Crucifix belonging to Gunpowder Plot suspect goes on display in York

A 400-year-old crucifix belonging to a priest who was suspected of being involved in the Gunpowder Plot has gone on display in a convent.

Father Edward Oldcorne was friends with Guy Fawkes and went into hiding in a priest’s hole in a stately home in Worcestershire in the aftermath of the plot in 1605.

He was suspected of involvement because he was a Catholic priest and Jesuit but, with no evidence to link him to the plot, he was instead hung, drawn and quartered for his Catholic faith.

Now, a crucifix dating from the late 16th to early 17th century, which is believed to be the only surviving item taken from Father Oldcorne’s priest’s hole, has gone on display at the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre in York.

Blessed Henry Oldcorne’s cross
Blessed Henry Oldcorne’s cross

Father Oldcorne went to St Peter’s School in York, and was friends with gunpowder plotters Fawkes and brothers Christopher and John Wright.

He had been working secretly as a Catholic chaplain at Hindlip Hall at the time of the plot to blow up Parliament and went into hiding there in December 1605.

He went undiscovered for eight days – despite the house being raided several times – but surrendered after conditions in the priest’s hole became unbearable.

A label, which is thought to have been added to the crucifix in the 1950s, states that the priest was subsequently tortured and put to death in April 1606.

It reads: “Missionary case and crucifix found in a priest’s hiding place at Henlip Castle (Hindlip Hall), Worcester, seat of the Abingdons, where Fr Oldcorne SJ ministered and was arrested.

“Born York. Racked five times. H.D.Q (hung, drawn, quartered) April 7 1606. Worcester.”

Blessed Henry Oldcorne’s cross
Blessed Henry Oldcorne’s cross

Father Oldcorne was beatified in 1929 as Blessed Edward Oldcorne.

Sister Patricia Harriss, of the Bar Convent, said: “This is one of the most remarkable items in our possession and on display in the exhibition.

“Today, Bonfire Night is a celebration with fireworks but in 1605 it was an event that had a profound effect on Catholics and shocked the whole country.

“This crucifix, now more than 400 years old, was hidden in the priest’s hole with Blessed Edward Oldcorne and would have offered him comfort in his final days.

“It is incredible that it has survived and can now be used to tell the story of these men and of this extraordinary historic event that has such strong links to the city of York.”