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Sir Thomas Tresham's Intriguing Tudor Triangular Lodge - Rushton (Northants. UK)

Triangular Lodge

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Roman Catholic Christian Symbolism

Thomas Tresham's 16th century 'Triangular Lodge' is intriguing ~ quite simply because it is, indeed, triangular. There are not too many three-sided buildings around!

But there is more to it than that. Triangles permeate the building ~ equilateral triangles, that is. It is symbolic of Sir Thomas's religious beliefs.

Tresham was a very devout Christian ~ and, specifically, a Roman Catholic Christian. The symbolism of the Holy Trinity was extremely important to him and his lodge is a physical prayer, in stone, to the Holy Trinity.

But there is even more to it than that. Coincidentally, in view of his beliefs, his very name meant 'three' ~ 'Tresham' was often shortened, by his wife, to the affectionate pet name 'Tres'.

The lodge is in the grounds of Rushton Hall, a mansion in Northamptonshire, in the English Midlands ~ once the Tresham family home.

Thomas Tresham's Rushton Triangular Lodge is currently owned and cared for by 'English Heritage'.

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I believe and hope that any images and / or words that are not mine have been credited accordingly and used correctly and legally.

Otherwise, the words and photos are my own. Copyright Tricia Mason. All rights Reserved.

Thomas Tresham's Intriguing Triangular Lodge

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Where is Rushton, With Its Triangular Lodge?

Rushton is a village in the county, or shire, of Northampton ~ Northamptonshire.

Nearby Rushton Hall is a mansion, built by the Tresham family. Sir John started work on it in about 1438.

It remained in that family for about 200 years, before going into the hands of the Cockaynes.

The grounds are expansive and the 'folly', known as the Triangular Lodge', was built in those grounds.

Tresham Buildings



Northamptonshire History + Architecture

Rushton Hall - A couple of interesting asides:

In 1828 Rushton Hall was sold, for £140,000, to William Williams Hope. There are stories of the 'Hope Diamond’ being kept here at that time.

When the property went on sale after Hope’s death, it was bought for £165,000 and became the home of the Clara and William Clarke-Thornhill. Clara was a friend of Charles Dickens, who visited the hall frequently during her ownership, and may have based Haversham Hall (Great Expectations) on Rushton.

Since then this palatial building has housed lodgers, a school and, now, a hotel and spa.

Rushton Hall's Website:

Rushton Hall ~ now Rushton Hall Hotel and spa ~ has a website with some beautiful photographs and a summary of the hall’s history.

Scroll to Continue

They begin with quotes from the Northampton County Magazine for February 1929:

‘Rushton Hall is charmingly situated upon a gentle eminence which rises from the Ise, a small stream which waters the park' and it is ‘a fine and Princely residence’.

They describe the hall, which is constructed of local stone, as ‘magnificent’ ~ both from the outside and on the inside.

Originally constructed in about 1438, by Sir John Tresham, the hall continued to be 're-formed', 'embellished' and 'enlarged', first by the Tresham family, and, after around 1630, by the Cockayne family, who took over the property.

As noted elsewhere, Sir Thomas Tresham II created both the Oratory at Rushton, and the Triangular Lodge in the grounds. A church ~ St Peters ~ also once stood in those grounds.

Rushton Hall 's current facade is 16th century.

In the grounds can be found pheasant and deer.


Rushton Hall - Showing St Peter's Church

1882 - Out of Copyright

1882 - Out of Copyright

St Peters(??)

Out of Copyright

Out of Copyright

Another Christian 'Structure': Tresham's Oratory at Rushton Hall

Ancestors of Sir Thomas Tresham II created Rushton Hall, but he created the Oratory at Rushton Hall.

A plaster representation of 'Passion', dated to 1577, is housed in the Oratory.

Before being moved to this spot, this work of art was kept in St Peter's Church, which used to stand in Rushton's grounds, near the Hall.

According to the 'British Listed Buildings' site (item written when the hall was a school), the Oratory was / is situated in the 'south-west wing' of Rushton Hall and 'has a painted plaster relief panel of the Crucification'.

A text, written to accompany a 19th century picture of the hall, includes this comment: 'the most curious, as well as the most ancient part of the building, is a small oratory leading from the great staircase, containing a representation, in basso relieve, of the Crucifixion, composed of numerous characters, with a Latin inscription in gold characters.'

