Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Derbyshire Shrines

One of my holiday days out took me around the Goyt Valley walks. There are two reservoirs damming the waters of the little River Goyt, and part of the landscape is the grounds of the now-lost Errwood Hall, abandoned since the 1930s. I already knew about the little woodland shrine which you can see here, apparently built by the Roman Catholic owners of Errwood, the Grimshawes, in memory of a Spanish lady who acted as companion to one of the Mrs Grimshawe. Inside you can find a tile image of St Joseph in whose honour the shrine is dedicated, a characteristic range of religious tat and also commemorative items (including a pink teddy bear looking out of the window).


I was much more surprised to discover a completely different little shrine overlooking the valley, and right beside the road which swoops down to the reservoirs from the top of the hill opposite. There is a mosaic icon of the Virgin and Child, lamps, and fresh flowers. It turns out that the shrine was built in the 1950s on the initiative of a Roman Catholic priest from Buxton - you can see more of its history here. Would the Council grant permission for such a structure today? Quite apart from any considerations of religious partisanship, it is right next to the road, just on the verge - something of a perilous position for devotees!
Finally, in the village of Stoney Middleton, I found this: a shrine in a niche underneath a row of houses. There is a side road which branches off the main street and goes immediately very steeply uphill, allowing this archway beneath a house which sits next to a small car parking space. The icons (especially of Christ's Transfiguration) suggested an Orthodox inspiration and, as it turns out, the little shrine was assembled by a member of the congregation of St Aidan's Orthodox Church in Manchester. More about it here.

Who would have expected such a collection of sacred sites in this small corner of the world?

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