300th Anniversary of Halter Devil Chapel

Halter Devil Chapel: 300th Anniversary

By Rev Pete Evens, Agricultural Chaplain

On the first day at her new school in Derby, Linda gave her address and the teacher told her to stop fooling about and tell him where she really lived. When she persisted, she was sent to the headmaster. He believed that ‘Halter Devil Farm’ was truly where Linda lived.

The unlikely name arose from the personal crisis of Francis Brown, which broke over him one dark and stormy morning. He’d been dodging the task, set for him by his late uncle, to build a church for the Intakes of Hulland Ward. Himself hungover, his horse storm-spooked , Francis shouted, ‘If I can’t halter thee, I’ll halter the devil’. Whereupon a black, horned head appeared in the halter, spooking Francis. The experience was a watershed. From avoidance, Francis turned to action; from what he couldn’t do, he turned to what he could; he may not be able to build a church, but he could build ‘an hermitage’ on the side of his farmhouse.

It stands to this day: Halter Devil Chapel, now part of Mugginton Parish.

On Saturday July 15th, 2023, the little chapel drew a capacity crowd to celebrate its 300th Anniversary. Across the front wall, hand-made bunting spelt out the occasion. Posies of flowers graced the window cills. A pictorial timeline placed the key events of the chapel within the history of the nation, A scrapbook spilled out memorabilia. Accompanied by the foot-pumped harmonium, we sang an 18th century hymn, which tells of ‘Jesus, the name high over all’ making ‘devils fear and fly’; and a more modern national favourite, O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder. We saw the similar choice faced by Francis Brown and Zacchaeus in the Bible: Devil or Jesus. Stark language which seemed unavoidable in that place on that day. So we too faced the question, ‘Who, of the two, is the primary purpose of your life?’ We remembered the many people down the centuries who have lived at the farm or worshipped at the chapel, grieving together the very recent deaths of two friends. And, of course, we drank tea, with copious quantities of home-made scones and cakes.

Want to know more? You’ll find more of the story and lots of photos if you Google ‘Halter Devil’. Or join the faithful bunch who worship there in Intakes Lane DE56 2LU, at 8.00am on the second Sunday of each month and on Christmas Day.  

First published in DRC News Autumn/Winter 2023, the newsletter of Derbyshire Rural Chaplaincy https://www.derbyshireruralchaplaincy.org.uk

Used by consent of DRC and the author.

Hand knitted cross made by Hilda Watson Halter Devil Chapel Time-line created by the children of Mugginton School  Posies of flowers graced the chapel 

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