Open main menu



'THAT beast Waad,' as Sir Walter Ralegh called him, had been appointed Lieutenant[1] of the Tower about eleven weeks before the capture of Guy Faukes at Westminster. Prior to his appointment, however, he had held several very important diplomatic and political posts. He had faithfully served William Cecil, the great Lord Burleigh,[2] and was destined, in the matter of the Powder Plot, to serve with equal fidelity his son, Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury. Sir William Waad, under Elizabeth, had been Secretary to Sir Francis Walsingham, and afterwards Clerk of the Privy Council. He had been sent on frequent diplomatic missions to Madrid, Paris, and the Low Countries. In 1588 he was elected a member of Parliament, and in 1601 represented Preston, where his Protestant zeal made him very unpopular among the Roman Catholics of Lancashire. Soon after the accession of James I. he was knighted, and in August, 1605, he was, at Lord Salisbury's request, appointed Lieutenant of the Tower.

Strict and unpopular as he was as a gaoler, Waad was by no means the sordid villain represented by Roman Catholic writers. He was a man of culture and letters, a promoter of American exploration, and had done some excellent service as a diplomat. He was an ultra-Protestant, and his sincere hatred of Roman Catholicism led him to stoop to low means to extract information from, or obtain evidence against Fathers Garnet and Oldcorne. Having incurred the ill-will of Lady Somerset, the poisoner, he was removed[3] eventually from his post in 1613 (his patron, Salisbury, being dead), and spent the remainder of his life in Essex, and at Hampstead. He died, 1623, at Manuden, Essex.

I print below extracts from certain letters relating to him and his rule in the Tower, which contain matter of much interest and importance (extracted from Number 6178, in the Additional MSS., British Museum). From the letters, recorded below, written by Waad, ample evidence is forthcoming of the strained relations existing between him and Sir Walter Ralegh, and of his subservience to Lord Salisbury. I also quote from other papers, derived from the same source, regarding the capture of Lyttleton and Winter at Hagley, the closing of the Ports, etc.

As an unraveller of plots, Sir William Waad certainly seems to have enjoyed a unique career. He had, in fact, been connected with the detection, or attempted detection, of almost every conspiracy hatched in England during the eventful twenty years antecedent to the Gunpowder Plot.[4] He had ransacked the belongings of Mary, Queen of Scots, at the time of Babington's conspiracy; he had taken a prominent part in the discovery of the mysterious Lopez affair; he had helped to suppress the Essex rebellion; he had been employed in the matter of the proceedings of Lord Cobham and Sir Walter Ralegh, as regards their connection with Father Watson's conspiracy. He was, therefore, likely to prove, in the eyes of the Government, an ideal gaoler for the conspirators and Jesuits captured after the failure of the Gunpowder Treason, as well as for Sir Walter Ralegh.


Waad to Salisbury, August 17, 1605, relating to his installation as Lieutenant of the Tower:—

'My Lord Treasurer and my Lord of Devonshire met at the Tower on Monday at three of the clock in the afternoon and gave me my oath. . . . Before I did sign the indentures for the receiving of the prisoners, I went to see them all in their several lodgings . . .

'I have given order the next time the lions[5] be abroad to see them myself, and then I will advertise your Lordship what I observe in them.'

Waad to Salisbury, November 7, 1605 : relating to the demeanour of Guy Faukes (Johnson):—

'It may please your Lordship, this morning when Johnson was ready (who hath taken such rest this night as a man void of all trouble of mind), I repaired unto him and told him if he held his resolution of mind to be so silent, the preresolution in the State was as constant to proceed with that severity which was meet in a case of that consequence ... I asked him whether his vow and oath was taken here, or beyond the seas? He answered here. I asked him when? He said a year and a half sithence. ... He added that the Priest[6] who gave him the Sacrament knew nothing of it. . . . I am confident, notwithstanding his resolute mind, he will be more open in the end.'

