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There’s an odd triangular building quietly minding its own business by a road in rural Northamptonshire, surrounded by trees, fields and not much else. It’s based on the number three: it has three sides, three floors, three-leaved windows, three triangular gables on each face. It was built by Sir Thomas Tresham, in the 16th century. He was a Catholic who didn’t want to conform to the Protestant faith that had been introduced in the Reformation, when Henry VIII broke the church in England away from Rome. For the sin of staying Catholic, Tresham spent a lot of time in Tudor prisons. He kept his spirits up by designing extraordinary buildings. By modelling Rushton on the number three, he was making a pointed link with the Holy Trinity, saying that he thought good Christians who believed in the Trinity ought to be Catholics, not Protestants.

What you see today
 Visit Rushton for what it tells you about the charged religious times of the 16th and 17th centuries. It is fun to seek out the three-themed puzzles, but don’t forget the lot of those who had to live here: Tresham’s rabbit keepers. I imagine they cursed Sir Thomas daily for lumbering them with such a palpably impractical construction. There is a reason that most of us don’t have three-sided homes.

Dave Musgrove is editor of BBC History Magazine and author of 100 Places That Made Britain.

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The article ‘Sites that shaped Britain's future’ was published in partnership with BBC Countryfile magazine.

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