Duke of Kent visits Harvington Hall, the Grade I manor-house with the finest surviving priest-holes in the country

Harvington Hall, the Grade I medieval and Elizabethan manor-house situated near Kidderminster in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, received a royal stamp of approval from HRH the Duke of Kent during a recent visit, writes Peter Jennings.

The Elizabethan house was built by Humphrey Pakington (1555-1631) who, despite his post in the household of Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, was a Catholic and equipped it with what is now the finest surviving series of priest-holes anywhere in the country.

Canon John Moran, parish priest of St Mary’s, Harvington, said: “I was delighted that the Duke of Kent was able to visit Harvington Hall, the first member of the Royal Family to do so in the Hall’s long history.”

Mgr Moran, chairman of the Harvington Hall Management Committee, added: “His Royal Highness took a particular interest in the priests’ hiding places and asked several questions about them.”

In the courtyard Mgr Moran introduced the Duke of Kent to the vice-chairman of the management committee and Historical Director Michael Hodgetts, Major James Arbuthnott, chairman of the Harvington Hall Restoration Trust and Sherida Breeden, hall manager.

Mr Hodgetts led the royal party on a brief tour of the Hall and Sherida Breeden introduced the Duke of Kent to the volunteers, who were in full period costume.

His Royal Highness and guests had lunch in the Moatside Restaurant after unveiling a plaque in memory of his visit.

Harvington Hall survives virtually unchanged from the Elizabethan era.

Apart from the hiding-holes, the Hall also contains two attic chapels of the 16th and 17th centuries and a remarkable series of medieval and Elizabethan wall-paintings.

Since 1923 there have been three major programmes of restoration. More recently, with help from English Heritage, the Pilgrim Trust, the Heritage Lottery fund and other sources, almost all phases have now been completed.

Harvington Hall is officially approved by several education authorities for the teaching of the Tudor period under the national curriculum.