TODAY Hindlip Hall, which lies between Worcester and Droitwich and about half-a-mile from the M5, is the technology bristling headquarters of West Mercia Police and Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service.

The presence of the latter should provide some reassurance for the former because hopefully it will mitigate against what happened there in the autumn of 1965 when the whole lot nearly burnt down.

On October 18 that year a fire broke out in the roof of what was then the HQ of Worcestershire Constabulary and it was all hands to the pump, literally.

More than 50 firefighters battled to prevent the flames breaking down into the top floor of the historic building, which would almost certainly have led to its destruction, while police and civilian staff, with Chief Constable Sir John Willison to the fore, combined to rescue as many files and records as possible. Remember those were the days when everything was on paper.

Worcestershire’s chief fire officer Gerald Eastham said later: “Those of us who were under the roof for one-and-three-quarter hours, facing the problem of two large water tanks likely to come crashing down, were determined not to abandon the top floor because we knew the fire would spread at second-floor level and go throughout the building.”

The eventual cost of the fire was around £50,000, more than £1m today, but through some astute accounting the re-building figure included alterations to the hall needed to cater for its impending role as the centre of the newly-created West Mercia police force due to take over the patch in 1967.

In fact, Hindlip Hall wasn’t the original name of the property on the site. That was Hindlip House which was built in the second half of the 1500s by John Habington.

This magnificent Elizabethan country mansion was described as 'the most famous house in England for the entertainment of priests'.

However, 'entertainment' was code for the property being a safe haven for harbouring fugitive Catholic priests, called 'treacherous Popish trash' by the authorities, and had nothing to do with drinking or dancing or any other non-priestly activities.

Between 1590 and 1606, its most renowned period, Hindlip House had as many as 11 priest holes, ingenious secret places where priests could be concealed from their pursuers for days on end.

A reed through a hole in a chimney or an outer wall was often their sole source of ventilation and there was a concealed tube so they could be fed 'broths and warm drinks'.

Following discovery of the Gunpowder Plot in November 1605, the property was searched for conspirators and four Jesuit priests were eventually forced from their hiding places.

A couple gave up after two days in the almost intolerable conditions but the other two, Edward Oldcorne and Henry Garnet, lasted eight days in hiding before surrendering. Both were later executed in Worcester.

Hindlip House was demolished in 1820 after being badly damaged by fire and a new property, to be called Hindlip Hall, was built by Lord Southwell.

Following his death in 1860 the hall was bought by the Burton-on-Trent brewer Henry Allsopp who became the first Baron Hindlip.

Allsopp carried out considerable improvement to the house and gardens, including a new six-acre lake with 4,000 fish, and they became the heart of his 1,600-acre estate.

After the Allsopp family moved to Wiltshire early in the 20th century Hindlip Hall went through a number of uses, including about 25 years as a girls' school.

During the Second World War it was taken over by the Ministry of Works and there were emergency plans drawn up to move the Cabinet to Hindlip Hall with the Prime Minister's office based at Spetchley Court.

After the war the hall was bought by Worcestershire County Council. An agricultural college was set up in the grounds and the main house turned into the headquarters of the county police which moved from its cramped base in Castle Street, Worcester.

In 2018 the two counties' fire and rescue service moved in too which should ensure the electric sockets are safe.