Friday, 28 June 2013

A hide of your own.

In the Priest's House - above - at West Grinstead in Sussex there is a hide. The Carylls of West Grinstead Park, which no longer exists, established a priest in a cottage on their estate, probably in the early 1600s. In its attic was a hay loft which was converted into a chapel and a hide incorporated into the fabric of the house. This is the only example of a hide, that I know of, which was built into the priest's own permanent dwelling place. In the photo above, the two windows in the uppermost part of the timber framed side of the house are the windows of the chapel. You can read more about the Carylls and the house here
The chapel itself is really lovely and I, for one, would be very happy to celebrate daily Mass here. On one's way up to the second floor chapel you pass a small window on the stair well between the first and second floor. You can see this window in the photo below; it is a modern portal which allows visitors to look into the hide itself.
The entrance to the hide would have been in the attic or roof space itself, such that the person would have lowered himself down into the hide. The photo below was taken from within the hide looking directly upwards. (The electric light is obviously modern.) I think that the original entrance to the hide no longer exists; the house has been substantially remodelled over the centuries.

There is also a small doorway in the chapel itself which allows one to peer into the space which surrounds the central chimney stack. This is not a hide but enables one to imagine how hides were contrived in those dangerous years. The actual hide is in fact behind that part of the brick wall which is set back, and directly in front of the camera.
Next to the Priest's House is the lovely mid-nineteenth century church of Our Lady of Consolation - a place of pilgrimage. You should visit this shrine, but ring first to arrange to see the priest hide and secret chapel.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Wonderful holes in the wall.

Thurnham Hall is a Tudor manor house located just five miles south of Lancaster in the most lovely countryside. It is now a hotel. In 1556 it became the home of the Dalton family, and it remained their home until the very early twentieth century. The Daltons were Catholics, Royalists and Jacobites - they sound wonderful, don't they!
The facade of the house was remodelled in the early 1800s and in 1854 a new family chapel was built on to the house. You can see this in the above photo on the right hand side.
In Recusant days the chapel would have been discretely placed somewhere in the upper part of the house. Its famous priest hole is still there and I was able to see it when I visited the hotel recently. In the above photo the priest hole is to the right of the far left-hand window on the first floor.
The entrance to the hide is chest high and was covered by a slab of stone, set on two iron hinges, so that it formed a pivoting door which opened inwards. You can see the stone door, set on the floor, in the above photo. You can also see in this photo a hole in the left hand side of the slab into which some securing device would have originally been fastened. This entrance slab used to be kept in the central museum in Lancaster; it is fitting that it is back home where its value can be better appreciated.
The hide itself is very roomy and, I think, was built with a air-hole to the outside. What is especially interesting is that the original brackets on which the stone entrance pivoted are still embedded in the stone fabric inside the hide. You can see these in the photo below.
Before visiting the house I had read up about its hides in Michael Hodgetts' book "Secret Hiding places", so I knew that there was a second hiding place for small items in the stone wall across the passage and facing the priest hide. What was extraordinary was that the proprietors of the hotel seemed not to be aware of this second hiding place, which I easily located by removing a stone from the wall - and to their surprise I revealed this small hole in the wall, presumably devised for the concealment of sensitive items. 
What is also lovely is the public church which the Dalton's built on their estate in the mid 1800s for local Catholics. This church is behind the house and a small wood, and is approached via a public driveway. Holy Mass is still celebrated there every Sunday.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The attempt 2.

