Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Gathering of Recusant Houses

The Berkshire Family Historian Society provides this survey of Catholic recusant households in that area:
During the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, those who refused to attend Anglican church services were known as recusants. Most were Roman Catholics. Despite draconian legislation, Roman Catholicism survived in England because of a deliberate strategy. In July 1586, a secret conference at Harleyford Manor, across the river from Hurley, determined that priests would be based in the homes of the recusant gentry. Harbouring a priest could incur the death penalty and merely being a priest constituted high treason. Nonetheless, the Harleyford strategy worked well in many parts of Berkshire. Various factors contributed to this:

~~Recusancy among the gentry was relatively strong in neighbouring Hampshire and south Oxfordshire.
~~Most conforming gentry did not invoke anti-Catholic legislation against their recusant neighbours.
~~The Thames provided an efficient link with London, with recusant manor houses every few miles along the Oxfordshire bank of the river.
~~Catholic priests returning via the Hampshire coast from the Continent often passed through Berkshire.
~~Berkshire was far away enough from London to make casual raids unlikely.
~~Until the reign of Charles I, there was a steady supply of local martyrs to provide spiritual inspiration.

Hence, after two centuries of repression, there were still nearly 600 Roman Catholics in Berkshire. The Catholic Relief Act of 1778 put a formal end to the prosecution of priests by informers and allowed Roman Catholics legally to purchase and inherit land. Thirteen years later, a second act re-opened the professions to Roman Catholics and permitted the legalisation of Catholic chapels.

One of the houses listed is Milton Manor in Abingdon near Oxford which was designed by Inigo Jones. Among the others are Englefield House near Reading and Hyde or Purley Hall.

1 comment:

  1. The Latin Mass Society reported that a Mass, according to the traditional Roman Rite, was celebrated at Milton Manor on 10 November 2012. This Mass is an annual event.

    News here: http://www.lmschairman.org/2012/11/mass-at-milton-manor.html

    Photo set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/josephshaw/sets/72157631992104627/with/8181117552/