Rushton Lodge –
better known as the Triangular Lodge – is considered by
many to be a folly – a building without a real purpose.
But the history of the structure is more than interesting, inviting
the question whether it might not actually contain a veritable
secret message, so far not uncovered.
happens when you release a Catholic from jail? The answer in the
case of Sir Thomas Tresham is: the Triangular Lodge. The small
building near Rushton, at the edge of his estate, is a folly,
built to serve as a very enigmatic home for the rabbit warden
and was referred to in the Rushton estate documents as “The
Tresham was released from prison – held because he was a
Catholic – in 1593 and it is said that his prison cell already
contained drawings and material that would find their way into
the design of the Triangular Lodge. And it is said that while
he was in prison at Ely in 1590, they were reading a treatise
on the proofs of the existence of God when, apparently, all of
a sudden, there were three loud knocks. Hence why the lodge was
The political history of the Tresham family is interesting. In
1559, Thomas became one of the biggest estates owners in the country.
The family were supporters of Mary Tudor (later Mary I) and while
Henry VIII suppressed the Order of St John of Jerusalem, when
it was reinstated in 1557-8, Thomas Tresham the elder –
the grandfather of the lodge builder – became Grand Prior.
Thomas “the builder” was knighted by Elizabeth I at
Kenilworth Castle in 1575. About 1566, he had married into another
Catholic family, to Meriel, the daughter of Sir Robert Throckmorton,
of Coughton Court in Warwickshire. Together, they would create
one of the most impressive libraries in Elizabethan England.
However, in 1570, Pope Pius V launched a bull declaring Elizabeth
deposed and released her Catholic subjects from their allegiance.
When Spain launched the Armada against England in 1588, English
Catholics were thought to assist, but few felt “called upon”.
Penal laws against Catholics were passed in 1581, 1585 and 1593.
As a consequence, Thomas was continuously in prison, subject to
house arrest or under surveillance between August 1581 and April
1593. Afterwards, he would find himself in prison again for a
few months in 1594 and again in the winter of 1597-8.
Work on the lodge stared on July 28, 1594 and it was completed
by 1597. It is not the only enigmatic building Tresham created.
He also built New Bield at Lyveden, which he started in 1594 and
which was left unfinished at the time of his death in 1605. Here,
he commemorated the Crucifixion rather than the Holy Trinity,
with a cross-shaped plan and a frieze of carvings of the Instruments
of the Passion.
But what is specific about the lodge, is that it is all about
the number three. Seeing that Tresham was a Catholic, Triangular
Lodge is seen as a symbolic hymn to the Trinity. However, few
have noted that the trinity is not specifically Catholic as such,
and hence, the question is whether Tresham’s devotion to
the number three might be far more than “merely” Catholic.
a basic, mathematical and visual level, the entire structure is
about three. Each of the three exterior walls is 33.3 feet long,
each has three triangular windows, and is surmounted by three
gargoyles. The inside has three floors. Decoration-wise, there
are three Latin texts, each 33 letters long, which run around
the building. They read: Aperiatur terra & germinet salvatorem
(Let the earth open and … bring forth salvation, Isaiah
45:8); Quis seperabit nos a charitate Christi (Who shall separate
us from the love of Christ?, Romans 8:35); Consideravi opera tua
domine et expavi (I have contemplated thy works, O Lord, and was
afraid, a paraphrase of Habakkuk 3:2).
Though three is the common denominator, there is great variation
within the details. The windows all have different designs. The
largest is a trefoil, the family emblem; the basement windows
are small trefoils with triangular lights. Around the windows
on the first floor are plaques for the family emblems, some of
them left empty, no doubt to be filled in by future generations
– which never accomplished that particular task.
Above the entrance door is the Tresham coat of arms and the Latin
inscription: “Tres testimonium dant”, meaning “The
number three bears witness” or “Tresham bears witness”.
Such pun was precisely what such “Elizabethan follies”
tended to incorporate: several layers of meaning.
So far, so good, but above the door is also the number 5555. Some
experts have speculated that this originally might have been 3333,
which would indeed fit nicely with the three-theme, but where
to go from there? Hence, others argue that 5555 could be the year
1593, for according to the Reverend Bede, it was in 3958 BC that
the biblical Flood occurred. Others, however, see 55 as a reference
to “Jesus Maria” (each containing 5 letters), though
others see it as “Salus Mundi”, “Saviour of
the World”. The beauty of such follies is that one might
not necessarily have to choose which one is correct; all solutions
could be correct. The important question however is: is it all
quite benign, or is there far more to this, and might the monument
contain a secret code, a layer that so far no-one has cracked?
Is this building a rebus?
our exploration of the building, the principal room on each floor
is hexagonal, thus leaving the three corner spaces triangular;
one of these spaces contains a spiral staircase, the remaining
two are small rooms. The building is crowned by three steep gables
each surmounted by a three-sided obelisk at the apex. But as soon
as the devotion to the number three is once again apparent, the
emblems on the gables begin to pose deep and interesting questions.
There is a seven-branched candelabrum; another depicts the seven
eyes of God; a Pelican picking her own chest; a hen and chickens;
a dove and serpent and the hand of God touching a globe. Finally,
the triangular chimney is adorned with the holy monogram “IHS”,
a lamb and cross, and a chalice. Confused? Or indeed nothing more
than a folly, and not to be taken seriously?
