Private Chapels (More)

In a recent post we mentioned a newly built Roman Catholic private chapel at Culham Court near Henley in which regular services are held. The Catholic Herald has an article this week by Sarah Crofts about several more such private chapels, including two in the same general area south of Oxford. These are Milton Manor Chapel (near Didcot) and Stonor Chapel (near Henley). Evelyn Waugh would be happy to hear that a traditional Latin Mass is celebrated on some occasions in both chapels. At Milton Manor services are attended by invitation only, according to the Catholic Herald article. At Stonor Chapel there are regular services at 1030a every Sunday. This chapel has the added attraction as having been a site where Edmund Campion lived and worshipped and also has a Graham Greene association. According to the Catholic Herald:

The celebrated St Edmund Campion was priest at Stonor Chapel near Henley in Oxfordshire. It was there that, in great danger, he wrote the illicit pamphlet “Ten Reasons” to spearhead the intellectual resistance to Protestantism in England. The leaflet was printed on a mobile press in the roof of the house and transported to Oxford. There it was slid onto the seats of delegates arriving for a university conference, causing a great scandal. It was the leaflet that ultimately led to Campion’s capture, torture and death… This remarkable place contains Stations of the Cross created by a Polish prisoner of war, Jozef Janas, which were given to the chapel by Graham Greene…

Waugh mentions Campion’s stay at Stonor several times in his Edmund Campion, Part III: The Hero.

The Catholic Herald article goes on to mention another chapel with a Waugh association:

One of the best-known private chapels is the one in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. The chapel, based on the original at Castle Howard, was brilliantly realised as the scene of languid conversations between Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews in the 1981 television series. Its murals are by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, finished with a gilt ceiling and ornamented by a vast organ.

This reference seems to have confused two private chapels, neither of them Roman Catholic. The chapel Waugh describes in Brideshead Revisited is that at Madresfield Court near Great Malvern. This was constructed in the early 20th c. and designed in the Arts and Crafts style by the Birmingham Municipal School of Arts & Crafts. The one at Castle Howard that was designed by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in the 1870s was used as a setting for the chapel scenes in both the TV and film adaptations of the novel but is not the one that Waugh had in mind when he wrote the description of the chapel in his novel. Both of these private chapels observe the rites of the Church of England.

Waugh himself toyed with the idea of a private chapel at his home Piers Court in Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire. In a 1950 letter to Nancy Mitford, he wrote:

I am intriguing to get a private chapel at Stinkers [Stinchcombe] behind the back of the Bishop of Clifton, who hates private chapels as undemocratic and not contemporary. After seeing a lot of Princes & Cardinals I found the man who really decides such things is a plain Padre Costa, a Brazilian living in the suburbs. I went to him & he received me with great congeniality until he learned my name was not Vaughan as he supposed & that I was not the bastard grandson of Cardinal Vaughan. All seemed lost until I found he came from Manaos and by an extraordinary piece of Prodlike scholarship I happened to know that Manaos was the first town in the American continent to have a tramway. After that all was sunny again & I think I may succeed in my pious ambition (Letters, p. 303).

So far as I know, nothing ever came of Waugh’s chapel project.

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