Page 4, 2nd September 1955

2nd September 1955
Page 4
Page 4, 2nd September 1955 — H ENDLIP HOUSE, about four miles from Worcester, was famous for

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Organisations: Mayles Court


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H ENDLIP HOUSE, about four miles from Worcester, was famous for

the ingenuity with which its secret hidingplaces had been contrived. It is said to have been built in the reign of Elizabeth Tudor by John Abingdon, the Queen's cofferer, a zealous supporter of Mary Queen

of Scots. It is believed that the person who designed the arrangements of this man was Thomas Abingdon, son of the builder.

The result of his work was that there was scarcely a room for which there was not provided a secret way of going in and out. Some had places of retreat in the chimneys; others had staircases concealed in the walls. There was not a nook or corner that was not turned to some advantage.

From an historical point of view, the memory of this house will always be preserved, because it was here that Fr. Garnet was concealed for several weeks in the winter of 1605-1606.

Harvington Hall, near Chaddes ley-Corbett, now owned by the Birmingham diocese. was another place with secret rooms.

Dating back to the time of Henry VIII, one of its hidingplaces " can be entered only by

lifting one of the wooden stairs, and is a very gloomy recess. The house is moated round; and Lady Mary Yate, who is said, as lady of the manor, to have resided here for 65 years, successfully defended the building against the attack of a Kidderminster mob who had come to pillage it in the time of James 11."

In Lancashire

APT. DUTHY, when describing the old mansion of Woodcote, in his " Sketches of Hampshire." says that " behind a stack of chimneys, accessible only by removing the floor-boards. was an apartment which contained a concealed closet," Treago, in the neighbourhood of Monmouth. is said to have a good example. containing a sleeping-place and a reading-desk. The chamber was lighted by a shothole in the wall.

Secret chambers were fairly common in old houses in Lancashire. At Widnes. near Warrington, there was a hiding-place in a

picturesque Tudor mansion. In some fields adjoining this residence were found various relics, including arms, coins and tobacco-pipes, which it has suggested indicate encampments of Roundheads. and perhaps later of Dutch soldiers.

At Mains Hall, in the parish of Kirkham. a secret room was accidentally discovered behind a stack of chimneys; and another one in an old house in Goosnargh, called Ashes. whiqh had two small cavities in its centre wall, which was about 4 ft. deep.

Lydvate Hall and Speke Hall. both in Lancashire, also had secret chambers. which were described fully by Gibson in his " Lydvate Hall and Associations."

Upton Hall, in Lincolnshire. had a cleverly contrived secret chamber. It was about 8 ft. long. 5 ft. broad and just high enough to allow a person to stand upright. The opening was found accidentally through the removal of a beam behind a single step between two bedrooms.

‘Merry Andrew, NETHERHALL, near Maryport, in Cumberland, was the scat of the ancient Senhouse family. This mansion was said to have an excellent secret chamber. its exact position in the house being known to only two persons other than the owner in each generation—the heir-at-law and the family solicitor.

It had no window, and defied the ingenuity of every visitor staying in the house in spite of all attempts made to discover it.

This Netherhall tradition is very similar to the celebrated legend connected with Glamis, only in that case the secret chamber possesses a window, which, nevertheless, has not led to the identification of the room.

On August 23, 1678. John Evelyn recorded in his " Diary " concerning the secret hiding-places of Ham House, at Weybridge. in Surrey, belonging to the Duke of Norfolk : " My lord, leading me about the house, made no scruple of showing me all the hiding-places for popish priests, and where they said mass; for he was no bigoted papist."

Paxhill, near Lindficld in Sussex. is said to have been built by Dr. Andrew Horde, physician and jester to Henry VIII, and the original " Merry Andrew," had a secret room. In the ceiling of the ground floor was a large chamber, surrounded by a stone bench, which was entered by a trapdoor in the floor above. Behindthe shutters of the window in one of the upper rooms was a door opening into a recess in the wall capable of containing several persons standing upright.

Slindon House, between Arundel and Chichester. was another famous residence with secret chambers. There was a secret room at Mayles Court, the house held bydied y dthed unfortunate Lady Lisle wh the scaffold at Winchester on a charge of concealing fugutives after the battle of Sedgmoor.

Other uses

Int UT these hiding-places were sometimes used for other purposes than concealing priests and political refugees. For example, Southey in his "Commonplace Book " includes the following story: " At Bishop's Middlehain, a man died with the reputation of a water-drinker: and it was discovered that he had killed himself by secret drunkenness. There was a Roman Catholic hiding-pla,ce in the house, the entrance to which was from his bedroom; he converted it into a cellar, and the quantity of brandy which he had consumed was ascertained."

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