15 March 2018 The Buildings of Sir Thomas Tresham (1545-1605)
Speaker: Malcolm Deacon
Sir Thomas Tresham left a legacy of four remarkable and curious buildings rich in religious symbolism that stand testament to his strongly held Catholic beliefs. Although nominally raised as a Protestant, he was reconciled to Rome in 1580 and spent 15 years in prison for treason. He paid £7,717 in fines and penalties which led to his financial ruin and downfall.
The buildings reflect Elizabethan interest in harmony and proportion, and the significance of numbers, especially the number three-symbolic of the Trinity-which Tresham studied extensively while incarcerated.
The Market House at Rothwell was the first of the Tresham buildings, begun in the 1570’s but apparently not roofed until the 19th century. Cruxiform in shape, it’s walls were used as a gallery for Tresham coats-of arms, alongside those of other local families. An inscription in Latin records that it was built ‘as a tribute to his sweet fatherland and County of Northampton, but chiefly to this town his near neighbour’.
Rushton Hall, although dating from the early 16th century, was extensively altered and added to by Sir Thomas in 1595. He inherited it from his father and it became his family home. There was a priest hole and a secret escape tunnel, said to lead to the Triangular Lodge. In recent times a secret oratory on the top floor with a painting of the Crucifixion was discovered.
The Triangular Lodge at Rushton, completed in 1597, is considered to be one of the strangest buildings in Britain. The whole building bears witness to the Trinity. It is an equilateral triangle, with three storeys with three windows on each side and on each floor. Each side has three gables , rising to three tapering pinnacles. A frieze with a continuous inscription runs round the three sides, bearing 33 letters. Above the door are the words Tres Testimonium Dant (There are three that bear witness), a biblical quotation from St John. It is also a play on his name; his wife called him Good Tres in her letters. However, there are many other numbers, such as 5555 above the door, and numbers on the gables, which remain undeciphered.