Thomas Tresham (died 1605)

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Sir Thomas Tresham (1543 – 11 September 1605 [1] ) was a prominent recusant Catholic landowner in Elizabethan Northamptonshire. He died two years after the accession of James VI and I.

Recusancy refusal to attend mandated Anglican services in the period following the English Reformation

Recusancy, from the Latin recusare, was the state of those who refused to attend Anglican services during the history of England, Wales and Ireland. The term was first used to refer to people, known as recusants, who remained loyal to the pope and the Roman Catholic Church and did not attend Church of England services.


Rushton Triangular Lodge. Rushton Triangular Lodge.jpg
Rushton Triangular Lodge.


Tresham was brought up in the Throckmorton household. He inherited large estates at the age of 15, from his grandfather and namesake Thomas Tresham I, establishing him as a member of the Catholic elite. He was widely regarded as clever and well-educated, a correspondent of William Cecil, the Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth, and Sir Christopher Hatton, the Lord Chancellor.

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley English statesman

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, was an English statesman, the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, twice Secretary of State and Lord High Treasurer from 1572. Albert Pollard wrote, "From 1558 for forty years the biography of Cecil is almost indistinguishable from that of Elizabeth and from the history of England."

Elizabeth I of England Queen of England and Ireland

Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes called the Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.

Christopher Hatton 16th-century English politician

Sir Christopher Hatton KG was an English politician, Lord Chancellor of England and a favourite of Elizabeth I of England. He was one of those who found Mary, Queen of Scots, guilty of treason.

Well-read, Tresham dedicated much of his life to collecting books. He was much disliked, however, for an enclosure policy towards common land. Following a riot which destroyed some of his hedges, he had 50 people executed. [2]

Tresham was picked as sheriff for Northamptonshire in 1573 and was knighted at the Queen's Royal Progress at Kenilworth in 1575. [1] He frequently entertained large numbers of friends and acquaintances and pursued an aggressively reforming estate policy. His recusancy, Jesuit connections and arguments for the state's lack of jurisdiction in matters of conscience made him the subject of official attention, and he was imprisoned several times and fined heavily. [3] At a time when Queen Elizabeth was anxious about the Catholic threat posed by Spain and by her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, Catholics were made targets for persecution by their spiritual loyalty to another temporal power (the Pope, and by extension, the Catholic King of Spain). Between 1581 and 1605, Tresham paid penalties totalling just under £8,000. (equivalent to £1,750,000 in 2018) [4] . These heavy financial demands were, in reality, overshadowed by the expense of his building projects and his insistence on making advantageous marriages for his six daughters, bringing with them sizeable dowries (£12,200). His credit was thus impaired, and the ill-advised involvement of his son, Francis, in the Earl of Essex's rebellion, cost him over £3,000. As a Catholic who had Jesuit links, and who argued for an individual's right to act according to his conscience unmolested, he was tarred with the brush of disloyalty, a mark he fiercely rejected. Ultimately, his son Lewis successfully ate through what little family money was left. [5]

Kenilworth town in Warwickshire, England

Kenilworth is a town and civil parish in Warwickshire, England, about 6 miles (10 km) south-west of the centre of Coventry, 5 miles (8 km) north of Warwick and 90 miles (140 km) north-west of London. It lies on Finham Brook, a tributary of the River Sowe which joins the River Avon about 2 miles (3 km) north-east of the town centre. The 2011 Census recorded a parish population of 22,413. The town is noted for the extensive ruins of Kenilworth Castle, the ruins of Kenilworth Abbey in Abbey Fields park, St Nicholas' Parish Church, and the town's clock tower.

Mary, Queen of Scots Queen of Scotland

Mary, Queen of Scots, also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, reigned over Scotland from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567.

