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MUCH WOOLTON, LIVERPOOL: SAINT JOHN ALMOND, “FULL OF COURAGE AND READY TO SUFFER FOR CHRIST”

The Norris family of Speke Hall

“The Catholics of Woolton owe the preservation of the Faith in great measure to the family of Norris, of Speke Hall, two miles distant from Woolton. For several generations the Norris family played a prominent part in the life of Catholic Lancashire; one of the most interesting proofs of this is a document, preserved in the Public Record Office, endorsed ‘A Note of Papists and Priests assembled at St Winefrid’s Well on St Winefrid’s Day, 1629,’ of which a portion is printed in Vol. III Mis. Cat. Rec. Soc. as follows:

On St Winefrid’s day, 1629…

‘The Lord Will. Howard (Belted Bill), the Lord Shrewsburie, Sir Tho. Gerard, Sir Will. Norris, Sir Cuthbert Clifton, Mr. Preston of ye Manner (Furness), Mr. Anderton of Clayton, Mr. Anderton of Foarste, Mr. Gerard of Ince, Mr. Bradshaw of Haigh Hall, Mr. Harrington of Button Hey, Mr. Blundell of Crosbie, Mr. Scarisbrick of Scarisbrick, Sir John Talbot of Bashall Hall, Mr. Latham of Mossborow and his five sons who are all priests; The Lady Falkland, and with her Mr. Everard, the priest; Mr. Price, Mr. Clayton, priest; Sir Thos. Gerrard hath two priests resident in his house, namely Pittinger (Dom Dunstan Pettinger, O.S.B.) and Umpton. At Sir William Norris’s house, Speke Hall, two, namely Richardson (Robert) and Holland. At Sir Cuthbert Clifton’s two priests, Anderton and Smith; also Mr. Arrowsmith’s clothes and the knife to cut him up are at Sir Cuthbert Clifton’s house. Mr. Preston of the Manner hath two priests at his house – viz. John Mitchell and John Sefton. Mr. Mayfield, the priest (Will. Maxfield), is archdeacon under the Bishop Chalcedony, of Speke near the seashore.’

Speke Hall, ca. 1923

Speke Hall, ca. 1923

Speke Hall lies seven miles south of Liverpool on the banks of the Mersey. It was restored in the reign of Elizabeth and is now probably the most perfect example of the ancient timbered house. It contained many hiding-places for the priests who resorted to it – one in particular was said to lead to a subterranean passage affording easy access to the shore. Father Gibson (Lydiate and its Associations) gives the following instance when this passage would probably be used: ‘1586, Richard Brittain, a priest receipted in the house of Will. Bennet, of Westby, about the beginning of June last, from whence young Mr. Norris, of Speke, conveyed the said Brittain to the Speke as the said Bennet hath reported. The said Brittain remayneth now at the house of Mr. Norrice, of the Speke, as appeareth by the deposition of John Osbaldston.’

The young ‘Mr. Norrice’ mentioned above became, on the death of his father, Sir William Norris of Speke. He adhered to the ancient Faith, and had a strange altercation in 1631 with Mr. More, complaining that this latter ‘had been too precise in examining the church-wardens touching his, Sir William, not coming to church and that it was ungentlemanly dealing.’ Unfortunately the ‘altercation’ was not limited to words, for Sir William Norris later ‘drew his sword and struck the Plaintiff therewith, he being then a Justice of the Peace,’ for which assault he was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay the plaintiff £50 damages.

His wife was a ‘notorious recusant’

Regarding this family, Mr. Gillow says: ‘Edward Norreys of Speke Hall, against whose name Lord Bourghley in his map (1590) has placed a + , was the son and heir of Sir William Norreys. This latter was in so much trouble on account of his adherence to the ancient Faith in 1568. Edward Norreys, who built the greater portion of the Hall, was returned in 1590 as a suspected person – in religious matters – conforming in some degree, but of ‘evil note’; his wife was a notorious recusant, and in 1598 he had to pay £15 to the Queen’s service in Ireland. His children mostly adhered to the Catholic Faith, and at least one of his children suffered for it. Edward died in 1606. His son, Sir William Norreys, is described as ‘not conformable to the laws ecclesiastical, now established,’ and two years later he was a ‘convicted recusant,’ paying double taxes. He died in 1630.’

Thomas Norris, son of Sir William, who compounded for his estate during the Civil Wars for £508, was probably the last Catholic owner of Speke. The property was sold in 1797 to Mr. Richard Watt, but in accordance with the will of the late Miss Watt, who died in 1921, Speke Hall will again return to the Norris family.

Speke Hall, ca. 1923

Speke Hall, ca. 1923

Rev. John Almond

It was while Speke Hall was still in Catholic hands that Rev. John Almond died for the Catholic Faith. He was born about the year 1577 at Speke, so one account says, or on the borders of Alperton, as he himself states in his examination. He went to school at Much Woolton, and passed thence to the English College at Rheims and then to that at Rome. Little is known of his life on the Mission, but the following account of him is given in Challoner’s Memoirs of Missionary Priests: 

…came to suffer at Tyburn for the Catholic religion…

‘On Saturday, being 5th December, 1612, between 7 and 8 in the morning, came to suffer at Tyburn for the Catholic religion John Almond, a man of the age of 45, by his own relation; yet in his countenance more grave and staid, beginning to be besprinkled with hairs that were white – who having tarried beyond the seas about ten years to enable himself by his studies returned into his native country, where he exercised a holy life with all sincerity, and a singular good content to those that knew him, and worthily deserved both a good opinion of his learning and sanctity of life… full of courage and ready to suffer for Christ, that suffered for him.’

‘Ready to suffer for Christ, that suffered for him’

Mr. Almond, Challoner says, was apprehended on March 22, 1612, and brought before Mr. John King, lately advanced to the bishopric in London. At his examination he showed wonderful courage and most extraordinary acuteness, as the following will show. [A – Rev. John Almond; B – Anglican Bishop John King]

B. What is your name? A. My name is Francis. B. What else? A. Lathome. B. Is not your name Molyneux? A. No. B. I think I shall prove it to be so. A. You will have more to do than you ever had to do in your life. B. What countryman are you? A. A Lancashire man. B. In what place were you born? A. About Allerton. B. About Allerton! Mark the equivocation. Then not in Allerton? A. No equivocation. I was not born in Allerton, but in the edge or side of Allerton. B. You were born under a hedge then, were you? A. Many a better man than I, or you either, has been born under a hedge. B. What! you cannot remember that you were born in a house? A. Can you? B. My mother told me so. A. Then you remember not that you were born in a house, but only that your mother told you so; so much I remember, too. B. Were you ever beyond the seas? A. I have been in Ireland. B. How long since you came thence? A. I remember not how long since, neither is it material. B. Here is plain speaking, is it not? A. More plain than you would give, if you were examined yourself before some of ours in another place. A. I ask, are you a priest? A. I am not Christ; and unless I were Christ in your own grounds, I cannot be a priest. B. Are you a priest, yes or no? A. No man accuseth me. B. Then this is all the answer I shall have? A. All I can give unless proof come in. B. Where have you lived, and in what have you spent your time? A. Here is an orderly course of justice sure! What is it material where I have lived, or how I have spent my time, all the while I am accused of no evil?

He flung some three or four pounds in silver amongst the poor that crowded about the scaffold

He thus continued to parry the questions put to him through a long and tedious examination, after which he was committed to Newgate Prison, from whence after some months he was brought to trial, upon an indictment of high treason, for having taken orders beyond the sea by authority of the See of Rome, and for remaining in this country contrary to the laws. At his trial he showed the same vivacity of wit and resolution as he had done in his examination, but was brought in guilty by the jury, though he neither denied nor confessed his being a priest; and what proofs were brought of his being such do not appear.

At his execution he prayed earnestly for the king and all the royal family, and that his posterity might inherit the crown of England for ever. He flung some three or four pounds in silver amongst the poor that crowded about the scaffold, saying: ‘I have not much to bestow or give, for the keeper of Newgate hath been somewhat hard unto me and others that way, whom God forgive, for I do. For, I having been prisoner there since March, we have been ill-treated continually, for we were all put down into the hole or dungeon, or place called Little Ease, whence was removed since we came thither two or three cart-loads of filth or dirt; we were kept twenty-four hours without bread, meat or drink, loaded with irons, lodging on the damp ground, and so continued for ten days or thereabouts.’

‘Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my soul’

He gave the executioner a piece of gold, and desired him to give him a sign when the cart was to be drawn away, so that he might die with the name of Jesus in his mouth. He often repeated the words, ‘Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my soul,’ and at the sign being given, he cried, ‘Jesu, Jesu, Jesu,’ and than hanging for the space of three Paters [‘Our Father’, i.e. The Lord’s Prayer], some of the bystanders pulling him by the legs to dispatch his life, he was cut down and quartered, his soul flying quickly to Him who redeemed us all. So far the manuscript written by an eyewitness, says Bishop Challoner, who adds: ‘Mr. Almond suffered at Tyburn, December 5, 1612, in the forty-fifth year of his age, the eleventh of his Mission.’

The Molyneux family came to assist the Catholics of Woolton

It was not long after the Norris family had ceased to be Catholics, that the Molyneux family came to assist the Catholics at Woolton. About the year 1700 Hon. Richard Molyneux purchased the Woolton Hall estate, comprising the Hall and about 400 acres of land. He was then, says Mr. C. R. Hand, contemplating marriage, and like other young men in similar circumstances he became anxious about the house, and like some young men he paid for the house out of the money which his wife brought him. Although Richard’s father died in 1717, and he then succeeded to the title as Viscount Molyneux, he continued to live at the Hall until his death in 1738. Religious, political, and financial difficulties prevented him from moving to Croxteth Park, the family seat. On May 8, 1728, he made an important agreement with his lawyer, Isaac Greene, who charged in his bill for attending his Lordship at Woolton, and thus the view that Lord Molyneux lived on at Woolton is confirmed. It has recently transpired that in consequence of fines for recusancy and other disabilities the family was at this period in such straits that Isaac Greene, shrewd lawyer as he undoubtedly was, proposed to take over all the Molyneux estates and allow his Lordship a small annual income. Fortunately the kind offer was not accepted!

The family was in dire straits in consequence of government fines for recusancy etc.

During the Jacobite troubles of 1715, Lady Molyneux invited Dom Richard Holme, or Helme, of Goosnargh, to officiate at Woolton as the first priest. He had previously been chaplain to the Molyneux family at Sefton and Croxteth Halls, but he remained at Woolton until his death on December 18, 1717. Father Holme was succeeded by Dom Lawrence Kirby, who resided at Woolton till 1731, when he was removed to Childwall, dying there on July 18, 1743. He was followed by Dom William Lawrence Chapney, who died at Woolton, April 21, 1732. Dom Placid Thomas Hutton was the appointed chaplain, officiating at the Hall until his death on May 17, 1755, and after him came Dom Edward Bernard Catterall.

The founding of St Bennet’s Priory

Lady Molyneux continued to reside at Woolton Hall until her decease, and she was buried at Sefton, March 20, 1766. During the year before her death, in order to provide for the continuance of the Mission at Woolton, she gave twelve acres of land to the Order of St Benedict, and a chapel and presbytery, to which the name of St Bennet’s Priory was given, were erected, under the direction of Father Catterall, in Watergate Lane. On its completion Father Catterall took up his abode there permanently. This was probably occasioned by the proposed sale of the Hall to Nicholas Ashton. Father Catterall died at the Priory on September 9, 1781.

His house and chapel had been burned down by the ‘No Popery Association’

The noted Dom John Bede Brewer, D.D., was the next priest, coming from Bath, where his house and chapel had been burned down and demolished by the members of Lord George Gordon’s ‘No Popery Association.’ Dr. Brewer was famous as an erudite and brilliant theologian, and became later President of the English Congregation of the Order of St Benedict. It was on his invitation that the “black nuns” of the Benedictine Order came to Woolton, where they opened a seminary for young ladies in 1795, and in 1808 they removed to Abbot’s Salford, Stratford-upon-Avon. They are now settled at Stanbrook Abbey, near Worcester.

A Protestant minister, who came across the distressed nuns at an inn, amid uncongenial surroundings, kindly helped them 

Another account gives further details. On one occasion, when a party of Carmelite nuns had been beheaded, their clothes were taken and given to their English sisters in the prison. When the dresses of the murdered nuns were brought to them, the recipients received the gift on their knees, kissed them, and wet them with their tears. Thanks to the nuns being English, they did not suffer death, and when food became scarce they were liberated. They made their way across the Channel to Dover, thence to London. A Mr. Holt, a Lancashire Protestant minister, came across the distressed ladies at an inn, amid uncongenial surroundings, and he kindly undertook to find a better lodging for them. Dr. Brewer, of Woolton, hearing of them, invited the party to come to Southwest Lancashire; so, in 1795, they travelled down from London in three parties by stage coach to Woolton. Here they found employment as teachers of the seminary in connection with the Benedictine Mission in that ancient village.

In 1818 Dr. Brewer left for Ampleford College, but he returned to Woolton, where he died on April 18, 1822, and was buried at St Peter’s, Seel Street, Liverpool. His office of President of the Benedictine Order occasioning frequent duties elsewhere, he was assisted by Dom James Maurus Chaplin, Dom Stephen Hodgson (died April 9, 1822), and Dom James Calderbank (died April 9, 1821).

A man of great ability

Dr. Brewer was followed by Dom John Jerome Jenkins, who only remained here five years, being succeeded in 1824 by Dom Samuel Maurus Phillips. The latter was a man of great ability, ‘and drew large congregations’; in 1828 he enlarged the chapel, soon, however, to be in its turn too small for the Catholic worshippers of the district. Father Phillips died in 1855, and was buried in the little cemetery. Among others buried there have been a number of Catholic Irish, who, in 1847 (the fever year), had fled there, seeking in vain to escape the pestilence, Mr. Lomas, of Allerton Hall, and Mr. H. Bullen. The latter in his day was a public man; his name appears frequently in the Road Surveyor’s book, he having signed these records of the old township of Woolton. When the vault of the Bullen family, which is now overgrown with ivy, was opened to receive the body of a child, a corpse was exposed, which was found to be petrified. It was taken to a pond, washed, and replaced in the grave. In the wall of the garden nearest to Woolton Hall are two pillars. These indicate the site of the gate through which Lady Molyneux, the original foundress of the Mission, came to the church. The path through the graveyard garden is decorated with patterns formed of stones, mostly small cobbles, of a Maltese Cross, a Heart, a Monstrance, and other religious emblems.

