Humphrey Pakington’s house was built in the 1580s and has priest hides from when it was dangerous to be a Catholic priest in England. The Elizabethan building is now owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham.
Harvington Hall was built for Humphrey Pakington in the 1580s, but it didn’t remain in his family for very long. Roundhead troops pillaged the building in 1644 and it then passed to the Throckmorton family in 1696. They owned it until 1923, when it was rescued by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham, who restored the building and use the Georgian chapel on the grounds for Mass.
The priest hides dotted around the building are Harvington Hall’s most interesting features. During Humphrey Packington’s time, being a Catholic priest in England was considered high treason and so a network of houses was set up around the country where priests could hide, find disguises and conduct services in secret. It’s thought that the priest hides at Harvington were designed by Nicholas Owen, often called the master builder of priest hides. You can see four of these hides on display on your visit.
Look out, too, for the rare wall paintings from the late 1500s and for the moat around the Hall. It has carp fish, and you might even spot a kingfisher on the river banks. The formal knot garden and courtyard just outside the Hall are a reminder of the site’s medieval origins and you’ll also find a colourful wildflower garden there to encourage local wildlife. And if it rains, the Visitor’s Centre at the Malt House has family activities and historic games to learn about the Hall in a fun and interactive way.