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Conspiracy theories; there is no such thing as a new idea

In 1605 (the period of the magnificent ceiling in our offices in Salisbury), Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators, having rented a house adjacent the Houses of Parliament, managed to get 36 barrels of gunpowder into a cellar of the House of Lords. One of the conspirators Francis Tresham’s brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle, received an unsigned letter warning him not to attend the opening of Parliament on 5 November. He, being of the many Catholics who are loyal to the crown, showed the letter to the King's chief minister Robert Cecil. At the same time, one of Monteagle’s servants alerts the plotters about this but they press on regardless. An investigation is ordered by King James and Guy Fawkes is arrested on 4th November. Fawkes makes a confession under torture on 9 November, which is confirmed in a later fuller confession by Thomas Wintour during interrogation at the Tower of London. In celebration of his survival, James ordered that the people of England should have a great bonfire in the night on November 5th.

In 1605 (the period of the magnificent ceiling in our offices in Salisbury), Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators, having rented a house adjacent the Houses of Parliament, managed to get 36 barrels of gunpowder into a cellar of the House of Lords. One of the conspirators Francis Tresham’s brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle, received an unsigned letter warning him not to attend the opening of Parliament on 5 November. He, being of the many Catholics who are loyal to the crown, showed the letter to the King's chief minister Robert Cecil. At the same time, one of Monteagle’s servants alerts the plotters about this but they press on regardless. An investigation is ordered by King James and Guy Fawkes is arrested on 4th November. Fawkes makes a confession under torture on 9 November, which is confirmed in a later fuller confession by Thomas Wintour during interrogation at the Tower of London. In celebration of his survival, James ordered that the people of England should have a great bonfire in the night on November 5th.

However, the government had a monopoly on gunpowder and it was stored in places such as the Tower of London. How, then did the conspirators get hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder without drawing attention to themselves?  Why were men who were known to be Catholics allowed to rent out a house so near to the Houses of Parliament?  And how did they move 36 barrels from that house to the cellar of the Houses of Parliament without anyone noticing along with hay, straw etc?  Also, why was the soldier who killed the co-conspiritors Catesby and Percy at Holbeech House in the Midlands, given such a large pension for life (10p a day for life) when their arrest and torture was more desirable so that the names of any other conspirators might be found out?   Some historians have pointed out these issues and claimed that the plotters were pawns in the hands of Robert Cecil and that he orchestrated the whole affair in his bid to get James to ban Catholics altogether.

We will never know the answers to this thick plot, which has more twists and turns than it is possible to list in a blog. But watching bonfires burn or the gunpowder in fireworks explode, we are reminded of the rich history and traditions of our land. Not only are we fortunate to work within a splendid old building, we act for some of the loveliest period properties.

Often, these houses have been modernised by the proceeding periods in history. 113 Dolphin Street http://www.winkworth.co.uk/properties/9931745/lettings/dolphin-street-salisbury-wiltshire-sp1/SAL160051 , for example has a twelve front and a Georgian rear.  3 St Anns Street, however; http://www.winkworth.co.uk/properties/9774080/sales/st-ann-street-salisbury-wiltshire-sp1/SAL160029, has a more typical Medieval appearance.

Time marches on and much has happened in the four hundred years since that infamous plot. Although, our love of tradition and those features that define a period remain unchanged.

Matthew Hallett

Winkworth Salisbury

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