Who's Who

The Buildings of Sir Thomas Tresham

Christian Hesketh explores the architectural assortment of Sir Thomas Tresham buildings in Northamptonshire.

Those who take an interest in the architectural diversity of Northamptonshire are likely to find their curiosity aroused by one particular group of buildings which in their bold originality and the uncompromising message they spell out, proclaim themselves to be the creation of one man, Sir Thomas Tresham. Born in 1543, his family had originally come to Northamptonshire in the fourteenth century. Apart from owning large estates in the county, succeeding Treshams had played a part on the national stage: one of Sir Thomas' ancestors was three times Speaker of the House of Commons under Henry VI and his grandfather was made Grand Prior of the Order of St John of Jerusalem by Queen Mary.


By the time the young Thomas was three, both his parents were dead and he was brought up in the Catholic household of Sir Robert Throckmorton, one of whose daughters he subsequently married. In 1557 his grandfather died, leaving him, at fifteen, well educated, ambitious and the master of great possessions. Between 1560 and 1568 he studied law at the Middle Temple and in 1575 he was knighted. It was the last mark of Royal favour he was to receive. Once it became apparent that he was not prepared to accept the Elizabethan. church settlement, all preferment was denied him. As the years advanced the screws tightened on those who became known as Recusants (Catholics who, like Sir Thomas, refused to attend. Anglican services, and sheltered priests).

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