Sir (then Mr.) Thomas Lawley to Salisbury, November 14, 1605: relating to the capture of Holbeach:—

'Upon the 8th day of this present month, I with all the small powder I was able upon a sudden to make, did attend Mr. Sheriff of Worcestershire into a place called Holbeach, and there did my best endeavour for the suppressing and apprehending of the Traitors there assembled, one of my servants being the first man that entered upon them, and took Thomas Winter alive, and brought him unto me, whom I delivered to the said Sheriff, and thereupon hasted to revive Catesby, Percy, and the two Wrights, who lay deadly wounded on the ground, thinking by the recovery of them to have done unto his Majesty better service than by suffering them to die.[7] But such was the extreme disorder of the baser sort that, while I with my men took up one of the languishing traitors, the rude people stripped the rest naked; their wounds being many and grievous, and no surgeon at hand, they became incurable, and so died.'

Captain Burton to the Privy Council, November, 1605: relating to the abortive closing of the ports, after the discovery of the Plot:

'Notwithstanding the care in all the ports, yet out of remote and not noticed cricks[8] there are small boats that usually transport priests and messengers, as namely, one Henry Paris, who dwells near Colchester, in Essex, who is a continual transport, and employed often one Anthony Hukmote, who dwells in Crutchet Friars. And one Henry King, whose dwelling,' etc.

Waad to Salisbury, November 21, 1605: relating to Winter's convalescence, and ability to write:—

'Thomas Winter doth find his hand so strong, as after dinner he will settle himself to write that he verbally declared to your Lordship, adding what he shall further remember.' Sir Thomas Lake to Salisbury, November 27, 1605: relating to the receiver of the gunpowder:—

'His Majesty, this evening, after his return from his sports, commanded me to put your Lordship in mind of (a) thing in the examination whereof he doth not remember that you are yet cleared, that is, that where at Lambeth at the house whither the powder was brought by the porters there was a young man that received it, which His Majesty and your Lordship conceived at first to be Winter, but since, as His Majesty judgeth, could not be so because the examinations make mention that young man had no hair on his face, which is otherwise in Winter. He would, therefore, know whether your Lordship hath yet found who was the receiver of the powder, or, if it hath not been enquired of, by reason of the multitude of other things, then your Lordship would best to labour to discover it?'

'The copy of a letter cast into the Lord of Salisbury's court, December 4th, 1605:—

'My Lords, whereas the late unapprovable, and most wicked design for the destroying of his Majesty, the Prince, and Nobility, with many others of worth and quality, through the undertaking spirits of some more turbulent than truly zealous and dispassionate Catholics hath made the general estate of our Catholic cause so scandalous in the eye of such, whose corrupted judgment is not able to fan away and sever the faults of such professions from the profession itself, as whoso is found to be of that religion is presumed at least in mind to allow, though God knows, as much abhorring it as any Protestant whatsoever, the said former most inhumane and barbarous project. And, whereas some of His Majesty's Council, but especially your Lordship, is known to be (as the Philosophers term it) primus motor of such uncharitable taking advantage by so foul a scandal to root out all memory of Catholics either by sudden massacre, banishment, prisonment, and some other unsupportable vexations, and oppression, or perhaps by decreeing in this next Parliament some more cruel and horrible law against Catholics than is already made. In regards of the promises there are some good men, who through their earnest desire for continuing of Catholic religion, and for saving of many souls, both at this time and of future posterity are resolved to prevent so great a mischief though full assurance aforehand of the loss of their dearest lives.

'You are, therefore, hereby to be admonished that, at this present, there are five who have severally undertaken your death and have vowed the performance thereof, by taking already the Blessed Sacrament, if you continue your daily plotting these tragical stratagems against Recusants. . . .

'It may be your Lordship will take this as some forged letter of some Puritan, thereby to incense you more against Recusants, but we protest upon our salvation it is not so, neither can anything (in human liklihood) prevent the effecting thereof but the change of your course against Recusants.'

