Like many people, I like visiting grand historical houses and castles across the length and breadth of Britain. I particularly like visiting historical old Catholic homes that once belonged to historical old Catholics, for I have developed a particular interest in priest holes. Now as I’m sure you are aware, a priest hole is the term given to a hiding place for a priest built into many of the principal Catholic houses of England during the period when Catholics were persecuted by law in England. Many great houses had a priest hole built so that the presence of a priest could be concealed when searches were made of the building. They were cunningly concealed in walls, under floors, behind false fireplaces and behind water closets. The principle architect of said holes was Jesuit lay brother Nicholas Owen who was canonised as a martyr by Pope Paul VI in 1970, long after the man was tortured to death in the Tower of London.
Anyway, having entered Ripley Castle in North Yorkshire, I happened to approach a gentleman vicar and asked him if I could visit the priest hole. Later that night, having enjoyed an Italian meal washed down with two bottles of Chianti, conversation returned to the priest’s hole. “Mini cab!” It turned out I didn’t have Catholic tastes after all! I might be liberal in nature, but I’m no libertine!