Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Golgotha in Yorkshire



In Catholic areas of Europe, monumental Calvaries and stations of the Cross are a common sight in the landscape. 

Calvary at the Church of Maria Plain, Salzburg. Photograph: Laura Slater



Often placed as the junctions of cross-roads, they acted as way markers and navigational aids. As local sites of veneration, they helped inscribe the landscape with theological meaning. They could directly connect a perhaps out-of-the-way neighbourhood to the centre of the Christian world, Jerusalem and the holy places of Palestine. 

Station of the Cross in Salzburg. Photograph: Laura Slater

Some of these sculptures have later gone on to be used as local commemorative sites. SPECTRUM project member Shimrit Shriki is exploring how German and Austrian Kalvarienberge could be re-appropriated as war memorialsIn a majority Protestant country such as Britain, it is extremely unusual to see a monumental Calvary sculpture. Yet at Garrowby Hill, the summit of the Yorkshire Wolds, a modern oak crucifix can be seen as you climb the slope. 

Garrowby Hill cross. Photograph: Google Images

It was erected in 1956 by the first Earl of Halifax, in memory of his friend King George VI. Edward Frederick Lindley Wood (1881-1959) is best known today for his political career. He was Viceroy of India from 1925 to 1931, and as Foreign Secretary 1938-1940 is associated with the controversial policy of ‘appeasement’ of Nazi Germany.

Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax. Photograph: Wikipedia Commons

Despite decades as an important politician and diplomat, the two passions of Halifax’s life were hunting and religion. He was nicknamed ‘Holy Fox’ by his contemporaries. Like his father, Charles Lindley Wood, he was an extremely committed Anglo-Catholic. This helps account for the building of a memorial crucifix to his royal friend.
Halifax inherited a number of grand country houses, including a former Templar site, Temple Newsam, which he sold for a nominal sum to the City of Leeds in 1925. He also donated over a hundred paintings from the family collection to the Leeds Museum.

Temple Newsam, Leeds. Photograph: Wikipedia Commons
 Yet Halifax spent most of his childhood and retirement at Garrowby Hall, a hunting lodge bought by his great-grandfather in the early nineteenth century. His father significantly rebuilt it from 1892 onwards, adding an attic storey hidden behind fake walls and panels, a south aspect with a gabled roof, a large sitting room on the ground floor, a small entrance hall and a chapel with two or three bedrooms above. During the late 1930s, Halifax’s friend and fellow Christ Church man, the distinguished historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, stayed overnight in Garrowby and it is likely that he stayed in one of these new rooms. 

Hugh Trevor-Roper in 1975. Photograph: Wikipedia Commons

For Adam Sisman’s 2010 biography of Hugh Trevor-Roper reveals another, rather unexpected translation of Jerusalem at Garrowby:

“ Hugh had slept in Golgotha, a guest bedroom equipped with a comfortable four-poster bed and a fire burning hospitably in the grate. On the wall at the foot of the bed was a square niche, concealed by miniature curtains; Hugh opened these to find a human skull, a grisly reminder of mortality.”

These local recreations of Jerusalem by two generations of the same family, in a private bedroom and a public memorial, translate the site of Christ's Passion to Yorkshire in very different ways. 

Memento mori skull. Photograph: Wikipedia Commons
 References

Adam Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper. The Biography (London, 2010), p.50
Andrew Roberts, The Holy Fox: A Biography of Lord Halifax (London, 1991)
Stuart Hodgson, Lord Halifax: An Appreciation (London, 1941)
Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, Earl of Halifax, Fulness of Days (London, 1957)
D. J. Dutton, ‘Wood, Edward Frederick Lindley, first earl of Halifax (1881–1959)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004); online edn, Jan 2011 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36998] 

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