Friday, 15 February 2013

Searched but not found.

St Edmund Campion stayed at Samlesbury Hall at Easter 1581, just a few months before he was captured at Lyford Grange. We know that the Hall was searched  on 21st November 1592 in the roof space above the great hall of the house. Another hide, which was not described at all by the searchers, was also found during this search. I am not aware of any other documentary evidence above Samlesbury's hides.
When I visited the Hall I was asked to sign a form stating that I could not publicly use any photos which I took of the hides. I did take photos of the three places which are regarded as hides, but I will not use them here.
The first hide is in the room that you first enter and pay for your admission. The hide is within the hearth and chimney, and to the left, of the open fire. It is a space which you can climb into, if you wish. I wonder if this is actually the remains of a hide. It would be very dangerous to be closeted so close to the fire and its smoke. Perhaps it was a a way into or out of the hide itself, or simply a discrete place for Catholic items.
The second hide cannot be seen. It is within the ornamented and painted fireplace in the larger chamber to the right of the entrance. The Hall is listed and, although the presence of this hide is known, it remains out of bounds in order to protect the remaining fabric. This is a shame. In fact, the most interesting part of priest holes, in my estimation, is not the hide itself but the means of access. It would be good to see something of this hide's means of access.
The third hide is on the first floor in the roof space near, but not quite over the great hall. This space is very large indeed but its entrance is, presumably, not the original, since it would easily have been discovered. 
Samlesbury, like most houses, has been adapted and refurbished over the years; 19592 is a long time ago and much has changed in the fabric of the Hall. Nevertheless, what remains is a wonderful for it takes us back into the time of our recusant forbears and their heroic witness.

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