Technology has allowed scientists to reveal secrets about a hidden room in the tower of an English Tudor mansion that is linked to the 1605 assassination attempt of King James I.
This room was referred to as the "priest hole," and was the location where Catholic priests would hide from agitators during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The assassination attempt, known as the "Gunpowder Plot," was concocted by a group of angry English Catholics who were troubled by the king's stance on religious tolerance (or intolerance). The goal was to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England's Parliament on November 5th, 1605, prior to the eventual revolt in the Midlands during which James's nine year old daughter was set to be installed as the Catholic head of state.
A crew of at least 12 men and one woman had plotted the attack, including Guy Fawkes who had served 10 years in the military battling in the Spanish Netherlands against the Dutch Revolt. With this kind of prior training and preparation, it's a miracle that this plan never got off the ground.
Luckily, authorities found out about the plot in an anonymous letter sent to William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle, on October 26th, 1605—only a week before the attempt was set to go off. After searching the House of Lords on November 4th, they found Mr. Fawkes guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder (aka A LOT) and arrested him right away. Most of the others fled London to avoid arrest and probable hanging. November 5th is now commemorated as "Guy Fawkes Night" in the UK.
Today, scientists are utilizing 3D laser scanners to properly map out the location and structure of this secret area. They look something like this...
These chambers had a "double-blind" construction style that was intended to fool people who came searching for the priests. After seeing the first room empty, those people would leave. Little did they know that the priests were actually hiding in a connected space a bit past the first room. Whoops.
The space is extremely small. We're talking maybe 3-4 feet at the most. Any priest would've had a great difficulty sliding into the spot, let alone the researchers who performed this study and had to find a way into the narrow space. The good news is, thanks to the scans and simulations these researchers have created, tourists don't have to labor up the stairs and try to shimmy into a tiny priest hole to see what the environment felt like.