Making the famous 'Newbury Coat' of 1811
The famous Newbury Coat came about due to conversation at a dinner party between Mr John Coxeter, a cloth manufacturer and owner of Greenham Mill in Newbury, and Sir John Throckmorton of Buckland House in Faringdon. Mr Coxeter said "So great are the improvements in machinery which I have lately introduced into my mill, that I believe that in twenty-four hours I could take the coat off your back, reduce it to wool, and turn it back into a coat again." Sir John laid a wager of thousand guineas as he believed it was impossible to achieve, the bet was duly accepted by Mr Coxeter after he had carefully calculated the time required to undertake the different processes to make the coat for Sir John to wear at Eight O'clock the next evening.
25th June 1811 at five o’clock in the morning, Mr Coxeter arrived at the old Greenham mill-yard with Frances Druett a shepherd and two of his finest Southdown sheep. The sheep was sheared and the wool went through the process of, being washed, stubbed, roved, spun on a loom, and woven.
At four o’clock in the afternoon after 11 hours, the cloth was finished, after being scoured, fulled, tented, raised, sheared, dyed, and dressed. Mr James White a tailor from Newbury and his nine tailors cut the cloth to the required measured shapes, and then started to stitch the shaped pieces of cloth together, pressing and then sewing on the buttons. A crowd had gathered throughout the day, watching the feat that was thought to be impossible to achieve.
20 minutes past the hour of six o’clock, the task was completed in just 13 hours and 20 minutes to the amazement of the crowd. A fine tailored coat had been produced within the timescale of 24 hours, with an hour and three quarters to spare.
Mr Coxeter presented Sir John the finished coat, Sir John stood on a platform wearing the coat in front of a large crowd, said to be in the region of over 5,000 people. Mr Coxeter had won the wager of thousand guineas, to celebrate, Mr Coxeter had the two sheep that had been sheared in the morning killed, roasted, cut up and then distributed among the crowd, along with 120 gallons of strong English Ale.
At eight o’clock in the evening, Sir John sat down to dinner in the company of 40 gentlemen wearing his newly well-woven and properly-made coat, made from wool that was on the backs of sheep a five o’clock that same morning. The coat was made in the style of a large hunting coat with tails and coloured in the then admired dark Wellington blue.
For the achievement, Mr Coxeter was presented a silver medal by the Berkshire Agricultural Society. The wording on the medal shows "Presented to Mr. John Coxeter, of Greenham Mills, by the Agricultural Society, for manufacturing wool into cloth and into a coat in thirteen hours and ten minutes."
1851 The Newbury coat attracted a great deal of attention when it was exhibited at the Great International Exhibition that was organised by Henry Cole and Prince Albert, and held in a purpose-built Crystal Palace in London. Copies of old coloured engravings from an painting of the Making of the Newbury Coat by Luke Clint a local artist were eagerly bought up.
1884 The coat made an appearance before the public at Newbury Art and Industrial Exhibition.
21st September 1991 At the Newbury Agricultural Show a second identical 'Newbury Coat' was made using the same processes, materials and machinery as previously used during 1811, the time was beaten by an 1 hour. The coat was completed in 12 hours, 36 minutes and 26 seconds, the event was sponsored by the department store, Camp Hopson of Newbury. The coat can now be seen at the West Berkshire Museum in Newbury.
The original famous 'Newbury Coat' now resides at the home of the Throckmorton family's ancestral home at Coughton Court near Alcester, Warwickshire.