A fundraising campaign has been launched to purchase one of England’s grandest recusant homes to put it back into church hands.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and former MP Ann Widdecombe have
pledged their support for a bid to buy Sawston Hall, near Cambridge,
which has been put on the market for £4.75 million.
Grade-I listed Tudor mansion has three priest holes, some of which were
built by St Nicholas Owen, who died under torture in 1606 having helped
to conceal priests during the reign of Elizabeth I. He was canonised as
one of the 40 martyrs of England and Wales and another of that group,
St Robert Rigby, is also closely associated with Sawston.
The sixteenth-century house has five bedrooms, four reception rooms and a chapel and is set in 57 acres of land.
It was the family seat of the Huddlestone family for 500 years – in
1553 John Huddlestone had sheltered the future Mary I – but left the
family’s hands in the 1980s.
It is owned currently by Stephen Coates, a hedge fund manager, who lives there with his family.
The campaign group, Save Sawston Hall, who want to buy the house, say
they would transform it into a Catholic Heritage Centre and open it up
for retreats and to the general public.
It has contacted prominent Catholics including the former Prime
Minister Tony Blair. The Bishop of East Anglia, Alan Hopes, is due to
visit next week.
Spokesman Brian Plunkett said: “The house is … going to be a place
for education, for understanding, for pilgrimage and rest. I’ve knocked
on many, many doors and most of them are opening.”