Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Coleshill House Pre War

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This page was last updated at 7:18pm on 6/6/13

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The charming village of Coleshill abounds in beautiful picturesque cottages, a fine church and a once noble house, the chef d'ouvre of one of the best of English architects. Coleshill House, the seat of the Pleydell-Bouveries, was built by Sir Roger Pratt, with the advice of Inigo Jones who died only two years later. A receipt for one of the chimney-pieces, dated 21st April 1660 is still in the possession of the Earl of Radnor. This receipt fixes the date of the building.

In olden days, the manor belonged to the Edingdon family and was given by William de Edingdon, Bishop of Winchester, to the Priory of Bonnes-Hommes at Edington in Wiltshire. After the dissolution of that priory, it was given to Thomas, Lord Seymour, Lord Admiral of the Fleet, who secretly married Catherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII's many queens, and had the custody of the Princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey. He wanted to marry the former, who used to dance and flirt with him, but fell out with and defied the power of Protector Somerset and, for his pains, was beheaded. The manor became the property of Anne, Duchess of Somerset, and then of Arthur Grey of Wilton.

In 1601, Coleshill belonged to Sir Thomas Freake who sold it, in 1626, to Sir Henry Pratt, Alderman of the City of London, created a baronet in 1641. He died suddenly in 1647, one Sunday morning in church, and was succeeded by his son, Sir George Pratt, the second and last baronet. Upon his death, his sister became the heir and brought Coleshill, by marriage, to the Pleydell family. She married Thomas Pleydell of Shrivenham. This Pleydell family is an ancient one and had an estate in Coleshill which they inherited from the family which took their name from the place, and possessed this estate as early as the reign of Edward I. We constantly meet with William de Coleshill and other members of the family, occupying positions of trust and importance in the early records of the county. In the south transept of the church, built by Thomas Pleydell, there is a tablet showing his will and a genealogical account of the family. The elder branch of the Pleydells lived at Shrivenham. The younger resided at Coleshill till the time of Queen Elizabeth, when Anthony Pleydell died without issue, and the Shrivenham branch inherited the estate.


Thomas Pleydell, who married Sir George Platt's sister, was the grandfather of Sir Mark Stuart Pleydell, Bart., whose only daughter and heiress, Harriet, married the Hon. William Bouverie, Viscount Folkestone and Baron Longford, and afterwards created Baron Pleydell Bouverie of Coleshill and 2nd Earl of Radnor in 1765. Thus the names of Pleydell and Bouverie were conjoined and Coleshill manor passed to the Earl of Radnor, whose principal seat is Longford Castle, near Salisbury.

Coleshill House

The builder of the house was Margaret, the wife of Sir George Pratt. It is one of the best works of Inigo Jones and his pupils. The former was, at the same time, building the south side of Wilton House. Aubrey states that being then very old, he could not be at Wilton in person, but left the superintendence of the work to his kinsman and assistant Webb. John Webb had also prepared drawings for Coleshill but these were rejected in favour of the work of the owner’s cousin. One of the great attractions of the house was that it remained unchanged since its building, at least as regards the exterior and the principal parts of the interior.


The exterior had a simple, dignified and imposing character: the doorway with its handsome flight of steps, the windows with their bold casings, the cornice at the foot of the sloping roof which had dormer windows, and the handsome chimneys. The interior was most charming and pleasing: the entrance with the grand staircase, the nine niches in the wall (in which an old legend said, when evil threatened the family, nine spectral cats would take up their seats) and the handsome doors with fine casings and pediments. A double staircase led to the gallery with balustrades of unusual form and wreaths of fruit and flowers. The ceilings were the most important feature of the internal decoration and differed much in character. The mantelpieces had coupled Ionic columns. There were many interesting family portraits and beautiful old furniture. The gardens and grounds are still very delightful today, but the house was completely gutted by fire in 1952 and subsequently pulled down.


Ground floor plans of Coleshill House

On the opposite side of the road is the parish church, in front of which stands the village cross. It is dedicated to St. Faith and has been partially rebuilt. The old chantry founded by Thomas Pleydell in 1499 has disappeared and, in its place, Sir Mark Stuart Pleydell, in 1787, built the present south chapel containing the family pews. On a brass appears the request of the founder of the chantry:

“Pray for the Souls of Thomas Pleydell; Agnes, his wife; William, his father; Isabella, his mother; Rose, his daughter; and all Christian Souls.”

He called his chantry the Chapel of Salutation of the Blessed Virgin.

The older parts of the church are the arcades of the nave which date back to the end of the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth century. There are several interesting monuments of members of the great families who have lived and reigned at Coleshill, whose names have already been mentioned, including a sculptured figure of the "Honourable prudent and pious Sir Henry Pratt, who by God's providence acquired ye eminence of Sheriff and Alderman of London and dignity of Knight and Baronet. He lived 75 years and deceased ye 6th day of April 1647. Pheenix Moriendo revivescit". The east window contains some excellent glass that was brought from Angers in 1787.

Edited from P.H. Ditchfield's "Byways in Berkshire and the Cotswolds" (1920)