Since moving to a picture postcard village in Surrey, I have been inundated with kind invitations. The chairwoman of the parish council brought me the timetable of the local Anglican church, which has roses around the door. She reached out to touch my arm sympathetically when I demurred.
It turned out that my nearest Catholic church is St Edward the Confessor at Sutton Place, a Grade I-listed Tudor manor house built in 1541 by Sir Richard Weston, a courtier of Henry VIII. To say this place is steeped in history is to put it mildly – the Reformation did not happen here.
You can see the Italianate gates of the estate’s east lodge entrance from the A3 near Guildford. In modern times, it has passed from one wealthy owner to another; Jean Paul Getty spent the last 17 years of his life there.
I had read on Wikipedia that “within Sutton Place was once the bloodstained ruff of St Thomas More and a crystal pomegranate that belonged to Queen Catherine of Aragon”. Upon visiting, I soon found myself standing in front of a display cabinet looking at a cream, perfectly intact piece of concertina-shaped cloth, as flawless as if it had just been taken off the garment it belonged to. “Cambric Wrist Ruff believed to have belonged to St Thomas More”, said the card in front of it.
Alongside that were other precious relics which had been hidden in priest holes. Much of Surrey fell into line with official edicts, being too close to London for open defiance, according to Brian Taylor’s excellent history, The Catholics of Sutton Park.
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