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EAST HADDON HISTORY SOCIETY Northamptonshire, England


The Buildings of Sir Thomas Tresham

23rd May 2013

Malcolm Deacon spoke on this topic, and presented a fascinating history of a man who lived through turbulent times, yet endowed Northamptonshire with some significant buildings.

Sir Thomas Tresham (1534 - 11 September 1605) was a Catholic recusant politician at the end of the Tudor dynasty and the start of the Stuart dynasty in England.

Inheriting large estates at the age of 15 from his grandfather, Thomas Tresham I, he had a privileged start to adult life. He was widely regarded as a clever and well educated man, moving in the highest social circles. He was acquainted with William Cecil, the Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth, and Sir Christopher Hatton, the Lord Chancellor.

Thomas Tresham served as High Sheriff of Northamptonshire for 1573 and was knighted at the Queen's Royal Progress at Kenilworth in 1575. Sir Thomas enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, and frequently entertained large numbers of friends and acquaintances. His Catholic religion burdened him frequently with debt and fines. At a time when Queen Elizabeth was anxious about the Catholic threat posed by Spain and by her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, nonconformists were targets for persecution. Between 1581 and 1605, Tresham paid penalties totalling just under £8,000. (£1.3 million at 2013 values). His debts spiralled. At his death in 1605 he owed £11,000.

He left three notable buildings in Northamptonshire:

RUSHTON TRIANGULAR LODGE, and the unfinished LYVEDEN NEW BIELD, both of which have designs based on complicated religious symbolism as well being practical buildings. The triangular shape of the lodge and the profusion of other aspects of the building using the number three both refer to the Christian Trinity and play on the name Tresham.

He also started in 1577 ROTHWELL MARKET HOUSE, which was not completed for some three centuries.

In 1566, he married Muriel, a daughter of Sir Robert Throckmorton and Elizabeth Hussey. The Throckmorton family was a wealthy Catholic family from Coughton Court in Warwickshire.

Thomas and Muriel had eleven children

His elder son, Francis, inherited the titles, estate, and debt, and became embroiled in the Gunpowder Plot later that year along with his cousins Robert Catesby and Thomas Wintour. Imprisoned for his actions, Francis met an early death in December, 1605.

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