Heaven-Haven

Gerard Manley-Hopkins

Mick Nelson, Belper Mayor, and Elaine Hibbert, Belper Town Council Clerk, in St John’s churchyard.

Close-up of the poem.

St John’s chapel is now the oldest used building in Belper, dating from 1250. It was built by the de Ferrers family who, after the Noman invasion, were granted forestry and hunting lands in this area (then the Duffield Frith). Now deconsecrated, the chapel serves as the Town Council chambers / office and a Heritage Centre.

If the above wasn’t enough to merit a place in the Poetry Trail, we also wanted to include it because Belper Town Council staff and elected members have been very supportive of the Poetry Trail. Beth was also a member of the Belper Historical Society, which meets in the chapel. The gardens are well-maintained, and they provide a tranquil retreat right in the heart of Belper.

Heaven-Haven is sub-titled ‘A nun takes the veil’ and has been inscribed on Welsh slate by Barrie Price of Beresfords with help from Armano Zaffardi.

GMH (1844-1889) converted to the Roman Catholic church whilst a classics scholar at Oxford, aged 22, subsequently becoming a Jesuit priest. His final post was as classics Professor in Dublin. None of his poetry was published during his lifetime; a friendship with (the later Poet Laureate ) Robert Bridges led to the first – posthumous – publication of GMH’s poetry in 1918.

Visit the Belper Town Council website: www.belpertowncouncil.co.uk

With thanks to the Derby Diocesan Council for their approval of the installation of this poem.