Charity registration No. SC002876  
Sunday August 18th. 2013
Ancient vestments from penal days find a home at St. Margaret’s
uring the 16th, 17th and 18th  centuries, those who resolutely  refused to attend Anglican church  services were known as recusants.  Most were Roman Catholics. Despite  draconian legislation, Roman Catholicism  survived in England because of a deliberate  national strategy, formulated near the  Oxfordshire- Buckinghamshire border  In July 1586, a secret conference at  Harleyford Manor, a few miles down the  Thames from Henley, determined that  priests would be based in the homes of the  recusant gentry. A network of Catholic  missions based in manor houses would keep  an ember of the ‘Old Faith’ glowing, in the  hope that at some time in the future, the  situation might improve.  Harbouring a priest could incur the  death penalty and merely being a priest  constituted high treason. Nonetheless,  the Harleyford strategy worked well in  several parts of Oxfordshire.   There was a string of Catholic houses along  the Oxfordshire bank, one of these was  Mapledurham, home of the BLOUNT  family, which remains a Catholic house to  this day. It was served by Jesuits and later  by Franciscans and, in 1767, had an RC  population of 29.   Until the reign of Charles I, there was a  steady supply of local martyrs to provide  spiritual inspiration: Sir Adrian Fortescue,  Fr Edmund Campion, Thomas Belson,  Fr George Nappier (and many more)   Henry Hope, 3rd Lord Rankeillour,  inherited the vestments from the Blount  family who had preserved them  in their  ancestral home at Mapledurham since  the penal days. In Mapleduram House there are two priest  holes where priests could hide when sudden  raids were made on the  home with the hope  of arresting any priest in the act of saying  
Mass. The sacred vestments have been carefully  preserved for centuries by the Blount  family who passed them on to Henry  Rankeillour, knowing that they would be  treated by his family with the greatest  care because of the historic and sacred  role they played when Mass was said in  the secrecy of homes where the faith was  still loyally maintained .  Sir George Bull, a Trustee of the  Chapel at Mapleduram House,  presented the vestments to Major  Dominic Dobson, Achaderry, whose  late uncle was Lord Peter Rankeillour,   and Dominic very kindly offered them  to St. Margaret's parish. I received  them on Friday, and I consider it a  
great privilege to have them. I will use  the green vestment for Mass this  Sunday knowing that possibly it was  used previously by priests to say Mass  during the days of persecution.   I wish to express my sincere thanks on behalf of the parish to Major Dominic for his kind and thoughtful gesture, and I am sure it will give both himself and the Rankeillour-Hope family immense joy to know that the vestments will be treated with loving care and the greatest respect at St. Margaret's because of the sacred role they played in helping the Catholic faith to survive during the centuries of persecution.
Freddie Wright (Dominic’s godson) Dominic Dobson and Faith Beeson (Freddie’s girl friend), displaying three of the vestments at St. Margaret's.