Coombe Abbey 1656

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Coombe Abbey

The Cistercian Abbey of Cumbe was founded in the 12th century and was the largest and most powerful Abbey in Warwickshire. Primarily used for the grazing of sheep and the growing of cereals, the Abbey and its lands remained in the hands of the monks until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. Dr John London was responsible for dissolving the Abbey in that year when the land was appropriated by Henry VIII.

Over the next 40 years the estate passed through several hands including the Earl of Warwick, until it was purchased in 1581 by Sir John Harrington of Exton in Rutland and cousin to the poet and wit with whom he shared the same name. The elder Sir John Harrington was descended from Robert Bruce, and used this Scottish ancestry to win favour with James VI of Scotland when it was apparent he would succeed Elizabeth.

Harrington later used this influence to become the guardian of the Princess Elizabeth, daughter to James I. James issued a Privy Seal Order which declared "we have thought fit to commit the keeping and education of the Lady Elizabeth our daughter to the Lord Harington and the Lady his wife". At Coombe Abbey, Elizabeth came under the tutor and chaplain John Tovey, whose eventual death in 1614 was said to have been slow poison administered by Jesuits. Ironically Harrington was invited to join the hunting party that met at the Red Lion Inn in Dunchurch, but refused, probably because of his Protestant sympathies. In the morning of 5th November he received word that a plot to kill the King had been discovered and sent the Princess to Coventry under the guardianship of Sir Thomas Holcroft

Harrington died in late 1613 while returning from Heidelberg with his wife after attending the marriage of their charge to Frederick, Elector of the Palatinate. The property passed to his remaining son John who died soon after of smallpox. Harrington's two daughters co-inherited the Abbey in 1614.

In 1622 the estate was sold to the widow of Sir William Craven, former Lord Mayor of London, and it descended with the male line who made several major changes to the property including the building of the west wing in 1677 and the redesign of the gardens under the direction of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in 1771. In 1922 the property was sold to a developer named John Todd who divided the estate up and sold the parts at auction. The main house was purchased by a builder named John Gray who demolished the east wing and sold many of the interior fittings to recoup his costs of purchase.

In 1964 Coventry City Council purchased the property of approximately 150 acres and it underwent restoration. In 1992 it was developed into a Hotel, which opened its doors in 1995.


[1] Motkin, D.L., "The Story of Coombe Abbey", House Committee of Coombe Abbey, 1961

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