Rushton Triangular Lodge is an English Heritage property in Northamptonshire just north of the A14 – website. It is at grid ref SP 830830, and on the OS map it is most definitely a triangle. There were 360 degree views on this BBC site – here – but this has not been kept up to date. (Our MA course goes on about the importance of “digital” – but so much digital stuff has died (the Betjeman Best Churches app and pages on the BBC website, to name but two) I find myself being somewhat sceptical).
I had been in Ely overnight and needed a break from a hideous Friday afternoon drive home – shame they don’t have a coffee machine in the custodian’s hut. You can see the Lodge from the Midland Main Line, on your left as you head north from Kettering station. Let’s start with a photo that shows how triangular it is (that’s a stupid comment, but you know what I mean), then each of the three sides (South-East, North and South-West), and one of the hut and the railway taken from inside.
The Lodge was built between 1594 and 1596 by Sir Thomas Tresham (1543/4-1605). He was a Catholic, living in Protestant England. Elizabeth I’s government regarded people like him with great suspicion, and he spent 12 years away from home – imprisoned or detained for his faith. He was allowed to return home in 1593 and built this Lodge as an assertion of his faith. It expresses the mystery of the Holy Trinity – One in Three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As the guidebook says “the Lodge is a stone hymn to the number three.” What also appealed was the fact that his family’s coat of arms included a group of trefoils, another pun on the family name. More important, I’m sure, was his belief in a miraculous event – when he was in prison in Ely in 1590, he and his servants were reading a treatise on the proofs of the existence of God. Suddenly, he noted, “there was, upon a wainscot table at that instance three loud knocks (as if it had been with an iron hammer) given, to the great amazing of me and my two servants”.
Let’s start with the South-East front. Above the entrance are the numbers 5555 and the inscription “Tres testimonium dant”. 55 could be a cryptogram for ‘Jesus Maria’, and the other 55 for ‘Salus Mundi’ (Saviour of the World). Or it could be a date – it was believed that 3962 BC was the date the world was created. Add 5555 and you get 1593. 15 is on this front, 93 on the next. The inscription above the first floor windows spells “Mentes” – as you follow all three sides you get ‘Mentes Tuorum Visita’, ‘Visit the minds of thy people”, which is the second line of the hymn ‘Veni Creator Spiritus”. The inscription in the frieze below the gables reads “Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem”, ‘Let the earth open and bring forth a saviour’ (Isaiah 45.8). Enjoy the shapes and the carvings as well.
On the North Front the inscription is “Quis separabit nos a charitate Christi”, you can probably translate this yourself – if not, look up Romans 8.35.
On the South-West Front the TT stands for Thomas Tresham, and “Consideravi opera tua Domine et expavi”, ‘I have considered thy works, Lord, and been afraid’ (Hab 3.2). We also have a dove on the head of a serpent coiled around a globe (top left) and a hand issuing from the sun and touching the earth (top right). The dove was released from the ark by Noah, and was later a symbol of Mary. Her Son crushed the serpent’s head.
Inside is fascinating too – well worth a poke round.
You can read the full Listing here. You can also read the BBC Countryfile site here, but the photo is not the Triangular Lodge (another triumph of digital accuracy). Yet there is so much that could be done to take all the text and symbolism to explain it and expand it – I could do something with these photos for Trinity Sunday, and add in various pieces of contemporary art. I shall add it to the list of wonderful things I can do when I retire. My brother says he has seen an image of the Lodge with the railway and an overhead ropeway for gravel working. I searched online for “Rushton + Railway” and got Willie Rushton reading Rev Awdry’s railway stories. Anyone got any ideas?
There is a leaflet about a Tresham Trail around several other buildings in the area – this is an area I need to explore. Many years ago Dad followed the Fosse Way from Lincoln to Exeter, perhaps I should follow the A14. Googlemaps (a useful piece of digital) told me the M1 was jammed too, so I had a lovely country drive north to Nottingham and home for a wedding rehearsal.