“ Location: Northamptonshire / NN14 1RP / United Kingdom / Tel: 01536 710761 „
Some reviews cry out for photos and this is probably one of those. Thankfully the clever folks at dooyoo have found a rather nice picture so hopefully this won't tax your imaginations too much.
I've been aware for Rushton Triangular Lodge since I first moved to Northamptonshire. I once spent two dull days on a Photoshop course fiddling about with a photo of the lodge so I knew it was local and was historically significant and something to do with Catholicism but I'd never been inspired to find out more. When the lodge appeared on the list of buildings taking part in the 2009 Heritage Open Days scheme, it was time to fill the gap in my knowledge and go and have a look.
It can be confusing living in Northampton. I live in a village called Brixworth and there's another nearby called Blisworth. As you can imagine the two get muddled. Similarly we have both a Rushden and a Rushton - the former was previously the location of the Doctor Marten Booots factory and is still home to an occasionaly giant-killing minor league football team and the latter is home to the Triangular Lodge. It was a good thing I had my Tom Tom with me or heaven knows where I'd have ended up.
To my surprise, Rushton Triangular Lodge - let me call it RTL for brevity - was a lot closer to my home than I'd expected, making my ignorance of its whereabouts all the more shameful. That said, it would be exceptionally easy to drive straight past and miss the place completely as it's well hidden from the road. You can easily pass it without any idea that it's there at all. It's located beside the country road that runs between the pretty little village of Rushton and the equally pretty little town of Desborough.
There's a small lay-by with space for just three or four cars and if this is full, or if you miss it the first time as I did, there's nowhere else to park and nowhere to turn around for the next half mile or so. At the second attempt I found the lay by and squeezed into the last bit of space. You have to be determined if you want to visit the Lodge.
RTL was built by a local landowner called Sir Thomas Tresham. In our area there's plenty of evidence of Tresham and his family and there's even a so-called 'Tresham Trail' that combines his best known buildings. Two things link the buildings of the trail - firstly that most of them carry not very discretely coded messages of Catholic symbolism and secondly that Thomas Tresham was quite prone to not getting around to finishing what he'd started. It would be fair to say that Sir Tom was not a 'completer-finisher'. Most of his buildings are about outward show and bravado and he tended to lose interest as soon as the outside was finished. In the case of his most famous, Lyvedon New Bield, he didn't get as far as putting the roof on but we can't blame him too much for that one because he died before it was finished. He kicked off construction of the Market House in nearby Rothwell in 1577 and it wasn't finished for another 300 years.
Tresham was a wealthy man but he had a major problem. He lived most of his adult life under the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a time of vehement anti-Catholicism. It was a bad time to be a Catholic and he came under a lot of pressure to renounce his faith and convert to Protestantism. Unlike many who converted and carried on their worship in private, Tresham refused and was repeatedly fined and imprisoned for a total of 15 years. If a building can be said to 'raise the finger' to the establishment, then Rushton Triangular Lodge is that building. He started its construction in 1593, just after a bout in prison.
The symbolism of his belief in the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is built into every aspect of the lodge. It has three sides and each wall is 33 feet long and topped with three triangular peaks. Each side has three windows, three gargoyles and three decorative symbols based on the Tresham family emblem of a trefoil. And of course it's three storeys high. Each wall has a biblical text engraved on it in Latin. And right on the top is a three sided pyramid construction. For Dan Brown fans or those who really know their biblical iconography there are plenty of messages in this building, but I have to stick to just the more obvious ones.
Over the door is the Latin message 'Tres Testimonium Dant' which is taken to mean 'Tresham Bears Witness' since Tres was the pet name by which his wife called him. This is clearly his way of telling the establishment that no amount of fines or imprisonment will make him change his ways.
I was expecting something rather grand and must admit that I was a bit disappointed to find the lodge squeezed onto a plot of land so small that it was hard to get far enough away to get the whole building into a photo. English Heritage now manage the site on behalf of the nation but all you will find is a small portakabin selling tickets and offering a range of very uninspired souvenirs.
The building is very striking with its stripes of light and dark stone and it's fun to play 'spot the triangles' but it won't take long to see all that's on offer. The inside of the lodge is very plain and simple. RTL is not intended as a functional building, just as a symbolic representation of faith but even so, it's not easy to drag your visit to much more than about 15 minutes. Visitors with physical mobility problems may struggle on the soft grass and probably won't be able to go inside. Never mind, they won't be missing too much.
The entrance fee when I visited was £3 for adults but rose to £3.20 on April 1st 2010. I was glad to be getting free entry under the Heritage Open Days scheme. Opening times and days can be tricky so be sure to check the English Heritage website. Current indications are that it's only open between the 1st of April and the 1st of November and between 11 am and 4 pm (but not on Tuesdays or Wednesdays).
I was a little disappointed and I was left feeling that the lodge deserved the respect of a bit more space and a grander, less squeezed in setting than it currently has.
Designed by Thomas Tresham and built between 1593 and 1597