L 111011111111111111111111111111111111111111E By FRANK A, KING immummumummumivz APART from the romance and legendary lore associated with many old country houses in England, one of the most interesting features is the secret chamber. This is not only curious as a relic of architectural ingenuity hut, in most cases, has been so skilfully contrived as to escape detection by even the most experienced person.
During the 16th and early in the 17th century. the celebration of Mass in this country was forbidden; consequently Catholic families often entertained a priest, who celebrated Mass in a room from which he could go to a hiding place in an emergency.
It is recorded how a priest named Genings was hanged on December 10. 1591, before the door of a house in Gray's Inn Fields, for having said Mass in a chamber of the house on the previous November S.
These hiding-places have been the scenes of some of those thrilling stories upon which many local traditions have been founded.
In Clarke's " History of Ipswich." published in 1830, there is an interesting account of Sparrow's House, built in 1567, in which the following facts are stated:—
" There is an apartment in the roof of the back-part of the house, the entrance to which was ingeniously hidden by a sliding panel. It has only one small window. and that cannot be seen from any other part of the premises. It had been fitted up as a private chapel or oratory, and there is a tradition that Charles H Was secreted in this room after the battle of Worcester."
Milner in his "1.etters to a Prebendary " says that " on two occasions the King owed his life to the care and ingenuity of priests, who concealed him in the hidinghole provided for their own safety." He adds in a footnote : " The above-mentioned hidinghole is still to be seen at the present Mr. Whitegrave's house, at Moseley. near Wolverhampton; as is also the priest's hiding-holewhich concealed the King, whilst he did not sit in the oak-tree---:at White-ladies, about ten miles from that town."
AT Melford Hall, also in Suf ." folk, there was a curious hiding-place in the thickness of the walls and chimney, approached only through a trap panel.
Another important secret chamber was that at lngatestone Hall, in Essex. once a summer residence belonging to Barking Abbey.
In the reign of Henry VIII the Hall and the estate came into the possession of the Petre family and it continued to he used as their family seat until the last part of the 18th century.
The hiding place, which was 14 ft. long, 2 ft. broad and 10 ft. high, was discovered in the south-east corner of a small room attached to what was probably the owner's bedroom. Underneath the floorboards. a hole or trapdoor about 2 ft. square was found, with a 12-step ladder to descend into the room below, the floor of which was composed of 9 in. of dry sand.
It is said that the existence of this retreat must have been well known to the heads of the family for several generations, as a packing case was found in the secret chamber. and on it was the instruction " For the Right Honble. the Lady Petre, at lngatestone Hall, in Essex."
The wood was in a decayed state, and the writing in an antiquated style, which is only what might be expected as the Petre family had left the Hall between 1770 and 1780,