Thursday, November 15, 2012
The effectiveness of priest holes was demonstrated by their success in baffling the exhaustive searches of the "pursuivants" (priest-hunters). Priest-hole success is a matter of record in surviving contemporary accounts of the searches of suspected houses. Search-parties would bring with them skilled carpenters and masons and try every possible expedient, from systematic measurements and soundings to the physical tearing down of panelling and pulling up of floors. It was common for a rigorous search to last a fortnight, and for the "pursuivants" to go away empty handed, while the object of the search was hidden the whole time within a wall's thickness of his pursuers, half-starved, cramped, sore with prolonged confinement, and almost afraid to breathe lest the least sound should throw suspicion upon the particular spot where he was immured. Sometimes a priest could die in a priest hole from starvation or from lack of oxygen.