chapter  4
30 Pages

Coughton and the Gunpowder Plot

ByMichael Hodgetts

The most dramatic event in the history of Coughton Court was also one of the most dramatic events in English history – the Gunpowder Plot. Two of the plotters, the ringleader Robert Catesby and Francis Tresham, were nephews of Thomas Throckmorton; several others were related to the family. In October 1605, Coughton was borrowed by another conspirator (who was not so related), Sir Everard Digby of Gayhurst in Buckinghamshire. But the Throckmortons themselves are a curious absence at the heart of the plot, and the family papers contain no material on it. Thomas himself was not privy to the Plot or present at Coughton during it,1 and most books mention (briefly) only three events there: on 30 October 1605, the arrival from Gayhurst of Lady Digby and the Jesuit superior Henry Garnet; on 1 November, the Masses of All Saints in the Tower Room; and, on 6 November, the delivery to Garnet of a letter from Catesby and Sir Everard. After that, attention shifts to the conspirators’ desperate ride to Huddington Court and Holbeach House, their last stand at Holbeach and the subsequent arrests, interrogations, trials and executions. Garnet himself reappears in January 1606, when he was arrested at Hindlip, near Worcester, together with his colleague Edward Oldcorne, his servant Nicholas Owen, the hide-builder, and Oldcorne’s servant Ralph Ashley. But in the scramble to keep up with the Plotters on their flight, many other characters are mentioned by historians only in passing, and without much examination of their associations and connections. Moreover, clues are bound to have been missed since, after 400 years, there is still no comprehensive edition of the examinations and confessions.2 As a contribution to both regional and national history, therefore, it may be worth taking a closer look at what happened in and around Coughton in the crucial months and weeks preceding and following 5 November 1605.