Elizabethan devices

Tresham's Triangular Lodge, Rushton

Treshams Lodge windows

Tresham's Triangular Lodge, Rushton
Drawing: J.A. Gotch (1882)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Drawings & Archives Collection

It is often said that ‘three is the magic number’. At the Triangular Lodge this is certainly the case. Built for Thomas Tresham between 1595 and 1597, this bizarre building has three sides, three storeys, numerous triangular features in triplets and is thirty-three feet wide. Why?

Above the door, the motto ‘Tres Testimonium Dant’ is inscribed: ‘Three bear witness.’ Tres is the Latin for three, referring to the Holy Trinity, but it also, of course, begins Tresham. Wordplay went hand in hand with a love of pattern, and Tresham clearly relished this. A prominent Catholic, he was imprisoned for seven years for hiding Jesuit priests; this gave him plenty of time to conjure up this puzzling building, combining geometry and Catholic doctrine.  

Of all the features, the most extraordinary are the windows, here painstakingly surveyed by J.A. Gotch. Owing to its triangular shape, the lodge is extremely difficult to capture in a drawing or photograph. Fortunately, Gotch, as a young architectural student, noted their myriad patterns. Here we can fully grasp the restless variety of the nine windows. More decorative than functional, they reveal the building’s folly. The lodge, like the windows, is but an ornament of the mind.


About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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