A COTTAGE stands near Welshpool's St Mary's Church with a remarkable tale.

It was given to a servant who had helped the Powis family in their hour of need during a time of great religious upheaval in Britain in the late 17th century.

The story of Winifred Maxwell and her daring plan to free her husband from the Tower of London is one which deserves to be remembered.

The daughter of William Herbert, 1st Marquess of Powis, had lost everything when her father and his cousin, Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury, were falsely accused by Titus Oates in the Popish Plot of conspiring to kill the King Charles II and as a result spent six years in the Tower of London awaiting trial.

Upon his release in 1684 he remained faithful to the deposed King James and it was he who spirited away Queen Mary and the infant James, Prince of Wales, and took them into their French exile where he died in 1696.

His family, including his heir William and daughter Winifred, remained in exile in at the Jacobite court in St Germaine and deprived of their lands in Wales by King William III.

However loyalists to James had continued their opposition to the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Among them were William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale, a Scottish noble who married Winifred in 1699 while in France swearing an oath of loyalty to the exiled king.

In the Jacobite rising of 1715 he proclaimed James III and VIII at Dumfries and Jedburgh before joining the main Jacobite forces at Hexham under General Thomas Forster.

Nithsdale was captured at Preston together with other Jacobite leaders and sent to London, tried and found guilty of treason, and sentenced to death on February 9, 1716.

His devoted countess Winifred, who was at their home near Dumfries when she heard of the capture of her husband travelled to London and appealed in vain for a pardon.

Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale. Portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller.

Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale. Portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller.

The trek south from Scotland to London was perilous and she changed horses fives times between York and London with snow drifts making riding almost impossible.

However she was not without allies.

Once in London she raced to the home of Grace Evans, a family servant of the Powis family where she shared her plan to free her husband from the Tower of London.

Remarkably the family servant had sworn to help in this endeavour - knowing it would be the death of her should it fail.

On the day of the planned escape, Winifred was joined by Grace and other conspirators, known only as Mrs Morgan and Mrs Mills, in visiting the jailed earl under the pretence of delivering food.

While Mrs Mills waited outside in the carriage, Winifred and the two maids made their way into the Tower of London where she had become a regular visitor and generous tipper to the guards who had welcomed the sight of her.

The Tower of London. Picture: Wikimedia.

The Tower of London. Picture: Wikimedia.

Lord Nithsdale was quickly dressed in the attire of one of the maids as Winifred loudly feigned her emotional goodbye to her husband so the guards would hear.

With that the three departed past the guards who had been none the wiser and into the streets of London where they were spirited away in the waiting carriage to Dover and to freedom in France.

The couple never returned and died in Rome three decades later.

However in the years that followed her brother, William, who had spent much of his own life in exile or in jail, was restored to his titles and estates, including Powis Castle, and was summoned to parliament as Marquess of Powis on October 8, 1722.

One of his first acts was the gift of a cottage to his sister and brother-in-law's ally in their time of need with Grace Evans given the reward which still stands today and can be found near Welshpool's St Mary's Church.

The cottage gifted to Grace Evans. Picture: British Listed Buildings.

The cottage gifted to Grace Evans. Picture: British Listed Buildings.