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Rachel Denton

Full-length portrait of Rachel Denton

Listen to highlights from interviews with Rachel.

Rachel Denton is a Roman Catholic hermit. She has taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and tries to live her life in simplicity, solitude and silence. She lives alone at her hermitage in rural Lincolnshire, St Cuthbert’s House, and spends long periods in prayer and contemplation.

Rachel was inspired to apply for a place on the plinth by the stylites of the fourth to sixth centuries. Stylites (from the Greek "stylos" or pillar) were Christian hermits who escaped the world by living on top of pillars in the Syrian desert. The best known were St Simeon the Elder and St Simeon the Younger, who lived on their pillars for 36 and 68 years. Rachel wanted to use her hour on the plinth as a means of Christian witness.

Rachel took her place on the plinth at 3pm on 8 October 2009. She erected a cross, which she described as a way to consecrate the plinth and brought a cushion and mat. Using her hour of what she described as "voluntary imprisonment", she prayed for prisoners. She felt they could not be on the plinth to represent themselves, so she would represent them. Rachel later learned that a woman who worked with prisoners at Leeds Armley jail had assembled a group of prisoners to pray for Rachel while she was on the plinth, as well as for others in jail at that time.

Rachel grew up in a devout Catholic family with five brothers and sisters. After she left university, she spent a year living with an enclosed order of Carmelite nuns, but decided it wasn’t for her. She spent the next 15 years teaching science in secondary schools, and, by 2001, was deputy head of a school in Cambridge. In that year, Rachel resigned and moved to rural Lincolnshire to begin her life as a hermit.

Rachel is officially known as a Hermit of the Diocese of Nottingham. She earns her living from her calligraphy workshop and also works in her garden, growing all her own vegetables. Although she lives as solitary a life as she can, Rachel does keep in contact with family and friends.

Photograph courtesy of Artichoke

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