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  • Writer's picturealicecoldbreath


Updated: Jan 20, 2020

I recently visited the beautiful Croome Court, historic seat of the Earls and Countesses of Coventry. Since it passed out of the family, the old place has had a weird and wonderful assortment of tenants, including a school run by nuns, a privately run hotel and even base for the Hare Krishna movement! Sadly, the interior has been very knocked about and is very stripped back. You have to look to the ceilings and fireplaces, to get glimpses of its former grandeur. It is when you look at the exterior of the house with its beautiful setting, that you see it how it was intended. Croome’s layout was designed by Capability Brown and it is just sublime. I also loved the Temple Greenhouse which used to have a furnace permanently stoked to provide the underfloor heating, keeping all the tropical plants alive.

As an avid Georgette Heyer reader, I was most looking forward to seeing the ‘Toxic Beauty’ display about the famous Maria Gunning, Countess of Coventry who died very young of cosmetic poisoning. She and her sister were celebrated beauties who managed to marry Earls and Dukes, despite their obscure origins. I’m not sure if the display was completed, but I was a little disappointed. They had a couple of beautiful miniatures of Maria and a fan which was hers, but no larger reproduction portraits or accounts of the fascinating stories about her. Her fame was such, that she had to have a bodyguard provided by the King when she stayed in London, as she used to get mobbed! She was also notoriously tactless which sounds hilarious to me! I thought they should have recounted her run-ins with Kitty Fisher which were not mentioned, although they had named the tea-shop after that famous courtesan. They did have some humorous cartoon displays about her life, but I think there should have been several more of them to do her justice. I also didn’t really appreciate the way the information described her as ‘stupid’ while they lauded the ‘genius’ of her husband the Earl, but maybe that’s just me!

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