Speaking of priest holes…

After I posted about the one that may or may not be at Levens Hall the other day, I remembered that there was a good segment on the subject in one of the George Clarke’s National Trust Unlocked programmes on Channel 4 last Sunday.

This particular piece came from Baddesley Clinton, which we were lucky enough to visit ourselves only a few weeks ago. We only got as far as the gardens, which are lovely enough in themselves, but George Clarke was given access to the inside of the hall, and in particular to the inside of the priest hole.

I’ve seen this space myself, from the viewing window, but although you’re told how small it was you don’t really get a good impression of scale. However, seeing the fairly tall George Clarke squeeze himself into it really put things into perspective. He could barely stand upright, even in the centre of the passage, and certainly had no space to move about, turn round, or possibly even to sit down.

And yet, he told us, up to eight priests and other “undesirables” crammed themselves into that space in the event that the authorities came to call. It really brought it home how claustrophobic and terrifying the experience must have been, squatting in the dark, squashed together, and barely daring to breathe. It was still better than the alternative, though, which was to be dragged out, tortured, and killed.

A sobering moment in what has been a thoroughly entertaining series. The last one’s on tomorrow. I’ll miss it when it’s gone!


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