Cothelstone Manor is not a name that one would readily bring to mind when thinking about Stately Homes of England, but the 48 members of the coach party who made the trip on Wednesday 8 February to this venue at the south end of the Quantocks, just north of Taunton, will not forget it.
To be specifically correct it is not stately, but is none the less significant, the reference on the Ordnance Map, Cothelstone Farm, belying its quality. There has been a residence on the site for 1400 years. It is in fact a small hamlet situated on the western slopes of a lane leading from Bridgwater to Bishops Lydeard, made up of a Manor House, Gatehouse, walled garden with Gazebo, Church, Cottages and Schoolhouse, all mediaeval, constructed in the same burnt umber sandstone and all housing a rural farm industry.
A handout during the journey had made everyone familiar with the history, which was further enhanced on arrival at the entrance gate by the presence of Nigel Muers-Raby, the current tenant, who then picked out significant events with a florid and amusing lecture delivered with panache and humility from the staircase in the two storeyed entrance hall. Henry IV at Agincourt came to mind.
Following this we were generously allowed to wander around anywhere both inside and outside, except to disturb the dogs, and to attend a talk given by one of the wardens in the church.
It all culminated in a traditional celebration, sandwiches, cakes and tea provided by Nigel’s wife Finny, with everybody relaxing in the numerous ground floor spaces. It had been an eye opening and comforting experience.
While the journey there had been mainly by motorway, the journey home was cross country. It couldn’t have been better.