil painting on linen and painted in 1596. The painting is a protest document against the treatment of Roman Catholics who remained loyal to the Pope and commemorates those recusants (Catholics who refused to attend the Church of England) who were imprisoned by the government. Families, such as the Throckmortons at Coughton Court, were viewed as potential enemies of the State during the reign of Elizabeth I and the beautiful painting would have been created in great secrecy. The heads of English monarchs from William Rufus to Elizabeth I are depicted and coats of arms of all the Catholic gentry are arranged below the places they were imprisoned.
On display in the Dining Room at Coughton Court is the above dole-gate. The impressive gate is carved from oak and came from the Convent Abbey of Denny in Cambridgeshire. Elizabeth Throckmorton was the last abbess of Denny in 1539 when the convent was dissolved by Henry VIII.
Originally positioned in the main gate of the convent, charitable donations would have been handed out to the poor through the lower opening and is where the expression ‘on the dole’ derives. The Latin inscription translates: “May God preserve Dame Elizabeth Throckmorton, Abbess of Denny.” The outer panels are beautifully decorated with the carved Sacred Heart, Tudor Rose and Beaufort portcullis. The dole-gate was discovered in a cottage at Ombersley in Worcestershire in 1836.