Latin in the Dales

Going to Mass on holiday, particularly in Britain, can often seem like a chore. As a child I distinctly remember being reluctantly dragged into the car on a Sunday morning and having to drive miles across the countryside to a horrid modern Catholic church, after having passed numerous beautiful ancient Anglican churches usually in idyllic settings, thinking it was grossly unfair that we were missing a morning on the beach.

So this week staying in Malham in the water-logged Yorkshire Dales, when going to the beach was most definitely not an option, I couldn’t believe my luck when I stumbled upon a notice in the local parish district newsletter advertising a Latin Mass, a Missa Cantata infact, held on the first Sunday of every month in the Sacred Heart Chapel at Broughton Hall, near Skipton. In the Dales where driving twenty minutes for a loaf of bread is not uncommon, a half hour drive to the nearest Catholic church where they would NOT be singing the Israeli Mass seemed an opportunity not to be missed.

I studied the ordinance survey map for the area and there attached to a building of considerable size was a tiny little cross. I was intrigued.

Nothing prepares you for the magnificent aspect of Broughton Hall, home to The Tempest Family, as you drive through its immaculate parkland, and there discretely attached to the back of the house is the chapel. The only clue to its purpose is a small cross above the portico of the church door. There is no church sign or parish notice board. This chapel was clearly built at a time when you certainly did not want to advertise to your neighbours that you were Catholic.

An article from the Craven Herald of 1936 charts the astonishing  Catholic history of the Tempests.

From 1591 we find the Tempest family constantly in the Recusant Lists. As an example of the fines, Dame Katherine (Lawson), wife of Sir Stephen, was fined £40 for not attending the Parish Church, and later the fine is increased to £140 . In October, 1644, Stephen and his family, as Papists and Royalists, were exiled from Broughton and the estates were sequestered, but through the kind offices of friends and neighbours, in 1648 the Hall is again inhabited by a Catholic tenant, George Fell, who became steward, and it is from George Fell’s estate accounts that we are able to trace the names of many of the priests who ministered at Broughton, besides getting glimpses of Catholic life in those days. Dame Tempest (Gascoigne) was charged with high treason and hatching Papist Plots, and with her kinsman Blessed Thomas Thiving, was imprisoned in York Gatehouse, but was acquitted the following year 1680. About 1684, Broughton Hall is several times men tioned as a place where Papists resorted. Under William III, the lot of Catholics was not a happy one.

The Broughton Chapel has been a nursery for religious vocations, for several sons of the family have been Jesuits and Benedictines, and of the daughters, eight were Benedictines; in fact, between 1688 and 1729 there were six Benedictine nuns.

The current generation of Tempests in residence at Broughton Hall are, according to one of the parishioners I chatted to, noted for their kindness and charity; Mrs Tempest was a friend of Mother Teresa and did a lot of work for her.

Inside the chapel, is an interior untouched by the ravages of Catholic persecution in England and more recently those of Vatican II. The lavish gilding, the untouched altar rails, the altar only ever designed for Mass ad orientum. Everything is perfect. There are even apparently letters at Broughton Hall from Pugin who seemed to have taken infinite pains to have the Crucifix and the candlesticks made to his designs.

One of the parishioners told me that the sanctuary lamp, pictured above, dates from the 1600s. The story goes that in the 1700s, when Catholic churches were being discovered and ransacked, a cart arrived in the dead of night from London, containing items rescued from a church which had been destroyed. The sanctuary lamp was one of the objects that arrived that evening.

Mass was a glorious affair. Missa de Angelis and Credo III. Adeste Fideles etc….

The celebrant pictured above Father G M Parfitt  has never stopped saying the Latin Mass, even during the 1970s. This is a private chapel after all, owned by the family and not  the diocese.  Apparently, even the bishop would be ‘a visitor’ if he came to celebrate Mass at Broughton!

The choir normally sing the propers in full but they were missing one of their members this month so they opted to sing the Rossini psalm tone propers. As they were short of singers, I offered to join them, not that they really needed me, but I enjoyed it immensely.

The man on the left, who I think is called John, sings with the Schola Gregoriana and used to regularly stay with Mary Berry. The organist on the right is Jan. They were all so welcoming.

After Mass had ended, there was a procession to the back of the chapel where we heartily sang lots of  carols. And yes children can sing in Latin as well as in English.

It was such a wonderful start to the year. If you live anywhere north of the Watford Gap I would encourage you to get in the car and drive to this incredible chapel on the first Sunday of the month. If you were ever in any doubt why Pope Benedict called the Tridentine Mass the ‘Extraordinary Form,’ then come to this extraordinary place for an extraordinary experience.

More photos at FLICKR


2 thoughts on “Latin in the Dales

  1. Stan Metheny says:

    Clare, great pics and great story. We used to go Sunday Mass at a similar arrangement in Shropshire when we lived there, though this chapel is much more beautiful than that one. This is a true gem that we’ll seek out next time we’re in Yorkshire. Thanks much for posting this.

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