Priest hole to be opened for the Cheam Charter Fair
A priest has been caught hiding in a secret chamber in a pub.
The event, on April 18, was reminiscent of scenes 450 years ago, when priests would hide in secret holes to escape persecution by the authorities.
However, rather than fearing for his life, Cheam Rector, Father Darren of Cheam Parish, was celebrating a priest hole being opened up to the public.
The hole, which has previously been used as a display cabinet in Ye Olde Red Lion pub in Cheam, has a secret staircase behind it which connects to a well at the bottom.
The years following Elizabeth I’s accession to the throne brought harsh measures against Roman Catholics and priest holes began to emerge in houses throughout England to help them escape persecution by the Crown.
The history books tell us that at least one family in Cheam, the Fromonds, got into trouble for hiding Jesuits throughout the reigns of James I and Charles I.
The Red Lion pub is believed to be more than 450 years old, so it is likely the priest hole was used to hide people.
The priest hole will be opened up as part of the historical Cheam Charter Fair on May 19 and visitors will be able to have a look and go inside for a charity donation.
Organiser of the fair, Richard Marston, said: "It is great that the public will be able to visit this unusual and interesting part of Cheam's heritage while visiting Cheam Charter Fair which has for so many years been a popular part of the area's history."
Cheam councillor, Mary Burstow said that reading into the history of Cheam makes her incredibly proud of past residents.
She said: “Clearly during the reign of James I and the years of the Civil War, there were some very brave people. Be they Catholic or Anglican.
“They had the courage of their own convictions and were prepared to put their lives on the line to protect others.
“The Priest Hole in The Red Lion is a reminder of these turbulent times. I am so pleased that the Red Lion is opening up the Priest Hole for people to see, for Charter Fair day on Saturday 19th May.”