Rushton Hall, Northants ~ Front Elevation

Out of Copyright

Out of Copyright

Rushton Triangular Lodge - Sir Thomas Tresham II Christian Symbolic Architecture

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Sir Thomas Tresham II

Out of Copyright because od age. Owned By The National Trust

Out of Copyright because od age. Owned By The National Trust

Lyveden New Bield, Northants - Sir Thomas Tresham II Christian Symbolic Architecture

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Rushton + Lyveden

Who Was Sir Thomas Tresham ~ 'Tres'?

Thomas Tresham was a Roman Catholic gentleman, from a Roman Catholic family ~ a high status, well off family.

The Thomas Tresham in question was not the second of that name, but he was the second 'Sir' Thomas Tresham.

He was born in 1545. By the age of three, he was orphaned and was, thereafter, raised by Sir Robert Throckmorton, and his household.

He was born under the Tudor monarchs, but lived into the early part of the reign of England's first Stuart king ~ James I ~ dying in 1605.

Tresham was a politician. He was well-educated and he moved in elevated circles. He was also a substantial land-owner, having inherited large Northamptonshire estates ~ Rushton and Lyvedon ~ at the age of 15, from his Grandfather, Thomas Tresham I, who had flourished under Catholic Queen Mary.

The younger Tresham seems to have had an interest in ~ and a flair for ~ architectural design, although he did employ architects to design his buildings. Regarding Sir Thomas, the 'British History Online' site quotes Thomas Fuller, who noted in his 'Worthies': 'hard to say whether greater his delight or skill in building, though more forward in beginning than fortunate in finishing his fabricks'.

It is very important to remember that very few people, in 16th century England, had the wherewithal to build themselves a stone folly, in the grounds of a large mansion.

And, of course, very few 16th century Englishmen had the title 'Sir'. Catholic Tresham was knighted, by Protestant Queen Elizabeth, at Kenilworth, in Warwickshire, in 1575. However, he lost favour, when it became apparent that he was not willing to accept the Elizabethan church settlement.

Tresham was a Roman Catholic, in a Protestant country, with a Protestant monarch, at a time when politics and religion were, to a huge extent, one and the same ~ a potentially dangerous situation to be in.

As a Recusant Catholic, living in the reign of Protestant Queen Elizabeth, Tresham had to pay huge amounts in fines and was even imprisoned ~ effectively held as a hostage ~ for a total of 15 years (during which time, he planned his triangular lodge). This left him with large debts. His fines, between 1581 and 1605, amounted to almost £8,000. At his death, he owed £11,000.

Tresham's wife ~ the lady, who affectionately called him 'Tres' ~ was Muriel, nee Throckmorton, of Coughton Court in Warwickshire, a member of the well-known Catholic Throckmorton family, who had taken Tresham in, as a parent-less infant. Tresham and Muriel married in 1566 and had several children.

It is believed that, as an architect and a Catholic, Tresham's input into the design of the 'Triangular Lodge' was high.

He also designed other properties, including the unfinished, but fascinating, cruciform Lyvedon New Bield ~ and he was responsible for the initial stages of Rothwell's cruciform 'Market house'.


Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Another Sir Thomas Tresham ~ An Ancestor

Another Sir Thomas Tresham, who lived in the 15th century, was the son of Sir William Tresham and Isabel de Vaux.

A man of high status, he was both a soldier and a politician, who moved in high circles. He actually became ‘Speaker of the House of Commons’, was given various other important appointments, and represented Northamptonshire in Parliament in 1467.

However, he became embroiled in plots, which resulted in him being imprisoned in the Tower of London, until 1470, when Henry VI regained his throne.

But events went against him, again and, on 6th May, 1471, he was executed ~ leaving issue, including a son named John.

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Rushton Hall, Northants ~ From the Front

Out of Copyright

Out of Copyright

Sir Thomas Tresham I ~ Grandfather of 'Tres'

Sir Thomas Tresham I was the eldest son of John Tresham of Rushton, and Elizabeth, nee Harrington. He was the grandfather of 'Tres' ~ and it was from him that young Tres inherited his landed estates. He was a man of high status!

Among Thomas senior's various titles were ‘High Sheriff of Northamptonshire’, ‘MP for Northamptonshire' and 'Grand Prior of England in the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem'. He was on various commissions of enquiry and even went to Calais to receive Anne of Cleves (Henry VIII's 4th wife), in 1539.

