Little John and His Infamous Priest Holes

Little John and His Infamous Priest Holes

If you heard the name “Little John”, what’s the first thing that pops in your head?  Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, right?  Maybe you’re a Kevin Costner fan, and picture Little John besting Robin in a duel over a river.  I picture the more classic version of Robin Hood, Men In Tights.  This duel wasn’t over a river.  It was more like a stream of water you see coming out of the downspout of a gutter.  Brilliant.

History does tell us, though, that there was someone nicknamed Little John in sixteenth century England.  He wasn’t part of a band of Merrie Men, but he was still involved in of the most famous and controversial periods in England’s history.

Elizabeth I of the Tudor Dynasty was Queen of England.  She hated Catholics.  She hated Catholicism so much that she banned any reference to it in her realm, and imprisoned Catholic priests who practiced it.  I’m not sure if you know what imprisonment meant in sixteenth century England, but there was torture involved.  Enough said.

What does this have to do with Little John?  A Jesuit brother named Nicholas Owen dedicated over eighteen years of his life protecting these priests before he was finally arrested and imprisoned.  He went from house to house under the name “Little John” constructing hiding holes in walls and floors.  These holes were used to hide priests from hunting parties. Many of the “priest holes” were barely big enough for a grown man to fit into!

Priest Hole Worchestershire


Imagine the stress these people felt from being hunted for simply exercising a different faith.  Little John was a hero to Catholics in England who refused to abandon the Vatican and convert to Protestantism.  Their lives were saved through priest holes in the homes of allies.  Whether it was in a wall, or under the floor, or in the ceiling, priests jammed themselves in there to get out of sight.  Sometimes they were in there for so long that they needed feeding tubes, and sadly a few of them even died in hiding!

Eventually the hunting parties figured out the hiding holes.  They started ripping open floors and walls to catch these so-called criminals and haul them off to prison.  Some of the oldest houses in England still have intact priest holes.

How safe would you feel in a hiding hole of your own?  What would you put in this secret place to survive?  Our society has progressed enough that we aren’t hunted for our religion, but we still have a need to feel safe in our own homes.

At Covert Concepts we build cabinets to hide your guns and valuables, but we also build secret rooms. We don’t expect you’ll be hiding any priests in one, but it could come in handy in an emergency or disaster situation.