Agile scientists equipped with 3D laser scanners have revealed the secrets of a hidden room, known as a “priest hole,” in the tower of an English Tudor mansion linked to the failed “Gunpowder Plot” to assassinate King James I in 1605.
Catholic priests faced execution as traitors under the English laws of the time, and they were often tortured to reveal their accomplices, according to Christopher King, an assistant professor in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, and one of the lead researchers of the study. [See More Photos of the Secret “Priest Hole” at Coughton Court]
Despite being outlawed, many priests chose to travel around England in disguise and perform the banned Catholic ceremonies in secret, often at the country homes of wealthy Catholic families such as Coughton Court, he said.
The secret priest holes were ingeniously constructed inside walls and between floors, as places where a priest could hide from search parties while the family of the house pretended to go about their normal lives, King told Live Science. The priest hole at Coughton Court was rediscovered by later owners in the 1850s.