Thursday 28 November 2013

From Sydney to Ossett.

Having made the journey myself, not so long ago, from Sydney to Ossett, what a great pleasure it was, just a few days ago, to welcome in Ossett a group of Sydneysiders. Joe and Julie, Angela and Christine, are all members of the Servants of Jesus Community, based in Sydney, with whom I enjoyed a very close and fraternal connection during all my years working in Sydney. Indeed, I celebrated the Sunday Mass for the Community, more or less every fortnight during those years.
Here we all are, pictured above on the Solemnity of Christ the King, just after the first Sunday Mass in Ossett. This small group from the Community had been on mission on the island of Malta just a week prior to their visit to Yorkshire. I was so pleased to see them again - it was quite difficult for me to believe that they were actually here!
It is always very good to keep contacts, especially with people who are happy to travel even considerable distances in order to proclaim Christ.


Thank you Pope Francis for the gift of the new Exhortation, "The joy of the Gospel". This is a Letter that I have been looking forward to for a long time. I have only been able to read the pre-amble so far, but I look forward to posting on this Letter once I have begun to digest it.
These Apostolic Exhortations have given the Church some of the most important light and direction of recent times; think of "Evangelii Nuntiandi", "Famialiaris Consortio", "Christifideles Laici", "Sacramentum Caritatis" and "Verbum Domini", amongst others - all of which have led the Church to become the Church of the New Evangelisation.

Monday 25 November 2013

Finally, the chapel.

The old recusant chapel at Ufton Court is in the south-east wing in the top floor. The four-gabled attic in the photo above is the old chapel. The room, which is a lovely space is now used as an office. But in the picture below you can see towards the east window, where the old altar would have been.
Near the chapel is the priest's bedroom, and just by it a small oratory for his use. This still has its original painted paneling, which probably dates from the late 1600s or early 1700s. It is a very small room and would most likely have been used only by the priest. 
This post concludes my presentation of the Catholic life of Ufton Court during Penal times. The house is not now Catholic owned but is run by a Trust. I was struck however, during my visit, that most of the rooms had a small cross in them, and the children who have the pleasure of visiting the house are certainly introduced to its Catholic past.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Just in case … another hide.

This innocent looking triangular panel is the entrance to another hide on the top, attic, corridor of the house. It is a tight fit and, as a pivoting entrance panel, well insulated with wooden boarding on the inside. However, once open the skill of its design and making is revealed.
Although you would have to climb into the hide, the space within, next to the chimney stack, is very amenable. You can just make out in the above photo the bolt for locking the panel from within, together with a (now broken) spring mechanism for releasing the bolt from without. This hide was infact, opened from the adjoining room; all that now remains of the discrete opening 'handle' is a small round depression in the adjoining door lintel, which would have held the release pin. A further spring mechanism was built into the hide so that once the entrance was unlocked from the next door room, the panel itself would be pushed open to enable access to this hide. The remains of this spring mechanism can just be seen in the photo below.
All this was done, and lives risked, by many who fought for freedom of worship when, four hundred years ago, the English tried to suppress the Mass.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Hide or run.

At the north end of Ufton Court, on the first floor, a bedroom has a garderobe next to the fireplace. Under the garderobe there is a hide.
The trap door is not the original, but the hide drops down to the basement of the house.
Looking down into the hide you can see where it passes through one floor level and on into the next. It is possible that this hide was in fact a means of entry or exit from the house, through the basement, and perhaps through a tunnel, and so out into the gardens. If so, this would have provided a very quick and discrete means of entry or escape. It isn't possible now to determine whether this was the case because the outer wall of that part of the house has undergone extensive renewal, even to its support with the building of an external brick buttress.

