Sunday, 24 April 2016

Lyveden New Bield and Oundle

Lyveden New Bield

Ever since we visited the extraordinary Rushden Triangular Lodge almost two years ago, we have wanted to see Lyveden New Bield, also the work of Sir Thomas Tresham. Tresham was a devout Roman Catholic who lived during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Catholicism was repressed in that era and Tresham was imprisoned for twelve years on account of his faith. Rushen gave coded expression to his beliefs and Lyveden, also built as a Lodge, was in the same mould.

The house you see today is not so much ruined as incomplete: work started in 1595, but Tresham died in 1605, deeply in debt, before it could be completed. The builders, who could see they weren't going to be paid, simply downed tools and left - and who could blame them. It is remarkable that the house survived.

Rather like Rushden, the house is laden with symbolism, with shield-like panels in sets of three (symbolising the holy Trinity) forming a frieze at ground level and a continuous frieze of seven repeated symbols, each representing aspects of the life of Christ above the first floor windows. The excellent audio guide also mentioned the number five as well (symbolising grace) and the five windows in each bay may be an example.

The house is perfectly symmetrical and is shaped liked a Greek cross, with curving bays at the end of each arm. The cross shape is easier to infer from this photo taken on an angle.

You enter through a servants passage (bottom left in the photo) and arrive in the basement which housed kitchens and other service functions. Looking up it was a surprise to see that the upper floors contained Renaissance doorways - but perhaps Catholics looked to southern Europe more than Protestants did.

It was possible to climb to one of the first floor windows and enjoy the view over the relatively flat Northamptonshire country side. The filed has apparently been sown by the National Trust as a flower meadow, and the mown bits will presumably be paths.

We walked from the house to explore the pleasure gardens starting with this attractive spiral hill surrounded on three sides by a moat.

A path led towards the old Manor House, owned by the National Trust but not open for visiting. You could just glimpse it through a hedge. It looked like the sort of building that might have inspired Charles Rennie Mackintosh: especially the rectangular windows, placed irregularly.

We walked around the edge of the orchard and reached another section of moat, with the house frame between the trees.

After this we simply retraced our steps to the car park and headed off to Oundle for lunch in the Talbot Inn. Oundle is a charming stone town, not quite as imposing as Stamford, but full of character. We parked near Paine's Almshouses (early 17th century) in West St, admiring the obelisks and pinnacles over the entrance door.

At the end of West St, a left turn into New Street brought us to the imposing Talbot Inn, with the buildings of Oundle School beyond.

Up on the right is a further part of the school, looking like an Oxbridge College, which was no doubt the model.

Conditions: bright but quite cold at times.

Distance: maybe a mile and a half - one of the shortest walks I have blogged.

Rating: four stars. Fascinating. It would have been good to have had time to explore Oundle more fully.

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