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Coley Park in the mid-17h centuryColey Park
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.

    Nash Ford Publishing 2002. All Rights Reserved.