A hidden chamber recently discovered in a 16th-century manor house in Northamptonshire is believed to be linked to Masonic activity more than 300 years ago.
Edward Bartlett, house manager of Canons Ashby, near Daventry, found the small annex after he looked in a cupboard and found an entrance to the chamber which is big enough to hide a person and a number of objects.
It is believed the chamber dates back to when the house was built in the 16th century and may have been used by the Dryden family as part of early Masonic activity.
Laura Malpas, visitor experience and community manager at Canons Ashby, said: “The room that conceals this chamber is itself a fascinating and puzzling space.
“The walls are painted with the crests of local families and enigmatic symbols some of which would be recognised by today’s Freemasons, and frankly odd Latin texts.
“There has been speculation that this room was used as an early form of Masonic lodge before Freemasonry was established in England some 130 years later in 1717. This concealed chamber was clearly made at the same time, and we can only speculate as to its purpose. We do know that it was not a priest’s hole; the Dryden family were Puritans, protestant fundamentalists who would never have dreamed of harbouring a ‘popish priest’.”
Ms Malpas said it was hard to show the hidden chamber to every visitor to Canons Ashby, but anyone who asked to see it, would be allowed inside.