YP Letters: Friends for an idyllic retreat of devotion

From: Father Neil McNicholas, Yarm.

Mount Grace Priory.
Mount Grace Priory.

ON the edge of the North York Moors, high on the hills overlooking the ruins of Mount Grace Priory and the busy A19 and by the side of the Cleveland Way, stands the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Grace.

Perhaps constructed as a hermitage by the monks from the Priory as early as the 15th century, the exact origins of the Chapel are unknown, but it has been a place of Christian pilgrimage for hundreds of years.

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By the 16th century and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it had fallen into a ruinous state and when the foundress of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary Ward, visited the Chapel in the mid-1700s, one of the Sisters accompanying her wrote: “It is to this day a place of great devotion, where many graces are granted, though so destroyed as only four walls remain without roof or cover and exposed to great winds.”

Yet there you shall find Catholics praying together for hours. Similarly, in 1745 when John Wesley visited Osmotherley, he reported that he had seen “the poor remains of the old chapel on the brow of the hill”.

It was not until 1916 that a certain Flora Morrish perhaps almost literally stumbled across the Chapel and, after witnessing picnickers vandalising the
 ruins, she appealed to Sir Hugh Bell who now owned the land on which the Chapel and adjoining cottage stood to have the area fenced off in order to protect them from further damage.

The Chapel and the locked cottage were “discovered” yet again in 1942 by two priests of the Middlesbrough diocese and six years later Marist Fathers, accompanying a group of scouts, celebrated Mass in the ruins for perhaps the first time since the Dissolution four centuries earlier.

Lord Eldon and Mr Ralph Scrope purchased the site and a Trust was established to oversee the rebuilding of the Chapel which was established as a National Monument in 1958. The first diocesan pilgrimage celebrating the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady was held that same year.

The work itself began in 1959 and took two years and the Chapel was re- dedicated by Cardinal William Godfrey, Archbishop of Westminster, on December 8, Our Lady’s birthday, 1961.

Over the years since then the Lady Chapel has become a popular place of pilgrimage for individuals and groups from all over the country.

The diocese’s own pilgrimage on the feast of the Assumption is now an annual event and a Vigil Mass is celebrated in the Chapel at 4pm every Saturday.

At one time it might have 
been possible for someone to make their way up the hillside from the village of Osmotherley and be able to enjoy the solitude of the Chapel all by themselves, but it has now become 
necessary to introduce a system whereby groups are asked to book their visits well ahead of time, via the diocesan office, in order to ensure their use of the Chapel.

In consultation with Bishop Drainey, Lord Eldon and the Scrope family recently proposed the establishment of the “Friends of the Lady Chapel” to promote devotion to Our Lady of Mount Grace and hopefully also encourage financial support for essential maintenance of the Chapel and cottage in order to ensure that it continues to be available as a place of pilgrimage and devotion.

The launch of the “Friends” will take place in September.

HS2 not good value for city

From: Coun Denise Jeffery, Cabinet member for economic skills and growth, Wakefield Council.

I SHARE the concerns of Wakefield Council leader Peter Box and the many residents who are deeply worried about the proposed plans for HS2.

There have been claims that protesters are ‘scaremongering’, but I believe there are valid reasons why we should question and challenge plans for the railway line.

We should not shy away from questioning the path of the route – as local communities are likely to be significantly affected, and I am concerned about a lack of consultation.

One of my key concerns is that under the current plans the existing local service would be diminished by the new line’s construction.

We understand that if the project were to go ahead then existing rail services to London would be reduced by half, leaving residents with an inferior service.

As yet, I’m also not convinced that there are sufficient economic benefits to the 
district to be able to support HS2.

The £80bn cost of the project – which would only cut the journey time from Wakefield to London by 20 minutes – does not, in my view, represent good value for money.

I also agree with the point made by Coun Box that we should focus on upgrading rail connections between northern cities and making our road network better.

This would improve interconnectivity between our towns and cities and bring social and economic benefits for this district.

Citizens’ ID on the cards

From: John E Downing, Morley

IN view of the fact that many sections of society have to have ID cards to prove capability, qualifications and accountability, is it not time to implement a citizens’ ID card similar to the Spanish and US format? If you have nothing to hide, why refuse a means of identification?

Doubts over PM’s pledge

From: Eddie Peart, Broom Crescent, Rotherham.

THERESA May promises a Northern Powerhouse (The Yorkshire Post, August 18). I await with bated breath.