31st January 1606.
Today Roman Catholic, Ambrose Rookwood (1578-1606) a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was tied to a hurdle and dragged by horse from the Tower of London to Old Palace Yard.
Having been arraigned 3 days previously for High Treason he pleaded not guilty and plea of mercy was denied: he was duly Hanged Drawn and Quartered.
Other conspirators to suffer the same fate on that day were Thomas Wintour, Robert Keyes and the well-known Guy Fawkes.
Rookwood was key to the 1605 Gunpowder Plot as possessing a fine stud of horses he facilitated the perpetrators escape from the scene when he informed Robert Catesby and others of their abortive attempt to kill the James I (VI).
Three days after the Plot and ‘holed up’ at Holbeche House they were attacked by the Sheriff of Worcester and killed; Rookwood managed to escape but eventually apprehended and lodged in the Tower.
Rookwood as a member of a small, local group of Catholics had inherited Coldham Hall, Suffolk from his father Robert in 1600 and which had become a refuge for Roman Catholics seminary priests.(1)
Ambrose had married into the recusant wing of the Drury Family in 1570 when Catholicism was illegal under Elizabeth I, but was rich and well-connected enough to stave off fines, imprisonment and torture the lot of the priests of many others who subscribed to the Old Faith.(2)
The Drurys, who had come with William the Conqueror, had benefited from the Dissolution of the Monasteries of the 1530.s by acquiring the Manor and Hall of Lawshall sold to William Drury in 1547.
The Drurys equally had powerful friends, at Court as Queen Elizabeth on a Royal Progression visited them at Lawshall and Hawstead in 1578.
Though the Drurys were nominally Protestant, Elizabeth of Lawshall was later named in a list of recusants showing how religion could divide families as today.
The Rookwood Family are no more and Coldham is in other hands: Hawstead has been derelict since 1950, Lawshall is a farm. The glory departed.
(1a) The house bought by Robert in 1574 was in the same family until 1869 having continued in the Old Faith as shown by two chapels and priest holes.
(1b) Seminary Priests as opposed to non-seminary trained Marian priests.
(2) Recusancy from Latin Recusare to refuse/object, which meant they didn’t join Church of England services and a 1593 Act determined penalties. It was replaced in 1650.