The Secret ‘Priest Holes’ of England

“…The Christmas season represented rich pickings for the priest hunters [in Elizabethan England]. As one of the great celebrations of the Catholic Church, it was disapproved of by some Protestant reformers. More than that, it was a great opportunity to flush out Catholic priests – all of whom had been outlawed by the state during Elizabeth’s reign. The tenuous connection between the carol “Twelve Days of Christmas” and concealed Catholicism is supposed to relate to Tudor times, although Christmas was at least permitted at this time even if Catholic priests weren’t. In the 17th century Puritan reformers banned Christmas outright, which was one of the reasons for the collapse of the brief British republic created by Oliver Cromwell.

Mary’s Dowry Productions

In Queen Elizabeth’s time there were rewards for assisting the priest hunters and ruin for those who assisted the clergy. Being a Catholic priest was a crime punishable by death. Helping one was almost as bad. This didn’t stop the Catholic community from bringing priests into their homes. Celebrating Mass meant a great deal at the time.

Priest holes were, as the name suggests, far from being luxurious accommodation, although the houses in which they were built were often as stately as any in England. Some of these grand Catholic homes were destroyed, along with visiting priests, if they were discovered. There would usually be some torture thrown in too. Tudor England developed a mania for information exacted upon the rack. The executions that followed were rarely a simple matter of hanging or beheading. For anyone of imagination it is almost impossible to dwell on the measures that the authorities took in order make an example of “recusant” Catholics who refused to follow Good Queen Bess’s “No Mass” policy….Read it all ; Mary’s Dowry Productions

The Penal Laws in Ireland which the English political philosopher Edmund Burke condemned as “a machine of oppression and degradation”

Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries

With Joseph Pearce