25 February 2013 Last updated at 20:41
Canons Ashby ‘masonic’ chamber discovered after 400 years
The cupboard where the secret room was found at the National Trust’s Canons Ashby The entrance to the secret room was found inside a cupboad in a panelled room
A secret chamber, hidden for 400 years and with possible links to early freemasonry, has been discovered.
The entrance to the room, which has plastered walls, was found inside a cupboard at the National Trust-owned house Canons Ashby, near Daventry.
It is a panelled room with walls showing crests of local families and enigmatic symbols.
Laura Malpas, of the trust, said there was “speculation” the room had been an early masonic lodge.
Ms Malpas, community manager for the trust, said it was “a fascinating and puzzling space” with walls that include “frankly odd Latin texts”.
One of the symbols with masonic links found in the panelled room The room’s panelled walls include enigmatic symbols which may relate to freemasonry
“[They] tell the reader things such as ‘Do not eat of those things with a black tail’ or ‘Check your tongue, your belly and your lust, the best thing is to enjoy someone else’s madness’.”
She said the house manager was Edward Bartlett made the discovery after deciding to investigate the cupboard while locking up for the night.
“With a torch he discovered an entrance to a small concealed chamber, hidden in the panelling of the room,” she said.
“Clearly not a natural void left during the building process, this tiny chamber is floor boarded and the walls have been plastered from the inside to create a space that could hide a person and a sizeable amount of objects the owner of the house might want to keep hidden away from public view.”
“It is believed the Dryden family may well have been part of a society that evolved into what we now recognise as the freemasons.”
She added: “There has been speculation that this room was used as an early form of Masonic lodge before Freemasonry was established in England some 130 years later in 1717.”
It would not have been a hole to hide priests as the Dryden family were puritans, she said.
The room is about 6ft (1.82m) high with 6ft (1.82m) by 5ft (1.52m) floor space.