As well as his estates in Northamptonshire ~ Rushton and Lyveden ~ he also held land in Dorset. In 1540 he was granted a licence to ‘impark’ his Lyveden estate.

Having proclaimed Mary Tudor queen in Northamptonshire, he was with her on her entry into the capital ~ London. When they arrived, in 1553, they were met by, amongst others, a young schoolboy of Christ's Hospital ~ thirteen-year-old Edmund Campion. He had been chosen, as best scholar, to give the Latin speech of welcome to Queen Mary.

Tresham had a seat in the House of Lords and he sent a proxy to the first parliament of Elizabeth Tudor, after she became queen.

He died on 8th March, 1559, and was buried at Rushton ~ at Rushton Church.

He married twice. His first wife gave him five children: George, William, Isabel, Mary and John. His second wife died without issue.

Rushton Hall, Northants ~ From the Side

Out of Copyright

Out of Copyright

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Henry VII, Reformation + Rebellion

Background to Tresham's Enigmatic Structures: Christianity in 16th Century England ~ Tudor England

To understand Tresham and his religious architecture, it is necessary to understand a little about the relevant period in England's religious history.

Christianity was the official religion of 16th century England, but the version of Christianity that one chose could be a matter of life and death. Religion and politics could not be separated at that time ~ they were totally entwined together.

England lurched back and forth between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism during this period ~ and the people had to move with the times, or risk bring burned at the stake!

England had long been a Roman Catholic country. The 'Protestant' movement, generally, was the result of discontent with the excesses of Roman Catholicism. This resulted in 'The Reformation', which is generally dated to 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses, criticising Church corruption, to a church door in Wittenburg.

But, for Henry VIII, in England, it seems to have been a more personal matter. For a number of reasons, Henry VIII was unhappy with the power that the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church held in his England.

Henry VIII, as king, wanted more control in his own country; he particularly wanted control of the huge amounts of wealth owned and controlled by the Catholic church ~ and he wanted to divorce his wife, in order to marry her maid, Nan Bullen (Anne Boleyn), the young woman, of whom he had become enamoured, who had 'Protestant' tendencies, and who he hoped could provide him with a legitimate son ~ a Tudor heir to the throne.

Queen Katherine, King Henry, Queen Anne

Katherine of Aragon (Artist Unknown), Henry VIII (Hans Holbein), Queen Anne Boleyn (Artist Unknown),

Katherine of Aragon (Artist Unknown), Henry VIII (Hans Holbein), Queen Anne Boleyn (Artist Unknown),

A Tudor Heir

Henry's existing wife was Katherine of Aragon ~ daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, the 'Catholic Monarchs' of 'The Spains'. His new love would become known as Queen Anne Boleyn ~ 'Anne of the thousands days'.

Katherine had already borne Henry a daughter ~ Mary. Anne would bear him a second daughter ~ Elizabeth. After divorcing his first wife, Henry would go on to have his second wife beheaded, before marrying the devoutly Catholic Jane Seymour, who would provide him with the son he so desired ~ Edward ~ but who would die soon afterwards. Henry would go on to have three more wives, but no more legitimate children.

Although Henry rebelled against Pope and Church, it is believed that he still considered himself to be both Catholic and Christian throughout his life ~ but he had, most certainly, protested!

What about Edward, Henry's only living legitimate son ~ the child of Catholic Jane Seymour?

He, too, was a convinced Protestant.

And the eldest child, Mary?

It is not surprising that Mary Tudor, the daughter of staunchly Catholic Katherine of Aragon, should, herself, be staunchly Catholic.

What faith did Elizabeth choose?

And it is also unsurprising that Elizabeth Tudor, the daughter of Anne Boleyn, with the Protestant tendencies, should, herself, be Protestant ~ although it appears that she had Catholic tendencies and was not, at least at the beginning of her reign, a dedicated Protestant.

When Elizabeth died, last of the Tudors, she was followed to the throne by a Stuart, her cousin, James VI of Scotland ~ now to be James I of England.

Another Protestant.

