Thursday, June 9, 2011


Damian Thompson visits a remarkable country house, saying:
Mapledurham House, an imposing Elizabethan mansion in south Oxfordshire, is one of Catholic England’s best-kept secrets. Which is appropriate, in a way – for it went to enormous trouble to keep its Catholic allegiance secret during times of persecution, when it was a safe house for fugitive priests.
That said, I think it’s high time that Mapledurham was better known: by rights it ought to attract thousands more visitors than it does. We live in an age when fans of The Da Vinci Code and other thrillers rush to historic locations to stare at “clues” to bogus mysteries. In contrast, the owners of Mapledurham House kept a genuine secret during the Tudor persecution and for decades afterwards: their fidelity to the Roman faith. But the clues had to be subtle – to the extent that, even now, its current owners, John and Lady Anne Eyston, are still making discoveries.
The most recent priest hole, for example, lay undiscovered until 2002 – though it’s in such an inaccessible upper bedroom that it can’t accommodate crowds of tourists. The hole is hidden underneath a sliding hearth, and it might better be described as an elaborate escape shaft. (Read entire article.)

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