Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mapledurham House

(Tip of the hat to Father Zuhlsdorf!)--Damian Thompson offers this insight into the secrets of a recusant house in south Oxfordshire:

Mapledurham House, an imposing Elizabethan mansion in south Oxfordshire, is one of Catholic England’s best-kept secrets. Which is appropriate, in a way – for it went to enormous trouble to keep its Catholic allegiance secret during times of persecution, when it was a safe house for fugitive priests.

That said, I think it’s high time that Mapledurham was better known: by rights it ought to attract thousands more visitors than it does. We live in an age when fans of The Da Vinci Code and other thrillers rush to historic locations to stare at “clues” to bogus mysteries. In contrast, the owners of Mapledurham House kept a genuine secret during the Tudor persecution and for decades afterwards: their fidelity to the Roman faith. But the clues had to be subtle – to the extent that, even now, its current owners, John and Lady Anne Eyston, are still making discoveries.

Those discoveries include priest holes and other details about the house (like the absense of an ancient stable--Catholics weren't allowed to own horses).

Thompson concludes:

But, above all, I think Catholics from around the world should head for Mapledurham when they visit England. When Protestants were living in the house, members of the Blount family travelled there every day to keep the flame burning in the sanctuary lamp. Jack and Anne Eyston keep the flame burning, too: by making the house part of the life of their local Catholic parish, St Anne’s, Caversham, and by ensuring regular celebration of Mass in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms in their chapel.

Recusant houses famously sustained the faith during the anti-Catholic onslaughts of the 16th and 17th centuries; it’s a happy thought that Mapledurham has remained robustly true to its mission amid the cynicism of the 21st century. The house and estate are open to visitors and for wedding parties and other events throughout the summer.

More on the history of the family and the house here.


  1. I am just discovering your blog now. Thanks for posting this. Some time I would like to visit England again, and tour places like this. Do you know of a guide/book/article that outlines places to visit that have Catholic ties?

  2. Elyse, Thank you very much for discovering Supremacy and Survival! I don't know of such a guidebook from a Catholic perspective--that's a great idea.