THE historic chapel at Stonor Park is to feature in a special episode of Songs of Praise.
Lord Camoys was approached by producers of the BBC programme and agreed to allow filming to take place during the Mass at the Catholic chapel on Sunday.
The TV crew filmed the congregation singing the hymns O Praise the Lord and Praise to the Holiest in the Height.
Father Michael Knox, a Canadian priest who led the service, was filmed reading a prayer he had written especially for the occasion.
The footage will be used in the episode focusing on private chapels which will be broadcast on Sunday, September 7.
The chapel was built on the site of a pagan place of worship and dates from the late 13th or early 14th century. The chapel was used throughout the years of Catholic repression and continues to be used regularly.
Lord Camoys said that when he was approached by the BBC his immediate response was to think “how wonderful” and he was interviewed for the programme by presenter Bill Turnbull.
He said: “We’re not a parish church, let alone a really big church like St Mary’s in Henley. The chapel itself doesn’t get that much publicity yet it has a fascinating history, we think. This is an opportunity for more people to learn about it.
“It was very much about the history because these Catholic chapels had a unique role to help Catholic people who hadn’t given up the faith.” The other chapels to feature in the programme are at Auckland Castle in County Durham, Ripon College at Cuddesdon, Wykes Manor near Spalding and a tiny chapel in Warwickshire built by a man for his wife.
Lord Camoys said: “When the Reformation took place all the parish churches were taken over by the Church of England and there was a campaign to extinguish the Catholic Church in this country.
“A lot of families had their own private chapels and chaplains. These weren’t nationalised and we kept going as Catholics. That helped maintain the very existence of the Catholic Church in a period of persecution that lasted nearly 300 years.”
Although the Stonor chapel is private, the public have the right to attend any service held there.
Lord Camoys said: “We’re not shy about being Catholic and our beliefs and we’re pleased to be ecumenical. We’re open to the public so we’re happy for that to be shown to a wider audience.
“We’re not part of the established church, we’re not even a parish church, so it all makes wonderful sense.”
His son William Stonor said: “I have always thought how lovely it would be to have Songs of Praise here but never thought they would come to a small family chapel, so when I heard they were coming I was absolutely delighted.
“It’s wonderful that they are focusing on small chapels. The maximum we can probably get in here is 140 people.
“When I was a child, Songs of Praise was always a feature on Sunday afternoon on television. I hope this will make new people aware of the chapel and the Mass that’s served here every Sunday and they will come and enjoy celebrating here.”
John Twort, the chapel’s treasurer, who was in the congregation on Sunday, said: “I was very pleased to be able to be involved.”
Mr Twort, of Ravenscroft Road, Henley, has attended the chapel with his wife Annie for the last 12 years.
He said: “Stonor has a lot to offer, not just historically but ecumenically. My wife is not a Catholic but we both manage to get up most Sundays and worship. The Camoys are very welcoming.”
Cartoonist Bernard Cookson, who lives in Middle Culham and whose work has appeared in national newspapers, was also at the Mass.
He said: “It’s only a small chapel so it’s nice that it will be more widely seen and appreciated from a historic and religious point of view.”
Mr Cookson has been going to Mass at the chapel for about 20 years and said he enjoyed approaching it from Stonor Park’s long driveway.
He added: “I’m looking forward to seeing the programme and I’m going to try to get a copy and send it to my family in Australia.”