Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Relic returns to house where it was printed

A PAMPHLET has been returned to Stonor Park more than 400 years after it was printed there in secret.

A PAMPHLET has been returned to Stonor Park more than 400 years after it was printed there in secret.

Decem Rationes (Ten Reasons) was published by St Edmund Campion in June 1581 and argues against the validity of the Anglican Church.

The pamphlet, in Latin, was printed in clandestine on a press hidden in the roof of the main house at Stonor Park.

Four hundred copies were were later found on the benches of St Mary?s Church in Oxford, which caused a sensation and led to Campion?s capture and execution. Only five copies survive but now one of these has been loaned to Lord and Lady Camoys by Bishop Egan and the trustees of the Catholic diocese of Portsmouth.

It has been put on public display in the Long Gallery in the house to coincide with the opening of a new visitor centre.

Lord Camoys said: ?The return of one of the five remaining copies after 434 years to its place of origin is truly extraordinary and a reason for remembering the remarkable courage of our ancestors.

?They bought the press to Stonor, no doubt in pieces, with the necessary paper and ink. There, hidden in a very small space in the roof, the press was reassembled and no less than 400 copies printed.

?Almost immediately Campion and others rode out on a Sunday morning to Oxford and placed copies on the pews inside the university church so that those attending a little later could not miss them.

?The effort to arrest Campion was multiplied several fold. Indeed, within weeks he was caught at Lyford Grange, near Abingdon. He and his companions were taken to the Tower of London where they were questioned and then racked. Inevitably, their stay at Stonor was mentioned and so Stonor was raided, the press and all copies of the pamphlet taken away as well as the considerable amount of Massing stuff.?

Campion was eventually found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. He and two fellow priests were dragged to Tyburn where they were hanged, drawn and quartered. Campion was 41 when he died.

He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in December 1886 and canonised in 1970.

Meanwhile, the new Stonor Park visitor centre includes a ticket desk, toilets and kitchen area while a small shop may be added later. Forty-one visitors to the house and its grounds went through the centre on its first day of operation. The Hon William Stonor, son of Lord Camoys, was granted planning permission for the facility in 2013.

Lord Camoys said: ?The number of visitors has been going up. After the first two months of the house being open this year we are up 30 per cent on last year and that?s encouraging. What the centre will do is look after the visitors from the moment they step out of their car and will enhance the visitor experience. We hope by doing this we can attract even more visitors.?

When the foundations for the building were being dug about 10 stones dating from the Ice Age were unearthed. Some of these weigh about three tonnes. Several other stones found previously mark the approach to the house and one can be seen embedded in the south-east corner of the chapel. Lord Camoys said: ?Geologists are certain that these stones initially formed part of a large stone cap at the top of the valley to the north-east of the agricultural outbuildings.

?At the end of the Ice Age, the melting ice would have crushed the stone cap, pushing the stones down the valley with the large ones coming to rest adjacent to where the chapel stands. The early inhabitants of the Stonor Valley are likely to have thought that these large stones had some special qualities, including powers. As a consequence they became places of prayer, or at least contemplation.?

In April, Stonor Park opened its shrubbery to the public for the first time and the Chapel of the Blessed Trinity, which shut in November for roof repairs, re-opened for Sunday mass.

The Grade I listed chapel, built around 1300, had been on English Heritage?s ?at risk? register.

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