I took the above photo at Tower Hill Gallows site, the site of the execution of SS John Fisher and Thomas More whose feast we keep today, in the early summer of 2007. On that occasion I had led a group of young people on a Martyrs Pilgrimage to the Tower and Tyburn. These two towering saints died defending God’s plan for Marriage and society.
A State that doesn’t recognise what morality is is a dangerous State; society’s urgent need today is to be formed morally. Our society is currently immersed not in an economical crisis but a moral one. Yet the context in which we live indicates that Christ is the most important presence in our world.
We are in a period of transition from a status of civilisation to another status. The catalyst of this transition was our interference with natural processes, starting with Contraception and, currently, the imagining of same-sex couples.
Daniel Yanklelovich, Preofessor emeritus of Sociology of New York University, now 88 years old, published in 1981 the book “New Rules”, in which he describes the transition from a family based civilisation and morality to a new ethical philosophy which he calls “Selfism”. Professor Yankelovich does not write from a religious or a Christian perspective, but simply from Sociology.
In the recent past, our lives were focussed, he says on the family and looking after the members of our family. We had, in the recent past, no need for Life Insurance, such was the nature of the extended family.
Today, we have inaugurated a new ethical philosophy – Selfism. This, he defines, first as placing one’s primary obligation to oneself and to activating all of one’s potentialities. Second, he says, is the criterion for processing conflict – I must always put myself first. Third, he says, is to seek success in whatever one attempts.
The first symptom of Selfism, he says, is Abortion. The most important consequence of Selfism, he says, is loneliness. He also goes on to say that Selfism will destroy itself!
In a “Selfist” society marriage is impossible; whether homosexual, heterosexual or whatever kind of union you choose, it is not Marriage. Selfists cannot enter into Marriage.
In such a context as this we find Jesus Christ, the one who laid down his life for His friends – which is the opposite of Selfism. In such a State/state of disintegration and loneliness the Church has a pressing call - to be Christ to others, to reach out to others.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The attempt.

I took this photo in New Zealand, South Island in 2010; it came to mind as wrote this post.
The attempt to establish same-sex couples within the institution of Marriage by the British Parliament is an expression of the disintegration of Western Civilisation, as we knew it. It is a disintegration which coincides with the call to a new evangelisation which Paul VI first, prophetically, made in 1975. Faith and culture have come apart, he said in Evangelii Nuntiandi, and therefore we need a new era of evangelisation. This was a far more important thing for the Pope to say than if he had given an analysis of the nature of contemporary secularisation.
The UK attempt to insert same-sex couples into Marriage is also an expression of the British Parliament’s current patronising attitude to its electorate: telling people how they are to live, and what they are to think and believe. In the absence of morality, law has become its substitute. Law is morality in the UK.
But if we do not have even a basic understanding of morality how can we, the electorate, or our elected representatives, make genuine decisions about our society (since in fact, all decisions are moral ones)? During recent parliamentary debates about this same-sex issue, the words “moral” and “morality” were used in an empty way. The attempt to introduce same sex couples into marriage is not about the rights of homosexuals but is about Marriage itself; it is about trying to change Marriage. However, we do not adequately understand the phenomenon of homosexuality, whereas we do understand what Marriage is. Moreover, we do not know what will take place if a Government incorporates of a “lack of understanding” into society. When David Steele introduced the Abortion Bill into the UK in 1968, he set in motion a process of decay. We have no idea now what it means for society if men step aside wholesale from their responsibilities. We have no idea how such a society can function. So, this attempt by our Government is not merely an example of the ‘dictatorship of relativism’, but is something for more dangerous; it is an adventure in a vacuum; most people cannot see the red lights flashing. 
What lies ahead for us, in the near future, now that the strength of men is failing?

Sunday, 16 June 2013


After Tyburn in London no other gallows site was such a place of sacrifice as was that on the Knavesmire at York. This site which is about a mile from the old Micklegate Bar on the south side of the old Tadcaster Road is now the green treelined margin of the York Racecourse. The sacrifice which was made here is tremendous:

