The second leg of my break brought me to Hertfordshire and Essex. First I went to visit the town where I was born and took this photo of its ancient Cathedral:
Then eastwards to the old Catholic stronghold of Ingatestone Hall of the Petre family. Here St John Payne worked until his capture and execution at Chelmsford. The house has two remarkable priest holes. Neither of them were ever discovered during the penal days and both could provide ample space for the hiding of priests and Mass stuff.
I then went to the other side of Essex to see "Braddocks" or "Broadoaks". This house belonged in penal days to the Wiseman family - Catholics - and contains the finest priest hiding-place in the country. There is a detailed record of the search made in 1594 for the Jesuit John Gerrard who was hiding in this hide. The search lasted four days and was unsucessful, so cleverly had the hide been made by Nicholas Owen (now a saint).
You might imagine that something had inspired these visits - it had. For my holiday reading I took with me Alice Hogge's new book - "God's secret agents". She has writen a popular historical novel about the life of Catholics during Elizabeth I's reign. The book has been extensivly researched and is really well written. I recommend it to you as an immensly inspiring account of the lives of our forebears, priests and lay people, who offered themselves so that the Catholic Faith would continue in England.