A life of strug­gle for be­liefs

Landscape (UK) - - Land Scape -

Lyve­den New Bield was planned and fi­nanced by Sir Thomas Tre­sham. Born into a wealthy Northamp­ton­shire fam­ily in 1543, he in­her­ited the fam­ily es­tates at 15. He stud­ied at Christ Church, Ox­ford, and be­came a lawyer, aged 17. His Catholic faith in­formed ev­ery as­pect of his life, de­spite the risks this en­tailed. Queen El­iz­a­beth I’s po­si­tion was threat­ened by the Catholic pow­ers of Europe, led by Spain and her im­pris­oned cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. As a re­sult, non-con­form­ists were the tar­get of con­stant sur­veil­lance and per­se­cu­tion. Sir Thomas was im­pris­oned al­most con­tin­u­ously be­tween 1581 and 1593, and fined for prac­tis­ing his faith. Over his life­time, he would have paid out the mod­ern equiv­a­lent of £1 mil­lion. In 1593, he was re­leased from house ar­rest, and dur­ing 10 months of free­dom, he planned the project which had taken shape in his mind dur­ing his cap­tiv­ity. Work be­gan in 1595, but Tre­sham was im­pris­oned again from 1596 to 1600. He was able to man­age the project re­motely, via de­tailed let­ters to his keeper John Slynne. These doc­u­ments have sur­vived. State penal­ties left Tre­sham’s fi­nances in ru­ins af­ter his sud­den death in 1605. Em­bit­tered by his fa­ther’s suf­fer­ing, Tre­sham’s el­dest son Fran­cis joined the no­to­ri­ous Gun­pow­der Plot. Af­ter it was un­cov­ered, he was im­pris­oned in the Tower of Lon­don, but died be­fore he came to trial. As a traitor, his head was placed on a spike at the gates to Northamp­ton. His reck­less younger brother Lewis took on the es­tate, but ran up more debts. By 1668, the houses and land were sold and passed out of the fam­ily.

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