Lyveden New Bield

This intriguing shell of an Elizabethan lodge and moated garden was begun in 1595 by Sir Thomas Tresham to symbolise his Catholic faith. The lodge was to provide the ideal retreat for Thomas to indulge in his Catholic faith. Lyveden was built to symbolise the Passion of Christ and decorated around the outside with two freizes, one has carved emblems depicting the Passion and the other, carved sentences from the Vulgate. Like the Triangular Lodge at Rushton, the building contains many symbols of religious meaning.

Did you know ?
Lyveden has five sides to each bay, each measuring five feet - the number attributed to both Christ and Mary. Three basement windows divided by three shields, represents the Trinity of Christ. The perimeter of each wing measures 81 feet - that is three times three times three times three, representing the Holy Trinity.

Lyveden, in its cruciform state, remains incomplete and virtually unaltered since work stopped on Sir Thomas's death in 1605. Although it was never completed, it was not left in its present state. It had wooden beams for the floors built in during the construction. These were cut out during the Civil War by a Major Butler for his own building needs at Oundle. The stonework proved too much to dismantle and so the rest of the house remains as is. Around the upper story is carved the following sentences but they are now sadly defaced and ruined:"JESVS MVNDI SALVS +GAVDE MATER VIRGO MARIA +VERBUM AVTEM CRVCIS PEREVNTIBUS QVIDEM STVLTITIA EST +JESV BEATVS VENTER QVI TE PORTAVIT +MARIA MATER VIRGO SPONSA INVPTA +BENEDIXIT TIBI DEVS IN ∆TERNVM MARIA +MIHI AVTEM ABSIT GLORIARI NISI IN CRVCE DOMINI NOSTRI +"The lower storey has many shields around it, presumably for coats of arms, but these were never finished. Mystery surrounds Lyveden. How did it escape the passage of time and human hand and why did future generations never complete the work that Thomas started?


Thomas Tresham was born into a wealthy and respected Northamptonshire family. His ancestors had come to Northamptonshire from Gloucestershire and became leading courtiers under the reign Henry V and VI. Brought up as a Protestant by his grandfather after his parents both died when he was two and a half years old, Thomas was knighted in 1575 and converted to the Roman Catholic faith in 1580. He died in 1605 with a debt of over £11000 leaving his elder son Francis to inherit the estate as well as the debt. Francis later became embroiled in the Gunpowder Plot later that year along with his cousins Catesby and Wintour.

Did you know ?
In 1832 stonemasons working on the former home of the Tresham family at Rushton Hall, discovered bundles of old documents relating to family affairs. These provide a detailed account of expenditure, religion and astute estate management throughout the late Tudor and early Stuart period, including letters which relate to Francis Tresham's involvement in the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605. In fact it is after this event that the papers were concealed, and remained so for over 200 years.

Imprisoned for his actions, Francis met an early death in the Tower of London December 1605. The estate was passed to his younger brother Lewis who also had spiralling debts and could do nothing to the lodge. Lewis's son William died childless in 1643 and was the last of the main line of the Treshams.


Lyveden, with its fascinating architectural detail, was eventually donated to the National Trust in 1922. In the 1990's the Trust began the gradual process of uncovering the neglect and abandonment of the hidden garden. Today, Tresham's work is appreciated as one of the rarest survivals of an Elizabethan garden.