Was gunpowder plot hatched in manor house?

PUBLISHED: 18:00 29 November 2014

Ten miles to the east of the Houses of Parliament in Barking, close to the Lodge Avenue flyover, lies Eastbury Manor House. It was there, legend has it, the Gunpowder Plot was supposedly hatched.

Following the receipt of an anonymous letter addressed to William Parker, Lord Monteagle, a search was made of the basement of the House of Lords on the evening of November 4, 1605.

During the search 36 barrels of gunpowder were discovered – enough to destroy the house and kill everyone inside.

Hiding in the basement, desperately looking to make his escape, was Guy Fawkes, 
who was immediately arrested.

The plot was a failed assassination attempt against King James I by a group of 
English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.

The plan was to blow up the House of Lords the following day during the state opening of Parliament on November 5.

At the time Eastbury Manor House was owned by Anne Steward, widow of Clement Sisley, the original builder.

It was rented to Lewis Tresham, and his wife and his Spanish Catholic mother-in-law lived there. Lewis was the brother of Francis Tresham and cousin of Robert Catesby, the plotters’ leader. He was also the brother-in-law of Lord Monteagle, the man who had received the tip off.

Further evidence linking the gunpowder conspiracy to Barking is that on November 9, 1605, just days after Guy Fawkes was arrested, a Barking fisherman – Richard Franklin – was questioned by magistrate Sir Nicholas Coote at nearby Valence House in Dagenham.

Franklin alleged his master, Henry Parish, had hired a boat to Guy Fawkes in which he and other plotters had travelled in disguise from Barking back and forth along the River Thames to France.

Franklin also claimed Guy Fawkes had made arrangements for the boat to be made ready for his escape once the deed had been done.

There seems to be some truth in the questioning of the Barking fisherman but how much of the actual plotting was done at Eastbury Manor House is open to speculation.

The legend was boosted 100 years later by the author Daniel Defoe.

He wrote in his 1727 book A Tour Throughout the Whole Island of Great Britain: “A little beyond the town, on the road to Dagenham, stood a great house, antient, and now almost fallen down, where tradition says the gunpowder treason plot was at first contriv’d, and that all the first consultations about it were held there.”

Seventy years another author, Daniel Lysons, wrote in his book Environs of London: “There is a tradition relating to this house, either, as some say, that the conspirators who concerted the gunpowder plot held their meetings there, or as others, that it was the residence of Lord Monteagle, when he received 
the letter which led to the discovery.”

Eastbury Manor House was built in about 1573 during the reign of Elizabeth I.

It was a farm in 1913 and at the outbreak of the First World War it was requisitioned by the Army.

For a time it was used as a factory for observation balloons. After the war the National Trust bought and leased it to Barking Council.

During the Second World War it was a post for Air Raid Precaution (ARP) wardens and later home to a day nursery.

As to the gunpowder plotting actually taking place in Barking, the mystery remains.

What is certain, though, is that the 13 conspirators were apprehended and either killed during their arrest or hung, drawn and quartered after trial and conviction.

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