Carved in the gables are the numbers 3509 and 3898, which some
have argued should be taken as dates: that of Creation and the
calling of Abraham. But there are also other dates, like 1580,
which is thought to have been the date of Tresham’s conversion
to the Catholic faith – by Edmund Campion, a missionary
priest, though no-one can be sure of the date.
Others have continued the numerical path, arguing that all of
them are divisible by three, and that, when one subtracts 1593
from them, they end up given 33 and 48 as dates, which is the
alleged date of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. Numerical coincidence,
or evidence that there is indeed a clever rebus encoded into this
building? And again the question whether it is merely a puzzle,
or whether there is an even deeper layer, one that might lead
to some important message which Tresham could only encode within
the fabric of a building. The Lodge is indeed an Elizabethan device,
and Tresham himself said that the harder a device was to interpret,
the more commendable it was “so long as it be perspicuously
to the purpose”. The question is therefore: what is the
Moore has featured the lodge in his novel “Voice of the
Fire”, which tackles Tresham’s son Francis, who was
one of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. Moore takes the story
into magic, but historians believe that the Lodge was indeed a
sacred building. Treshem leased a deer park at Brigstock, which
contained a small lodge, where it is believed Mass was said. Historians
believe that the Triangular Lodge was equally used as “chapel”
and an inscription in the upper room, SSSDDS, “Sanctus Sanctus
Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth”, hints this was indeed “hallowed
That the Triangular Lodge is a reference to the number three is
obvious. Furthermore, Tresam means “I am three”. And
seeing the Treshams were Catholic, the obvious conclusion people
jump to is that it is all about the Trinity. But is it? Again,
the trinity is not specifically Catholic. Furthermore, the family’s
involvement with the Gunpowder Plot is highly intriguing, for
we know that several of the plotters had a rather “magical
mission” in mind, which is why the entire episode is so
captivating to the likes of the magically minded Alan Moore.
The Treshams were one of England’s most important families,
and they had fought the Catholic cause. And it is known that the
Catholic cause had several “magical” dimensions at
that moment in time, including the presence of Giordano Bruno
on English soil, when he spent two years living with Sir Philip
Sydney, a man instrumental not only in the creation of the Shakespearean
literature, but on so many other levels.
Specifically, Bruno was a student of the Corpus Hermeticum, the
Hermetic tradition, which had been popularised during the Renaissance,
and which in the 16th century was more popular than ever. Bruno
had studied from the best: the writings of Ficino, whom had helped
the de Medici family of Florence shape the Renaissance, with artists
like Donatello and Botticelli.
And within this wider context, we need to ask the question whether
the reference to “three” is not to a magical person,
who was specifically identified with the number three: Hermes
Trismegistus, Hermes Thrice Great. The “father” of
the Corpus Hermeticum, a religious book that has as many levels
as an Elizabethan device.
there are numerous references to three, there are also numerous
references to three times three, which is underlined by the fact
that there are a total of nine angels holding water spouts under
the gables, for draining water off the roof, each inscribed with
two letters, or with one letter and a triangle. These give: SSSDDS
and QEEQEEQVE, or “Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus Dominus Deus
Sabaoth, Qui Era et Qui Est et Qui Venturus Est”, or “Holy
Holy Holy Lord of God of Hosts, Who was, and who is, and who will
be.” It could be a reference to the Trinity, but if we read
this on the magical layer, then nine is an important number, as
it are the nine principles that surround the creator father –
a Hermetic concept, if only because the Florentine Academy founded
by the de Medici contained nine – and only nine –
members. Coincidence, or design? And though historians are quite
open to the possibility that Mass was said in the lodge…
could it be a slightly different type of Mass than the traditional
was succeeded by his son Francis, who died imprisoned as a traitor
in the Tower of London for his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot.
The main instigator of the plot was his first cousin, Robert Catesby,
though it is Guy Fawkes who is popularly associated with the failed
blowing-up of Parliament.
On October 26, 1605, Tresham’s brother in law, Lord Monteagle,
received an anonymous letter warning him not to attend meetings
at the Houses of Parliament. The letter almost certainly came
from Francis Tresham. Monteagle communicated his concerns to the
government, which uncovered the plot in time. Though Francis died
in prison of natural causes, his corpse was decapitated, and his
head was set up over the town gate of Northampton. Opinion now
has it that he had known of the plot, but was not directly involved.
And with that, the Treshams have gone down into history as good
Catholics; the Lodge itself has gone down as an Elizabethan folly.
But perhaps the decodation of some of the more bizarre numbers
on the walls might lead us into an even more esoteric dimension,
one given to the Lodge by the likes of Alan Moore, but so far
not converted into hard historical facts that what the Treshams
were up to, was far deeper than a puzzle to occupy one’s
mind. A man who had worked on this building in prison, did he
do so merely to entertain his mind? Or did he instead use it as
a means to encode certain knowledge, which he subsequently set
out to realise, as soon as he was set free? Perhaps the truth
of Rushton Lodge might one day set every visitor coming to look
at it free too.
article appeared in Atlantis Rising (November - December 2011).