Parish History -Oxburgh Hall

Oxburgh HallThe faith did survive during the 17th and 18th centuries at two houses in the neighbourhood -at Bury's Hall and at one other, Oxburgh Hall, just 7 miles to the south west of Swaffham, the latter being happily still in existence; and the Bedingfeld family who built the wonderful fortified manor house in 1482 are not only still living in it, but have also maintained the Catholic faith through the centuries even in the times of persecution and Penal Laws. Nowadays the National Trust owns the house and grounds, but the family still remain loyal to the Catholic Church and continue to own the Chapel dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and St Margaret which was built as soon as possible after Catholic Emancipation in 1829.

During Penal Times recusancy was severely punished by fines - or by death if one was known to harbour a Priest but the Bedingfelds nonetheless had a Chaplain for much of the time - in the early days Benedictine missioners and later Jesuits. So it is not surprising that there is a Priest’s hiding hole in Oxburgh Hall, and a priest was still resident in the house long after Catholicism was once again legal: in fact until as late as the 1970s.

Recusants were fined for not attending the local Church - which at Oxburgh lies just outside the gates, and contains some fine Bedingfeld memorial tombs; and the family was forbidden to travel further than 5 miles, and so could not visit Swaffham. If a Priest was able to say Mass at the Hall some laundry would be hung over a particular hedge ‘to dry’. The number of items signified how many days ahead Mass would be celebrated: two items meaning two days and so on.

In order to preserve security, the family naturally preferred to employ Catholics, and so quite a community grew up around the House; and by the 19th century there was not only a Presbytery in the small village but also a Catholic School.