The Gunpowder Plot

Sketch of the Gunpowder Plotters

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 I and the whole of the Protestant government during the opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605.

Roman Catholics at that time were persecuted for their faith and were hoping that the Gunpowder Plot would cause a change in regime and allow them the freedom to practise their religion.

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.

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

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.

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


Sir Everard Digby had been chosen to plan the Midlands part of the plot, which was to kidnap the daughter of King James I, 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.
 

A misty morning at Coughton Court, Warwickshire
Coughton Court
A misty morning at Coughton Court, Warwickshire

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.


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, climbed 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 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 8 November 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.

Fireworks
Fireworks
Fireworks