Sun, 30 Aug 2020
Pair of tailor’s scissors used by James White to cut the cloth used to make the Newbury Coat in June 1811. His father, Isaac, was also a tailor; he witnessed the event. NEBYM:1969.8.1
Highlights of West Berkshire Museum Collection: The Newbury Coat
IN June 1811, Sir John Throckmorton issued a bet that John Coxeter, the owner of Greenham Mills, could make him a woollen coat in one day, between sunrise and sunset. The process had to start with shearing of two sheep at 5am and the coat had to be ready for Sir John to wear at 8pm for a formal dinner.
The sheep were shorn and the wool was spun into yarn that was woven into cloth by John Coxeter’s son. It was washed and dyed before being given to the tailor at 4pm to make into the coat. Many people worked to finish each stage of making the coat which was completed at 20 minutes past six o’clock – a total of 13 hours and 20 minutes, with an hour and 40 minutes to spare. John Coxeter won the 1,000 guineas bet and celebrated by buying 120 gallons of beer for the large crowd of 5,000 who had come to watch, and they ate roast mutton from the two sheep whose fleeces had made the coat.
Coughton Court, a National Trust property, is now the home of the original Newbury Coat (also called the Throckmorton Coat) and an oil painting depicting the event. The coat and oil painting were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and numerous copies of an engraving of the picture were sold.
Another ‘Newbury Coat’ was made in 1991 and is a replica of the 1811 Throckmorton coat. It is made of blue-dyed wool with 10 bone buttons on the front and four buttons on the coat tail. The coat was made in 12 hours 36 minutes and 26 seconds from when shearing of sheep commenced until the coat was worn by radio and television personality Johnny Morris, who lived in Hungerford. This coat was made at Newbury Agricultural Show during the presidency of David Hopson, whose company sponsored the attempt on the 18th Newbury Coat Record. The coat was presented to the museum during an event held at St Nicolas’ Church Hall for all the people involved in its making.
The 1991 Newbury Coat, along with a pair of scissors used in the making of the original coat and a lithograph print of the engraving, can be seen on display in the Lives and Landscape exhibition at West Berkshire Museum.
The ‘Newbury Coat’, 1991. A replica of the 1811 Throckmorton coat. It was made in 12 hours 36 minutes and 26 seconds at the Newbury Agricultural Show during a
sponsored attempt on the 18th Newbury Coat Record. NEBYM:1992.4
Visit www.westberkshireheritage.org/west-berkshire-museum for information about visiting the museum.
Pictures courtesy of West Berkshire Museum