There goes the neighbourhood
Every year on November 5, we remember the Gunpowder Plot, but where in England did the plotters come from and have those areas stood the test of time? Eleanor Doughty investigates
ALMOST exactly 413 years ago, with a few days to spare, a group of Catholics set their eyes upon a lofty target: the Houses of Parliament. The Gunpowder Plotters—among them Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Thomas and Robert Winter and Sir Everard Digby—had come to London to blow up James I, but they all hailed from elsewhere in the country.
One of the plotters, Thomas Percy, greatgrandson of the 4th Earl of Northumberland, was a former constable of Alnwick Castle, which is, today, home to one of the world’s largest wooden treehouses and the Duchess of Northumberland’s famous Poison Garden.
Alnwick itself, says Samuel Gibson, head of Strutt & Parker’s Morpeth office (01670 516123) ‘is full of independent shops and cafes, where young and old mix, giving it an inclusive quality you seldom find’.
In addition to being perfectly located for access to both Newcastle upon Tyne (35 miles by car or 45 minutes by train) and Edinburgh (87 miles or an hour and a half by train), the old market town is just off the mighty A1.
The area’s property market is thriving, says Mr Gibson. ‘Buyers are still drawn here even when times are tough, because everyone knows that you can get much more house for your money in the North-east than in the South. The spectacular beaches, the national park, Kielder Forest and the Cheviot Hills combine with a lifestyle that has roots in centuries of tradition—what’s not to love?’
Northumberland isn’t the only county that has bred traitors. The Winter brothers came from the moated manor of Huddington Court, 10 miles from the cathedral city of Worcester. Worcestershire still has plenty to offer, with character properties for sale, including the 12-acre, six-bedroom Honeypot Farm, three miles from Great Malvern station, on the market with Allan Morris (01684 561411) for £1.5 million.
The schools are also good. As well as Malvern College (co-ed), there’s Malvern St James (all girls), both in an AONB, the King’s School Worcester and, to the northwest, Abberley Hall prep. Of interest nearby is Madresfield Court, the original Brideshead, and C. F. A. Voysey’s Perrycroft, an Artsand-crafts house in the Malvern Hills.
In Northamptonshire, England’s best-kept secret (‘The heart of the matter’, August 9, 2017), sits the village of Ashby St Ledgers.
They went to London to blow up James I, but they all hailed from elsewhere
Despite its colourful past, Catesby’s home Ashby St Ledgers is a quiet village
Ashby Manor House, the former home of the Catesby family, was probably begun in the 1390s and is now available to rent through Airbnb. The local area is as charming as it comes—on the border of Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, Ashby St Ledgers is five miles from Daventry and not far from the lovely village of Long Buckby. Rugby is seven miles away, with its famous school, and Northampton 20 miles in the other direction.
The county is awash with grand houses and good hunting, with the Pytchley, the Grafton and the Bicester with Whaddon Chase, plus the Warwickshire on the other side of the border, and lovely walks can be had at Draycote Water reservoir, not far from the pretty village of Dunchurch with its thatched cottages. House prices are a little over the national average: £302,784 in Long Buckby, according to Zoopla, and a smidge over £500,000 might get you a four-bedroom detached house.
‘Despite its colourful past, Ashby St Ledgers is a relatively quiet village, with a church and traditional pub,’ says Ian Cattle of Carter Jonas Northampton (01604 321196). Plus, he adds, it’s well connected ‘from either Long Buckby or Rugby, which offers commuters rail links into Euston in under an hour’.
Next is Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire, home to Gayhurst House, sometime seat of the Digby family. Here, only 60 miles from London, house prices are higher than in Northumberland (£337,621 versus £237,446 on average) and there are charming nooks and crannies, not least Great Missenden, the former home of Roald Dahl, Little Missenden with its Saxon-cumnorman church and Olney, which has a vibrant weekly Thursday market. Newport Pagnell itself, only five miles from Milton Keynes Central railway station, is just 35 minutes from London Euston. We’ll see you at the bonfire.
Unlike the fortunes of the Gunpowder Plotters, the places from which they hailed have only risen, with Alnwick, Worcestershire and Newport Pagnell all sought after
The Manor at Ashby St Ledgers, Northamptonshire, home of ringleader Robert Catesby, is where the conspirators regularly gathered to plot their treason. It is now available to rent through Airbnb. After Catesby’s death, his head was mounted on the House of Commons