Each of these two buildings, we are told in the guidebooks, is an expression of his intensely Catholic faith. Even Pevsner interprets the Triangular Lodge this way:
What does all this amount to? A folly? A bauble? A pretty conceit? It cannot be treated so lightly. It is no more nor less than a profession of faith in stone - a faith for which Tresham spent more than fifteen years in prison and confinement.
But those triangles! Here is a building that doesn't work. If you want a lesson in why people don't build triangular buildings, then here it is. A few moments after you enter the building, you realise it has little or no purpose that corresponds to its shape. It is a triumph of external conception (the triangle, the Trinity) at the expense of functionality. The best view of the inside is looking outside, at all the gorgeous landscape and parkland surrounding the lodge. That landscape, those trees, aren't Tresham's at all; it is the work of eighteenth-century landscape designers.
Lyvedon New Bield suffers from similar problems. Here if anything is an even more exquisite setting. Placed completely by itself, with no buildings to be seen from the windows, apart from a small cottage added much later in the corner of the site, it is utterly tranquil and silent, surrounded only by fields of ox eye daisies and bird's foot trefoil:
The building is a magnificent ruin - a ruin because it was never completed. Why not? Perhaps because it is placed in the middle of nowhere, over half a mile from Lyvedon Old Bield with which it was supposed to be connected. As a result, it looks great in photos, but is unusable as a building. It is surrounded on all sides by a deep ditch; there seems to have been no practical way of reaching it in a vehicle. The glorious bay windows you can see are for the most part partitioned off from the rooms behind them: they are simply for external show; their light (for three of the four wings) would never have been seen in the centre of the house. And, finally, for all Tresham's expensive and significant religious conscience, displayed here in lots of symbols to the Virgin and celebrating the Mass, the building was only designed for one man's conscience. As a visitor you enter the building through the tiny door below ground (you can see it in the photo above) where the servants would enter and not be seen by the people in the house. The kitchens were all in the cellar. In other words, the servants were not expected to participate in this celebration of Catholic harmony. The building is a monument to an aristocratic and exclusive religious feeling; a very self-centred Catholicism.
One of the guidebooks suggests optimistically that there might have been plans for third floor, with an Elizabethan gallery, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence for this. I'm afraid this was another building by Tresham that demonstrated a principle, in this case a Greek cross, at the expense of the practical.
Both houses are within a few miles of Tresham's first house - he already had a fine house at Rushton. The Triangular Lodge is in the park of Rushton Hall. Tresham didn't build it, but he adapted it, and it shows plenty of signs of his influenced. So why wasn't he satisfied with being there? After all, if you had spent fifteen years not being allowed to enter your own home, would you promptly start building, not one, but two houses that you never lived in?
I was relieved to go outside again, and to enjoy the (very untriangular) daisies. I left the house to the crows - they were making an amazing din with their nests in the top of the walls. Clearly, they were very happy with the house.