The Devils Chapel.

Probably one of the strangest and smallest chapels I have visited can be found close to the border of Muggington parish and the town of Ashbourne in the county of Derbyshire. It is possible to swing a cat, but only just because at 13ft 9in by 17ft 7 in it is by no means large and can just about accomodate thirty people. It is normally known as the Halter Devil Chapel and was founded by Francis Brown in 1723, the legend regarding how the chapel came by this name was handed down by a Mrs Christopher Hall in 1964 who lived in the adjoining farmhouse and is as follows: Francis Brown, a Yeoman of Hulland Ward, had misappropriated some public funds, and what with hard drinking, he was a very disturbed man. One stormy dark night, he went out to a field to get his horse, in order to start in the early hours  next morning to fetch a load of coal from over Denby way. After chasing round with a halter after his horse, which was rushing to and fro in the storm, Francis Brown uttered wild threats in his drunken anger, and cried “If I can’t halter thee, I’ll halter the Devil,” whereupon, there was a vivid flash of lightning and the horse vanished in a puff of smoke, or as another version of the story has it, he was faced with a black horned face, having in his drunken stupor, tried to halter a cow instead of his horse. Either way, Brown was terrified, what with his harrowing experience and the thought of the public money that he had squandered on his wild living. All this brought him to his senses, and he became a reformed man, in witness whereof he built the Chapel and endowed it with land.

In 1823 it was recorded that the occupiers of the adjoining farm used the chapel on weekdays as a dairy. The late George Derbyshire remembered a stone tablet lying about (later broken up) which had formely been set in the wall and was inscribed thus:

“Francis Brown in his old age,

did build him here an hermitage in 1723″

Also painted on the wall underneath the original place the stone tablet would have been was the following writing:

“Who being old and full of evil

once on a time haltered the Devil”

Inside the church on one of the window sills can be seen a cross made of Yew, this was presented to the church by a Mr S. T. Nash of Cubley in 1957 and was carved from one of the two Yew trees which stood either side of the church up until 1955.

In 1993 James William Brown of Intakes lane who was a direct descendant of Francis Brown died and donations from his funeral were used to purchase new hymn books for the chapel. During 2005-6 the harmonium which was full of woodworm and was only being used on Christmas morning was sold on e-bay! The woodwork in the chapel was treated to kill off the woodworm and the old oak door which has been affected was unfortunately unrepairable, so a new one was made by a Mr John Taylor using English Oak. The original door fittings were added to the new door and the stone door surrounds were also repaired at the same time.

Services are normally held at 8.00am on the second Sunday of each month and at 8.00 on the morning of Christmas day, however get there early otherwise it will be standing room only!

4 Responses to “The Devils Chapel.”

  1. Thank you for that nice account. It was actually John Naylor who made the door. His wife carved the wooden rose on the aumbry door in All Saints Church, Mugginton.

  2. I know this so well, as my father was Rector from 1944 to 1969. Their oval memorial plaque is on the east wall of the Kniveton chapel in All Saints, Mugginton. And, of course, we lived in the Rectory there which was roughly twice the size of the re-named ‘Old Rectory’ as it now is. My sister and I have so many photos and memories of those days. A shame the harmonium at Halter Devil went but needs must, I suppose. I remember it being played with a great deal more enthusiasm than skill! Although the chapel was geographically just outside the Mugginton parish boundary, it was traditional for the Rector there to provide the services. In our day, Holy Communion was held just once a month at the chapel. I have an idea it was probably never consecrated – I can’t actually imagine a bishop consecrating a place with that name!

  3. And further, my Masonic gavel was made from that same yew tree and I still use it in Lodges today.

  4. Having made enquiries, I now understand that the chapel was indeed consecrated – and using that name too.

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