The present church of St Mary

The Catholic population of Woolton becoming too great for the Priory chapel, it was deemed necessary to erect a larger place of worship, and the present church of St Mary was built by Dom R. P. Burchall, D.D., and opened on October 28, 1860. Dr. Burchall lived for some time at the Priory, and was the first to be buried in the grounds of the church, where his body now lies in the south-west corner. His funeral in March, 1885, was the occasion of a most imposing demonstration, as he was regarded by ‘Roman Catholics’ as by actual right the lawful Abbot of Westminster.

In 1870 Father J. P. O’Brien built St Mary’s presbytery and schools; Father J. P. Whittle, in 1878, enlarging the schools, and adding new vestries, confessionals, and a handsome cloister to the church.

The old chapel being no longer required, it was pulled down in 1872, and an addition made to the Priory on a portion of its site. There is thus nothing at all left of the former chapel. The year 1910 being the fiftieth anniversary of the building of St Mary’s, the Rector, Rev. Vincent Cornet, considered it a suitable opportunity for a complete renovation of the church, which was carried out at a cost of £1,000. The church is now considered by all who visit to be very beautiful.

A secret passage

It may further be mentioned in connection with the Priory and its chapel that the addiwere, on the left-hand side of the doorway, was mainly built of the materials of the old chapel, and erected on part of its site. The lawn immediately in front of that portion of the house is the old burial-ground. The grave-stones were levelled, and are a few inches under the surface. The right-hand side of the house is the original presbytery. Local tradition asserts that a subterranean passage under the meadow once afforded communication between the Hall and the Priory chapel.

In times of persecution the priests were so poor and danger of robbery so great, that chalices of pewter seem to have been in common use

There is preserved in the presbytery a chalice of pewter. It measures 5 3/4 inches in height, is 3 1/8 inches across the foot, and 3 inches across the bowl. It has been in the possession of the priests at Woolton for many years, and was in all probability unearthed in the old Priory burial-ground. It is now so corroded as to give it the appearance of having been at one time embossed. Mr. Charles Hand, whose ‘Notes on Woolton’ we have been following, seems to suggest that being of pewter it could not have been used in the Mass, but was merely a ‘coffin chalice,’ used at the internment of some priest. These pewter chalices are, however, so common in Lancashire, and so often occur in company with sets of vestments and other things, uncountably forming a part of the priest’s baggage, that the prevalent opinion now is that in times of persecution the priests were so poor and the danger of robbery so great, that chalices of pewter were in common use. When nicely polished, the pewter chalice could with difficulty be distinguished from that of silver.

The Woolton cross

In October, 1913, the old village cross of Catholic days was restored, the following account being contemporary. The cross now restored must have stood in the heart of the old village from the fourteenth century. The stump of the cross was removed for a time when the new Speke road was made, but was returned to its place in the year 1901 by the kindness of Colonel Reynolds, into whose garden it had been taken. It is now restored to something like its original form. The Woolton cross is Maltese in form, treated florally, and stands on a pedestal 6 feet high. On the north and south sides the Cross of the Knights Hospitallers is incised to record the association of that body with Woolton in the twelfth century, they having owned the greater portion of the land, and having a house of their Order there, the situation of which has never been ascertained. On the bronze band which serves to bind the new part with the old is this inscription:

Woolton Village Cross: Crux Potestas Dei (The Cross is the Power of God).

Colonel Reynolds, in a letter of apology for non-attendance at the opening, wrote that they had indeed come to better times in Woolton. He remembered his father begging to be allowed to be the custodian of the cross years ago, when it was demolished to allow for the widening of the Speke road. He had respected those ancient monuments of religious feeling in days gone by. The chairman of the meeting, Mr. Arthur S. Mather, through whose generosity the restoration had been made, said that the last act of the Urban Council was to arrange to have the old village cross restored, so that when the district was handed over to Liverpool they might hand over the cross renovated and restored as a momento of the good old times.

How does the silver chalice dated 1697 fit into the picture?

An interesting link between Woolton and the Molyneux family is the silver chalice, now at St. Alexander’s, Bootle. Dean Powell stated that in 1875 he bought this chalice from a dealer in old silver, who had thought of melting it down. It stands 7 inches high and weighs 13 ounces. On the underside of the foot is engraved in Roman capitals of the time: EX DONO D. C. MOLINEUX DNO RICHARDO HOLME ANGLO-BENED 1697. The giver of the chalice was Caryll, third Viscount Molyneux, who with his brother Richard raised two regiments for the King in the great Civil War, and was outlawed by Parliament. He died at Croxteth February 2, 1699. The recipient of the gift was Rev. Richard Holme, mentioned above as Chaplain to the Molyneux family at Sefton and Croxteth Halls, and latterly at Woolton.

Granting that Dean Powell is correct in his history of the Molyneux chalice, whence does the chalice now at Woolton come from? It is quite the equal of the Molyneux chalice, bears the hall mark H.L. and a lion passant, while on the foot is the lettering, ‘M.H., obiit Sepr. 2°, 1694.’ I had hoped to identify this with one of the Molyneux, so that the lettering would read, ‘Molyneux gave this chalice to Holmes.’ On the other hand, Dom Gilbert Dolan, O.S.B., in his paper to this Society (Hist. of Lancs. and Ches.) statestates that in 1717 Richard Hitchmough, the noted informer, deposed before the Commissioners for Forfeited Estates that ‘at Mrs. Harrington’s, at Aigburth, Co. Lancs., was one silver chalice and paten, which he had seen and used when officiating at the Altar there.’ But if M. H. refers to one of the Harringtons we have still to find out which Harrington died September 2, 1694; so far my enquiries have failed to do so.

How the government tried to break people’s spirits and succeeded in some cases

With reference to the statement that the Molyneux family had been greatly impoverished by fines, other examples, selected out of thousands are here given. The Norris family had an estate in West Derby, now marked by Norris Green. William Norris, of West Derby, had two sons, Henry and John, both living in 1566. Andrew, grandson of Henry, as a convicted recusant paid double to the subsidy of 1628. His children petitioned for annuities from the estate, which had evidently been sequestered for papacy. It was found that the sons were recusants, and a third of their annuities was allowed; the daughters were also recusants; the estates of Henry, the eldest brother, were under sequestration for recusancy. John Norris, brother of Henry, had three sons – Charles, Richard and Andrew – all Jesuits. But their cousin, Richard, son of Henry Norris, yielded to the persecution. Thomas Marsden, Vicar of Walton, wrote in 1681, asking a favour of him, as he ‘was not yet cleared in the Exchequer for his recusancy, and had heard his name was in the list of such as should have £20 a month levied upon their heads.’ Under these circumstances, the threat of fresh persecution, as the result of the infamous Oates plot, appears to have broken the resolution of ‘Mr. Norris, of Derby,’ who conformed to the legally established religion. It is a sad reflection that his apostasy did not save his estates; the family disappeared from notice, and all the property was later in the hands of a banker, of Liverpool (Vict. Hist., p. 37).

Instances of the fines inflicted on the poorer Catholics of those days may not be without interest. William Ballard, a leaseholder in Speke, had two-thirds of his estate sequestered for recusancy. Margaret Harrison, a widow, of Hale, had two-thirds of her estate sequestered for recusancy, and on her death her grandson, Thomas Harrison, applied for the removal of the sequestration. Thomas Lathom, of Allerton, suffered the like penalty (Vict. Hist., p. 103).

Again, in 1593 Edward Tarleton was considered ‘an obstinate recusant,’ but ‘could not be found by the Sheriff’; five years later he was, as a recusant, assessed at £10 for the Queen’s service in Ireland. His son and successor, also Edward Tarleton, in 1628, as a ‘convicted recusant,’ paid double to the subsidy. He died in 1653, leaving two sons. On account of their religion their estates had been sequestered (Vict. Hist., p. 127).”

– Dom F. O. Blundell, O.S.B., Old Catholic Lancashire, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London, 1925

 

 

 

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WHAT HAPPENED TO LYTHAM, LANCASHIRE, AFTER THE GOVERNMENT’S DISSOLUTION OF THE CATHOLIC MONASTERIES?

Lytham

“At the dissolution of the monasteries, the former Benedictine Cell of Lytham, which had been a dependency of Durham Abbey, was granted to Sir Thomas Holcroft, a noted ‘trafficker’ in confiscated monastic possessions. He sold the property to Sir Cuthbert Clifton, and thus Lytham became the principal residence of the Cliftons, a family which had held large estates in Lancashire as early as 1258. Sir Cuthbert Clifton was a staunch Catholic, for at the dissolution of the monasteries he gave a home in his own house to Thomas Prymbett for the rest of his life, inasmuch as Prymbett had been the officiating priest of the Clifton Chantry at the parish church of Kirkham.

The exact spot occupied by the Benedictine monastery is now unknown

The exact spot occupied by the Benedictine cell is unknown, but it is thought to have been on or near the site of the present Hall at Lytham; for in the walls of some of the offices attached to it, remains of the ancient monastic edifice have been incorporated. Sir Cuthbert Clifton built the first Hall in 1625 on his first possessing the estate, and a large room was constructed within it, most probably for a chapel. This remained unaltered when the Hall was rebuilt by Thomas Clifton in 1764. So far the Catholic Annual and I quite agree with the account; but when it goes on to say, ‘It was used for Mass up to the year 1800. It is now in existence and is used as a lumber room,’ these two sentences seem to me to apply only to the chapel wing, which was built in 1764, as the date cut in stone bears witness. Nothing more likely than that Thomas Clifton in 1764, when he was building the new Hall, would construct a special chapel and a priest’s room, and place these at the back of the Hall for secrecy, since emancipation had not then been granted. But the ‘large room’ constructed in 1625, and remaining unaltered in 1764, is the ‘picture-gallery’ so called. There would be little object in placing so large a room on the second floor of the house, unless it were that its size might accommodate the tenantry and neighbouring Catholics, and its retired position ensure the desired amount of secrecy.

Lytham Hall, "The Large Room", ca. 1923

Lytham Hall, “The Large Room”, ca. 1923

‘The man at the top of the house’

The above is confirmed by the practice, common in times of persecution, of speaking of the priest or chaplain at these Catholic houses as ‘the man at the top of the house.’ Our illustration shows ‘the large room,’ and here from 1625 to 1764 holy Mass was offered by the numerous priests who, in succession, served the Catholics of Lytham. The old oak floor, well worn by generations of faithful Catholic worshippers, comes out well in the photograph. In passing, it may be mentioned that similar ‘large rooms’ are found in many of the old Catholic houses; for example, at Speke Hall and at Astley Hall, near Chorley, both of which were built at the time when their owners were staunch Catholics.

The site where the Hall now stands has been uses as a chapel of persecution times from 1554 to 1800

In any case, the site where the Hall now stands has been used for Catholic services, as a Benedictine cell from 1199 till the Reformation, and as a chapel of persecution times from 1554 to 1800. It certainly has associations venerable to the Catholics of to-day. From 1800 to 1839 Mass was said in a tythe-barn fitted up as a chapel, the priest living in a house close by. In 1839 the present church, dedicated to St Peter, was solemnly opened by Bishop Briggs, and thus the days of the Hall chapel, with its services in concealment and secrecy, passed away, and the Catholics of Lytham rapidly increased in numbers and importance in the town.

Father Anderton was apprehended and exiled by the Government agencies, but he managed to return

MrMr. Gillow (Cat. Rec. Soc., Vol. XVI) gives a complete list of the priests who served the Mission of Lytham, of which the following is an abbreviation. The first was Rev. Lawrence Anderton, S.J., alias Scroop, alias Hart, who wrote many learned works under the pseudonym ‘John Brereley, Priest.’ He had studied at the University of Cambridge, where he gained the title of ‘Silver-mouthed Anderton.’ He published several controversial works, which were printed at the secret printing press at his cousin’s house at Lostock Hall, and later at Birchley Hall. At some period Father Anderton was apprehended and exiled, but he seems soon to have returned to the Mission, and it is probable that he became chaplain to Sir Cuthbert Clifton, when this latter removed from West by to Lytham till his death in 1643, aged sixty-seven. In 1629 we have the mention of ‘Anderton and Smith, two priests at Sir Cuthbert Clifton’s’ (Cat. Rec. Soc. Miss., III, 108).

Father William Shackleton, alias Stanton, alias Bannister, S.J., succeeded Father Anderton at Lytham Hall, where he is found baptising many of the Cliftons. He died there in 1655, aged seventy-one.

He received a letter which apparently had been intercepted

Father Augustus Heneage, alias Newby, S.J., came to Lytham in 1653, two years before Father Shackleton’s death. He was brother-in-law to Sir Thomas Clifton, whose wife Bridget was Father Heneage’s sister. From a letter of the Earl of Derby to the Duke of Albemarle dated from Lathom House, March 10, 1664, it appears that Father Heneage, like his predecessor, was an active controversialist. The Earl enclosed a letter, dated February 21, 1664, which apparently had been intercepted, from Augustus Heneage, ‘a supposed priest, living in Sir Thomas Clifton’s house, to Mr. Edward Keynes, S.J., who lived with Sir Cecil Trafford.’ Father Heneage had had ‘verbal skirmishes with his old friends, the Nigri (Anglican ministers), who showed ignorance and knavery,’ and asked Father Keynes to send him John Lewgar’s Erastus Senior, published in 1662. This book, says Mr. Gillow, whose account we are following, referred to the question of the validity of Anglican ordinations, and made so great an impression upon the Anglican clergy, who thereby became sensible to the defects of the ordination forms of the episcopacy and priesthood hitherto in use, that immediately after its publication in the year 1662 it was made obligatory by a decree of Convocation to use more explicit forms. In consequence both Father Heneage and Father Keynes had to fly from their respective stations. The former went to London, where he died a victim to the plague, January 18, 1669, aged fifty-two.

