Cothay Manor
Cothay Manor is a grade one listed medieval house and gardens, located in Stawley, near Wellington, Somerset. In early 14th century the local lords of the manor were the Bluett and Cothay families who owned both the nearby Greenham Barton and Cothay Manor. Built around 1480, it is considered by many to be the most perfect of small, classic, medieval buildings in England today; rating four stars in Simon Jenkins’ "England’s Thousand Best Houses." The rent for the land surrounding the manor in the medieval era was a pair of silver spurs and a rose. To celebrate the end of the War of the Roses, a red rose (for Lancashire), and a white rose (for Yorkshire), were planted on the terrace by Richard Bluett, who was the lord of the manor at the time. The gardens were laid out in the 1920's by Colonel Reginald Cooper DSO, who was Sissinghurst Castle Garden owner Sir Harold Nicolson's oldest friend, having been at school together at Wellington College, Berkshire, in the Diplomatic Corps; and were friends of Hidcote Manor Garden's Major Lawrence Johnston and Edward Lutyens. The gardeners exchanged ideas, and in Nicholson's diaries there is an entry: "Reggie came to stay and advised me on the length of the bowling green." Cooper's larger projects included moving the River Tone to save his favourite pine trees from erosion. Sissinghurst was laid out in 1932, with one garden writer describing Cothay as the "Sissinghurst of the West Country." The house then belonged to Sir Francis Cook, 4th Baronet and during WWII housed much of his famous art collection, dispersed after the war. The former home of Taunton MP Edward du Cann, in 1993 du Cann sold the property to Alastair and Mary-Anne Robb. Alastair’s great-grandmother Mary-Anne was a plant hunter, with the Wood Spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘var. robbiae’ named after her, nicknamed "Mrs Robb’s Bonnet" because she had to hide it in her hat to smuggle it through customs. With the whole property and gardens in need of renovation, the gardens were gutted and rebuilt along the original Cooper structure. The Robbs also added new garden areas, including a bog garden in the Oxbow, an Arboretum planted, and a wild flower meadow sown. In 2008 and 2009, the manor was the subject of a Channel 4 television programme presented by hotelier Ruth Watson as part of her Country House Rescue series.