Reading St. Mary, Berkshire
Coley Park was the home of the Vachell Family from 1309 until 1727. The family maxim, Tis better to Suffer than to Revenge, is said to have come from an incident which took place here in the 14th century. John Vachell was in dispute with the Abbot of Reading over rights of way through the former's estate. The Abbot sent a monk to test his rights with a load of corn. In a fit of rage, Vachell killed the poor man. He was excommunicated, heavily fined and given this unusual motto.
The old house at Coley appears to
have been an Elizabethan mansion much like that to be seen at Sherborne
Castle (Dorset) today. It was possibly built by Thomas Vachell, the
zealous Protestant and friend of Thomas Cromwell. Just before he quit
Reading in 1644, Charles I was entertained at this house, though
presumably not by Lady Lettice Hampden, widow of both the famous
Parliamentarian, John Hampden, and of Thomas Vachell. She later watched
the Siege of Reading from the gatehouse. The Vachell House, crumbling
after the Civil War, was rebuilt by her nephew, Tanfield
Vachell, and, in
the late 18th century, it was replaced by a new building on higher ground.
The original old dovecote (1553) and barns (1619) can still be seen on the
original site though. Most of the park was covered by Victorian slums, but
these were swept away in the sixties. Unfortunately, the wyvern topped
gateposts, which for many years flanked the entrance to Berkeley Avenue,
have also now disappeared.
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