Michael Hodgetts RIP

We are sorry to announce the death of Michael Hodgetts KSG, who was one of the most respected English Catholic historians of his generation, widely known for his unparalleled knowledge of the secret hides built into recusant houses in the sixteenth century, to shelter priests from capture.

This interest came from his lifelong devotion to Harvington Hall, where his research, and in particular his realisation that what we see today is only half of the original Hall, led to a much clearer understanding of the building and its place in Catholic history. Michael visited many ancient houses, finding and verifying secret hides, and publishing his research in articles over many years, but the main product of his research was his book, Secret Hiding Places (Veritas Publications, 1989).

He grew up in the parish of Erdington Abbey, serving at the altar as a boy. Michael graduated in Classics (Latin and Greek Literature) from Oxford, and tried his vocation in the English College, Rome. Eventually, he took up life as a teacher, initially of history, and later as Head of RE at St Thomas More School Willenhall.

During the 1970s and 1980s he also served on ICEL, the international working group charged with creating a new English translation of the Liturgy for the use of all English-speaking Catholics worldwide. The current text of the Good Friday hymn Crux Fidelis (Faithful Cross) was his work. He retired from teaching in 1989 and spent the following thirty years researching and publishing the history of the Archdiocese and teaching undergraduate Philosophy, History and Theology at Maryvale Institute where he also served as Examinations Secretary.

He was active within the Worcestershire and Staffordshire Catholic History Societies (merged to become the Midland Catholic History Society). He was a long-standing chairman of MCHS, and editor of its journal. His last published article in Midland Catholic History, published in October, was, fittingly, a further piece of research based on Harvington.

Michael was appointed to the Management Committee of Harvington Hall by Archbishop Couve de Murville in 1984 and served on it for almost the next 40 years, as Director, Historical Director and Vice-Chair, seeing through a series of restoration projects from mains gas and sewerage to the replacement of the roof and renovation of the Malt House. At the same time he was part of the Archdiocesan Historical Commission, editing and writing a series of booklets on people and places of significance to the Archdiocese.

On the national scene, Michael was the editor of the journal of the Catholic Record Society, Recusant History (now British Catholic History), and of its Records volumes. His final volume, of original historical sources associated with Little Malvern Court, will be published in 2023.

Michael was a gifted musician, and for many years, director of the choir at his own parish of St Nicholas, Boldmere, and a member and sometimes director of a diocesan choir, the Newman Singers. He was devoted to the history and the life of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, a frequent member of the cathedral congregation, and the longest serving papal knight in the Archdiocese.

May he rest in peace, and receive the reward for his devotion to the Lord and his service to the Church.