An excerpt from Extraodinary Places...Close to London
Photo: The Leather Bottle Inn, Cobham, Kent.
“Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.” This ancient rhyme is one that was sung by English children as they prepared an effigy of Guy Fawkes and place him atop a bonfire before setting the fire ablaze. An heir of the de Cobham family was tried for treason because of his supposed involvement in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 - an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament and destroy the monarchy.
The village and much of the surrounding countryside were home to the de Cobham family who dominated the village for nearly 400 years. The name of Cobham is considered to be of Anglo-Saxon origin and possibly derived from a personal name such as Cobba. During the period from 1360-70, the village grew in size under the direction of Sir John de Cobham, who rebuilt the parish church of St. Mary and built the College that stands in the rear of the church in the village.
The Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament and destroy King James I was thought by some to be a wicked scheme organized by Jesuit priests in retaliation for the government’s anti-Catholic ruling. To this day, there are suspicions about Robert Cecil’s part in the plan. Some believe it was a plot instigated by Cecil himself to gain appreciation from the king and further secure his political ambitions. In all, thirteen men were accused of treason after torture and a written confession by Guy Fawkes, who was caught red-handed in the cellars of Westminster trying to ignite barrels of gunpowder. The close relationship with William Parker, Lord Monteagle, who was later identified as a prime conspirator in the plot, did not help the clouds of suspicion hanging over Cecil. Cecil’s brother-in-law, Lord Cobham, as well as Cobham’s younger brother George Brooke was implicated in the conspiracy. Cecil and Lord Cobham escaped execution but George did not.