Connections to the Gunpowder Plot

The failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when Catholic plotters attempted to assassinate the Protestant King James I by blowing up Parliament, is one of the most notorious moments in English history. It is marked by the annual tradition of Bonfire Night on 5 November. Historic houses and former hunting forests we look after have close connections to the Gunpowder Plot, from the plotters themselves to those involved in the exposure of the plot and the trial of Guy Fawkes. Discover how our places are linked to the plot and its aftermath.

The sixteenth-century Gate Tower on the West Front at Coughton Court, Warwickshire

Coughton Court, Warwickshire 

Home to the Catholic Throckmorton family, Coughton Court was closely associated with the Gunpowder Plot. Plotters Robert Catesby and Francis Tresham were nephews of Thomas Throckmorton and fellow plotters Robert and Thomas Wintour were also related to the family. Arms, ammunition and horses were stored at Coughton Court ready for the uprising that was meant to follow the assassination of James I and his Government. It was in the gatehouse that the family and associates of the plotters received the news of the plot’s failure early on 6 November 1605.

Eastbury Manor House in London

Eastbury Manor House, London 

John Moore, an Alderman of London, was a tenant of Eastbury Manor House in 1603. Moore was married to a Spanish woman, Maria Perez de Recalde, and was a known Catholic. His stepdaughter was married to Lewis Tresham, younger brother of plotter Francis Tresham. Over the centuries following the Gunpowder Plot local legends sprung up that the plot itself was first contrived at Eastbury Manor House. As Francis Tresham was only brought into the plot in October 1605 this is now believed to be unlikely but the link to the Tresham family is undeniable.

Family group climbing on tree trunk

Hatfield Forest, Essex 

Edward Parker, 12th Baron Morley, bought part of Hatfield Forest in 1592. His son William Parker was the brother-in-law of the plotter Francis Tresham and received an anonymous letter – believed to have been written by Francis – warning him to stay away from Parliament. The letter, given to Robert Cecil, led to the discovery of Guy Fawkes under the House of Lords on the night of 4 November and the failure of the plot. Fawkes revealed the names of his co-conspirators under torture – evident in the scrawled signature on his confession.

Knole's west front was built by Henry VIII

Knole, Kent 

Witchmarks discovered in the Upper King’s Room at Knole have been dated using dendrochronology (the method of dating based on analysing patterns of tree rings) to early 1606, just a few months after the Gunpowder Plot. Experts believe that craftsmen working for then owner of Knole, James I’s Lord Treasurer Thomas Sackville, carved the marks in anticipation of a visit from the King. In the wake of the failed assassination attempt, the marks were intended to protect the King from evil spirits.

Garden Lodge with visitors enjoying the views across the moat

Lyveden New Bield, Northamptonshire 

Francis Tresham, the plotter is believed to have written the anonymous letter to William Parker, Baron Monteagle, which exposed the Gunpowder Plot to the authorities. Francis inherited the incomplete Lyveden New Bield on the death of his father Thomas earlier in 1605. Francis’ death following his imprisonment for involvement in the plot meant the Elizabethan lodge passed to his younger brother Lewis. Lewis’ reckless lifestyle increased the Tresham’s debts and Lyveden fell out of the family’s hands. It remains incomplete.

Visitors on the drive to the west front at Montacute House, Somerset

Montacute House, Somerset 

Lawyer and politician Edward Phelips – who completed Montacute House in 1601– was Speaker of the House of Commons at the time of the Gunpowder Plot. He led the opening argument for the prosecution in the trail of Guy Fawkes. It’s thought that a portrait of James I by John de Critz was given to Phelips in recognition of his services and support to the crown. The painting fell out of the hands of the Phelips family in the 1990s but has since been restored to Montacute.