THE LAST PRIVATE OWNERS OF COTON HOUSE ARTHUR AND VENETIA JAMES

Born in May 1861 she was a daughter of the Rt Hon George Cavendish-Bentinck and great granddaughter of the third Duke of Portland, who was viceroy of Ireland and was Godmother to Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) and married Mr Arthur James. He was born in 1853, the last of three sons of Daniel James, a wealthy Manchester merchant who left £1,500,000 to be divided between the three sons.Their first names were John and Mary but both used their second names.

 

He had some American ancestry, his mother being the daughter of Mr G Hitchcock of New York. One brother was killed by an elephant while on a hunting expedition in South Africa in 1900. The other Willie James died in 1903.

Mr Arthur James endowed the North Middlesex hospital with £20,000 in memory of his brother, Willie.

 

They occupied Coton House in 1881 when the estate amounted to over 500 acres. Within a couple of years they established the Coton House Stud, laying out some 200 acres as paddocks with running water in each. Both she and her husband were interested in horse racing and hunting. They were members of the Atherstone, Pytchley and other hunts and she continued hunting until over 70 years of age.

 

Mr Arthur James was a steward of the Jockey Club and a successful racing man. It is recorded that in one year his horses won over £16,500 and that he won four Goodwood Cups over a 5-year period. He was a considerable benefactor to the district - among recorded gifts being £1,000 towards the establishment of a Children’s Ward at St Cross Hospital, Rugby and numerous other minor gifts, including an X-ray centre

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Text Box: The Stables

 

He became President of the St Cross Hospital Board. At the far end of Churchover beyond the church are five cottages. Mr Arthur James lent £400 towards the cost of building these, but after repayment of £50 he called the debt settled Apart from local social duties such as President of the Rugby Conservative Club and of the County Agricultural Society he was at various times a Deputy-Lieutenant, Magistrate, County Councillor and High Sherriff.

 

After the visit of King Edward VII in 1909 he was awarded the MVO. The James’s London town house was described as “a palace of Italian marble, onyx and alabaster, famous for its red marble staircase and beautiful Angelica Kauffman frescoes and ceilings”. Mrs James was reputed to own some of the finest rubies in England On his death of pleurisy and pneumonia on 30 April 1917 at the age of 64, his estate was estimated at about £500,000 His memorial service was attended by some 50 to 60 of the most notable Lords and Ladies in the land, and a special service was also held in the Royal Chapel at Windsor.

 

Text Box: The Stable Yard

 

After Mr James’ death Mrs James continued to breed horses and hunt. She was a distinguished amateur actress holding intertainments both at Coton House and in the town. She always attended the Churchover village church, as did her guests, and regularly played the organ at ordinary and special services. She was elected President of the Rugby and District Boy Scouts Association in 1917 and made a Justice of the Peace in 1921 .Her beneficence towards the Rugby hospital continued throughout her life - she endowed the new out-patients department in memory of her husband in the 1920’s. She died shortly before her 87th birthday on 2 May 1948.

 

Text Box: Coton House 1970

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