Rugby’s links to the Gunpowder Plot

Up and down the UK this evening bonfires will be lit and firework displays will light up the night sky for Bonfire Night.

The fifth of November is a reminder of the failed attempt to kill King James back in 1605. On that date over four centuries ago, a solitary figure is arrested in the cellars of Parliament House. Although he first gives his name as John Johnson, Guy Fawkes, as he is really called, is one of thirteen who have conspired to blow up Parliament, the King, and his Lords.

The Gunpowder Plot conspirators

The Gunpowder Plot conspirators

By doing so, they were looking to throw the whole country into turmoil, out of which these traitors hoped to raise a new monarch who was sympathetic to their cause, and return England to its Catholic past.

Here in central England, a town more familiar and associated with the birthplace of a worldwide sport has several locations with extra significance from playing a part in events up to and on the 5th November (1605)

Here then is Rugby’s claim to fame with the ill-fated Gunpowder Plot.

The Manor, Ashby St Ledgers, Warwickshire

The Manor at Ashby St Ledgers is set in the beautiful village of Ashby St Ledgers, based on the Warwickshire/Northamptonshire border.

It is this central location that made Ashby St. Ledgers a type of ‘Command Centre’ during the planning of the Gunpowder Plot. In the room above the Gatehouse, with its privacy from the main house and clear view of the surrounding area, Robert Catesby and the other conspirators planned a great deal of the Gunpowder Plot.

Manor House Ashby St Ledgers

Manor House Ashby St Ledgers

Ashby St. Ledgers also became a repository for the arms, munitions and gunpowder that the plotters were amassing. Catesby claimed that he was organising a regiment, of which he was the captain, to fight in the Low Countries.

Manor House ASL

Unfortunately The Manor today is not open for public visits, but most of the buildings that stood way back in 1605 are still visible from the roadside. The Manor is in desperate need of restoration, which has been ongoing for several years. It has been commented that it would take many years of investment and restoration to save The Manor at Ashby St. Ledgers, thus preserving it for future generations.

Guy Fawkes House, Dunchurch, nr Rugby, Warwickshire

The Gunpowder Plotters stayed at the Red Lion Inn in Dunchurch awaiting news of Guy Fawkes’s attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

The Red lion aka 'Guy Fawkes House', Dunchurch

The Red lion aka ‘Guy Fawkes House’, Dunchurch

If successful they planned to kidnap the King’s daughter, Elizabeth of Bohemia from nearby Coombe Abbey.

Plaque at Guy Fawkes House, Dunchurch

Plaque at Guy Fawkes House, Dunchurch

The property is now a private residence in the centre of the village called ‘Guy Fawkes House’.

Coombe Abbey, nr Rugby/Coventry

The Cistercian Abbey of Cumbe was founded in the 12th century and was the largest and most powerful Abbey in Warwickshire. Primarily used for the grazing of sheep and the growing of cereals, the Abbey and its lands remained in the hands of the monks until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539

Coombe Abbey

Coombe Abbey

The estate passed through several hands including the Earl of Warwick, until it was purchased in 1581 by Sir John Harrington of Exton in Rutland. The elder Sir John Harrington was descended from Robert Bruce, and used this Scottish ancestry to win favour with James VI of Scotland when it was apparent he would succeed Elizabeth.

Harrington later used this influence to become the guardian of the Princess Elizabeth, daughter to James I.  At Coombe Abbey, Elizabeth came under the tutor and chaplain John Tovey. Harrington was invited to join the hunting party that met at the Red Lion Inn in Dunchurch, but refused, probably because of his Protestant sympathies.

In the morning of 5th November he received word that a plot to kill the King had been discovered and sent the Princess to Coventry under the guardianship of Sir Thomas Holcroft. Had the Gunpowder Plot succeeded she was to have been abducted from Coombe Abbey and proclaimed as Queen Elizabeth II.

Coombe Abbey gardens

With its rich links to the Gunpowder Plot, Coombe Abbey today is a four star country house hotel nestling within the historical heartland of Warwickshire. Set in 500 acres of parkland, and overlooking formal gardens and a tranquil lake, Coombe Abbey has been lovingly restored to its former glory, and is well-known for its award winning Mediaeval Banquets which have been running for 40 years and provide a very entertaining and fun night out.




2 thoughts on “Rugby’s links to the Gunpowder Plot

  1. Pingback: That was the month just gone | Karl Quinney

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