Anne Vaux

Anne Vaux

Born around the year 1562, Anne was the youngest of four children born to Elizabeth and Sir William, 3rd Lord Vaux of Harrowden, Northamptonshire. Anne never knew her mother as she died soon after giving birth to her and her father soon married Mary Tresham and had five more children. All of Anne’s family were devout Catholics and she was no different.

In a century which had seen the country break from Rome, set up the Protestant Church of England, revert fiercely back to Catholicism and then convert once again back to Protestantism, anti-Catholic views ran high.

Aged about 25, Anne became the protector of Father Henry Garnet, Jesuit Superior of England, a very high profile target for those protecting the Protestant faith. Posing as his sister under the false name ‘Mrs Alice Perkins’, the pair travelled around the country via the network of safe houses which her brother had helped to set up.

Anne is remembered in the kitchen where the entrance to one of Baddesley's priest holes can still be seen
In a sewer beneath the kitchen
Anne is remembered in the kitchen where the entrance to one of Baddesley's priest holes can still be seen

Baddesley Clinton was one of these safe houses. Its owner, Henry Ferrers, was working in London and rented his home to Anne and her sister Eleanor in 1588. The women employed Nicholas Owen (‘chief designer and builder of hiding-places in England’) to create hiding places for up to 12 priests.

In 1591 Garnet arranged a Jesuit meeting at Baddesley. In the early hours of the following morning, Baddesley was surrounded by some unwelcome visitors – priest-hunters looking for the very priests who were in hiding in the house. 

" Do you think it right and proper that you should be admitted to a widow’s house before she or her servants or her children are out of bed? Why this lack of good manners? Why come so early? Why keep coming to my house in this hostile manner? Have you ever found me unwilling to open the door to you as soon as you knocked?"
- Anne Vaux

For the next few hours the house was thoroughly searched. Everything was turned upside down and closely examined. Finally, Anne invited the pursuivants to breakfast; the house was searched once more, Anne paid them for their ‘trouble’ and the pursuivants departed.

On this day alone Anne had saved the lives of the five priests she had hidden in her home. Evidently she had been visited by these pursuivants before and we can only guess as to how many times she went through this harrowing ordeal, risking everything. Her status and femininity did not guarantee her safety - three women were executed during Anne’s lifetime for the harbouring of priests. The Vaux sisters’ tenancy of Baddesley is believed to have ended soon after this whence they moved closer to London, their faith never wavering.