Gunpowder plot

Guy Fawkes at Coughton Court, Warwickshire

The Gunpowder Plot was a plan by a small group of young Roman Catholic extremists to blow up the House of Lords together with King James 1 and the whole of the Protestant government during the opening of Parliament on November 5 1605.

 The Plotters

Robert Catesby was the leader of the plotters
Robert Catesby window at Coughton Court, Warwickshire
Robert Catesby was the leader of the plotters

The ringleader was Robert Catesby, son of Sir William Catesby and Anne Throckmorton of Coughton Court and nephew of Thomas Throckmorton. He spent time here as a young boy and was a charismatic and forceful character. He conceived the plot and became its inspirational leader, recruiting the other twelve members.

Francis Tresham window
Francis Tresham window at Coughton Court, Warwickshire
Francis Tresham window

Francis Tresham, cousin of Robert Catesby and the son of Sir Thomas Tresham and Muriel Throckmorton of Coughton Court, joined the conspiracy late and came under suspicion of having betrayed it. He also spent time here as a young boy.

Sir Everard Digby had been chosen to plan the Midlands part of the plot, which was to kidnap the daughter of King James 1, the eight year old Princess Elizabeth. Since he needed a base in the Midlands Sir Everard leased Coughton Court and moved in, with his wife and two sons, in October 1605. Thomas Throckmorton and his family were living in one of their other properties.

Several of the other plotters were also related to the Throckmorton family.

Family connections to Gunpowder plot
Throckmorton family tree
Family connections to Gunpowder plot

Guy Fawkes was chosen to prepare and ignite the 36 barrels of gunpowder they had hidden in the cellars underneath the House of Lords.

Early in the morning of November 5 the cellars were searched and Guy Fawkes was captured. He was taken away and tortured to reveal the names of the other plotters.

Whilst making the final arrangements Sir Everard stayed at the Kings Head Inn in Dunchurch. At 8pm on November 5th 1605  news came to Dunchurch of the capture of Guy Fawkes and failure of the plot thus the kidnapping was abandoned and the plotters fled.

The Retreat

The plotters passed through Warwick at about midnight and then went to John Grant’s home at Norbrook House which was between Warwick and Stratford. Catesby then sent his servant Bates to Coughton Court to let Lady Digby know what had happened.

When Bates arrived at Coughton Court at about 6am he met Lady Digby in the Tower room. They had stayed awake all night anxiously awaiting the news. He rode in over the moat bridge, climber the stairs in the turrett and emerged on the first floor. Also present were Father Garnet, Father Tesimond, Nicholas Owen (the priest hole expert) and the Vaux sisters from Baddesley Clinton.

On hearing the news the men fled, Father Garnet and Nicholas Owen went into hiding at Hindlip House and Father Tessimond escaped to France.

The group at Norbrook House carried on to Huddington Hall where they stayed overnight. On the morning of 7th November they travelled to Hewell Grange and then in pouring rain on to Holbeach House in Kingswinford.

The Final Stand

On arrival at Holbeach House the plotters including Catesby, Percy and the Wright brothers and their gunpowder were soaking wet. In an attempt to dry out they spread the gunpowder in front of an open fire. 

The Sherriff and his men, who had been trailing the plotters, saw the resulting explosion and surrounded the House.  On the morning of November 8th there was a showdown. Four of the plotters were killed and the others captured. Catesby and Percy were together killed with one musket shot.
The plotters were all tried and convicted of treason and subsequently hung, drawn and quartered at the end of January 1606.


The country celebrated the defeat of the plot with bonfires which we continue to this day.