'The Manner of the Discrying and Apprehension of Robert Winter and Stephen Lyttleton,' at Hagley:—

'Upon Thursday morning, the ninth of January, 1605,[9] about nine of the clock, one John Finwood, servant and cook to Mr. Lyttleton of Hagley, in the county of Worcester, came unto Thomas Haslewood, Gent., one of the said Mr. Lyttleton's chief servants, and told him that the said Robert Winter and Stephen Lyttleton were with him in the said Mr. Lyttleton's house at Hagley, and that they were got into the house in the night time, after the servants were in their beds. Whereupon, instantly the said Mr. Haslewood went unto the stable, and made ready his gelding, and rode post into the village adjoining to raise a few to apprehend them; in the meanwhile that the said Mr. Haslewood so rode, the Constable of Hagley being required by the said Mr. Haslewood did make his repair to the said Mr. Lyttleton's house at Hagley, attended upon with the servants and tenants of the said Mr. Lyttleton of Hagley aforesaid to the number of ten or twelve persons, where they being assembled, one Humphrey Lyttleton, Gent., commonly called "Red Humphrey," asked them what they did there? who answered him that they came to apprehend the said Robert Winter and Stephen Lyttleton, and thereupon the said Humphrey said that they were not there, and bade them begone. . . . But the said Constable and others said they came to credit the house and to apprehend the traitors, and thereupon the said traitors got forth of the house at a back door, which being known to one Daniel Bate, a servant to Mr. Lyttleton, he called to the said Constable and told him that the said traitors were gotten forth at a back door. And then the said Constable, and the servants, and tenants of the said Mr. Lyttleton did beset the house, and apprehended the said Robert Winter and Stephen Lyttleton in the court adjoining to the said house endeavouring to get away towards a wood.'[10]


I further reproduce below extracts from the original documents in the Public Record Office, (Gunpowder Plot Book) relating inter alia, to the plans made by the King for interrogating Johnson (Faukes) in the Tower, and to Lord Northumberland's anxiety that Percy's life might be saved. From the nature of the King's interrogatories to be put to Faukes, we can discern with what clever foresight Catesby had calculated that Guy Faukes would not be recognized in London. When captured, nothing was at first discovered as to the identity of Faukes, Waad and the others resting under the delusion that he was merely Percy's servant, as Catesby had intended it to be thought. The idea that the Gunpowder Plot was originally imagined by the Londoners to have been a Spanish contrivance is corroborated by Waad's second letter to Salisbury, despatched on November 5, from the Tower.

Waad to Salisbury, November 5, 1605: relating to the news of the discovery of the Plot:—

'As nothing is more strange unto me than that it should enter into the thought of any man living to attempt anything against a Sovereign Prince of so great goodness, so I thank God on the knees of my soul that this monstrous wickedness is discovered, and I beseech God all the particulars may be laid open.'

Waad to Salisbury, November 5, 1605: relating to the reception of the news in East London:—

'It may please your Lordship, I thought it very fit your Lordship should know what the people in these parts do so murmur and exclaim against the Spaniards and the Ambassador; as may grow into further making of disorder, if some good order be not taken to prevent the same.'

A list of interrogatories, drawn up by the King, to be put to Johnson (Faukes), November 6, 1605:—

'1. As to what he is? for I can never hear yet of any man that knows him.

'2. Where was he born; and when?

'3. What were the names of his parents?

'4. What is his age?

'5. Where hath he lived?

'6. How hath he lived, and by what trade?

'7. How he received the wounds in his breast?

'8. If he was ever in service with any other before Percy?

'9. How came he in Percy's service; and when?

'10. When was this house (in Westminster) hired by Percy?

'11. How soon after getting it, did he begin his devilish practices?

'12. Where did he learn to speak French?

'13. What gentlewoman's letter was it, that was found upon him?

'14. Why does she in it call him by another name?

'15. If he ever was a priest?

'16. Where was he converted, and by whom?'

(The original, in the King's hand, is written in broad Scotch). [11]

Declaration signed by Guy Faukes, November 16, 1605:—

'He doth call to remembrance that speech being moved amongst themselves of the Catholic lords they wished might be exempted from this Parliament, that Robert Catesby told them he had spoken with my Lord Montague, who made suit to be absent from the Parliament, and said he had advised his Lordship so to do, because he could do no good there.

'He likewise said the Lord Mordaunt would not come until the middle of the Parliament, because at the former occasion when the King went to the ceremony, he was fain to sit in the Parliament House with his robes on whilst the King was at church.

'And it was further said amongst them that the Lord Stourton by accident would not come until the Friday following. He further said that he understood by Catesby and Winter that Francis Tresham and they had some conversation about the Lord Mounteagle. Tresham having been exceeding earnest to have his Lordship warned to be absent from the Parliament.