He was taken to the Tower of London to be tried for his life on a trumped-up charge

Father John Stevenson, S.J., came to Lytham Hall in 1676, and remained there till his death in 1692, when he was succeeded by Father Thomas Blundell, S.J., third son of William Blundell, of Crosby. Two years later Sir Thomas Clifton was arrested at Wrea Green, July 17, 1694, taken to the Tower of London, and brought back to Manchester to be tried for his life on a trumped-up charge of high treason, with Sir William Gerard of Bryn, and a number of other Lancashire gentlemen. He was acquitted, but the strain had been too great, and he died on November 13. It is probable that he died before he could return to Lytham. Anyhow, his body was carried to Kirkham for internment with his ancestors in the parish church.

Lytham Hall, ca. 1923

Lytham Hall, ca. 1923

‘O death, where is thy victory?’

But before starting on its last journey, ‘a funeral sermon upon Sir Thomas Clifton,’ under the text ‘O death, where is thy victory?’ was preached by Rev. Richard Jameson. Father Blundell remained at Lytham Hall till his death ‘in Mr. Clifton’s house on Wednesday, 27th May, 1702. His body was carried to Crosby and buried in ye Harkirke on ye 29th. He was a learned man, aged 55’ (Crosby Records, p. 81). These were wonderful times, when the Catholic lord of the manor died in prison, or at any rate died as the result of imprisonment, as did Sir Thomas Clifton, whilst his chaplain only eight years later was carried in funeral procession the long distance from Lytham to Crosby. But then the good priest wished to be buried in consecrated ground, and certainly no more beautiful spot could be found than the little Catholic cemetery of Harkirke, which had cost his forefathers so dear. [Footnote: ‘Blundell of Crosby was fined £2,000, equal to £20,000 of the present money [around 1923], for burying Papists and other excommunicated persons in Harkirke.]

The feeling against Catholics was so great, and the bigotry so violent, that the door of the chapel had to be locked before Father Mansell began Mass

Father Ralph Hornyhold, alias Glover, S.J., was priest at Lytham from 1702 till 1722; Father Christopher Burton, S.J., 1722 to 1728; Father John Gosling, alias Bennett, S.J., 1728 to 1741. Early in 1729 the Vicar-Apostolic of the Northern District, Bishop Thomas Williams, O.P., made his visitation at Lytham, and confirmed in the Hall chapel 247 persons belonging to the Lytham and West by congregations. Father Berington, alias Harper, S.J., was at Lytham only two years when he died, and was interred in Lytham parish church, the registers of which contain the entry, ‘John Harper (R.C.) from ye Hall, 18 Aug. 1743.’

Father John Talbot, alias Mansell, came to Lytham in September, 1743, and his salary from the Cliftons seems to have been increased to £13; no mean figure, be it noted, for 100 years after this the allowance from Propaganda to the priests in the Highlands of Scotland was only £12. After the rising of 1745 in favour of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the feeling against Catholics was so great, and the bigotry so violent, that the door of the chapel at Lytham Hall had to be locked before Father Mansell began Mass. In a report to his superiors in 1750, he returned the number of communicants in his congregation at 230. In January, 1753, he began the existing baptismal register. In 1767 the Protestant Bishop of Chester had a report drawn up of all Catholics in his diocese, and ‘John Mansell, alias Talbot, Jesuit priest,’ appears as chaplain to Thomas Clifton, Esq., the congregation being estimated at 384. In 1774 Bishop Walton confirmed 148 persons in the Hall chapel, and ten years later Bishop Mathew Gibson confirmed eighty-six persons…

In 1791 Father Mansell, enfeebled by age, retired from Lytham, where he had been priests in charge for nearly fifty years. He died at Walton-le-dale, near Preston, in 1799, aged ninety. Meanwhile the Society of Jesus had been suppressed in 1773, and as the ‘gentlemen of the ex-Society,’ as they were called, gradually became reduced in numbers, they withdrew from the Lytham Mission, to which a Benedictine in the person of the Rev. William Blacow, O.S.B., was appointed, who remained till 1793.

A tythe-barn was fitted up as a chapel

Dom Richard Pope, O.S.B., was here ten years – 1793 to 1803. It was during his incumbency that the chapel in the Hall was closed, and a tythe-barn just outside the park was fitted up as a chapel. The Mission was then handed over to the Bishop of the Northern Vicariate, who appointef Rev. Thomas Dawson. Owing to ill-health, he had numerous assistants, Rev. John Lawson being definitely appointed as his curate in 1820. Both these priests left in 1829 for Croston Hall, and later they together started the Mission at Mawdesley.

Of Mr. Pope the story is told that he used to ride a very poor-looking old pony, and riding one day in the neighbourhood of Chorley he was overtaken by several young gentlemen also riding – one of them being the late Mr. Townley Parker – who had recently been made magistrates (J.P.). They began to chaff him about his pony, and advised him to get a donkey instead. He very quietly said, ‘I would, but, unfortunately, they are very bad to get, as they have all been made J.P.s.’

In 1839, the present church was opened

Rev. Joseph Walmesley came to Lytham in 1829, and remained till his death in 1873, when he was buried at The Willows, Kirkham. In 1839 he opened the present church, dedicated to St Peter, and fitted up the new church with benches and other furniture from the old tythe-barn chapel. After being Rector of the Mission for over forty-four years, Mr. Walmesley died in harness, August 16, 1873, aged seventy-one, respected by all the inhabitants of Lytham, and held in affectionate memory by many people to this day.

Rev. Roger Taylor was priest at Lytham from 1874 to 1885. In 1874 he enlarged the schools and built an infant school. In 1875-76 he erected new sacristies and constructed the side chapels, and in the following year he added a new high altar, Lady altar, and altar of St. Joseph. He was succeeded by his brother, Canon James Taylor, who built the spacious new rectory, and in 1892 opened the cemetery and mortuary chapel. Canon O’Reilly, the present rector, succeeded, and has recently entirely renovated the church building…

Colonel Talbot Clifton, who had been reconciled to the Church in 1878 built the handsome tower at the cost of £1,000; he likewise re-leased the rectory for ninety-nine years and the church for 999 years on a nominal chief rent. His funeral was one of the most impressive events in the history of Lytham, the priest having most thoughtfully sent a mortuary card to each and every Catholic house in the parish, feeling sure – as he said – that they would be glad to possess a moment of one who had endeared himself to all. As the local paper expressed it: ‘The fact of the family having been members of the Catholic Church accounts for the non-appearance of the name of Clifton on the roll of Sheriffs from the time of the Reformation. Their long and steadfast adherence to the ancient Faith was no doubt one of the principal means of so large a portion of The Fylde remaining attached to the Catholic Church.'”

– Dom F. O. Blundell, O.S.B., Old Catholic Lancashire, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London, 1925

 

 

 

 

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THE HAMLET OF GILLMOSS, LANCASHIRE, WHERE THE LAMP OF FAITH WAS KEPT BURNING THROUGHOUT THE TIMES OF PERSECUTION OF CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS

A brief history 

“Rev. Thomas Taylor, for many years priest at Gillmoss, contributed to the Catholic Annual Directory for 1913 a most interesting account of this Mission. Previously to that Dom Gilbert Dolan had published in the Transactions of the Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire a fairly detailed list of the priests who had served this mission. From these two sources the following is compiled.

He practised the Catholic Faith in secret

Two miles beyond the village of West Derby, and skirting Croxteth Park, the ancestral home of the Molyneux family, lies the hamlet of Gillmoss, where the Lamp of the Faith was kept burning throughout the times of persecution by the lords of Molyneux, who remained staunch adherents of the Old Faith till their unfortunate son forsook it in 1769, just when happier days were dawning. In Lord Burghley’s map of Lancashire, dated 1590, a cross is placed against the name of Sir Richard Molyneux, of Croxteth Hall, as being one of the popish recusants, against whom the penal laws were to be rigorously enforced. In the ‘Vewe of ye State of ye Countie’ it is said that ‘he maketh shew of good conformitie, but many of his company ar in evell note.’ He temporised outwardly and practised his religion in secret. His children were brought up Catholics, and all his descendants remained so till the premature death of the father of the ninth Viscount Molyneux. Throughout the days of persecution Mass was regularly said in the private chapels of Croxteth and Sefton. Among the noble confessors for the Faith in times of persecution there were several Molyneux: Caryll, Viscount Molyneux (Baronet of Sefton and third Viscount Molyneux of Maryborough in Ireland); John Molyneux, of the Wood, Melling, who died in Salford Gaol in 1581 for harboring six Catholic priests (one of them was the famous Cardinal Allen); Anthony Molyneux, Esq., who was banished from the kingdom for his Faith, and who died in 1586 in St Dominica; and also Father Thomas Molyneux, S.J., who was tried at Newcastle Assizes for being a priest and a Jesuit. He was poisoned in Morpeth Prison on January 12, 1681, aged forty-three.

There were many witnesses of this murder

As there were many witnesses of this murder, the prison authorities gave it out that this holy priest had committed suicide, and they cast his body on a dungheap for the fanatical mob to cast all kinds of filth on it. When the body was exhumed ten years later, it was found perfectly incorrupt and as white and flexible as that of a living person. In 1746, when the Lord of the Manor was a Jesuit priest – the Rev. William, seventh Viscount Molyneux – there were seven members of this family in the Society of Jesus. For more than two centuries, in defiance of the savage penal laws then in force, a chaplain was maintained at Croxteth Hall to minister to the Catholics in the neighbourhood, and the ancient Mission, now known as Gillmoss, had its origin in this chaplaincy.

The old chapel and presbytery, Gillmoss

The old chapel and presbytery, Gillmoss, ca. 1923

In defiance of the savage penal laws in force…

In 1768 Charles William, ninth Viscount Molyneux (who was created first Earl of Sexton in 1772 in reward for his desertion of the Catholic Faith), caused a presbytery to be built up to the end of a farmhouse at Gillmoss, near Croxteth Hall, and converted the attics in this farmhouse into a chapel, to be used by the residents in place of the chapel at the Hall. Regarding the unfortunate lapse of the head of this once great Catholic family a recent writer has with much fairness said: ‘Hon. Charles William became ninth Viscount Molyneux on the death of his uncle, Rev. Viscount Molyneux, S.J., in 1769. He was at this time only eleven years of age. It has frequently been asserted that he ’embraced’ Protestantism [the compulsory belief-system enforced by the state], and he has been stigmatised as an ‘apostate’; but as his father had left him under the guardianship of the Protestant Duke of Beaufort and others, without any stipulation as to religion, it is highly improbable that he had any opportunities of being brought up a Roman Catholic. At the age of twenty he publicly read ‘a renunciation of the Errors of the Church of Rome’ before the curate and clerk of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields, London, on 5th March, 1769. This curious document is now in the muniment room at Croxteth.’ The truth is that the responsibility in this matter rests with the Government of the time, which seized every opportunity of placing Catholic minors under Protestant guardians, thus ensuring the Protestant education of the heirs to great estates. The Penal Laws being then in force, the relatives had no redress. This same device was practised in the case of the young Bradshaigh, of Haigh Hall, and many other leading English families, and also in the still more remarkable case of the young Duke of Gordon in Scotland in 1728, whose father, the second Duke, died from the effects of a hurried journey from the Highlands to London to defend the little Catholic chapel of St Ninian in the Enzie from desecration.

He had hurried to defend the little Catholic chapel of St Ninian from desecration

The chaplains at Croxteth Hall were the following: From 1600 to 1634 the names of the chaplains are not yet known; in all probability the Rev. John Birtwistle, who came from Valladolid in 1600, served here till his death, when he was buried at Harkirk, February 26, 1620; the Rev. Thomas Fazakerley, alias Ashton, came from Rome in 1636, and died here March 22, 1664, and was buried at Harkirk; the Rev. John Birtwistle died here January 26, 1680, and was buried at Harkirk; Rev. Thomas Martin, a native of Ireland, died here, and was buried at Harkirk, June 11, 1691; Father Albert Babthorpe, S.J., was here in 1701-1704, but was probably tutor to the family, for the chaplaincy was served by the secular clergy; Richard Hitchmough, alias Barker, the notorious apostate, informer, and pursuivant, states that he was chaplain here in 1709.

The snares of worldly rewards

He had become an apostate in 1714, and was rewarded for his treachery with the vicarage of Whenby in Yorkshire. In 1717 Hitchmough informed the Commissioners for Forfeited Estates that ‘at Croxteth in the hundred of Derby, in the County of Lancaster, the seat of the Rt. Hon. William, Viscount Molyneux, were one large silver chalice double gilt within with gold; one large paten of pure gold; two silver crucibles alias cruets, for wine and water; one silver plate upon which the said crucibles did stand; six tall silver candlesticks; and a large silver crucifix, the whole solid silver, and which the Lady Molyneux, the first wife to his present Lordship, told this deponent cost his Lordship £400 in London. All the above plate this deponent says he saw often in the year 1709, at which time he officiated there as chaplain to his Lordship.’ Certainly, the family at that time had the true Catholic spirit, when they so handsomely provided for the celebration of holy Mass; but this generosity was almost universal in the old Catholic homes of Lancashire and of England generally.

The Government rewarded informers with titles, money and property of Catholic Christians

But to continue the list of chaplains: Father Thomas Worthington, O.P., was here from 1713 to 1717, when the fourth Viscount died. Father Worthington’s register is now at Middleton in Yorkshire. Between the years 1713 and 1717 four marriages are recorded, the second on the list being that of William, Viscount Molyneux, to Mary Skelton, but as Lord Molyneux died in the following year, this marriage apparently has never been given in the Peerage. It is witnessed by – Skelton, Robert Molyneux, James Leyburn, and Father Worthington. The rest of the book contains thirty-one baptisms under the heading, ‘List of those baptised by Father Thomas Worthington, Miss. Apost. 1713 to 1717,’ and most of these are stated to have taken place ‘in capella de Croxteth.’ A little further on occurs the entry: ‘1727, 11 Aug. I received of Sister Veronica a crown for Bro. Ivor A ducate on account of M. Skeldon…. Two little rings and a silver Seal for Neece Ursula from Sister and Aunt; she being dead I left ’em for nephew Tom with Mrs. Molyneux of Mosborow.’ (Copy of register at Somerset House, kindly supplied by R. J. Broadbent, Esq.)

