When our guests walk down to the beautiful marquee overlooking the lake, they’re walking along a very historic path.
Over four hundred years ago, Thrumpton belonged to a Roman Catholic family called Powdrill. Back then, it was considered a crime to be a Catholic and the Powdrills had to follow their faith in secret. That meant that they had a secret chapel, a secret staircase and even a secret priest’s hole for any visiting priest to hide in when spies were in the neighbourhood.
How did the priest get away without risk to his life? That’s where the Priest’s Walk comes in. If you walk along it back to the front of the house, looking towards the lake, you’re standing right outside the walls in which the secret staircase and the priest’s hole are hidden away from view. (Even today, they’re hidden behind a secret spring in the walls.) At night, when there was no moon, the priest would be dressed in a black robe with a dark hood. Very quietly, he’d go along the Priest’s Walk and across the field to where a boat was waiting on the river. (The River Trent is very nearby.) On a moonless night, nobody could see the boat slipping away from Thrumpton along the river, down to the next safe house where they could look after the priest until it was safe for him to return.
Where did he go? It’s amazing how many Roman Catholic families had houses beside the River Trent, back then. My guess is that Father Garnett went to Clifton Hall or the old manor at Ratcliffe-on-Soar, but we can’t be sure. All we do know is that they kept him safe.
One day, I’d love to bring the Powdrill chapel back into being. Today, we use it as a wedding bedroom – one of the loveliest in the house – but it’d be so nice if we could host Catholic weddings here again, just as they must have done all those centuries ago.
Written by Miranda Seymour
Take a virtual tour of the house by clicking on the Tapestry Room link and see where the Powdrill chapel once was.