Batman caves, hidden cubbies, a secret “cloffice” – the most exciting homes conceal a few surprises
Two centuries ago, as the mob bayed for bread outside the Palace of Versailles, Marie Antoinette lay cowering in her bedchamber, waiting for her luck to change. Barefoot and brazen, she slipped into disguise and slid open a concealed door. When the mob reached her apartment a few minutes later, the queen was nowhere to be found. Such secrecy has always existed in grand houses. In Marie Antoinette’s case, only a few close confidantes would have been privy to her escape route. “These passages were placed to facilitate an easy and convenient route from the ‘public’ areas – where many authorised members of the public were allowed to enter – to the strictly ‘private’ areas,” says Canadian-American photographer Robert Polidori, who captured the Palace and its secret doorways during its renovation in the early 1980s. Similar compartments were used to hide Catholic leaders during the reign of Elizabeth I; Jesuit architect Nicholas Owen made his name building them in staircases, under floorboards and between walls, most notably at Worcestershire’s Harvington Hall.
Published on October 26, 2022 by shhh-have-you-seen-my-secret-room