The Catholic Relief Act had not yet been passed…

Rev. Richard Jameson, who was serving the Mission of Bardsea, a hunting seat of Lord Molyneux, till the troubles of 1715, when he fled to Ashton, probably succeeded Father Worthington. Father Richard Billinge, S.J., was here on March 5, 1720; Father John Cuerdon, of the Discalced Carmelites, served here from Sefton from September, 1726. In 1728 Bishop Williams confirmed 207 persons here. Rev. Robert Kendal came to Croxteth in or about 1733, and died there April 19, 1746, aged forty-five, and was buried at Sexton as ‘Priest from Crocksteth.’

Caryll, the sixth Viscount, having died a few months before Father Kendal, was succeeded by Father William Molyneux, S.J., who transferred the chaplaincy to his own order. Father Charles Dormer, S.J., sixth Lord Former, was appointed in 1747, but removed to Foole Hall, Cheshire, in September, 1750; Father John Bodenham came in 1750, and died here that same year. Father Sebastian Redford was appointed in November, 1750, and stayed till 1756. The chaplaincy at the Hall was then transferred to the Benedictines, who had long served that at Sefton Hall.

It was illegal to build a Catholic chapel

From 1756 to 1768 Dom Bernard Bennet Bolas, O.S.B., served as chaplain. In 1768 the Croxteth Hall chaplaincy ceased through the approaching marriage and change of religion of Charles William, ninth Viscount Molyneux, who married Isabella Stanhope, daughter of the Earl of Harrington, and who provided a new chapel in the attics of a farmhouse at Gillmoss and a presbytery for Father Bolas in place of the chapel at Croxteth Hall, as already narrated.

Father Bolas, O.S.B., had charge of the ‘old chapel’ from 1768 till his death in 1773. This chapel may be seen by visitors at any time, and will be found in the same condition as in Father Bolas’s days. In the illustration the centre building contains the chapel, which ran from end to end of the attic. On visiting it one is surprised to find how roomy it is. A very similar position is seen at Hornby, where the large attic above the priest’s house was evidently intended for a chapel. One must of course bear in mind that the first Catholic Relief Act had not yet been passed: hence it was illegal to build a Catholic chapel, and the best that could be done was to use the space under the roof. A visit to these attic chapels is very instructive and serves to impress on the mind the difficulties of our Catholic forefathers.

It serves to impress on the mind the difficulties of our Catholic forefathers

Oftentimes distinguished visitors attended this hallowed sanctuary, as it is shown by the following record on the back of one of the baptismal registers at Gillmoss in the handwriting of Rev. Joseph Emmott, S.J., who was then the priest there: ‘During the month of September, 1812, Mons. le Comte d’Artois, with his attendants, the Baron de Rolles and the Duc de Berri, paid his customary annual visit to Croxteth Hall, and, as usual, came regularly to prayers at Gillmoss. His seat in the chapel, known by the name of ‘the King of France’s seat,’ is the one nearest to the Gospel side of the Altar.’ The Comte d’Artois became Charles X, King of France, in 1824, his elder brother, the Comte de Provence, ascending the French throne in 1814 as Louis XVIII. Both were brothers of the ill-fated Louis XVI, who was guillotined during the Revolution. The Duc de Berri, son of the Comte d’Artois, and father of the Comte de Chambord (the last of the elder branch of the Bourbons), was assassinated by Louvel in 1820.

The future King of France had attended Mass regularly at Gillmoss

The priests who ministered for fifty-six in the old chapel (1768-1824) were: Father Bolas, O.S.B. (1768-1773); Father Joseph Emmott, S.J., who states in one of the registers that he came to Gillmoss on April 10, 1773, and who died there in 1816, aged eighty-two. During his time Bishop Walton confirmed in the ‘old chapel’ 200 persons (June, 1774). In 1783 the congregation was reckoned to number 200. In October, 1784, Bishop Matthew Gibson confirmed 62 persons, the communicants being returned at 175.

St Swithin's Church and presbytery, Gillmoss, ca. 1923

St Swithin’s Church and presbytery, Gillmoss, ca. 1923

‘For the glory of God and the benefit of the neighbouring Catholics’

The Jesuit Fathers attended the Mission till the year 1887, when it was transferred to the secular clergy, and Rev. John Kelly took charge. He was succeeded in 1891 by Rev. Thomas Taylor, to whom we are indebted for much of the above account. Rev. Wilfred Carr came to Gillmoss in 1913 and remained till 1921. Of the Jesuit Fathers, the two who resided longest at Gillmoss were Father Joseph Cope and Father Edward Morrison. The former built the present church of St Swithin a few yards distant from the ‘old chapel,’ and added the presbytery in 1826. His epitaph may be read on the right of the church-door entrance as follows: ‘Sacred to the memory of the Rev. Joseph Cope, S.J., who for the glory of God and the benefit of the neighbouring Catholics, by great personal exertions, mainly contributed to the erection of this chapel. Loved in life, he died lamented on 20th Dec., 1834, in the forty-fifth year of his age.’ Other Jesuits buried here are Fathers West, Morron, Hilton, Brindle, Noble, Etheridge, etc., whilst of the laity the names occur of many good old Catholic families, it being a favourite burial-place for the Catholic gentry. And, as it were, to link up Gillmoss with the Molyneux family, the Molyneux arms (azure, a cross moline) were fixed in stone on the outside wall over the entrance door of the present church of St Swithin, when it was opened in 1824, whilst in the cemetery lie buried Captain Hon. Roger Molyneux, and his only son, Roger Anthony, aged ten-and-a-half, who was buried at St Swithin’s in 1902, whilst all around lie the remains of old-time worthies, with names redolent of the Lancashire soil.

Two altar stones of penal times of rough slate and stone

There are some large and valuable oil-paintings hanging on the walls of the present church – The Last Supper, The Crucifixion, The Dead Christ, Mater Dolorosa, etc. – which pictures probably came from Croxteth Hall after Lord Molyneux had forsaken the religion of his forefathers in 1769. In the sacristy is the ‘Molyneux Ciborium,’ on the rim of which are scratched the following words: ‘The gift of ye Hon. Mary Molyneux to Croxteth, 1738. Pray for her.’ Also two altar stones of penal times of rough slate and stone, on which holy Mass had often been said.”

– Dom F. O. Blundell, O.S.B., Gillmoss, in Old Catholic Lancashire, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London, 1925

 

 

 

 

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A SHORT HISTORY OF PLEASINGTON PRIORY AND OLD HALL, BLACKBURN

The martyred priest’s grave has recently been discovered

“Three miles west of Blackburn is Pleasington Old Hall. There is a tradition that at one time it was monastic property; later it became the home of the de Plesyngton family, whose history can be traced through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. At the end of the fourteenth century the manorial estate passed with the marriage of an heiress into the de Aynsworth family. These Ainsworths held it for about four hundred years, the last direct male representative of the family dying in 1779. His estates, being heavily mortgaged, had been publicly sold by auction two years before, and were bought by Mr. Richard Butler, of Preston, a cadet of the ancient family of Butler of Rawcliffe. Mr. Butler built the New Hall, and laid out the extensive gardens and park. Regarding the de Plesyngton family, it gave a martyr to the Church in the person of Father William Plessington, for many years chaplain to Mr. Massey, of Puddington. He was tried for his priesthood at Chester, and executed July 19, 1679. His grave has recently been discovered at Burton in Wirral.

Pleasington Old Hall, ca. 1923

Pleasington Old Hall, ca. 1923

A font for holy water and a secret chamber

The Old Hall, of which an illustration is given, is still perfect, despite a few more recent improvements. There are many quaint recesses in the walls, one being for holy water, according to tradition; whilst recently a hidden chamber was unexpectedly discovered, pointing to the priests of old having been hidden there. What may be stored in the attics under the roof cannot at the moment be discovered; for the present tenant, who takes great pride in the old house, tried more than once to make his way into the topmost floor, but the boarding would not carry his weight and the ceiling of the room below gave way under his feet. There is, however, the constant tradition that Mass was said here, and at some future date interesting discoveries may be made. The old doorway is very remarkable; it is divided into five panels, the first and last reading: R. H. 1587, Richard Ainsworth; the second, T. H., for Thomas Hoghton and his crest – a bull’s head couped; the third, three battle axes for Robert Ainsworth; the fourth, J. S., for John South worth and his crest – a bull’s head erased. The Ainsworths, Hoghtons, and Southworths were the chief landowners in Pleasington at that date.

Pleasington Priory

Mr. John Francis Butler, son of the aforesaid Richard, built the present church as an act of thanksgiving for his recovery from and accident, whereby he was nearly killed on the spot where the church now stands. The building was begun in 1816 and completed in 1819, at a cost of £20,000, though a competent authority states that it would cost three times that sum nowadays. The church is a large and lofty fabric in the early decorated style of Gothic architecture, and comprises nave with clerestory, side isles, and octagonal chancel apse. It is built of hand-dressed stone, and ornamental with countless statues and designs. The total length is 119 feet, and the width 60 feet. In the interior, the aisles are divided from the have by arcades of pointed arches, the nave from the chancel by a bold pointed arch.

Father Edward Kenyon was the first resident priest, and justly was he proud of his new church. At that date there was nothing to compare it with in Lancashire, or indeed in any part of England; even to-day, after a hundred years, the writer knows no church which has so pleasing an effect. This is largely due to the improvements carried out in 1913, when stained glass was put in the chancel windows, the gift of the late Monsignor Canon Burke, as a memorial to his parents. The coloured windows areare justly described as ‘a splendid example of the designer’s art.’ The subjects are Blessed Thomas More, Blessed John Fisher, Blessed John Forest, O.S.F., the Crucifixion in the centre, then Blessed Richard Whiting, Abbot O.S.B., Blessed Thomas Hoghton, Carthusian, Blessed Edmund Campion, S.J., and below these three windows to each scene, The Annunciation, The Nativity, The Baptism of Our Lord.

The succession of priests has been as follows: Rev. Edward Kenyon (1816-1828), when he retired to Woolston – he died there in 1837; Rev. P. Orrell (1828-1834); T. Holden (1834-1839); H. Sharples, later Bishop (1840-1845); Rev. John Pedduzzi, Rural Dean (1846-1878); H. Mulvaney (1882-1890); J. Lawless (1890-1915); Rev. Anthony van der Beek (1915).

Pleasington Priory, ca. 1923

Pleasington Priory, ca. 1923

At Pleasington are several pieces of very handsome altar silver – namely, a monstrance, thurible, and incense boat – all hall-marked. They bear the de Hoghton crest, and on each is inscribed the words, ‘Ora pro Guglielmo Hoghton.’ The hall marks are interesting: the date letter a capital X 1817; the crown for Sheffield, inverted to differentiate the earlier marks; the lion passant and R. G. on a scroll for Robert Gainsford. He entered his mark in 1808.

The candlesticks on the high altar are very fine. They are of solid brass, as heavy as one man can lift and bear in front the crest of the Cliftons of Lytham, but how they came to Pleasington is nowhere recorded. A note by Father Lawless records: ‘There is the body of St Publianus, Martyr, under the altar; the seals are perfect, but there is no certificate. It was given at Rome, according to the inscription on the case, to John Butler, Esq., the builder of the church.’

…just in time to save herself from several bullet shots which were fired through the window

Regarding the silver ornaments mentioned above, these seem to have had some narrow escapes, for the indefatigable Father Robert Smith came across the following piece of information: ‘In the early days the Priory was often broken into. Many valuable articles were stolen, and it became necessary to remove all church plate daily to the presbytery – a little plain, square-built house across the road – where the vestments had also to be kept. It is narrated that on one occasion, when the priest was away, an attempt was made to enter the presbytery. It was a moonlight night, and the housekeeper, who kept in her bedroom a garden fork for purposes of self-defence, discovered that a man was endeavouring to unfasten the bedroom window. By pushing the handle (!) of the fork through the window she succeeded in knocking the man down, and then, fearing the consequences, she stepped aside, just in time to save herself from several bullet shots which were fired through the window. The man, however, who had fallen to the ground, must have broken his leg, for the housekeeper saw him being carried away by two other men.’ A later incumbent has wisely let his adjoining schoolhouse to the local constable, so that with the ‘Police Station’ in large letters next door he is fairly safe from similar depredations.

From the date of the opening of the church a cemetery has been attached to it, where are buried successive generations of Catholics from a wide distance round. It has indeed become a most favourite place of burial, and recently fresh land has been added to the older portion. Certainly, the natural picturesqueness of the neighbourhood and the charm of the beautiful church make Pleasington Priory a most attractive spot; little wonder, then, that there is an almost continuous stream of visitors to cemetery and church alike, whilst the building of new houses in the neighbourhood gives hope that the church – for long too large for its resident congregation – may soon be as well filled as it deserves.”

– Dom F. O. Blundell, O.S.B., Old Catholic Lancashire, Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., London, 1925

 

 

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CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS DURING THE YEARS OF PERSECUTION AT CLAUGHTON, NORTH WEST ENGLAND

…to find a priest to sing Mass in a chapel

“Monsignor Gradwell, in his account of the Catholic Church at Claughton (Catholic Family Directory, 1885), states that in the reign of Elizabeth, James and Hugh Anderton, the Vicars of Garstang, three miles distant, are said to have clung to the old Faith, and that there was a local tradition that St. Helen’s Church, at Churchtown, continued to have Mass said in it long after the new religion had been set up in the neighbouring churches. The Squire of Claughton at that time was a minor, but he escaped the peril of perversion, under which so many heirs of great houses fell away, and later married a Miss Braddyll, who earned the honourable title of a ‘bigoted Papist’ in the pursuivant’s reports. As the reign of Elizabeth advanced, we find him in prison in Manchester on account of his faith, and again and again called upon for fines for his own and his wife’s recusancy. In the year 1591 there was a chapel at Claughton, in Garstang, near to the house of Thomas Brockholes, holding lands called Langscales, and proceedings were instituted to ascertain ‘whether the lands were given for superstitious uses, that is, to find a priest to sing Mass in the chapel’; and five years later an action on the part of John Downing against Thomas Brockholes was tried at Preston, to settle the question, though with what results is not known.

