We begin our guided tour of the Redmaynes’ ancestral home with the entrance hall, referred to within the family and their retainers simply as “The Hall.” Not to be mistaken as a tip of the hat to our own penchant for brevity, the habit of using such inostentatious language was a well-established one in the old Baron’s household, despite being at odds with the sense of propriety in architectural and sartorial display. As we move through the manor, we shall observe this stark dichotomy, among others, frequently.
The Hall was the first part of the house to be restored in the sixteenth century, after fire had destroyed most of the original monastery. It is done in simple Tudor style, with oak paneling throughout and a fine plaster knotwork ceiling. Most of Sir Godfrey’s outputs of monies on the house were spent in this room, as he wanted to have a fine hallway in which to receive tenants and noblemen. Of special interest is the priest hole under the main staircase, which is extremely difficult to find if you don’t know where to look.
In 1553 Queen Mary I visited Grisleigh End on a royal tour of the border counties, but made it no farther than this hallway – the minute she learned that this had previously been a monastery she assumed that it was one of the church properties that her father had handed out to his cronies, and left in a huff, but not before Sir Godfrey had procured one of the new shillings Mary had had minted upon her succession to the throne.
In 1648 an unnamed Roman Catholic Priest of the local parish of St. Dismas was hidden in the priest hole for a time, until it was realized that no one was looking for him. The main staircase was extensively rebuilt in the late eighteenth century, when the long forgotten priest hole was rediscovered.
George Hanover (prince regent and later King George IV) had the priest hole outfitted as a small bolt-hole in case any creditors came looking for him, and then promptly forgot how to open it up. One of the favorite house party games of Grisleigh End guests in the early twentieth century was trying to figure out where the priest hole was and how to get into it. The mysterious disappearance of the occasional visitor over the years would invite the comment that they must have found the hole and gotten themselves shut up inside it. This, however, is very probably extremely unlikely. So I’m told.