Harvington Hall

I took the family to see this fascinating place today. We had a guided tour by a knowledgeable lady in full Tudor costume, and saw four of the priest-holes directly, and the secret entrance (up a chimney!) to the final two in the attics.

Gertrude wrote here about St Nicholas Owen, the genius joiner who built the priest holes.


Do visit!


About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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15 Responses to Harvington Hall

  1. toadspittle says:

    Incredibly, almost insanely, brave – the priests who ventured to England – generally from Spain – in those days.
    In fact, the reason that they were killed on discovery was that they were seen as traitors and foreign spies who wanted to put a Catholic king on the throne, and who would have happily helped, and conspired, to kill the Protestant incumbent…All of which was true.

    Still, they did their duty, as they saw it. And duly paid. Honour to them.

  2. johnhenrycn says:

    So nice to be able to give you a “thumbs up” once in a while, Toad. You’re really as not as scatterbrained as you pretend to be.

  3. toadspittle says:

    Oh yes, I am – JH.
    Because “pretending” to be scatterbrained would require more brains than I actually possess. …Which is precious few.

  4. Incredibly, almost insanely, brave – the priests who ventured to England – generally from Spain – in those days.
    In fact, the reason that they were killed on discovery was that they were seen as traitors and foreign spies who wanted to put a Catholic king on the throne

    Where not most of the priest English students at Rome, Douai, and Rheims (hence the Douay-Rheims Bible)? And Philip II had a better claim to the throne of England then Elizabeth I did (Jure uxoris and all that).

  5. toadspittle says:

    Yes, indeed, Habstorationist. You have me there, bang to rights.
    A quick, unchecked, unresearched, sloppy, typical bit of response on my part – which did give me a few second’s pause for thought, even as I typed.
    But I was too idle to follow up on it.

    …So I take it all back.

  6. johnhenrycn says:

    Naturally, the priest martyrs were English, but many came from the Royal English College in Valladolid (Castile), founded in 1589 specifically for the purpose of training Catholic priests for the English and Welsh Mission, but I don’t know about “most”.

  7. crow says:

    I have just finished a book by Robert Hugh Benson, entitled “By What Authority?” Msgr Benson was the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and wrote the book in the early 1900’s. It is a fictional account set during the reign of Elizabeth I. It features a description of one fictional family, who were recusant Catholic and describes the members of the family and their house. There is also a description of another house, featuring priest hides. As some of the descriptions and correspondence had a decided ring of authenticity to me, I did a little google researching and discovered that the recusant family described by the author were the Throckmortons and the house (Coughton Court) and their history had been faithfully described by him.
    The second house described by him was in the context of a priest escaping by the use of priest holes and, I think, fitted somewhat into the description of Harvington Hall. It is quite a coincidence that your post appeared just as I was enjoying my meagre detective work! The book is a good read and is available on Amazon, by the way.

  8. Crow,
    Have you read Come Rack! Come Rope! by the same author? Most of Msgr Benson’s works are available as free ebooks at Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/4052

  9. johnhenrycn says:

    Have been meaning to read Benson’s Lord of the World, which Pope Francis has mentioned approvingly. He (Benson) seems to have wrestled with sexual identity issues. He was a very close friend of the ephebophiliac homosexual, Frederick Rolfe, but all of their passionate correspondence was later destroyed (by Benson’s brother it’s suspected) and so Benson’s chastity is not something I wish to question.

  10. johnhenrycn says:

    THR, the Gutenberg Project is an absolute God-send, isn’t it? Even when I’ve got the hard copy of a book, I still use it, because sometimes reading from a screen is easier that holding a thousand page tome, such as Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. The Internet Archive is also a valuable site, along with a few others. Been meaning to get one of those ‘Kindle’ thingamagigs for reading in bed.

  11. kathleen says:

    As an impressionable young teenager, I remember having nightmares after reading about the horrible tortures and deaths (hanging, drawn and quartered) of recusant Catholics in Msgr Benson’s “Come Rack! Come Rope!”, many of whom were priests. These martyrs truly earned their everlasting crowns of glory; they preferred to die terrible agonosing deaths rather than denounce their allegiance to Christ and His Church.

    Another great read, and a detailed true story of this period, is John Gerard S.J.’s “The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest”. Very heartbreaking in places though.

    “Smuggled into England after his ordination and dumped on a Norfolk beach at night, Fr. Gerard disguised himself as a country gentleman and traveled about the country saying Mass, preaching and ministering to the faithful in secret – always in constant danger. The houses in which he found shelter were frequently raided by “priest hunters”; priest-holes, hide-outs and hair-breadth escapes were part of his daily life. He was finally caught and imprisoned, and later removed to the infamous Tower of London where he was brutally tortured.”

  12. crow says:

    I have just discovered RH Benson – you are all familiar with his writing and even the Pope has mentioned him…. I feel like GK Chesterton when he discovered a new land, only to find that it was England! I have ordered “Come Back! Come Rope!” and quite a few more books by him – I love his writing, he has that elegant simplicity that people who really can speak English seem to have, (in contrast to that tortured sentence). I will order the book by Fr Gerard – thank you Kathleen.

  13. crow says:

    Further, in reference to your comments, Kathleen, a book that deals with the situation of Catholics during the Elizabethan era in reference to Shakespeare’s plays, is “Shadowplay” by Clare Asquith. That is also quite chilling in its analysis of the ruthless cruelty of the Elizabethan regime and the opportunism of those who implemented the persecution. She analyses Shakespeare’s plays with reference to coded messages she claims to be contained within the plays. She presents a pretty strong case, but even more compelling is the history that is set out in the book by which the context of the plays is explained.

  14. kathleen says:

    Thank you Crow!
    Yes, I have heard of Clare Asquith’s book “Shadowplay”, but have not read it yet. It shall now be added to my list of books ‘to read’. 🙂

    I remember the priest-holes described by Fr Gerard in his autobiography as being dark, cramp, stuffy and very small – where sometimes he, and other courageous hunted priests, had to stay quiet and still for hours, even days, while the Protestant enemies searched the premises for them. If the priests had to get into the hideouts in a hurry, they may not even have had time to take any water (or food) as they bore out their ordeal.

    Not something for the faint-hearted to endure!

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