Blessed Richard Kirkman, priest, 22nd August 1582.
Blessed William Lacy, priest, 22nd August 1582.
Blessed James Thompson, priest, 28th November 1582.
Blessed William Hart, priest, 15th March 1583.
Blessed Richard Thirkeld, priest, 29th May, 1583.
Blessed Hugh Taylor, priest, 26th November 1585.
Blessed Marmaduke Bowes, 27th November 1585.
Blessed Francis Ingleby, priest, 3rd June 1586.
Blessed Robert Bickerdyke, layman, 23rd July 1586.
Blessed John Finglow, priest, 8th August 1586.
Blessed Richard Langley, layman, 1st December 1586.
Blessed Edmund Sykes, priest, 23rd March 1587.
Blessed George Douglas, priest, 9th September 1587.
Blessed Alexander Crow, priest, 30th November 1587.
Blessed Edward Burden, priest, 29th November 1588.
Blessed John Anne, priest, 15th March 1589.
Blessed Robert Dalby, priest, 15th March 1589.
Blessed William Spenser, priest, 24th September 1589.
Blessed Robert Hardesty, layman, 24th September 1589.
Blessed Robert Thorpe, priest, 31st May 1591.
Blessed Thomas Watkinson, layman, 31st May 1591.
Blessed Anthony Page, priest, 20th April 1593.
Blessed Edward Osbaldeston, priest, 16th November 1594.
Blessed Alexander Rawlins, priest, 7th April 1595.
St Henry Walpole, priest, 7th April 1595.
Blessed George Errington, layman, 29th November 1596.
Blessed William Knight, layman, 29th November 1596.
Blessed William Gibson, layman, 29th November 1596.
Blessed William Audleby, priest, 4th July 1597.
Blessed Edward Fulthrop, layman, 4th July 1597.
Blessed Thomas Warcop, layman, 4th July 1597.
Blessed Henry Abbot, layman, 4th July 1597.
Blessed John Bretton, layman, 1st April 1598.
Blessed Peter Snow, priest, 15th June 1598.
Blessed Ralph Grimston, layman, 15th June 1598.
Ven. Richard Horner, priest, 4th September 1598.
Blessed Christopher Wharton, priest, 28th March 1600.
Ven. James Harrison, priest, 22nd March 1602.
Ven. Anthony Bates, layman, 22nd March 1602.
Blessed Thomas Welbourne, layman, 1st August 1605.
Blessed Matthew Flathers, priest, 21st March 1608.
Blessed Thomas Atkinson, priest, 11th March 1616.
Blessed Edward Catherick, priest, 13th April 1642.
Blessed John Lockwood, priest, 13th April 1642.
Blessed Nicholas Postgate, priest, 7th August 1679.
Blessed Thomas Thwing, priest, 23rd October 1680.

Along with St Margaret Clitherow there were many others who were put to death within the city itself; the above list names only those who died at the Knavesmire. The castle of York was, like Wisbech castle, a sort of Concentration Camp for Catholics. Many, many Catholics perished within its confines, most of them left to wither and rot. I should particularly like to research their lives and witness.

Thursday, 13 June 2013


The site of the ancient gallows at Warwick is on the old Banbury Road which leads south east out of Warwick, Grid Ref. SP298637. The photo above shows the Gallows Hill Road; the gallows would have been on the crest of the road, on the right hand or south side of the road. 
Well, as you can see, the verge is used as extra parking space to the nearby Business Estate, and there is no memorial to the martyrs who died here.
Blessed William Freeman, priest, my ancestor, hung, drawn and quartered on 13th August 1595.
Blessed John Sugar, priest, hung, drawn and quartered on 16th July 1604.
Blessed Robert Grissold, layman, hung on 16th July 1604.
I sowed some poppy seeds there some weeks ago and would be glad if anyone could tell me if they come to flower. More importantly, would anyone like to help me endeavour to establish a memorial near to this place in honour of these our countrymen?
The photo below shows the site from the other side of the hedge and treeline; an altogether nicer prospect, looking north west to Warwick, where the castle and the tower of St Mary's can be seen.

