Never Completed

Discover the fascinating history of Lyveden New Bield © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Discover the fascinating history of Lyveden New Bield

Lyveden New Bield was planned and financed by Sir Thomas Tresham

Thomas Tresham was born into a wealthy and respected Northamptonshire family. The family acquired large estates in Northamptonshire including the manor houses of Rushton and Lyveden. Sir Thomas inherited the estate from his grandfather in 1559, aged only 15.

Faith in dangerous times

Sir Thomas was a fervent Catholic, at a time when Queen Elizabeth was anxious about the Catholic threat posed by Spain and by her cousin Mary Queen of Scots. Nonconformists were targets for perpetual persecution.

Between 1581 and 1605, Tresham was required to pay penalties totalling just under £8,000 because of his faith. He was left with considerable debts, from which his finances never fully recovered.

Treason, debt and incomplete dreams

After Sir Thomas died in 1605, his elder son Francis inherited the estate as well as the debt, and then became embroiled in the Gunpowder Plot later that year along with his cousins Catesby and Wintour. Imprisoned for his actions he met an early death in December 1605.

While the estate now passed to Francis’s younger brother Lewis, Lady Tresham shouldered the debt. She managed the debt admirably, leaving only an outstanding £1,000 upon her death in 1615.

Lewis’s reckless lifestyle only increased the family debt, and Lyveden was to pass out of the family’s hands. Sir Thomas’s dream was never to be fulfilled and the New Bield remained as it stands today, incomplete.