Claughton Chapel, ca. 1923

Claughton Chapel, ca. 1923

Successive generations felt the full pressure of the penal laws

Thomas Brockholes’ second wife was Dorothy Leyburne, of Cunswick, Co. Westmorland. She was repeatedly fined for her recusancy, and appears in the annual lists with her husband, who principally resided at Heaton, until his death there in 1618. In 1607 this Thomas Brockholes came within the operation of one of those iniquitous grants, first begun by James I, by which the benefit of his recusancy – that is, two-thirds of his estate, with other penalties imposed by law – was handed over to the voracious appetite of a needy Scotsman, David Stewart. In the following year, after the Scotsman had squeezed all he could out of the estate, Mr. Brockholes’ recusancy, with that of other Lancashire Catholic gentlemen, was transferred to another hanger-on of the Court, Charles Chambers, perhaps an Englishman, for the English had then begun to grumble at the plunder the Scotch favourites of King James were reaping from the English Catholics.

Successive generations both at Claughton and at Heaton Halls felt the full pressure of the penal laws. In each of these residences there were chapels. In the seventeenth century two priests of the family appear in the diaries of Douai and Lisbon: Thomas and Roger, younger sons of Thomas Brockholes. Both of them often said Mass at Claughton and at Heaton. The elder, Thomas, took the missionary oath at Douai College, September 8, 1676, and in due course was ordained priest, and came on the Mission. In the reign of James II he officiated at Whitehall, London, and in March, 1697, he appears to have been in Lancashire. About 1716 he was acting as chaplain to the Masseys of Paddington Hall, the seat of the Standish family, but subsequently he removed to Burgh Hall, near Chorley, where he died on November 10, 1738.i

The younger brother, Roger, took the oath at Douai in 1678. In 1695 he came on the Mission, and was appointed senior chaplain to the Convent at York Bar, where he died in 1700.

Priests of the Brockholes family

In the following generation there were three Brockholes priests: Thomas, Roger, and Charles, this last of the Society of Jesus. Thomas, the eldest of the three, became an alumnus at Douai, December 8, 1705, was ordained priest in 1706, and remained at the College for many years as general prefect and procurator. In his later years he was Vicar-General to Bishop Stonor. He died on January 16, 1758, at Chillington, where he had been priest since 1730.

Roger Brockholes was born at Claughton in 1682, and after studying some time at Ladywell, Fernyhalgh, went abroad and was admitted to the English College, Rome, October 17, 1703. He was ordained in 1708, and came to Lancashire in 1710, where he served various districts round the place of his birth, eventually fixing his abode at one of his father’s farms, now called Priestholme, and he thus appears in Bishop Dicconson’s list in 1741. He died the following year at Priestholme, which was eventually settled upon the secular clergy serving Claughton.

Charles, the third priest of the family, was born in 1684, entered the Society in September, 1705, and was sent to Maryland in 1711. He returned to England in 1716, and served the Missions of Blackrod and Wigan for many years, dying at the latter place in 1759, the last of his family.

A generous gift

The name of Brockholes was then assumed in succession by the three sons of Mary, daughter of John Brockholes, and sister of the three priests above, who had married, in 1710, William Hesketh, of Maybes Hall. After the death of her three sons without issue the estates passed in 1783 to the Fitzherberts, who likewise assumed the additional name of Brockholes. The beautiful pre-Reformation chalice now at Claughton chapel came to the Brockholes through the Heskeths of Maynes Hall, where it had long been in use. Tradition says that it once belonged to the parish church of Poulton-le-Fylde. It was carefully repaired and regilt, at the expense of Mr. Francis Brockholes, by Messrs. Hardman, of Birmingham, under the direction of the elder Pugin. A new paten was made to replace the old one, which had been converted into the lid when the chalice was used as a ciborium.

The old Squire, as he was familiarly called, kept up a friendly rivalry with the priest of the time, Monsignor Gradwell, as to who should be foremost in their affection for the church. Mr. Brockholes gave the stations, beside many other valuable requisites for the altar; he also gave the Lady Altar and Monsignor Gradwell that of St Joseph. ‘A thousand pounds from each would not cover the expenditure incurred about this time in adorning what both loved – the House of God.’ The Squire just before his death conveyed to the Bishop a most eligible plot of ground adjoining the church, for a cemetery, and he undertook to lay it out, fence it, and hand it over to the ecclesiastical authorities, free of charge. He died December 21, 1873, in the seventy-fourth year of his age, ‘greatly honoured and deeply lamented.’

… a better knowledge of those who died for our holy Catholic faith…

So much for the family at Claughton Hall. Of the successive priests, it seems clear that Father Thomas Whitaker, the venerable martyr, attended to the Catholics at Claughton. He was arrested at Blakehall in Goosnargh, the next parish to Claughton, and conducted to Lancaster Castle, where he arrived August 7, 1643. After three years in that most awful prison he was executed, having shown throughout shown the highest degree of every Christian virtue. His portrait has been preserved at the English College, Valladolid, where he studied, and a statue to his memory was erected in the cemetery at Claughton by Mgr. Gradwell, a precedent which might with great advantage be followed in other districts, where a better knowledge of those who died for our holy Catholic Faith is much to be desired. Among the many relics of olden times at Claughton is a small wooden tabernacle used by Father Whitaker to keep the pyx and Blessed Sacrament for the sick.

The premises were searched by the state agencies

Mgr. Gradwell asserts that the next priest was a Rev. T. Walmesley, but Mr. Gillow does not think that there was any priest of that name at the date in question. Rev. Edward Blackburn, the next in order, was certainly at Claughton in 1673, as appears from the original register of the Lancashire Clergy Fund, which was instituted in that year and is subscribed by Mr. Blackburn. In an article in the Month, May, 1873, a paper is given extracted from the Harleian Miscellany, containing the signatures of a certain number of priests to some arrangement among themselves to say certain Masses and collect funds. Among the signatories is Edwardus Blackburn, and he is named collector for the Hundred of Lonsdale. The date is February 28, 1675, and the Edward Blackburn named is evidently the priest at Claughton. The document had been found by Bolron, the informer, at Stonyhurst, the residence of Richard Sherburne, Esq., in the room of the chaplain, Rev. Edward Cottam. Bolron, who had received a warrant from the Privy Council to make search in the houses of the Catholic gentry of Lancashire for treasonable papers, pounces upon this innocent list, and in a letter dated December 6, 1680, forwards it to the Privy Council as a convincing proof of the damnable plots got up by the Jesuits against the life of his most sacred Majesty Charles II, and for the destruction of the Protestant religion!

Sunny hillsides, shady glens, smiling farmsteads – and the difficulties through which Catholic Christians had to pass

Benefactions began, even at this early time after the grinding persecutions of Elizabeth and Cromwell, to be bestowed on the Catholic clergy, and it was in 1618 that we first find mention of what long went under the name of the ‘Garstang Parish Trust.’ By a deed bearing date June 24, 1680, William Graddell of Barbles Moor, Gent., appointed Rev. E. Blackburn trustee in his place for a benefaction from the Molyneux family.

At what date Rev. R. Taylor came as assistant to his uncle, Mr. Blackburn, is uncertain. He was certainly at Claughton in 1684, as the annual meeting of the clergy was held at his house in that year, and this brings us to a still more important fact in the history of the Claughton Mission. The uncle and nephew, about this time, purchased a plot of land in Claughton, upon a portion of which the church and house now stand. The purchase money was £205, of which Mr. Blackburn paid £100 and Mr. Taylor £105, whilst the latter was at the sole charge of building the house. It was a sufficiently modest building at first, consisting only of the present lobbies and the vestry, with the rooms above; and more than a century elapsed before it received any considerable addition. There was, of course, no chapel attached to it, for the severity of the times did not allow of any building being devoted to Catholic worship. No doubt the priest was accustomed to say Mass, as occasion offered, sometimes at home and at other times in the houses of devout Catholics in the neighbourhood.

Small, however, as the old house was, it was the seedling from which the present most complete establishment was to grow. Mr. Hewitson thus describes his first visit to Claughton: ‘For sweetness of position, richness of isolation; for sunny hillsides and shady glens; for smiling farmsteads and magnificent woodland scenery and all that makes country life a joy and a talisman, commend me to Claughton.’ The writer was alluding to the natural charms of the scenery, but to the Lancashire Catholic, Claughton has the additional charm of always having been well in advance of the times, so far as the practice of the Catholic religion was concerned, and of having to-day many remains of great interest to show the difficulties through which that Faith and its adherents had to pass.

An image of the Sacred Heart displayed in the home

Rev. E. Blackburn died September 20, 1708, having been more than thirty years resident at Claughton, and, as he was then called, ‘secular clergy incumbent’ of Garstang parish. His nephew and successor, Rev. Richard Taylor, lived to an extreme old age. There is still remaining at the Rectory an oak desk carved with his initials, R. T., and the date 1680, and in the library are some valuable books of divinity and ecclesiastical history marked with his name. In 1714 he named Rev. Christopher Tuttell, then priest at Fernyhalgh, and Rev. William Caton, of Great Eccleston, as his successors in the Garstang Parish Fund, he having during his term of office received the additional benefaction of £100 from Mrs. Grace Barnes and placed it under the same Trust. Mgr. Gradwell states that in 1715 Mr. Taylor retired to an obscure house in Goosnargh, where he officiated with great privacy to the poor Catholics as often as it was thought safe and prudent to do so. He was frequently sought for by the priest-catchers, but always eluded their search.

He was frequently sought for by the priest-catchers

This was the time of the first Stuart Rising, when all Lancashire was in a ferment, and the Catholics had much to suffer from their loyalty to the old Stuart line of kings. Mr. Taylor died in 1726. In his will he describes himself as Richard Taylor, of Claughton, gentleman. Another relic of him, which is still preserved, is a flat stone, 1 inch thick and 13 inches long by 12 inches wide, and appears to have been inserted over a fireplace. At the top in low relief is a representation of the Host, in the middle his initials R. T., and between them the Sacred Heart. Below is the date 1714. This is the more remarkable as the Devotion to the Sacred Heart had only recently been introduced into England by the preaching of Father Colombiere, S.J., confessor of Mary of Modena, Queen of James II.  It says much for the earnestness of Father Taylor’s devotion that, in times of so much risk and uncertainty, he should have had these sacred emblems carved in stone and exhibited conspicuously in his house.

A very good example of a priest’s hiding-place

Rev. Richard Birtwistle was at Claughton only for a short time, and was succeeded by Rev. Roger Brockholes, a younger son of the squire. He was born in 1682, and was ordained in Rome in 1708. At what date he came to Claughton is uncertain, but he settled at one of his father’s farms, now called Priestholme, and in the tenancy of Mr. Rogerson. Here is a very good example of a priest’s hiding-place. It is on the first floor, in a small lobby off the main room. I found that I could just stand in it, but to spend a day or more there would be conducive neither to health nor comfort. However, it reminded me very forcibly of what our forefathers had to put up with, and of the words of the old Squire of Crosby, who writes in his diary in 1716: ‘I spent a day in a strait place for a fat man!’ That was in the same year, 1716, mentioned above, when the Hall at Crosby was being searched for priests and Papists. The old house at Priestholme still exists exactly as Father Brockholes left it. Mass was said for many years in the main room on the first floor, and there are still preserved a cupboard nicely carved with sacred emblems and other relics of his stay.

“I spent a day in a strait place for a fat man!”

Rev. Roger Brockholes died October 10, 1743. His brother Thomas, though the eldest son, renounced his worldly prospects, went to Douai College, was there ordained, and long served the Mission at Chillington, in Staffordshire. He may well be considered the greatest benefactor of the Claughton Mission, as it is chiefly owing to him that Butt Hill Farm belongs to the priest, and the generous manner in which he bestowed the gift greatly enhanced its value.

Rev. Roger Brockholes was succeeded by Rev. James Parkinson. During his pastorate the house built by Mr. Taylor was bought for the use of the priest from its then owner, Mr. L. Butler. This purchase was made in the memorable year 1746, when Prince Charles Edward made his disastrous march through Lancashire to Derby; but the political troubles of this second rising seem to have exerted no retarding influences on the peaceful growth of the Claughton Mission. Mr. Parkinson converted the room, now occupied as a library, into a chapel, and there are still – i.e., in 1873 – remaining in the floor marks where the altar-rails were fixed. It was approached from the back by stone steps, which still exist, now forming the shelves of a cupboard at the head of the stairs. Rev. James Parkinson died January 26, 1766, of a fever caught in attending the sick of his flock, after having served the Mission of Claughton about twenty-two years.

At length he escaped by leaping through a port-hole into the sea and swimming ashore

The next priest was Rev. John Barrow. He was in every sense of the word a most remarkable man. After beginning his ecclesiastical studies in Rome, he returned to England on business, and was actually seized by a press-gang, and forced to serve on board a man-of-war for seven years. On one occasion he was severely wounded in the hand. At length he escaped by leaping through a port-hole into the sea and swimming ashore. When retaken and tried by court-martial, he got off by pretending to speak no other language but Italian – he evidently could not be a British bluejacket – and when told by the suspicious president that he was acquitted and might go, he had the precence of mind to pretend not to understand, but asked the interpreter, ‘Che dice?’ (‘What’s he saying?’)

In an interesting letter, which, however, scarcely bears quotation in full, he writes: ‘Claughton, 23 Sep. 1808. Most Rev. and truly esteemed Friend, You cannot entertain a greater desire to renew our former friendship and real regard for each other than does the Old Tar of Claughton; where I have been and hope to remain while my old timbers stick together… I arrived at Claughton 13th July, 1766 and have remained stationary ever since, these 42 year and 3 months… I will conclude this letter, though in years younger than you are (for I am now 74) with every good wish etc.’

Mr. Barrow twice effected great alterations in the church; the second time, in 1794, he considerably enlarged it, and to this day it remains substantially what he left it. But he was far from being satisfied with having placed on a satisfactory footing the spiritual interests of his flock. He became overseer of roads to the township, and he acted with such vigour and determination that the roads of Claughton became the wonder of the neighbourhood.

