This post takes a look at the main staircase at Harvington Hall. Like a lot of things at Harvington it has a bit of a story to tell – some of which can be told in this post, and some of it not!
A grand entrance
The original staircase dates from about 1600. This would have provided important visitors with a suitably grand entrance.
Harvington Hall was built by Humphrey Packington around 1578. After he died the Hall passed to his daughter Mary Yate. After Mary died, the Hall passed by marriage to the Throckmorton family from nearby Coughton Court.
A replacement staircase
The Hall was not regularly lived in for over 200 years and a great many of the fixtures and fittings at Harvington were taken out. If you want to see the original Harvington Hall staircase you have to travel to Coughton to see it. The staircase that we see today is an exact copy built between 1936 and 1947. The only things remaining at Harvington from the original construction are some candlesticks made from the bannisters and the shadow painting of the staircase seen on the walls in the pictures on this page.
A hidden purpose?
The original staircase was built around 1600 and was a substantial improvement to the Hall. However, there is a theory that this development may have served another more secret purpose.
Of the seven hiding places at Harvington, four are to be found close to the staircase. These are the most ingenious hides and the ones thought to be the work of Nicholas Owen – the famous hide builder.
In a house such as Harvington which was being used to hide Catholic Priests an attempt was made to employ servants (often Catholic themselves) who could be trusted to keep quiet about what was going on in the house. Despite this, there was always the possibility of the authorities being tipped off. Hide building and the location of such hides would have been a secret known only to a few people.
In order to make a secret hide it would have been necessary to cut through plaster, bricks, and wooden beams. As with any building project this would have involved a lot of mess and noise. It is thought likely that the staircase construction also served to hide the activity of the hide builder.
A secret – hidden somewhere on this page!
The entrance to one of the most ingenious hides left anywhere is hidden somewhere on this staircase. The actual hide is quite a large one, over 5ft by 5ft wide and 6ft high, when it was found it contained the remains of a rush mat that had been left there. There is also a story that it was once possible to spy on people in the great hall from this hide.
The entrance to this hide can clearly be seen in one the pictures on this page – exactly where is it? – well, that is a secret!