I visited a priest friend in the East Midlands today. His parish couldn't be more different from a London one - a large geographical area, a charming little church in one of his 18 villages, a close-knit congregation where most people know each other by name and (most strikingly) a presbytery where the phone and doorbell rarely sounds!
We had a most enjoyable drive around some of the local Catholic sites, especially in the Charnwood area which owes many of its foundations to the vision of a nineteenth century convert, Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle
. He was a friend of Pugin and a great patron of the Trappists and the Rosminians. His home was Grace Dieu Manor
, built in the 1830s, enlarged by Pugin and now a school run by the Rosminians. The grounds were most impressive and are used by the diocese of Nottingham for an annual Rosary Rally:
Grace Dieu served as the centre of Catholicism in the area and the great Rosminian missioner, Fr Luigi Gentili
, lived here for a time, as he toured the surrounding villages and established missions. One of these was erected at nearby Shepshed and Gentili's chapel can still be seen (though it is now a private house):
In the grounds of Grace Dieu are the ruins of a medieval priory of Augustinian Canonesses, founded 1235-41 and referred to as 'the church of the Holy Trinity of the Grace of God [Grace Dieu] at Belton dedicated to God and St Mary.'
The ruins inspired Wordsworth to write:
Beneath yon eastern ridge, the craggy bound,
Rugged and high, of Charnwood’s forest ground,
Stand yet, but, Stranger, hidden from thy view
The ivied ruins of forlorn Grace Dieu,
Erst a religious House, which day and night
With hymns resounded and the chanted rite
Grace Dieu Priory is supposedly haunted by a 'White Lady,
' one of the nuns, but she seems to have been otherwise occupied for we only saw a group of friendly cyclists.
was the next stop - built by Pugin as a novitiate and school for the Rosminians. It is still in the hands of the Institute of Charity and a successful independent school (old boys include one of our auxiliaries, Bishop John Arnold):
The key attraction for me was the little cemetery:
Here, in the corner, are the tombs of Fr William Lockhart
and his mother Martha, respectively the first parish priest and benefactor of my current parish. I'm putting together a short life of Fr Lockhart and will be travelling to the Rosminian Archive in Stresa at the end of the month:
Labels: History, Lockhart, Rosminian