The following anecdote is related by Mgr. Gradwell: ‘His  demands upon the farmers for supplies of stones for the new roads became so frequent, that loud murmurs expressed their discontent. On one occasion a farmer named Hothersall so far lost his temper as to threaten to shoot ‘Old Barrow’ when next he came across him. This soon got to Mr. Barrow’s ears, and at once he accepted the challenge, ordered out his horse, took down his brace of pistols, and lost no time in riding to the spot where he expected to find Hothersall. Arriving where the men were busily employed on collecting road metal, he called out, ‘Is Jack Hothersall here?’ and at once offered him one of the pistols, retaining the other for himself. As might be expected, the grumbler was not prepared for such an encounter; he silently withdrew, and the work of road-making went on apace. He likewise acted as overseer of the poor, and it was in consequence of his untiring exertions that the workhouse, now disused, was erected in the lane leading from Fleet Street to the high-road.

The service rendered by him to the Secular Clergy Fund were of inestimable value. In the year 1783 he was appointed collector for the Hundred of Amounderness. For twenty-eight years previously Rev. J. Carter, of Newhouse, had been book-keeper and master of the fund. In those days good investments were scarce, and it had been the practice to lend out moneys on bond to numerous individuals. This often lead to difficulties, as by deaths the bonds occasionally passed into new hands, the principal could not be recovered, and often the interest fell into arrear. It was resolved, shortly after the appointment to office of Mr. Barrow, to have all the accounts paid in and lodged for security in the English funds, then bearing 4 per cent interest. The task was entrusted to Mr. Barrow’s management, and well did he discharge the trust. The following racy anecdote belongs to this period. A sum of money, under £100, belonging to the fund, had somehow got into the hands of Mr. Cawthorne, then M.P. for Lancaster, and owner of Wyreside and Bleasdale; but neither interest nor principal could be got from him. The privilege of a Member of the House of Commons protected him from arrest, but Mr. Barrow, nothing daunted, having got the debt legally transferred to himself, took advantage of a dissolution of Parliament, and accompanied by a Sheriff’s officer duly furnished with a writ, attended the hustings at Lancaster on the nomination day. When Mr. Cawthorne advanced to address his constituents, the officer arrested him for the debt. Mr. Cawthorne remonstrated, said he had no money; but Mr. Barrow insisted, and reminded him that had plenty of friends about him, and that the sum was small. The appeal was successful, the money was raised, and given to Mr. Barrow. Mr. Cawthorne was released by the Sheriff’s officer, and Mr. Barrow went home with flying colours. In August, 1787, Mr. Barrow paid over to Mr. Dennett £19 16s., the balance remaining in his hands to the credit of the fund, and retired from office. He had rendered a most important service to his brethren by thus collecting the small scattered sums constituting their fund, and in after years he recalled it with evident gratification.

In corroboration of the foregoing anecdote from Mgr. Gradwell, the two following are quoted from Mr. Hewitson. The Vicar of Chipping had the misfortune to offend Mr. Barrow, who swore that if he ever caught him he would horse-whip him. Well, the Vicar happened to turn up one fine day in some part of the district, and having ascertained this, Mr. Barrow set off to administer the promised castigation. In the meantime the Vicar had got an inkling of the approaching Nemesis, and he lost no time in shifting his quarters. Father Barrow gave chase for some distance, but fright put mettle into the movements of the Vicar, who escaped rapidly into his own native hills. – His own people, too, sometimes felt the force of his ire. One Sunday some singing was going rather awkwardly in the chapel, and amongst the singers there was one unlucky wight who made a most unhappy noise. Father Barrow having had his ears sufficiently grated during the earlier portions of the service with this man’s ‘vocalisation,’ finally lost all patience, and turning round from the sanctuary, said: ‘Will ta hold thy noise! thou roars worse than Sandham’s bull.’ There was a bull belonging to one Sandham in the district, which bellowed so awfully that it became a complete nuisance to all the folk in the neighbourhood; and the blunt honest priest could not bethink himself of a better illustration for the benefit of the roaring singer, which, we imagine, put a speedy quietus upon him for some time afterwards. – But Mr. Barrow was no fool. We have mentioned his excellent work for the Secular Clergy Fund. The loyal part he took in the bitter controversies which then agitated the Catholics of England was acknowledged by the authorities in Rome, and amongst the archives of the Mission is still preserved a letter in Latin from the Cardinal Antonelli of those days, in which his fidelity to the Holy See and his zeal in championing its cause are set forth in warm terms. His zeal and wisdom led him to have a large share in founding the great College of the North at Ushaw. It was a question where land could be obtained for the new college, rendered necessary by the confiscation of the colleges in France due to the French Revolution.

Confiscation of the colleges for seminarians due to the French Revolution

At last it was decided to purchase from Sir Edward Smythe a portion of Ushaw Moor, and then erect the necessary buildings. Unfortunately, Sir Edward was not a free vendor, as by the entail of the property he could exchange, but was not able to sell. This was a new source of delay, and here Mr. Barrow came to the rescue. He entered into correspondence with Sir Edward, and undertook to purchase a property required to effect the exchange. Indeed, in spite of endless difficulties, the energy of Mr. Barrow triumphed, a desirable property was purchased for the exchange, and Ushaw Moor was conveyed to the Bishop.

The subsequent building of schools

Mr. Barrow died February 12, 1811. For the next hundred years the Mission of Claughton was in charge of members of the Gradwell family – two brothers, Robert and Henry, and their nephew Robert. All were men of exceptional refinement and ability. Robert the uncle left Claughton (1809-1817) to become Rector of the English College at Rome, and from that post he was appointed coadjutor to the Vicar-Apostolic of the London District. He died in 1833, at the early age of fifty-six. Rev. Henry Gradwell (Claughton, 1817-1860) enlarged the chapel by adding the sanctuary and raising the roof, and in the following year (1836) he built the present most comfortable house. With the assistance of Catherine Barton he bought the land and built the present schools, which all agree are an ornament to the neighbourhood. ‘The memory of this good woman,’ writes Mgr. Gradwell, ‘ought never to be let die in Claughton. She must be reckoned as the first founder and chief benefactor of the schools; her love of education, her forethought and generosity, deserve the lasting gratitude of the children and their parents.’ In her early years she had entered the service of the Duke of Norfolk, who married a Miss Brockholes, and she rose in his service till she became housekeeper at Arundel Castle. Her later years were spent at Claughton, and she is buried at Newhouse.

A lady who had worked hard in service of God and neighbour

Rev. Robert Gradwell, jun., came to assist his uncle in 1856. He took over the full charge in 1860, and from that date till his death in 1906 – a period in all of no less than sixty years – his one pleasure was to adorn the church, the grounds, and the presbytery. Besides the not inconsiderable income of the Mission, he spent a very fair private fortune on these objects, and he left the Mission at his death rich in historic associations, and in all that could make it pleasing to the scholar and the antiquarian.

One of the oldest sites

In 1894 he celebrated the centenary of the church, which had been opened by Mr. Barrow in 1794. But portions of the priest’s house were used for Mass, a hundred years previous to this again, in the time of Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Taylor, so that the site as a whole ranks amongst the oldest of our present Lancashire chapels.

Rev. Henry Holden came as assistant to Mr. Gradwell in 1889, and succeeded him at his death. In 1916 he was transferred to St Peter’s, Lancaster, but even the great beauties of that church and mission could not repay his regret at leaving Claughton. He was succeeded by Rev. James Lowry, to whose kindness and hospitality the present writer is indebted for a most pleasant week of pilgrimage to this and the neighbouring chapels of the Fylde.”

– Dom F. O. Blundell, O.S.B., Old Catholic Lancashire, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London, 1925

 

 

 

 

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OUTLAWED FOR BEING A CATHOLIC CHRISTIAN: ACCOUNTS OF BRINDLE & HOGHTON TOWER, LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND

From then he was declared an outlaw

“Whether we consider the castellated tower – one of the finest in the kingdom, or the pride of the de Houghtons – or the heroic sacrifice which the head of the family made in leaving it and his country for religion’s sake, or, again, the constancy of the country people which has persevered to this day, despite the forcible Protestantism of the hero’s grandson, on each of these accounts Hoghton and Brindle are unequalled in interest even in Catholic Lancashire.

‘At Houghton Hygh, which is a bower

Of sports and lordly pleasure,

I wept and left that lofty tower

Which was my chiefest treasure.

To save my soule and lose ye reste

Yt was my trew pretence;

Lyke frightened bird, I left my neste

To keep my conscience.’

Mr. Gillow says on the death of his father, August 5, 1558, Thomas Hoghton succeeded to the family estates. At this period William Allen, afterwards Cardinal, visited Lancashire, and was a guest at Hoghton Tower. In common with the gentry and people of Lancashire, Hoghton repudiated the new religion which was being forced upon the country.

Every type of pressure was devised by the government to force Catholic Christians to renounce the Faith

Every kind of pressure was devised by the Council to drive the people into attendance at the Protestant service. Fines and imprisonment were inflicted in rapid succession, and Catholics were outlawed and deprived of all protection. Under these circumstances, feeling that he could not remain in the country and keep his conscience, Hoghton took the advice of his friend Vivian Haydock, and in 1569 he hired a vessel and sailed from his mansion of The Lea, on the Rible, to the coast of France, and thence proceeded to Antwerp. From this he was declared an outlaw, and possession was taken of his estates.

The state took possession of his estates

On March 17, 1576, his half-brother Richard obtained a licence from Queen Elizabeth to visit the exile in Antwerp, with intent to persuade him to submit to the royal pleasure. Hoghton was anxious to return, but could not make terms with the Court to retain his religion; he therefore remained in exile until his death, which occurred at Liege, June 2, 1580, aged sixty-three. He was buried under the high altar of the English College, Douai, which he had helped to found. He charged his executors to remove his body to the place where his ancestors lay in the parish church of Preston, of which the Hoghtons were patrons, when God should have mercy on his country, and restore to it the Catholic Faith and service.

‘Hys lyfe a mirrour was to all,

Hys death wythout offence;

Confessor, then, lett us him call,

O blessed conscience.’

His son and namesake, Thomas Hoghton, went with his father into exile, and was not recognised on the escheat in 1580. He was placed with Dr. Allen at Douai College, whence he left to visit his father in Brabant in 1577. He probably returned, for he matriculated in the University of Douai, was ordained priest, and proceeded to the English Mission. He had no sooner arrived in Lancashire than he was seized and thrown into Salford Gaol, where great numbers of recusants were confined.

The great band of confessors of the Faith who perished in prison unrecorded

There his name appears in the list of priests returned to the Council by Edmund Trafford and Robert Worsley in 1582. He was one of those who ‘do still contynue in their obstinate opynions; neyther do wee see anye likelyhoode of conformytie in any of them.’ His name continues in the lists of recusants imprisoned at Salford until January, 1584, after which it is lost sight of, and in all probability he went to swell the great band of confessors of the Faith who perished in prison unrecorded.

The half-brother of the exile, and curiously his namesake, Thomas Hoghton, was slain in a feud with the Baron of Newton in 1589, and his eldest son, being a minor, was given in ward to Sir Gilbert Gerard, the Master of the Rolls, to be brought up a Protestant. This system of gaining over Catholic families to the new religion was constantly practised, as in the case of Sir Roger Bradshaigh and others who were cruelly robbed of the Faith. All the rest of the family were true to the old religion, and the Hoghtons would still have been Catholics but for this unjust proceeding. Thus wrote Mr. Gillow in 1887, but recently the heir to the Hoghton estates has become a Catholic, and having married a Catholic lady, their children are being educated in the Faith for which the de Hoghton of 1580 was so staunch a confessor.

It is of interest to remember that it was at Hoghton Tower in 1617 that King James, in the present banqueting hall, solemnly knighted the Sirloin of Beef, an incident which the writers of the Victorian History of Lancashire, despite their very full account of Hoghton, have thought fit to omit. Possibly the facts are none too decorous, but the incident tells us much of the manners of the royal guest and his court.

Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith

To turn now to matters more ecclesiastical, the earlier directories of the Archdiocese of Liverpool (e.g., 1915) give the date of the Brindle Mission thus: 16 – , 1786. The latter is the date of the present church, cut in stone above the doorway of the chapel, and very pretentious the date looks. The former figures, 16 -, need some completion. Fortunately, there are plenty of records from which to compile our story.

Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith

Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith

The chief jewel in the crown of the Brindle Mission is the holy martyr Edmund Arrowsmith, who attended to the Catholics in the district for some years, and the story of whose arrest is so graphically given in Dom Bede Camm’s Forgotten Shrines. Father Arrowsmith came to the English Mission in 1613, the year after his ordination, and resided for the most part with relatives of his family at Denham Hall. Mr. Gillow in his Notes on Brindle (Cat. Rec. Soc., vol. 23) mentions that about 1622 Father Arrowsmith was apprehended and brought before Dr. Bridgeman, Bishop of Chester, with whom he had a controversy before being committed to Lancaster Castle. Thence he was released about the time of the negotiations for a marriage between Prince Charles (later Charles II) and a Spanish Princess. Shortly afterwards he joined the Society of Jesus, as he had long desired, making his novitiate on the mission, but spent two or three months in Essex before his profession under the name of Rigby in 1624. From that date he continued to serve the Mission at Brindle and the neighbourhood till his apprehension in 1628. He was arraigned at Lancaster, condemned to death for being a priest, and martyred August 28, 1628, aged forty-three. The martyr’s right hand was secured by the Gerards of Bryn, and to this day is held in great veneration, at Ashton-in-Makerfield.

A spring of very clear water

According to Mr. Gillow, the usual residence of the priest about this time was at St. Helen’s Well, where also was the principal place where Mass was said in the district. The house and well are thus described by Kuerdon, writing about 1675: ‘Over against Swansey House, a little towards the hill, standeth an ancient fabric, once the Manor House of Brindle, where hath been a chappel belonging to the same, and a little above it a spring of very clear water, rushing straight upward into the midst of a fayr fountain, walled square about in stone and flagged in the bottom, very transparent to be seen and a strong stream issuing out of the same. This fountain is called St Ellen’s Well, to which place the vulgar neighbouring people of the Red Letter (Catholics) do much resort with pretended devotion on each year, upon St Ellin’s day (Aug. 18).’