Saturday, 8 June 2013


The Quernmore Road goes east out of Lancaster and climbs into the hills. About half a mile outside the old city is the site of the ancient place of execution. Public executions continued here until April 1799. 
After London and York Lancaster gallows was a tremendous place of martyrdom; here fifteen priests and laymen were hung, drawn and quartered for their priesthood. Near the place of execution a memorial to the martyrs was erected in 1996. A remarkable inscription reads: Can you drink the chalice that I am about to drink? They said to him, We can.
The memorial stone is on open ground on the north side of the road as you walk up the hill - the route which the condemned took years ago. The stone is near the site of the gallows, which was most likely to have been a little further up the hill on the right-hand side of the road, at the crest of the hill, near the present day Ashton Memorial.
We remember and honour their witness:
Blessed James Bell, priest, 10th April 1584.
Blessed John Finch, 10th April 1584.
Blessed Robert Nutter, priest, 26th July 1600.
Blessed Edward Thwing, priest, 26th July 1600.
Blessed Thurstan Hunt, priest, 3rd April 1601.
Blessed Robert Middleton, priest, 3rd April 1601.
Venerable Lawrence Bailey, 16th September 1604.
Blessed John Thules, priest, 18th March 1616.
Blessed Roger Wrenno, 18th March 1616.
St Edmund Arrowsmith, priest, 28th August 1628.
Blessed Richard Hurst, 29th August 1628.
St Ambrose Barlow OSB, priest, 10th September 1641.
Blessed Edward Bamber, priest, 7th August 1646.
Blessed John Woodcock OFM, priest, 7th August 1646.
Blessed Thomas Whittaker, priest, 7th August 1646.

What a great company!
The first photo below is looking south-east towards the crest of the hill, and the second photo shows the crest of the hill itself, where the gallows probably was sited. The Ashton Memorial is just right, out of the shot.

If you are in Lancaster do walk up to the memorial to these great men, priests and laymen; much grace has come to England already through them.

Thursday, 6 June 2013


The ancient site of execution in Derby is at Nuns Green, which is on the northwest outskirts of Derby on Friargate. A special gallows however, was erected for the Catholic martyrs on the west bank of the River Derwent at St Mary's bridge. The ancient bridge chapel still stands, although the old bridge was rebuilt in 1794; parts of the old bridge are still visible. (Grid ref: SK354367)
The execution most likely took place at the west end of the bridge on the open green area rather than on the bridge itself. Here on 24th July 1588 three priests were hung, drawn and quartered for their priesthood. All three were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987:
Blessed Nicholas Garlick.
Blessed Robert Ludlam.
Blessed Richard Simpson.
Their par-boiled quarters were arrayed round the entrance to the bridge chapel. That entrance no longer exists as Bridge House was built onto the west end of the old chapel. A memorial to these great priests is set into the old stones of the chapel's north wall - photo below. In the third photo you can see the tower of the lovely Catholic church of St Mary which was built nearby.
If you are visiting Derby, or passing by, this is a very special place to visit.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Earlier this year I visited the site of the ancient gallows at Worcester. The site at Red Hill, on the east side of the town, grid ref SO867537, on the south side of the roundabout where the A422 joins the A44 going into Worcester. Here a memorial to the Catholic martyrs who were executed here was erected in November 1939.
The memorial, which is a standing crucifix with a plaque commemorating especially St John Wall OSF, stands in the driveway of a small new housing development just off the Whittington Road. It is a public memorial and yet it is the focus of the open lawn area in front of the new houses. The photo above shows the memorial looking north, up the driveway, to the main road.
This is the site of the old gallows of Worcester used for executing felons, condemned at Worcester, until July 1809. Here also were hung, drawn and quartered for their Catholic faith:
Blessed Edward Oldcorne SJ, priest, and Blessed Ralph Ashby SJ, lay brother, on 7th April 1606.
St John Wall OFM, priest, on 22nd August 1679.
If your are visiting Worcester do pay a visit to this dignified shrine to these great martyrs of the Church.
In the photos below you can vaguely make out the small mound with a tree at its centre. This mound is thought to be the actual site of the gallows; the tree at its centre is, I understand, a pear tree. The other photo is of the memorial plaque which commemorates St John Wall.
Also executed here on 7th April 1606 were John Wintour and Humphrey Littleton, for their part in the Gunpowder Plot.