The Halifax Altar

Viscount Halifax (1839-1934, father of the statesman the 1st Earl of Halifax) was one of the first Guardians of the Shrine, and supported it in many ways although he never visited it. (Given his age, this was hardly surprising.) His two daughters were regular pilgrims. In 1933 he had an altar pavilion built for a single Anglo-Catholic Congress High Mass at Hickleton, his family seat near Doncaster. It was designed by Sir William Milner, an architect and the chief benefactor of the Shrine. Afterwards Lord Halifax presented it to the Shrine as an outside altar. from Our Lady's Mirror, Spring & Summer & Autumn Number 1933 Those who read the Church Times and the illustrated daily papers, will remember the picture of the High Mass at Hickleton, which was sung at the altar in the pavilion especially built for that occasion. This altar and pavilion has since been presented to the Sanctuary by Lord Halifax, one of the Guardians, for use in the grounds of the Shrine. It has been erected on the ground facing the entrance to the refectory, backing on the east part of the Via Dolorosa. We hope soon to have a good lawn here, and as the ground is bounded by trees on one side and the Via Dolorosa both behind and on the other side, it could not have been better placed. It is estimated that we could easily accommodate 1,000 worshippers in front of the pavilion, to say nothing of the many people who could have a full view of the altar from other parts of the grounds. The Pilgrimage Committee is much indebted to Lord Halifax for this splendid gift. In 1952 Our Lady's Mirror tells us that "The Altar pavilion used at Hickleton for the Congress there some years back and subsequently given to the Shrine by the late Lord Halifax has been undergoing a good clean up and repainting, and not before it was needed. It is a nice design and fits into the garden surround well. It is of great use too, when really large pilgrimages of several thousand people come and overflow Masses have been sung there on such occasions". A few hours before his death in 1958 Fr Patten, dining with the overseas bishops who had come on that first Episcopal pilgrimage, had been asked by the Bishop of South West Tanganyika why none of the altars inside the Shrine church was connected with Missions or the Church Overseas. Fr Patten's death prevented any progress at that time, and later it was realised that there was no 'spare' inside altar that could be so allocated. Eventually the idea came to allocate the refurbished Halifax altar as the Altar of the Church Overseas. "Being in the open air gives it an appropriate symbolism of the Church in this land having spread out to other countries." Lord Halifax's grandson, the Hon Richard Wood, said at the time that he was particularly pleased that it was to have this title, as he felt that the family's long connection with the UMCA made it something of which Lord Halifax would have strongly approved. By 1960 it had fallen severely into disrepair and was given a major refurbishment in that year. (Sir William Milner often pointed out that he had designed it for use on the one day only and it was no wonder that after twenty years it was looking the worse for wear.) Fr Stephenson wrote to many of the overseas bishops: they contributed towards the cost of refurbishment and of having the names of their dioceses inscribed on the pillars of the altar pavilion. It is not known how long this name and idea lasted. From the Friends of Walsingham Occasional Paper in September 1960: "The Hickleton Pavilion, which has had to be rebuilt, was finished in time for the [Whit Monday] celebrations and this provided a lovely setting for the High Mass". The restoration left little more of the original than the familiar canopy with its small dome. In 2004 it was so far beyond repair that it was replaced by the present Altar of The Mysteries of Light. In the Walsingham Review Extra at Eastertide 2005, the renewal of the Shrine Gardens through the winter was described. "One of the most dramatic days saw the end of the Halifax Altar, made possible by the generosity of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament who funded the building of a new outdoor altar. The contractors gave it an exploratory poke with a very small digger and the whole thing collapsed! It was structurally unsound and would soon have fallen down of its own accord".
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