Henry VIII to James I

Henry VIII (Hans Holbein jnr); Edward VI (Unknown); Mary I (Master John); Elizabeth I (William Scrots), James I (+ VII) (John de Critz)

Henry VIII (Hans Holbein jnr); Edward VI (Unknown); Mary I (Master John); Elizabeth I (William Scrots), James I (+ VII) (John de Critz)

Tudor Monarchs and their Reigns:

Henry VII ~ 1485 - 1509

Henry VIII ~ 1509 - 1547

Edward VI ~ 1547 - 1553

Mary I ~ 1553 - 1558

Elizabeth I 1558 - 1603

The First Stuart King of England:

James I (James VI of Scotland) ~ 1603 - 1625

Prince Arthur Tudor, Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII

Arthur Tudor Prince of Wales c 1500 (Unknown artist), Katherine of Aragon (Michel Sittow),  HenryVIII 1509  (Unknown artist),

Arthur Tudor Prince of Wales c 1500 (Unknown artist), Katherine of Aragon (Michel Sittow), HenryVIII 1509 (Unknown artist),

Religious Culture of England

Catholic ~ Protestant ~ / ~ Protestant ~ Catholic

Until the Henry-Katherine-Anne 'divorce' crisis, which had its roots in the mid 1520s and came to a head in the early 1530s, England had long been unquestionably Roman Catholic.

It was in 1527 that Henry requested an annulment of his marriage, from the pope ~ the grounds being that Katherine had already been betrothed to his brother, so their marriage was incestuous and not legal.

Katherine was not happy about this. She had many supporters and the Pope refused. It was the Archbishop of Canterbury who, in late 1522, declared Henry's first marriage invalid, so that he could marry Anne in January 1523.

After the divorce, Henry VIII was excommunicated and he dissolved the monasteries, in order to remove them as a sign of Catholic power and also to take their riches for the royal coffers.

England was, in effect, a Protestant country from the date when Henry was legally declared Head of the Church of England. This Act of Supremacy was passed, by Parliament, in November 1534.

Edward VI

Public Domain - Out of Copyright

Public Domain - Out of Copyright

Edward VI

The country continued to be a Protestant under Henry's only legitimate son, Edward VI. Indeed, Edward ~ either personally or under the leadership of his advisers, since he was so young ~ continued to dissolve Roman Catholic aspects of society (eg schools).

Edward was young and sickly when he inherited the throne in 1547. After a reign of only six years, he died, in 1553 and, after a debacle, where the tragic Lady Jane Grey was made queen for nine days, Edward's half-sister, Mary I, became queen.

Queen Mary I

Public Domain - Copyright Expired

Public Domain - Copyright Expired

Mary and Catholicism

Mary I

Under Queen Mary, from 1553, England was Roman Catholic again.

Mary I was known as 'Bloody Mary', because, in order to make and keep England a follower of Roman Catholicism, she shed the blood of many Protestant 'heretics'.

The first English Protestant martyr, victim of the 'Marian Persecutions', was clergyman John Rogers, who was born in Deritend, Birmingham, in around 1500, and who was burned at the stake, as a dissenter ~ a Protestant 'heretic' ~ on 4th February 1555.

The English Reformation had meant the prohibition of Catholic worship, and, when Queen Mary decreed that England was Roman Catholic, once more, there were reprisals.

Protestants were now considered to be heretics.They could flee, re-convert, or suffer the consequences of their acts ~ trial and punishment. This might result in being excommunicated and then burned alive. More than 280 people died, in this manner, under Mary. Others perished while imprisoned.

Mary died in 1558. Some would say that both she and her memory have been unfairly maligned:

"It is the tragedy of Queen Mary that today, 450 years after her death, she remains the most hated, least understood monarch in English history" ~ from the Amazon 'product description' for 'The Myth of "Bloody Mary": A Biography of Queen Mary I of England' by Linda Porter.

Queen Elizabeth I

Copyright Expired - Public Domain

Copyright Expired - Public Domain

Queen Elizabeth I and Religious Affairs

Elizabeth I

After the death of Mary I, in 1558, Elizabeth, her half-sister, became Queen of England.

Queen Elizabeth was under pressure from both Catholics and Protestants to support their cause.

In 1559, the 'Religious Settlement' made Elizabeth ~ ie not the Pope ~ 'Supreme Head of the Church', in England, but, though Protestants could now worship as they pleased, once more, Elizabeth did not prevent Catholics worshiping according to their own traditions ~ within reason.

At this stage, Roman Catholicism was tolerated, as long as it was not too obvious, as long as Catholics attended the parish church from time to time, and as long as they were loyal to Queen and Country.

