Wright, John (1568?-1605) (DNB00)

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WRIGHT, JOHN (1568?–1605), conspirator, was a grandson of John Wright of Ploughland Hall, Yorkshire, who had been seneschal to Henry VIII, and migrated thither from Kent in the thirty-third year of that king's reign. His son Robert had by his second wife, Ursula Rudston of Hayton, two sons, John and Christopher (see below), both gunpowder plotters, and two daughters, one of whom married Thomas Percy (1560–1605) [q. v.], who was engaged in the same conspiracy.

John, the elder brother, was baptised at Welwick on 16 Jan. 1568 (Poulson, Holderness, ii. 516). He is said to have been a schoolfellow of Father Tesimond [q. v.] the jesuit, and of Guy Fawkes (Cal. State Papers, Dom. James I, xvii. 18). Father Gerard, his contemporary, describes him as ‘a strong, stout man, and of very good wit, though slow of speech.’ He was an excellent swordsman and much disposed to fighting. Camden, writing to Sir R. Cotton in 1596 when Queen Elizabeth was sick, says that both the Wrights, with Catesby, Tresham, and others, were put under arrest as men likely to give trouble in case of the queen's death (Birch, Orig. Letters, 2nd ser. iii. 179). However, according to Gerard, John Wright became a catholic only about the time of Essex's rising, in which he was implicated (1601), and after that a change came over him. He became ‘staid and of good sober carriage.’ He kept much in the company of Catesby, who esteemed him for his valour and secrecy. His house at Twigmore in Lincolnshire, where he now chiefly resided, became the resort of priests, who went to him for his spiritual and their own corporal comfort (Gerard, Narrative, p. 59). John was one of the first initiated into the plot by his friend Catesby, probably at the same time as Thomas Winter [q. v.], i.e. January 1604. He now removed his family from Twigmore to a house belonging to Catesby at Lapworth in Warwickshire. He took an active part in all the operations of the conspirators, and on the eve of the actual discovery of the plot (on the afternoon of 4 Nov.) he fled from London with Catesby. At Holbeche on the morning of the 8th, when an accident took place with some gunpowder, he wished in his despair to ignite the rest so as to blow up the house and all. In the fight which followed with Sir Richard Walsh's men he and his brother fell mortally wounded. Sir Thomas Lawley, who was in this affair assisting the sheriff of Worcester, wrote to Salisbury: ‘I hasted to revive Catesby and Percy and the two Wrights, who lay deadly wounded on the ground, thinking by the recovery of these to have done unto his majesty better service than by suffering them to die,’ but the people standing by roughly stripped the bodies naked, and, no surgeon being at hand, they soon died (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 617, p. 565, quoted in ‘Life of a Conspirator,’ 1895, p. 230).

Christopher Wright (1570?–1605), the younger brother, before the plot was projected had been sent into Spain in March 1603, in accordance with the arrangement made with Thomas Winter, to inform Philip of the queen's death and to solicit the aid of the Spanish forces. He was, like Winter, furnished with letters of recommendation by Garnet to Creswell, and was followed two months later by Fawkes, who came into Spain from Brussels on a similar errand (Tierney, iv. 8, liii). Christopher was not called upon to take part in the powder conspiracy till Lent 1605, when the five workers at the mine, finding ‘the stone wall very hard to beat through,’ needed fresh hands. His fortunes were thenceforward linked with those of his brother, and he was mortally wounded with him on 8 Nov. 1605.

[Jardine's Narrative; Condition of Catholics in the Reign of James I; Father Gerard's Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot, ed. John Morris, S.J., 1871; Traditional History and the Spanish Treason, articles in the Month, May and June 1896, by the Rev. John Gerard, S.J.; What was the Gunpowder Plot? by Father Gerard, 1897; What Gunpowder Plot was, by S. R. Gardiner, 1897.]

T. G. L.