From the Forfeited Estates Papers in the Public Record Office

Mr. Henry Taylor, in his Ancient Crosses and Wells in Lancashire, gives some diagrams of the Well along with his interesting account, in which he says: ‘I could not find the chapel, but some of the stairs in the dilapidated house close by may have formed a portion of such an edifice.’ This was the residence of the Gerards of the Well, and so continued till the early part of the eighteenth century, of whom William married in 1619; Oliver Gerard of the Well was buried in 1664; the will of James Gerard of St Ellen’s Well was proved at Chester in 1665, and that of Alice Gerard of the Well in 1679; besides many later entries in the Brindle parish registers.

This Alice Gerard may justly be considered the foundress of the present Brindle Mission. Previous to her death in 1679, probably about 1677, she gave the site, and built upon it a new chapel and house in Gregson Lane, known as Newhouse. Among the Forfeited Estate Papers in the Public Record Office are several depositions made before the Commissioners in reference to this chapel. ‘George Hinton, of Brindle, Co. Lancaster, swore this 18th July, 1718, saith he hath known Newhouse ever since it was built by Alice Gerard, viz. about forty years ago, that one Green lived there about ten years and died about thirteen years ago, and this deponent did frequently hear the said Green say Mass there, after whose death Mr. Hutchison, a Roman priest, succeeded him, and now usually resides there; That there are about twelve acres of ground belonging to the said house.’ Forty years from 1718, the date of the above deposition, would take us to 1678, which may thus be safely inserted in future Catholic directories as the date of the Brindle Mission.

Similar evidence to that of George Hinton was given by William Hinton, William Turner, Thomas Oram, who mention Mr. Green, Mr. Hutchison, and Mr. Huddlestone as successive priests, and the date at Newhouse of its beginning as forty years previously. Samuel Peploe again, in his account of estates granted to superstitious purposes in and about Preston, Co. Lancs., reported: “Newhouse and grounds belonging to it in Brindle is mostly let in parcels. One Hutchison, a Popish priest, has lived on it some time, who succeeded Mr. Green, a priest, who died there.’

From the above we gather that Mr. Green came to Brindle in 1695. He died in 1704, and was buried at the parish church of Brindle. Mr. Hutchison succeeded, and died at Brindle August 24, 1717. Mr. Huddlestone had charge of the Mission till 1721, when he was succeeded by Dom William Placid Naylor, the most distinguished of the monks in charge of Brindle, who during the last three years he was there was President-General of the English Congregation. His earlier years at Brindle were full of activity. He first acquired a cottage and 3 1/2 acres of land from a family of the name of Coope, and in 1726, with the aid of various benefactions, he obtained possession of Stanfield House with the grounds on which it stood. Mr. George Hull, in his historical sketch of Brindle, mentions that before he built the chapel Father Naylor, like his predecessors, did duty at several Mission stations. One of these was Jack Green, which in 1860 belonged to a Mr. Livesay. When the old house there was pulled down, Father Smith (Brindle, 1829-1874) brought the old chalice and the vestments from the garret to his own house. Another station was at Woodhouse, going towards Clayton Green; another was at Slack, where the Fazackerleys lived; another at Thorpe Green. At these stations the priest celebrated the rites of the Church, and on one Sunday he announced where he would officiate the next; for he could not take them in rotation, because then Catholics had to go to Mass by stealth, and it was dangerous to allow it to be known where services would be held.

It was dangerous to allow it to be known where Mass would take place

Mass was also said at a house, one end of which now faces the entrance to Gregson Lane Mill. This old house has strong claims – even at the risk of a slight digression – to a passing notice here. It is believed to have been erected about 1580, and is a fine example of the comfortable yeoman’s dwelling of that period; an interesting feature of the building being a small room in which the ironwork round the fireplace is hammered into a representation of the wheat and vine, emblematic of the bread and wine used in the Mass. It is said that at the beginning of the eighteenth century this house was the residence of the Gregsons of Gregson Lane, one of whom placed his initials, ‘G. G.,’ with a cross and the date, ‘1700,’ on the lintel of the porch, thus giving later generations the erroneous impression that the building was erected in that year. From it were taken, about 1880, some ancient vestments, which are now in the museum at Stonyhurst College. Near this house, about twenty years ago, was dug up a very ancient font, possibly of the ninth century; and in the garden of a cottage close by stands a beautiful old wayside cross. Local tradition asserts that at this same old house the Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith, the Jesuit martyr, said his last Mass. There are other interesting traditions of his presence in this neighbourhood.

Brindle Presbytery and former chapel, ca. 1923

Brindle Presbytery and former chapel, ca. 1923

He had laboured long in his Mission

Mr. Hull continues his historical sketch: ‘The former priest’s house at Brindle and part of the chapel, Brindle, erected for and by Father Naylor, are still standing. They adjoin the present priest’s house, a portion of which, in its turn, formed part of the second chapel, the present church being really the third building erected for divine worship on this spot.’ As priests could not then hold property, the buildings erected by Father Naylor were conveyed to him in the name of Mr. Woodcock, a Protestant friend, who lived at Walton, and whose successors lived at Bury, where Father Smith saw them, when he arranged for the transfer of the property. Father Naylor, on account of his position as President-General, appears to have been absent from Brindle, on business connected with the Order, from time to time; for it is on record, in the register of the Mission, that he left Brindle for ‘the last time’ on July 16, 1769. He then retired to his Monastery of St. Lawrence at Dieulouard, in Lorraine, and when he got there he told his brethren – to quote Father Smith’s account – ‘that he had laboured long in his Mission and had come to lay his bones in his old monastery. He lived there two years before he went to his rest.’

He had, indeed, laboured hard on the Mission, and most of the time filled important posts in the English Congregation. He was Definitor of the Province in 1733, Definitor of the Regimen 1737, Provincial of York 1741-1766, in which year he became President-General. It was he who built up the Brindle Mission, so that it became the parent of several others in the neighbourhood, and the Catholics of the district owe much to his remarkable foresight and ability.

Many of the judges and magistrates were heartily ashamed 

Not content with labouring hard himself, Father Naylor appears to have done much to induce others to take up the then arduous and perilous work of the priesthood, for there are records of at least three members of his congregation who left Brindle to be educated at the houses belonging to the English Congregation which were then maintained on the Continent. These were the Rev. John Anselm Bolton, who was professed at St Lawrence’s, Dieulouard, in 1751; the Rev. William Dunstan Garstang, professed at St Edmund’s, Paris, in 1753; and the Rev. Ambrose Waring, professed at Dieulouard in 1761. The name of the first of these three – Father Bolton – is connected with what was most probably the last of the trials for high treason to which Catholic priests were liable until the end of the eighteenth century. During the time he was chaplain and incumbent at Gilling Castle, Yorkshire (1764-1793), he was, through the ill-will of a discharged bailiff, accused and tried for his priesthood; or, in other words, simply for having taught the Catholic Catechism to his parishioners. Many of the judges, magistrates, and other authorities of that date were heartily ashamed of the atrocious penal laws which they were called to administer. This seems to have been especially their feeling in the case of Father Bolton, and the learned counsel who appeared for him took full advantage of it.

He procured a catechism, took out its pages, and substituted pages of blank paper. When the proper time came he asked the discharged bailiff who had betrayed Father Bolton if this book, which he held up, was anything like the book from which he had seen Mr. Bolton teach Popery. The ex-bailiff boldly declared that it was ‘the very same book.’ ‘Was he sure?’ ‘Quite sure.’ ‘On his oath?’ ‘Yes.’ Counsel passed the book over to the Judicial Bench, and from there it went to the jury. It was, of course, found to contain not a word of Popery; and the priest was, to the credit of the Court, acquitted. This Father Bolton afterwards had charge of a mission at Ampleforth, in Yorkshire, and from his house, which still stands, grew the noble pile now known as St Lawrence’s Abbey. He died on December 22, 1805, and a fine portrait of him is to be seen at Ampleforth, which has been reproduced by Dom C. Almond in his History of Ampleford Abbey, where he most generously acknowledges the share the good monk from Brindle had in establishing what was to be the successor of his own Alma Mater at Dieulouard.

A succession of remarkable men

Father Naylor’s successor at Brindle was Rev. Joseph Lawrence Hadley, who was there from 1767 to 1802, having acted for two years as Father Naylor’s assistant. Father Hadley built the present spacious and substantial church, which bears the date, as already mentioned, over its main entrance. After serving Brindle for nearly thirty-six years, Father Hadley retired to Liverpool, where he died. He was, in common with other Catholics of that date, interred in the burial-ground of St James Protestant Church, at the top of Parliament Street. At this time the congregation numbered about 600, whilst in 1784 Bishop Mathew B. Gibson confirmed 168 persons at Brindle. About this time the children of the district received such education as could then be afforded them at several small schools. One of them, known as ‘Old Betty Slater’s,’ was at the Straits; another, kept by one ‘Dicky’ Wilson, was at Coupe Green, which is said to have taken its name from the local family already mentioned. On the erection of the present church, the former chapel is believed to have been used as a school.

Immediately after Father Hadley’s retirement in 1802, the Mission was placed under the care of Rev. James Alexius Pope, and of him his successor, Father Smith, said that ‘he believed no mission ever had a more deserving or a better priest than Mr. Pope was.’ But the same words might have been used with equal propriety of Father Smith himself, the truth being that during the long period of 153 years the Brindle Mission was blessed with a succession of remarkable men, the four of them sharing between them the century and a half. Father Smith’s great desire was, if he knew a boy who was promising for the Church, to get him to college and ultimately admitted to Holy Orders. In this he was singularly successful. Among those whom he was instrumental in getting thus trained were Rev. J. C. Proctor, O.S.B.; V. R. Canon Carter, afterwards of Bolton; Rev. M. G. Brierley, O.S.B.; V. R. Canon Baron, afterwards of Corby, Lincolnshire; Rev. Will. Baron; V. R. Canon Walmesley; Rev. William Crook; Rev. Edmund Crook; Rev. Henry Ryley; Rev. James Thompson; Rev. Thos. Parkinson; Rev. J. A. Worden, O.S.B. There was one embargo that Father Smith always put upon the priests who owed their training to his efforts, and that was that in the Holy Sacrifice they should never forget the congregation of Brindle. The good Father died at his post on January 29, 1874, and was interred in the graveyard adjoining the church. In the early days of his incumbency a former Brindle boy, who had risen to a position of affluence by his industry and integrity, built the schools which have now done duty for three generations, and on which the following inscription may still be read: ‘Erected by Mr. Joseph Knight, of Chelsea, for the benefit of the Brindle congregation, and as a token of respect for his native place, A. D. 1831.’

…in times of prosperity as in times of suffering and persecution

The Brindle Mission is the ‘mother’ of Brownedge, Walton, Clayton Green, and Leyland. ‘It is,’ says Mr. Hewitson, in his Country Churches and Chapels, to which we would refer the reader for further ‘racy’ details, ‘an elevated pastoral district, with a peaceable, widely-spread population, and has some of the most puzzling roads in the Western hemisphere. We have managed a few roads in our time, but in all our wanderings we have met with none more mixed up or perplexing then those in the arcadian region of Brindle. It is indeed an old-world spot, the chapel snugly hid away in a deep dell and not seen until one is within fifty yards of it. But it was placed there in times of persecution; and all the surroundings have the same air of peaceful retirement so greatly favoured by our Catholic forefathers.’ But the days of retirement are past, and we may justly hope that Brindle and Hoghton will remember their former glories and be an example to Catholic Lancashire in times of prosperity, even as they were in times of suffering and persecution.”

– Dom F. O. Blundell, O.S.B., Old Catholic Lancashire, Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., London 1925

 

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BIRCHLEY HALL, WIGAN: THEY REFUSED TO SIT IDLY BY, WHILE THEIR FAITH AND THE FAITH OF THEIR FATHERS WAS TORN UP BY THE ROOTS

“They refused to sit idly by while their faith and the faith of their fathers was being torn up by the roots”

He purchased Birchley Hall, Lancashire, in the first year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558)

“Birchley Hall and its chapel are fortunate in having for their historian the late Dean Powell, for many years priest at Birchley. A large portion of the following account is taken from a folio volume, now kept in the priest’s house, while much of it is derived from two articles in the St. Helen’s Lantern of February, 1889, for which the good Dean supplied the information.

Passing over the earlier history of the Manor of Birchley, and the derivation of the name, we get to the solid ground of fact in 1558 – the first year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth – when Christopher Anderton, the founder of the Andertons of Lostock, purchased Birchley estate from one Roger Wetherelt. This Christopher Anderton was a successful lawyer, and appears to have acquired the property for ‘an old song.’

Birchley Hall, Lancashire, ca. 1923

Birchley Hall, Lancashire, ca. 1923

Everything was disorganised at that time

Everything was disorganised at that time, and land was about the worst investment a man could make, unless he meant to be a lay ‘Vicar of Bray.’ The Sovereigns of those ‘merrie days’ simply played shuttlecock with Catholic estates. However, Christopher, thanks to his legal acumen, and, it must be added, to his ‘dangerous temporisings,’ died in 1593, a man of many acres. He was succeeded by his son, James, also a lawyer, and also a dangerous temporiser, and it was he who built Birchley Hall. He died without children in 1618, leaving the extensive family possessions to his younger brother, Christopher. This gentleman lived to enjoy them only one year, and having several children, he left Birchley as a separate estate to his third son, Roger, who thus founded the Andertons of Birchley.

He set up the first Catholic printing press in England since the Reformation

Regarding the chapel, it is not quite clear whether James or Christopher built it, or who served it till 1645, but it is certain that it was erected about 1618, and it is probable that some member of the family did duty in it in the interval. There was scarcely a family of note in those days but numbered a priest among its members; the high-spirited gentry refused to sit idly by, while their faith and the faith of their fathers was being torn up by the roots. Certainly the Roger just referred to, unlike his uncle and grandfather, was a staunch recusant, and not satisfied with merely acting on the defensive, he carried out an aggressive warfare through the medium of a printing press which he set up in the Hall – the first Catholic press in England since the Reformation. Roger was a very learned man, and he wrote some of the works himself, but there is much confusion as to the authorship of many of the books. Those written under the name ‘John Brereley’ are now thought to have been the work of Lawrence Anderton, nephew of Roger. On this point Mr. Gillow says: ‘Among the Blundell of Crosby MSS. is a list of works ascribed to Roger Anderton by his own son Christopher in 1647, but other hands are known to have written many of these works; and it is therefore pretty clear that Roger Anderton again set up the press at Birchley, and that most of the works in the list were only printed by him.’ The list is given here, as it shows the style of literature of our Catholic forefathers. This, be it remembered, is the list sent in 1647 to William Blundell by Rev. Henry Heaton, being a copy of one sent to the latter by Christopher Anderton.

