Remember, Remember – Royston’s link to 1605 Gunpowder Plot

King James I had a residence in Royston.

King James I had a residence in Royston. - Credit: Archant

Although one should always remember, remember the 5th of November, the nation has had another reason to not let Bonfire Night slip from its psyche this year with the BBC’s latest gorefest Gunpowder making national headlines – thanks to its incredibly gruesome scenes.

King James I's hunting lodge in Kneesworth Street.

King James I's hunting lodge in Kneesworth Street. - Credit: Archant

Fortunately, Royston has its own link to The Gunpowder Plot to kill King James I, which visitors and the community alike can see from a little blue plaque at the corner of London Road and Sun Hill.

The home is Whitehall and, according to some historians, it’s where Lord Mounteagle was staying when he received a letter warning him of the gunpowder plot to kill the king and several members of parliament.

The plot came about after Protestant James failed to end the persecution of Catholics when he came to the throne, so a group of plotters lead by Robert Catesby and including Guy Fawkes, decided to blow up parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder.

When Lord Mounteagle – also known as William Parker, 4th Baron Mounteagle – got the tip off, he alerted the king’s people.

Plaque on the former home of Lord Mounteagle on London Road, Royston, who alerted King James I to th

Plaque on the former home of Lord Mounteagle on London Road, Royston, who alerted King James I to the gunpowder plot in 1605. - Credit: Daniel Wilson

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King James spent a large proportion of his time in Royston. He had a hunting lodge, now the Old Palace, in Kneesworth Street which he had built after ordering the demolition of two pubs, The Greyhound and The Cock.

Former Crow editor Alfred Kingston, in his pre-1923 book A History of Royston, said: “At the end of October 1605, the king was at Royston when the anonymous letter was sent to Lord Mounteagle which led to the discovery of The Gunpowder Plot.

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“By this time the king’s court had monopolised all the best houses in the town and, according to tradition, Lord Mounteagle occupied Whitehall at the top of High Street. It’s the corner building next to Sun Hill Lane which leads to the heath, and had long since been converted into smaller houses.”

Westminster was searched, the gunpowder found in the undercroft and Guy Fawkes was arrested nearby. He was tortured to reveal his fellow plotters, and they were all executed.

King James I’s fondness for the town is said to have come about on his journey from Scotland after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, when he stopped to hunt on Therfield Heath.

Town councillor F. John Smith said: “Royston is extremely historical. King James I spent a lot of time in the town – leading it to be known as ‘Royal Royston’ for a while.

“The link to the plot means people in Royston have even more reason to celebrate Bonfire Night.”

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