Saturday, June 08, 2013

Gunpowder, treason and an unfinished building

Until recently I had little idea how closely involved Northamptonshire notables were in the plot to overthrow King James I and VI.  Throughout the reign of Elizabeth I, Catholics had to keep their heads down if they wanted to keep them on their shoulders.
One Northamptonshire Catholic was the wealthy landowner, Thomas Tresham. He spent around 15 years in prison or under house arrest, and had to pay huge fines because he would not deny his faith.  He was by no means an ascetic, and found time and energy not only to father eleven children, but also to design and construct Lyveden New Bield -designed around significant numbers for Catholics: three – the Trinity; five – the wounds of Christ; and seven – the days of the creation, the deadly sins, the cardinal virtues and so on.
The New Bield was to be a summer house, to entertain his guests. It was linked to the main house, the Old Bield, by a walk through carefully planned gardens – orchards, a moat, and raised mounds for admiring the grounds.
The building was never completed.   Thomas died in September 1605 and his son Francis was involved in the Gunpowder Plot, and imprisoned later in the year. Francis died in prison in December in “mysterious circumstances”. After these deaths, the workmen realised they wouldn’t be paid, and downed tools.
A younger son, Lewis frittered away much of the remaining family fortune.  The building now belongs to the National Trust, who have restored the gardens with an orchard of old varieties of fruit, as planned by Tresham, a moat and landscaped mounts leading to the summer lodge.

Servants entrance into the basement where kitchens etc were - This is lower than 5'6" now

servants' entrance - hidden from the view of guests by the raised banks

A lone duckling - it later followed its mother and siblings to the other part of the moat.

The reflection would be perfect if only the wind dropped

Food for fish and ducks? Tadpoles galore!

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