1. The Christian Manna.

2. White Dyed Black. (This work is ascribed by Oliver to Thomas Worthington, D.D.)

3. Keepe your Text.

4. The Pseudo-Scripturist. (By Fr. Silvester Norris, D.D., S.J., 1623.)

5. One God; One Faith. (By Fr. Lawrence Anderton, S.J., alias John Brereley, under the initials W. B. 1625. He was about this time in Lancashire, and probably resided with Roger Anderton.)

6. The Legacy. (The Bishop of London His Legacy or Certain Motives of D. King, late Bishop of London, for his change of Religion and dying in the Catholic and Roman Church. 1622. Written by Musket, a priest, says Gee, who is very wrath about it.)

7. The Converted Jew. (Published in 1630 in the name of Fr. John Clare, S.J., though it was not written by him. Dr. Oliver remarks that the ‘printer’s office possessed no Greek type, and there could have been no efficient reader or corrector of the press.’ If this were printed by Roger Anderton, the date, 1650, clearly proves that the press was again set up after the seizure.)

8. Rawleigh, His Ghost; (or a feigned apparition of Sir Walter Rawleigh. Translated by A. B. 1631.)

9. Campion Translated. (This was probably the English translation of Campion’s Decem Rationes, of which an edition was published in London in 1606.)

10. The Non-Entitie of Protestancy.

11. Puritanisme the Mother; Sinn the Daughter.

12. An Apologie of English Armenianisme.

13. An Antidote against Purgatorie.

14. Maria Triumphans, Being a Discourse wherein the B. Virgin Mary, Mother of God, is defended and vindicated from all such Dishonours and Indignities with which the Precisions of these our days are accustomed unjustly to charge Her.

15. Adelphomachia, or Ye Warrs of Protestancy.

16. Bellarmin of Eternal Felicitie. (Translated.)

17. Bellarmin of the Lamentation of ye Dove, translated. (This may be the translation made by William Anthony Batt, O.S.B.: The Mourning of the Dove; or of the great Benefit and Good of Teares. III Books. Written in Latin by the most illustrious Card. Bellarmine of the Society of Jesus, and translated into English by A. B., Anthony Batt, O.S.B. 1641.)

18. Bellarmin of ye Words of Our Lord.

19. Clavis Homerica.

20. Miscellanea.

21. Luther’s Alcoran.

22. The English Nunne; (being a treatise, wherein the Author endeavoureth to draw young and unmarried Catholike gentlewomen to imbrace a votary, and religious life. Written by N. N. 1642.)

23. The Catholicke Younger Brother.

24. A Panegyricke, or Laudative Discourse.

25. Bellarmine’s Controversies (the whole of which were translated into English by Roger Anderton, and sent by him to Rev. Henry Heaton at St Omer, in two large tomes, but were never printed.

A great service not only to the Catholics of Lancashire, but to those of all England

Probably all the other works in the foregoing list were printed at the Anderton Press. Roger Anderton by his printing press thus rendered a great service not only to the Catholics of Lancashire, but to those of all England, and we cannot too highly praise the sportsmanlike pluck which Roger showed in daring such risks as he did in setting up the press at a time of most bitter persecution, and in again restarting it after it had been destroyed by order of the Council.

At a time of most bitter persecution

He had six sons and four daughters: four of his sons became priests and three of his daughters nuns; one of his sons turned soldier and fell in 1645 while defending Greenhalgh Castle, near Garstang, for Lord Derby against the Parliamentarians – a fact which goes to prove how true Catholics were at this time, as indeed they have ever been, to the Throne. The elder daughter, Elizabeth, married John Cansfield, of Cansfield and Robert Hall, North Lancashire, an ancient Catholic family now represented by Lord Gerard of Bryn. The Cansfields, says Mr. Gillow, appear in the Recusant Roll from the very first, until the family became extinct, and the immense sums they paid in penalties for the recusancy of both their sons and daughters is something astonishing. Mary, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Cansfield, taking to him as her dower the Birchley estate. Thus did Birchley become the property of the Gerards , after which it became of only secondary importance, and was assigned as a residence to the dowagers of the family. It was bought in 1898 by Mr. John Middlehurst, largely through the efforts of Dean Powell, who thus had the great satisfaction of saving it from falling into non-Catholic hands.

I was always a Catholic and wish to embrace the ecclesiastical state of life

Of the priests who served the Birchley Mission, Roger Anderton came in 1645. He had been educated at St Omer’s College, in the North of France, and at the English College, Rome, where he was entered under the name ‘Edward Poole’ – Poole being the surname of a family connection. In Foley’s Records of the English Province, S.J., is the following passage about the youth. In answer to the usual questions put to students on entering the English College, he says: ‘My name is Roger Anderton. I am 18 years of age, and was born in the County of Lancaster. My parents are Catholics, wealthy and of high family. I have six brothers and four sisters. Nearly all my relations are Catholics. I made my rudimentary studies at home and at St Omer’s College. I was always a Catholic, and wish to embrace the ecclesiastical state of life.’ The examination is endorsed ‘Edward Poole.’

It was the common practice of the time for priests to pass under two or more names

It was the common practice of the time for priests to pass under two or more names. Roger above adopted the name ‘Poole’; two of his brothers assumed the name Shelley, and another that of Stanford, the latter being their mother’s maiden name. Roger was ordained priest in 1645, and in the September of that year he came to take charge of the Mission of Birchley, forming thus the first link in an unbroken chain of priests that have since laboured in this Mission.

Supplying imprisoned priests with food

He was created Archdeacon of Lancashire – a dignity which no longer exists – and was the first Secretary of ‘The Lancashire Infirm Secular Clergy Fund,’ which in those days was devoted to supplying imprisoned priests with food. He died, full of years, in 1695, leaving a sum of £200 for the maintenance of a secular priest to officiate at Birchley on two Sundays every month; a bequest which his niece, Same Mary Gerard, subsequently, in 1723, enjoined her executors to respect, in a long document, copy of which is in the folio volume before-mentioned.

Clad in a white sheet, a certain man of the Congregation confessed his crime

After the death of Roger Anderton, Rev. Richard Jameson settled here for a time, but his brother, Thomas Jameson, alias Seddon, was the real parish priest, and attended to the Mission from 1698 to 1717. Then Rev. Thomas Young, alias Brooks, figured here for a few months. In 1719, Rev. Thomas Lancaster appeared on the scene; he served Garswood and Orrell, as well as Birchley. He in turn was succeeded by Rev. Emerick Grimbaldstone, a yeoman’s son – and could any name bear a more yeomanlike ring? He was born at Standish, near Wigan.

The next priest was Rev. Henry Dennett – the hero of the canonical penance incident as follows: The discipline of the Catholic Church in past ages required that those who had shocked the public conscience – particularly by sins against the Sixth Commandment – should publicly expiate the scandal. It happened in the year 1801 that a certain man of the Congregation created a great scandal by a gross act of immorality; and one Sunday, clad in a white sheet, he was made to kneel at the altar-rails, confess his crime, and receive the reproofs of his pastor. This, claimed Dean Powell, was the last canonical penance of which there is any record in England, though I may mention that in the Highlands of Scotland such penances were not uncommon at a later period than 1800.

Fr Penswick was the last survivor of the old Douai priests

Father Sennett died in 1803, and was followed by the man who left the deepest mark on the Birchley Mission – the Rev. John Penswick, son of the then agent for the Gerard estates. He was a great favourite with the Lord Gerard of the time, and died in retirement at Garswood in 1864, at the venerable age of eighty-six. He was the last survivor of the old Douai priests, and lies in the churchyard at Birchley, all his predecessors having been buried at Windleshaw. It was he who built the present church in 1828. There is a very fine portrait of him in the sacristy at Birchley. Rev. Patrick Fairhurst succeeded; then came Rev. John Hardman, who built the schools in 1860; Rev. Thomas Walton; Rev. Joseph Wrennall, who built the chancel of the church and the presbytery; Rev. Austin Powell, who was priest from 1872 till 1910; and Rev. Joseph Rigby, at present in charge of the Mission.

No government informers ‘polluted’ this particular neighbourhood

In connection with some of the earlier history of Birchley, Dean Powell remarks: ‘It will not be out of place to consider here some of the disabilities under which Catholics suffered in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Passing over the more bloody persecution of Queen Elizabeth’s days, by the laws still in operation in 1778, a priest convicted of saying Mass was liable to imprisonment for life; a Catholic who received his education abroad forfeited his estates, which could be claimed by the next Protestant heir; a son who became Protestant could take possession of his Catholic father’s property; no Catholic could acquire any legal right to property by purchase; and if we enquire how it was that none of the priests at Birchley in early times fell into the hands of the law, the answer, of course, is that no informers ‘polluted’ this neighbourhood.

It was not until the Relief Act of 1791 that priests were allowed to wear black clothing

Living at the Hall, or at all events in the same block, the priests appeared in the public eye to be merely country squires. They farmed, until not many years ago, a large part of the estate; they were not then, as now, addressed as ‘Father’; indeed, there was nothing in their dress to denote that they were priests – for it was not until the Relief Act of 1791 that they were allowed by law to wear black clothing. And what is here said of Birchley is true of all the Catholic districts of Lancashire. The Catholic people were so numerous, and so devoted to their priests, that these could live amongst them in safety even though the laws condemned them to the aforesaid penalties.

Reporting Catholics as a source of extra income

By degrees also the Protestant magistrates came to have a great respect for the priests, of which numerous examples might be quoted. For instance, in 1778, the Rev. Thomas Weldon, who is buried at Windleshaw Abbey, was arrested and taken before Mr. Hughes, J.P., of Sherdley Hall, on the charge of exercising faculties as a priest. Some informer, in the hopes of obtaining the reward of £100 awarded by the Act of William III, had set the law in motion, but Mr. Hughes declined to hear the case, saying that Mr. Weldon was a quiet, amiable neighbour.’

Elizabethan style

And now to return to the Hall, the centre of so much Catholic activity. Of the many historic sites in Lancashire interesting to Catholics, not one that I have visited is in such perfect preservation as Birchley. The house is in the Elizabethan style, with large mullioned windows, and although these had been replaced by modern window-frames, in many cases the present tenant has restored them to their old style with most pleasing effect. The rooms are large, all the ceilings being supported by fine oak beams, and a portion of the old staircase remains, though the greater portion of it has been removed elsewhere. The furniture throughout is of date similar to that of the Hall itself, and the whole is in the most perfect order, thanks to the care of the present family, to whom the Catholic associations of the Hall give it a title to their veneration and respect, which is most charming to witness.

Keeping guard on the roof against the sudden arrival of priest-catchers

The chapel portion is the left wing as you approach the Hall. The old priest’s house was on the ground floor, and was, until the building of the schools, occupied by the teachers. The chapel is reached by a flight of stone steps on the outside, and is of very considerable size, considering the period at which it was built. It measures 30 feet long, width 22 feet, and height 18 feet. The old altar and altar-rails still remain, whilst round the walls are quaint Stations of the Cross. We can well realise that ‘when finished it created great excitement amongst the honest country folk, who thought that their chapel could now vie in splendour with any in the land’ – and where, indeed, in Lancashire did such a chapel exist in 1618, and if not in Catholic Lancashire, then where else within these islands?

A trap-door and a hollow wall with a secret panel in it

On the epistle side of the little sanctuary is the vestry, and here in the floor is a trap-door some 2 feet square. A hollow wall with a secret panel in it used to stand over this trap-door, which gives access to the room below, whence the pursued priest could either remain in concealment till the danger was past, or make his way through another secret door into the Hall. In the room adjoining the chapel is an opening, now built up, which led on to the roof. This would no doubt be used by watchers, for it was the custom of that time to keep guard against the sudden arrival of priest-catchers, more particularly while Mass was being celebrated.

A ‘mobile’ altar 

Some years ago a chalice of pewter and vestments were found in the priest’s hiding place mentioned above; these are now preserved in the Presbytery. Here, too, are three or four altar-stones of early date, thin and small, so that they could easily be carried from place to place, as was necessary when the priests had no fixed chapels wherein to say holy Mass. Another chalice, small, but very handsome, bears the inscription, ‘Ex dono Annae Blounte, uxoris Jacobi Anderton… 85,’ which Dean Powell considered to be 1685. James Anderton died December 16, 1673; he had married Anne, daughter of Sir William Blount, Bart., of Todington. The chalice is beaten silver, gilt, and hashas all the appearance of being earlier in date than the gift date noted above.

Perpetual Masses are celebrated annually for Sir William Gerard, fifth Baronet, who died in 1721, and for Dame Mary Gerard, his widow; for Sir William Gerard, son and successor of the above, who died in 1732; also for James Anderton, second husband of Dame Mary Gerard. I cannot better conclude this sketch of one of the most interesting Missions of Lancashire than in the words of Dean Powell, written many years ago. ‘It is fitting,’ wrote the good Dean, ‘that the following priests and Benefactors of the Birchley Mission should long be remembered and their anniversaries duly celebrated:

‘March 6. – Sir Robert Gerard, ninth Baronet, who died in 1784. He increased the annual interest of the monies left by Mr. Roger Anderton from £12 to £20.

March 15. – Robert, first Lord Gerard, died in 1887. He gave £300 and the land for the school…

April 8. – Rev. Emerik Grimbaldstone. He long served Birchley and died in 1786…

August 2. – Sir William Gerard, eleventh Baronet, who died in 1826. He gave the Church land and £1,000 towards the building…”

– Dom F. O. Blundell, Old Catholic Lancashire, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London 1925

 

 

 

 

 

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