He left three notable buildings in Northamptonshire, the extraordinary Rushton Triangular Lodge and the unfinished Lyveden New Bield, both of which embody the strength of his faith. The Triangular Lodge bears witness to Tresham's fidelity to the doctrine of the Trinity. There was also a more personal connection: above the door we find the inscription 'Tres testimonium dant' ('the three bear witness', or, perhaps, 'Tres bears witness'). 'Tres' may be a moment of self-reference; it was his wife's pet name for him. [6] Tresham himself was the architect of these designs, and the extant family papers in the British Library reveal some of his plans. His sense of civic responsibility in local society, occasioned by his gentility and the expectations of his rank and family practice, led him to begin building the Market House at Rothwell in 1577, thought to be a sessions house and decorated with the arms of other local families. [7] Sir Thomas was a considerable landowner at his death in 1605, but his estate had £11,000 of debt (equivalent to £2,410,000 in 2018) [4] .

Rushton Triangular Lodge Grade I listed folly in the United Kingdom

The Triangular Lodge is a folly, designed by Sir Thomas Tresham and constructed between 1593 and 1597 near Rushton, Northamptonshire, England. It is now in the care of English Heritage. The stone used for the construction was alternating bands of dark and light limestone.

Lyveden New Bield Grade I listed building in East Northamptonshire, United Kingdom

Lyveden New Bield is an unfinished Elizabethan summer house in the parish of Aldwincle in East Northamptonshire, England, owned by the National Trust. It is a Grade I listed building, classing it as a 'building of exceptional interest.'

Trinity Christian doctrine that God is one God, but three coeternal consubstantial persons

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is one God, but three coeternal consubstantial persons or hypostases—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—as "one God in three Divine persons". The three persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature" (homoousios). In this context, a "nature" is what one is, whereas a "person" is who one is. Sometimes differing views are referred to as nontrinitarian. Trinitarianism contrasts with positions such as Binitarianism and Monarchianism, of which Modalistic Monarchianism and Unitarianism are subsets.

Marriage and children

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 and Tresham had been Sir Robert's ward. Muriel Tresham once wrote to the Countess of Bedford for her help, as a "lowly wife on my knees with importunacy." [8]

Robert Throckmorton English politician

Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton Court, Warwickshire, MP, KG was a distinguished English Tudor courtier. His public career was impeded by being a Roman Catholic.

Coughton Court Grade I listed historic house museum in Stratford-on-Avon, United Kingdom

Coughton Court is an English Tudor country house, situated on the main road between Studley and Alcester in Warwickshire. It is a Grade I listed building.

Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford Patron of the arts and literature in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods

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Thomas and Muriel had eleven children, including;

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 from natural causes in December 1605, avoiding certain execution. Nevertheless, he was decapitated after his death and his head displayed as that of a notorious traitor. His role in the Plot has been the subject of debate by historians and it has been largely accepted that he was the author of the famous 'Mounteagle Letter'. However widely agreed his authorship of the letter to his relative, it remains conjectural.

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  1. 1 2 Pevsner, Nikolaus; Cherry, Bridget (revision) (1961). The Buildings of England – Northamptonshire. London and New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 398. ISBN   978-0-300-09632-3.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. What on Earth? - Monsters and Myths. Narrators: Steven Kearney, Greg Chives, Martin Durkin. (Season 4, episode __ (20?), aired 19 May 2018, Science Channel).
  3. Kaushik, Sandeep (1996). "Resistance, Loyalty and Recusant Politics:Sir Thomas Tresham and the Elizabethan State (The Midland History Prize essay)". Midland History. 21 (1): 37–72.
  4. 1 2 UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  5. Lock, Julian. "Tresham, Sir Thomas (1543-1605)". ODNB. OUP. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  6. Historic England. "Rushton Triangular Lodge (1052038)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  7. Heal, Felicity; Holmes, Clive (1994). The Gentry in England and Wales, 1500-1700. Stanford and Basingstoke: Stanford University Press and Macmillan.
  8. Gary Schneider, The Culture of Epistolarity (Newark, 2005), p. 117.