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A secret Norfolk Catholic chapel

The clandestine Elizabethan chapel at Barnham Broom

This month’s Catholic Herald contains an article by me and Brigitte Webster, the owner of Old Hall in Barnham Broom, Norfolk, about a 16th-century domestic chapel discovered inside the house earlier this century, but whose significance has only recently been realised. The chapel (which may date from the 1570s) features a distinctive pattern of black and white drops representing the blood and water that flowed from Christ’s side, as well as an aumbry and the probable remains of a piscina. The decorative scheme quite closely resembles a well-known chapel at Harvington Hall in Worcestershire. Since the Chamberlain family who lived at Barnham Broom were never recorded as recusants, it is likely this is some of the first evidence of a domestic oratory used for Catholic worship by a family of church papists. If true, this is confirmation of the case advanced by Alexandra Walsham and other historians that church papists were every bit as committed to Catholicism and to their Catholic identity as recusants; church papists simply chose to express their Catholicism in a different way.

Old Hall, Barnham Broom

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