'They were desirous to have warned the Earl of Arundel to absent himself, but they understood—though he was under years—yet he made great suit to be there.

'He likewise saith it was considered and concluded amongst them that the best course and most convenient means to persuade the Catholic lords to be absent from the Parliament was, in letting them understand the straight laws against Catholics, and the little good they could do with their presence.

'He further saith that Christopher Wright had been at the Earl of Northumberland's house on the Sunday before the Parliament, and at his return told Percy that it was known in my Lord's house he was come up to London, whereupon Percy went thither.

'He confesseth Percy bought on Monday at night the watch that was found about him when taken, and sent it to him by Keyes at 10 of the clock in the night, because he should know how the time went away.

'He also said he did not intend to set fire to the train till the King was come into the house, and then he purposed to do it with a piece of touchwood, and with a match also, that the powder might surely take fire one quarter of an hour after.'

The Earl of Northumberland to Lord Salisbury, November 10, 1605: relating to the capture of Thomas Percy:—

"May it please your Lordship that what I have to say at this time is little, and few words will express my desire; not that I am to direct your Lordship's will, but only to lay down my own entreaty if you like it, and that is this.

'I hear Mr. Percy is taken, if that I hear be true, but withal shot through the shoulder with a musket; our surgeons in these countries are not over excellent for a shot, if heat take it, the patient with a fever will soon make an end; none but he can shew me clear as the day, or dark as the night, therefore I hope it shall not offend you if I require haste, for now will he tell truly if ever, being ready to make his account to God Almighty. Thus, with my humble well wishes to your Lordship, I rest to do your Lordship services.


'Sunday, this present afternoon.'

Memorandum, by Secretary Conway, respecting the unrequited services of one Henry Wright, an informer:—

'If it may please your Majesty, can you remember that the Lord Chief Justice Popham, and Sir Thomas Challoner, Kt., had a hand in the discovery of the practices of the Jesuits in the Powder Plot, and did reveal the same to your Majesty, for two years' space almost before the said Treason burst forth by an obscure letter sent to the Lord Mounteagle, which your Majesty, like an angel of God, interpreted touching the House, then intended to be given by powder? The man who informed Sir Thomas Challoner and Lord Popham of the said Jesuitical practices, their meetings, and traitorous designs in that matter, whereof from time to time they informed your Majesty, was one Wright, who hath your Majesty's hand for his so doing, and never received any reward for his pains and charges laid out concerning the same.'

This Henry Wright, it should be remarked en passant, was not the only notable agent employed by the Government to discover 'the practices in the Powder Plot' of the Jesuits and others. Among those employed to procure information likely to incriminate the priests was no less a person than Ben Jonson, the poet, who was for some years a Papist. He totally failed, however, to procure any information against the priests, but expressed his opinion that the discovery of Catesby's conspiracy would cast so great an odium upon the Roman Church in England that a great number of the Roman Catholic gentry would become Protestants.

  1. Lord Ronald Gower, in his history of the Tower of London, aptly remarks that 'Ralegh's feelings towards the new Lieutenant appear to have resembled those of Napoleon to Sir Hudson Lowe.'
  2. Especially in regard to obtaining evidence against the Queen of Scots.
  3. Lady Somerset thought him too honest a man to approve of her scheme for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury; hence his removal from the Tower. He gave evidence against her at her trial.
  4. And they were by no means few in number.
  5. Lions, the property of the Crown, were then kept in the Tower, and had been for centuries. The Tower menagerie was abolished in the reign of William IV.
  6. Gerard. Yet Lord Salisbury afterwards caused it to be put in evidence that Gerard did know of the plot.
  7. This, again, proves the falsity of the Jesuit cock-and-bull story that Catesby and Percy were killed
  8. Creaks.
  9. 1606.
  10. The 'Worcestershire Men' were so proud of their feat, that they refused to yield their prisoners into the custody of the Sheriff of Staffordshire, and (despite all threats) took Winter and Lyttleton to Worcester. A similar 'fracas' had occurred between the men of these two counties after the capture of Holbeach.
  11. E.g. No. 4. 'Of quhat age he is '?