The further one lived from Court, the easier it was to be openly 'Papist'.

Tolerance weakened, however, when some Catholic Earls revolted in 1569 ~ and it disappeared, completely, the following year, when a Papal Bull ~ "Regnans in Excelsis" ~ excommunicated the queen, describing her as 'a usurper', and a 'wicked' one. It also called her a 'heretic' and claimed that it was right that good Catholics should wish to 'deprive her of her throne'. Jesuit missionaries also started arriving in the country, with the aim of re-converting it to Catholicism. Plots against the queen's life began to be reported.

An Act of 1581 made it a treasonable offence to cause English subjects to abandon their allegiance to the Queen, or her Church. And 'Recusants' ~ ie those who refused to attend the Church of England ~ could be fined the, then, enormous amount of twenty pounds!

It has been claimed that, in spite of Elizabeth's reputation for religious tolerance, she was actually as 'bloody' as her sister, when it came to the execution of certain Catholics.

An Act of 1585 ordered the eviction, from England, of Jesuits and Roman Catholic priests. England had definitely reverted back to Protestantism once again.

Practicing Roman Catholics were a threat to Elizabeth. Some were loyal to her ~ as a person and a monarch ~ but others condemned her for her 'heretical' Protestant religious views, for not admitting the Pope back into English Christian life and for condemning their own practices.

Being loyal to an external figure ~ the Pope ~ and belonging to an out-lawed religion, resulted in accusations of Treason. Some may have had grounds, but others may have been groundless.

Queen Mary had had certain Protestants burned at the stake, as heretics; Queen Elizabeth had certain Catholics hanged, drawn and quartered, as traitors ~ but, according to tradition, 'Good Queen Bess' was not as keen to condemn as was her sister, 'Bloody Mary'.

When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, it was the end of the Welsh Tudor dynasty

James I (+ VI)

Copyright Expired - Public Domain

Copyright Expired - Public Domain

James I (James VI Scotland)

When the Tudor dynasty ended ~ with Queen Elizabeth I's death in 1603 ~ it was replaced with the Scottish Stuart dynasty.

King James VI of Scotland, became King James I of England. This is the son of Mary Queen of Scots. This is the 'King James' of Biblical fame. It is also the King James, whom Roman Catholic plotters attempted to assassinate, on 5th November 1605, by blowing up Parliament. 'Gunpowder Treason and Plot' was a movement based in the English Midlands.

Burned at the Stake

I believe that these images are in the public domain because copyright has expired. If I am wrong about this, then I apologise. Please, if so, let me know so that I may correct this error. Thank you.

I believe that these images are in the public domain because copyright has expired. If I am wrong about this, then I apologise. Please, if so, let me know so that I may correct this error. Thank you.

Hanged, drawn and quartered - From Wikipedia

The usual manner of execution by being 'hanged, drawn and quartered' was as follows:

After being dragged through the streets, by horse ~ perhaps on a wooden hurdle ~ to the place of public execution, the convicted man would be hanged.

But he would not be hanged unto the death! No, he would not be allowed the mercy of death.

Having suffered enough to get very close to death, the man would be taken down , but he would still not be allowed any mercy.

While alive and conscious, he would be 'emasculated'.

Then he would be 'disembowelled'.

Finally he would be beheaded!

Well, not quite finally ~ though he was definitely dead by now.

His body would then be quartered ~ cut, or torn, into four.

His head might then be paraded on a pole for all to see.

According to Wikipedia:

'For reasons of public decency, women convicted of high treason were instead burnt at the stake.'

Hanged, Drawn, Quartered

Public Domain - Out of Copyright

Public Domain - Out of Copyright

Catholic; Protestant; Catholic; Protestant: Fear, Belief, Danger and Confusion

It was against this complex, confusing, and sometimes terrifying, religious ~ actually, politico-religious ~ backdrop, that Christians, of different persuasions, attempted to follow their religion, according to their wishes and their consciences ~ and in line with the teachings of their clerical leaders, and what they believed that God required of them.

People ~ believers of different persuasions ~ had to be very careful.

Catholics, like the Treshams, might flourish and prosper under a Catholic monarch, but would have to worship with very great restraint, under a Protestant monarch, if they wished to retain their religious beliefs and their lives.

Queen Elizabeth, no matter how tolerant she might wish to be, could not appear to be weak and could not allow potential traitors to thrive.

Triangular Lodge

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason