Radicalism and Architecture in Tudor England

Left - Portrait of Thomas Tresham, 1563 at Boughton House; Middle - Rushton Triangular Lodge 1593-1597; Right - 3D digital model of Rushton Triangular Lodge created by the DBHG at De Montfort University, England

Left – Portrait of Sir Thomas Tresham, from 1563 and now at Boughton House; Middle – Rushton Triangular Lodge 1593-1597; Right – 3D digital model of Rushton Triangular Lodge created by the DBHG at De Montfort University, England

Rushton Triangular Lodge is one of the most curious buildings of the late Elizabethan period. Built between 1593 and 1597 by Sir Thomas Tresham who was father of one of the Gunpowder Plotters, Francis Tresham its located on his familay estate near Rushton, Northamptonshire, England about 23 miles south of the Digital Building Heritage Group’s offices at De Montfort University in Leicester. It is a monument to Catholic faith in the face of political oppression and in particular to the Trinity with the number three being used throughout both in the overall form and in the decoration of the building. There are three floors, three walls 33 feet long, each with three triangular (trefoil) windows and three triangular gables on each side. Many of the texts, dates and inscriptions have numerological significance with the number three. Even Sir Thomas Tresham’s name was imbued with significance. Over the door, beneath Tresham’s coat of arms, is the Latin inscription: Tres testimonium dant , which can be read as “The number three bears witness” or “Tresham bears witness.” Tres was the pet name his wife used for Tresham in her letters.

Detailed 3D modelling of the interior and exterior of Rushton Triangular Lodge by the Digital Building heritage Group at De Montfort University, England.

Detailed 3D modelling of the interior and exterior of Rushton Triangular Lodge by the Digital Building heritage Group at De Montfort University, England.

It’s been a regular destination for our MA and MArch student field trips for a number of years because quite apart from its inherent beauty and curiosity, its geometric and textural complexity makes it a challenging building to represent from a digital heritage point of view. Recently we’ve been looking more closely at the social history of buildings like Rushton Triangular Lodge and the way that the contested nature of interpretation of radicalism in 16th and 17th century historic buildings can be innovatively explored using digital interpretation. Part of this examination is to see how digital models can be manipulated in various ways to “reveal” the hidden, allegorical, semiotic and numerological associations behind the histories and designs of the buildings they represent and in doing so illuminate the motives of the people involved with them, the social and cultural context in which they lived and the relationships of these to our preoccupations today.

Rushton Triangular Lodge is a Grade I listed building on the National Heritage List for England, is in the care of English heritage and is open to the public.

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About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
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