Sunday 17 November 2013


On 17th July 1599 Ufton Court was raided again by the English Inquisition (perhaps the worst form of the Inquisition ever devised), searching for priests and for evidence which would incriminate the owners as Catholics. During this search over £750 in cash was stolen and taken away. Government agents seemed to have been aware that a large amount of money was stored at Ufton, money which was destined to give support to Catholics in their plight during the harshest era of the penal times.
During the search a hide was found, from which was recovered £1300. However, a further £750 went missing, thought to have been stolen by servants during the upheaval of the search. No priests were found during this search.
The hide which contained the money (photo above), was entered through a trap door in the floor of the top, attic, corridor of the house. The hide itself is cut into the masonry abutting the chimney stack on the first floor of the house.
This hide, which is about 9 feet deep, is now illuminated within and covered with a strengthened glass window. Inside the hide is the original trap door and the original ladder. Both these can be seen in this second photo below.
Again, the original bolt fastening on the inside of the hide show how well this hide's entrance had been made.

Thursday 14 November 2013


On 5th September 1589 Ufton Court was raided by Tudor England's equivalent of the Gestapo. A priest, Fr George Lingam was staying there and sought refuge in a hide in the uppermost part of the house.
The hide in which he is thought to have been hidden during the search that took place is next to the main chimney stack in the attic space. The entrance can be seen in the above photo; it is the central wall panel in the photo, the one whose top right-hand corner has been removed so that the panel fits in the wooden frame.
When open a space opens up between the chimney stack and the roof itself and into which a person could easily be hidden.
The original bolt and spring mechanisms, although broken, are still present on the inside of the door. These bolts are ingeniously made and, together with the close fitting panel door, show a level of skill and care in order to provide a secure hiding place.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Ufton Court

South of Oxford and into Berkshire there stands Ufton Court, and Elizabethan Manor House completed in 1576, which still contains the finest run of hides after Harvington Hall.
The house was the home of the Perkins family up until 1769. It is now owned by Ufton Educational Trust, a charity which provides opportunities for children and young people. I wrote in advance to book my visit and am grateful to Rev. Anthony Peabody for taking me on an extensive tour of the whole house.
This second photo shows the south wing of the house. The former chapel is in the attic of the south-east wing - in the left of the photo. The hides, for the most part, are connected with the central chimney stack which you can see in the photo.
The house is a delight, both inside and out. If you wish to visit you will need to contact the Trust at Ufton beforehand.
I shall post now on the various hides which represent the faith of the Elizabethan and Jacobean owners of Ufton.

Monday 4 November 2013

On the outskirts of town.

At the far end of Holywell Street in Oxford is the site of the gallows where, on 5th July 1589, two priests and two laymen were executed for the Faith. A plaque on the wall above a window (in the left of the above photo) commemorates their offering. I stopped here to ask the intercession of these Blesseds for the Mission of the Church today.
Bl George Nichols, priest; hung, drawn, quartered.
Bl Richard Yaxley, priest; hung, drawn, quartered.
Blessed Thomas Belson, layman; hung.
Blessed Humphrey Pritchard, layman; hung.

Saturday 2 November 2013

In the Castle.

On arriving in Oxford Clergy meeting, my first visit, before breakfast, was to the old castle and the site of the mediaeval gallows.
Near the site of this plaque, on 9th November 1610, Fr George Napier was hung drawn and quartered for being a priest.
I spent some moments here praying for the conversion of our nation.

Friday 1 November 2013

The Mitre.

While in Oxford the other week for the annual meeting of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy I managed to see a little bit of old Catholic Oxford.
Above is a photo I took of The Mitre public house. Here, in the late 1500s and early 1600s Catholics would meet and even come to participate in the celebration of illegal Masses. These were celebrated in the second floor rooms which you can see in the photo, but which are now let by the pub. It seemed only fitting to have a pint there in their honour, and it was a delight to find a great Yorkshire beer on tap (Black Sheep).
I had previously read about this pub and its use by Catholics during penal times; I had then, expected to find the pub down a dark alley, or on the outskirts of the town. I was wrong; The Mitre is slap bang in the middle of old Oxford. It made me think of St Justin, who set up his School of Aplologetics right in the centre of ancient Rome.