The Times reports that singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran plans to build a private chapel near his home in Suffolk. This seems to be becoming a trend. See earlier posts. The article by Libby Purves opens with a reference to a Waugh novel as well as one by Nancy Mitford:
You’re a grandee with wealth, fame and acclaim. You’ve got the great house and grounds, guest wing, ballroom, staff. What next? A private chapel! The rich have souls, status doesn’t exclude spirituality, and the parish church is a bit plebby and means putting on outdoor shoes. Thus, from early Tudor times, an exquisite little chapel was the finishing touch to a grand home. At Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead, “a monument of art nouveau” had angels in smocks, saints in armour and texts in Celtic script above a grass-green carpet strewn with daisies. That was based on Madresfield Court, where the 7th earl (later a gay exile) had it decorated as a wedding present from his wife. Or think of the more archaic Hampton chapel in Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate, where Leopoldina, “Polly”, outrages her mother by marrying her lecherous snob of an uncle.
Sheeran’s chapel sounds quite appropriate (“a flint one, Saxon-style, with a round tower. It will hold a 24-person entourage — sorry, congregation.”) but has run into some problems. In addition to opposition from the locals to a move by a landowner toward “aggrandization” of his property, the building would be sited in area that is home to the great crested newt. The story concludes with this thought about the “new celeb-liberal establishment”:
…Where old aristocracy shunned the vulgarity of the packed local church for fear of smells and smallpox, the new one shudders to contemplate eternity in one of our (often empty, achingly beautiful) historic churches within a mile. They might be glimpsed without hair ’n’ make-up! Someone might smile and say hello! Ugh! The irony is that east Suffolk is a notably un-gawpy region, one of the less likely places to suffer a selfie-hound. It’s already overstocked with famous actors dressed to not impress ….So good luck with the newts, young Sheeran, and sing on. But try laughing at yourself sometimes too.