The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Priest Holes

In England, during the reign of Elizabeth I, laws were passed forbidding Catholics to celebrate their faith. Any found disobeying these laws were put to death for treason. This led to many old Catholic families in the country constructing concealed chapels within their large homes where Mass might be conducted in complete privacy. Adjacent to the chapel there would be a ‘priest hole’. This would appear as storage cupboard, a pillar, floorboard, or wall panel, but in fact provided a place where the officiating priest could run and hide should the priest-hunters arrive.

Priest-hunters would carry out thorough checks of the premises, which included the taking of measurements, sound checks, and the pulling down of suspicious parts of the house. A search could last weeks whilst the object of the priest-hunters’ desire lay silently within their hole. It was not unheard of for priests to die of starvation or lack of oxygen in these circumstances. The priest-holes were also used by cavaliers during the English Civil War.

Images 1 and 2 show a cupboard-come-priest-hole at Salford Prior Hall. 3 shows a priest-hall at Ufton Hall. 4, a stairway at Boscabel in Trent reveals the entrance to a handy hiding place, and 5, this wall panel in a summer house in Salisbury was discovered accidentally when: 

one of the panels was found to open, revealing what appeared to be an ordinary cupboard with shelves. Further investigations, however, proved its real object. By sliding one of the shelves out of the grooves into which it is fixed, a very narrow, disguised door… can be opened. This again reveals a narrow passage, or staircase, leading up to the joists above the ceiling, and thence to a recess… In this there is a narrow chink or peep-hole. [Source]

[Sources: Images from Secret Chambers and Hiding Places by Alan Fea | Priest-holes]

  1. curiousandinterestingthings reblogged this from theoddmentemporium
  2. rachelchloewhatareyoudoing reblogged this from koifishesbutterflykisses
  3. koifishesbutterflykisses reblogged this from theoddmentemporium
  4. jellyfishchic reblogged this from theoddmentemporium
  5. zedleet reblogged this from gmsurvival
  6. battledancingunicornwithglitter reblogged this from fixyourwritinghabits
  7. boriskarloffjr reblogged this from theoddmentemporium
  8. onyourgoat reblogged this from theoddmentemporium
  9. ouijaboard1999 reblogged this from vagrant-shadows and added:
    Priest Holes In England, during the reign of Elizabeth I, laws were passed forbidding Catholics to celebrate their...
  10. morganaqueen reblogged this from revenge-of-the-rose
  11. parlaying666 reblogged this from criminalwisdom
  12. gimmetea reblogged this from historylovinggeek
  13. edwardsporklegs reblogged this from historylovinggeek
  14. historylovinggeek reblogged this from theoddmentemporium
  15. randomhighjinx reblogged this from revenge-of-the-rose
  16. revenge-of-the-rose reblogged this from theoddmentemporium
  17. haroldgillies reblogged this from theoddmentemporium
  18. thehistoriansblog reblogged this from theoddmentemporium
  19. patronsaintoflostrosaries reblogged this from its-a-writer-thing
  20. thetruthisbetter reblogged this from theoddmentemporium
  21. zenobriaa reblogged this from youmetautology
  22. youmetautology reblogged this from fixyourwritinghabits
  23. redhairedstark reblogged this from inquiries-to-sherlock-holmes
  24. inquiries-to-sherlock-holmes reblogged this from criminalwisdom
  25. spoopyspaceships reblogged this from crepuscular-my-dear-watson