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Tudor mansion offers audio experience of Mass as Henry VIII would have heard it

The Vyne Chapel (Joanna Crosse)

Visitors to a Tudor mansion are being given the chance to listen to a reconstruction of a 16th-century Mass.

The Vyne, a country house near Basingstoke where Henry VIII attended Mass, has worked with historians and musicians to record a Lady Mass as it would have sounded in Tudor England. The National Trust website explains: “You’ll hear the subtle change in volume of the priest’s voice as he turns from the altar, the clink of the thurible chain as incense is blessed, even the faint rustle of clothing.”

Visitors can sit in The Vyne’s chapel and listen to the immersive experience, with a surround-sound system meaning that the priest’s voice, the choir singing, and other noises will come from the same place in the chapel where they would actually have taken place.

The music is Nicholas Ludford’s setting for a Mass in honour of Our Lady. It is a polyphonic composition for boys’ voices.

The house was originally built for Lord Sandys, King Henry VIII’s friend, who was later appointed Lord Chamberlain – one of the main officers in the Royal Household.

Henry VIII visited The Vyne three times. The first occasion, in 1510, was with his wife Catherine of Aragon. The third and final time, it was as part of his 1535 royal progress around the country, on which he was accompanied by Anne Boleyn, and he would have been to Mass in The Vyne chapel. The same year, St John Fisher and St Thomas More were executed for refusing to take the oath of succession.

The following year, Henry put down the Pilgrimage of Grace, a Yorkshire rising against the King’s break with Rome. One of its leaders was Lord Darcy, the brother-in-law of Lord Sandys – though Sandys himself seems to have remained loyal to the King.

Nicholas Ludford, who composed the choral parts of the Mass which has been recorded for The Vyne’s chapel, composed 17 Masses, seven of them Lady Masses. Little is known about his views of the Reformation, but he seems not to have composed any fresh works after 1535.

The new exhibit will be open while large parts of The Vyne undergo a £5.4m restoration project.