History of Rushton Hall

When Sir William Tresham Bought Rushton in 1438 he actually bought the village known as Rushton St Peter.

It included several cottages and the church of St Peter.

He then started to build his new family home, a grand house that was to become Rushton Hall.

William Tresham made his fortune working alongside Henry V and fought for him at Agincourt in 1415.

After Henry’s death in 1422 William remained close to the young King Henry VI and remained in his employ until 1436.

He was rewarded for his loyalty and was knighted for services to the crown.

He was a lawyer and MP for Northamptonshire for many years.

William was also the Attorney General under Henry V and three times the Speaker of the House of Commons under Henry VI.

When he retired from Henry VI’s employ he was made Sherriff of Northampton and he bought the land at Rushton.

Whilst he was building his new family home he lived in Sywell in a house that came with the job as Sheriff.

One day on the road back from Rushton to Sywell he was set upon by Lord Grey’s men (with whom there was a family feud) and was ran through with a lance and left for dead.

Luckily his son Thomas was following him with some servants, they came across Sir William and they managed to get him back to Sywell still alive.

A physician was called but when they removed the Lance poor Sir William bled to death.

The responsibility of finishing the building of Rushton Hall was then left to Sir Williams’s son Thomas.

However, Thomas’s son John was more interested and so took on the project.

Thomas (known as the elder) served in the protestant households of Henry VIII and Edward VI but remained a Catholic.

He was an ardent supporter of Mary Tudor and he was one of her escorts when she was proclaimed Queen at Northampton in 1552.

Mary rewarded Thomas by appointing him Grand Prior of the Order of St John of Jerusalem when she restored the order in England in 1557.

Thomas only held the post for less than 2 years until his death at the hands of King Edwards’s men in 1559.

Thomas’s son John died before his father and left Thomas (the Elder) to raise his grandson who was also called Thomas.

Thomas Tresham inherited Rushton Hall when he was just 9 years old after his grandfather’s death.

He was raised by Protestants but kept his Catholic faith and growing up at Rushton Hall inspired his love for architecture.

Thomas was to become known as Thomas the Builder and although he started more buildings than he finished they are all still standing today.

In 1577 Thomas was deemed to be the most loyal subject to the crown.

He gave more arms and horses than any other individual, and so he was invited to Kenilworth by Queen Elisabeth I where she knighted him.

She then asked him to denounce Catholicism.  She gave him three chances but he could not do it so she put him in prison for 15 years.

Thomas served 12 of his 15 years and when he was released he started to build Triangular Lodge.

He had clearly worked on its design whilst in prison. Triangular Lodge still stands and is now known as one of Britain’s most unusual buildings.

It was born out of Thomas’s indignity of being thrown into prison for his Catholic beliefs – its design celebrates the catholic faith, but it had to be done secretly and for this reason, many of its design features were not made obvious. Its triangular shape represents the holy trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Thomas was friends with the Jesuit Priest Nicholas Owen, the most infamous builder of Priest holes.

A Priest hole was a hiding place for Catholic Priests during the reformation when all Catholic but especially Priests were persecuted and killed. Owen spent 2 years at Rushton Hall and whilst he was there he constructed a secret escape tunnel for Priests.

The tunnel went from the church of St Peter at the front of the Hall, under the house and all the way up to Triangular Lodge.

Thomas’s eldest son was called Francis. He was a hot-headed young man and was remarkably convicted twice for treason.

Treason is a crime that was punishable by death so to be convicted twice was almost impossible.

Francis’s Cousin Robert Catesby was the driving force behind the Gunpowder Plot.

In early September 1605, Thomas died leaving Francis as the eldest son to inherit Rushton Hall and most of his father’s wealth.

By this time the plotters had run out of money and so welcomed Francis (and his newly gained wealth) into their group.

Francis’s brother in law was Lord Moteagle who was due to be at the State Opening of Parliament.

Francis had an anonymous letter delivered to Monteagle warning him “not to be in the house on that day”.

This letter led to the increased security checks that eventually caught Guy Fawkes who was guarding the Gunpowder under the Houses Of Parliament.

With the Plot foiled it only took a few days before the rest of the plotters were either captured or killed. Francis was held in the Tower of London where he died before he could be executed in December 1605.

Rushton Hall was then inherited by Francis’s brother Lewis who despite mounting debts due to fines from the crown, was able to hang on to the Hall until 1612 when it was handed over to the Crown.

The Crown-owned Rushton Hall until 1619 when they sold it to Sir William Cockayne.