Despite what both the mainstream and conspiracy theory media would like you to believe, today’s secret plots and schemes are boring compared to those of the royal courts in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Researchers using 3D laser scanners on the walls of an English Tudor tower found a secret double room that was believed to have been used for a royal assassination plot and later as a hiding place during murderous persecutions of Catholic clergy. Top that, Alex Jones!
Christopher King, assistant professor in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Nottingham, lead the new investigation inside the tower of a gatehouse at Coughton Court in Warwickshire. The Coughton estate has been in the Throckmorton family since 1409 and the gatehouse was built in 1530 and dedicated to King Henry VIII. That’s where the first major Coughton conspiracy begins. Sir George Throckmorton supported Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, which could have been fatal, especially since the Throckmorton family was Catholic.
The next conspiracy occurred in 1583 when Sir Francis Throckmorton led a plot by Catholics to murder Queen Elizabeth I and replace her with her second cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. The Throckmorton Plot was discovered and Francis was executed instead.
That brings us to the secret room and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Since the Throckmorton’s remained Catholic in Protestant England, they needed a place for their banned services to be performed. So-called “priest holes” were concealed in the walls, floors, ceilings and other nooks of castles to hide the priests. The priest hole in the Coughton Court tower was used to hide some of the priests who failed in their plan to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I. the hidden room was not as famous as another participant in the Gunpowder Plot … Guy Fawkes.
Because this particular priest hole worked so well, Christopher King decided to discover its secret. Using 3D laser scans and computer models, he found that it was actually a double chamber that fooled searchers who gave up after finding the first hole.
When they’re searching, they think they’ve found the priest hole but it’s empty, but actually the priest is hidden in the more concealed space beyond. And that’s what happens at Coughton: there’s one chamber under the floor in the turret of the tower, and then there is another trap door that goes through into a second space, which we assume is where the priest was actually hiding.
The priests needed to be pretty small since the chambers measured barely a meter wide. Yet, evidence shows they stayed in them for up to three days at a time. Of course, most people will put with a lot when the alternative is torture or death, which was the case for priests during the anti-Catholic persecutions in the 16th and 17th centuries.
This study of the priest hole at Coughton Court was funded by Britain’s National Lottery and, because the 3D scanning worked so well, King plans to use it to investigate some of the other 30 known but inaccessible hiding places in historic English houses.
That search will undoubtedly uncover more conspiracy plots. Who needs Alex Jones when you have English history?