In 1811, Sir John Throckmorton entered into an extraordinary wager at a dinner party. He bet a huge 1,000 guineas that he could have a coat made in the time between sunrise and sunset on one given day.1 This was not just making the coat out of cloth, but actually starting right from scratch and going through all the processes involved in making the cloth – shearing the sheep, spinning the wool, weaving, dyeing and finishing the cloth before the tailor could make up the cloth into a coat.
This extraordinary feat took place on 25th June 1811, presumably in order to get advantage of one of the longest days of the year! In the end, the whole process took just 13 hours and 20 minutes and took place at Newbury in Berkshire. Sir John wore the coat to dinner that very same evening and won the bet.
Mr John Coxeter of Greenham Mills, who was the mastermind behind the event and at whose mill the cloth was processed, was given a silver medal by the Agricultural Society for his part in the coat’s creation.
The coat – said to have been on show at the Great Exhibition of 1851 – has been proudly displayed at the Throckmorton family’s home at Coughton Court for many years and can still be seen there today.
A lot of what were presumably off-cuts from the cloth made their way into the hands of Sir John’s contemporaries to be kept as curios or mementos of the feat. Bertie Greathead (or Greatheed) carefully preserved a tiny piece of the cloth in one of his journals, noting the unusual circumstances surrounding the creation of the coat. The diary – still with the tiny piece of cloth sewn into the margin – is now in the Greathead of Guy’s Cliffe, Warwick collection at Warwickshire County Record Office.
1 Equivalent to over £60,000 today.
The Journal of Bertie Greathead, 1 March 1812-30 June 1814, Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR 1707/120.Ford, David Nash (2007), Royal Berkshire History, The Newbury Coat: A Sheep’s Coat at Sunrise, A Man’s Coat at Sunset , Wokingham: Nash Ford Publishing.National Trust Guidebook, Coughton Court (2012) and The National Trust website, The Throckmorton Coat of Coughton Court.