Lyveden New Bield, Northamptonshire

During the 15th century, the Treshams were one of the biggest landowners in Northamptonshire. Sir Thomas Tresham, infamous for following the Catholic faith, built several original properties in the county based on religious symbolism and complex numerology. Perhaps the most unusual is his Triangular Lodge at Rushton, designed around the Trinity, but his project at Lyveden New Bield incorporated symbolism associated with the Passion.

It is understood that Lyveden New Bield was designed as a separate lodging house or garden house to the main Tresham manor house (the Old Bield) - accessed via the extensive pleasure gardens between the two properties. Work on Lyveden New Bield commenced towards the end of the 16th century but, by the time of Sir Thomas' death in 1605, construction had only reached first floor level - and has survived in this state of incompleteness to the present day. Built in the local oolitic limestone, on the plan of a cross, Lyveden New Bield is the epitome of what would have been a very fine Elizabethan house.

Although modest in size, as it stands, some documentary evidence suggests that there were plans to build a further storey and perhaps even include a roof terrace, as was very much the fashion during this period. Nevertheless, the impressive bay windows and the beautiful friezes richly decorated with classical and religious emblems give a glimpse of the intended architectural grandeur of the completed property. The main entrance would have been accessed by external steps but, as these were never built, entry is gained at basement level to the rear of the property. Naturally, as an unfinished shell, there is no lavishly furnished interior to discover, but there is some superb detail on the arched doorways and first floor staircase. It certainly displays all the signs of being a grand gentleman's residence, and one planned with much ingenuity and forethought.

Inheriting huge debts on their father's demise, the Tresham sons were unable to finish Lyveden New Bield. After two more generations, the main Tresham line ceased, and the estate was subsequently sold in 1645. There appeared to be no interest in completing the house, until plans were drawn up during the 18th century when Sir Charles Goring owned the estate. For whatever reason, the work was never undertaken and, in the early 20th century, the Lyveden estates were finally broken up and sold off in lots. Lyveden New Bield, plus 28 acres of land were passed to the National Trust.

What could have been a magnificent house attributed to Sir Thomas Tresham now stands as an unwilling victim to his extravagant lifestyle and staunch Catholicism.

Over recent years, the National Trust have restored much of the gardens, including the water gardens, and this has provided the opportunity to see the beautiful setting created over 400 years ago.


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