History of Rye House Gatehouse

Situated on the outskirts of Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, next to the River Lee, Rye House was one of the first brick buildings ever to be constructed in this country.

Built in 1443 by Sir Andrew Ogard, a Danish knight, the site was originally called Atter Eye meaning ‘at the island’ and it stands on land inhabited at least since Saxon times, and which was associated with the Knights Templar.

It was later the main home for the Parr family and of Catherine Parr, last of the six wives of King Henry VIII, until 1531. In 1577, the house passed to the Frankland family, who then sold it to the Baeshe family, in 1619.

Rye House Gatehouse

The Rye House Plot

In 1683, Rye House became the centre of a notorious plot to assassinate King Charles II and his brother, the Duke of York (later James II). The plotters were Protestant members of the Whig party, many of whom still had republican sympathies from the time of Oliver Cromwell.  They were alarmed at Charles’ support for France and other Catholic monarchies, as well as James’ recent conversion to Catholicism.

At that time, Rye House was owned by Richard Rumbold, one of these plotters. The royal brothers were due to pass the house on their way back from the horse racing at Newmarket, and the plan was to ambush the party at Rye House. However, their plans were foiled when a major fire at Newmarket forced the King to return early.

The plot was discovered and many suspects were arrested and executed. The Earl of Essex committed suicide in the Tower of London, while the Duke of Monmouth, Charles’s illegitimate son, fled the country.

Rye House Gatehouse

The Gatehouse

The Gatehouse is now a grade 1 listed building, featuring high-quality diaper brickwork and a ‘barley sugar twist’ chimney as well as a string of underground chambers or dungeons. It’s open to the public on weekends and bank holidays during the summer, featuring displays about the Rye House Plot and the early history of brick-building. The rest of the grass-covered site has the original floor-plan of the house marked out.
Find out more about visiting Rye House Gatehouse


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