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UNSUNG HEROES OF LIVERPOOL – EXCERPTS OF A CATHOLIC PRIEST’S DIARY

“To understand the early post-Reformation history of Catholics in Liverpool two points must be clearly borne in mind: the first, that the town up to the year 1700 was of very small size, with only about 5,000 inhabitants (Vict. Hist., p. 23); the second, that it was a centre of civil and legal activity for South-west Lancashire. This latter fact made the practice of the Catholic religion impossible within its boundaries, for if in remote country districts the gentry and people alike had the greatest difficulty in evading the fines for non-attendance at the Protestant place of worship, it would be quite impossible for them to evade such fines in a town full of civil and legal functionaries.

Fines for non-attendance at the place of worship dictated by the government

Again, the constant search for priests, which made the priests’ hiding-places so common in the farm-houses and country mansions of Lancashire – this priest-hunting process evidently made it impossible for the Catholic clergy to remain in a town where every person was known and every detail of the law carried out by subservient officials. The above remarks apply, not only to Liverpool, but to all the towns of Lancashire; so that, while many country districts can prove their succession of priests – and, in some sort, of chapels also – none of the towns can show an earlier chapel than does Liverpool, where Mass was certainly said somewhere as early as 1701.

Catholic priests were hunted down and forced to live undercover

But if we take a map of that period and consider Liverpool as a town of 5,000 inhabitants, and its area to be confined within half a mile of the present pier-head, we shall find that a goodly lot of villages surround the town, and that in many of these villages there were priests’ residences and facilities for hearing Mass and receiving the sacraments. Thus, counting from north to south, we find Little Crosby, Ince Blundell, Lydiate, Netherton (or Sefton Hall), Gillmoss (or Croxteth), Portico, Woolton (or Speke). When we consider the heroic sacrifices which our Catholic forefathers were willing to make for the practice of their religion, we may justly assume that the few Catholic families whom necessity forced to reside in Liverpool would find means to attend one or other of these chapels. In the present volume, four of the above-mentioned chapels are dealt with; the others will follow in succeeding volumes.

Map of Liverpool, 1765, showing 1.: Parish Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas, 2. and inset: The Romish Chapel

Map of Liverpool, 1765, showing 1.: Parish Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas, 2. and inset: The Romish Chapel

"This plan of Liverpool, Surrvey'd in June 1765 is Most Humbly Inscribed..."

“This plan of Liverpool, Surrvey’d in June 1765 is Most Humbly Inscribed…”

The heroic sacrifices Catholics were willing to make for the practice of their faith

To the writer of these pages it is a source of boundless gratitude that the first priest to visit Liverpool in post-Reformation times was provided, not by the Molyneux of Sefton, great Catholics as they at the time were, nor by the Irelands of Lydiate, but by the Blundells of Crosby, who had, indeed, been more closely associated for one hundred years with Catholic life in the district, and had in consequence suffered more heavily. Perhaps a kind Providence thus rewarded them.

Government informants and the succession

Besides the residences for priests just enumerated – all of which have their representative chapel to-day – there were others, which at different periods helped to keep alive the Faith in the district. Fazakerley Hall, the seat of the family of that name, was, says Mr. Gillow, a venerable mansion taken down in 1823. It contained an ancient chapel, and in 1716 Richard Hitchmouth, the apostate priest, declared that he himself had officiated there for some time, and informed the commissioners for forfeited estates that it possessed a large silver chalice and paten. From other information during the Commission it appears that Hitchmouth was succeeded in the Mission by Mr. Thos. Wogrill. There was an endowment for the priest at Fazakerley Hall arising from a mortgage on an estate of 60 acres in the possession of Will. Tarleton at Orrell. In 1750 Fr. Henry Tatlock, S.J., is described as serving two places, of which Fazakerley was one, and here he died in 1771. Fr. Thos. Brewer served these places from 1774 to 1780, but after this it would seem that Fazakerley Hall changed hands, and the Mission was discontinued.

The name appears, generation after generation, in the recusant rolls through all the centuries of persecution of Catholic Christians

Earlier notices of Fazakerley are when Father Thos. Eccleston (born 1643, ordained 1677) came to the Lancashire Mission and went to Fazakerley Hall. In 1694 he was rural dean of the West Derby Hundred, and gave £50 to the common fund. Rev. Thos. Fazakerley, born 1611, was ordained at the English College, Rome, in 1635. He came on to the Mission in Lancashire, and, dying in 1664, was buried at Harkirke, Little Crosby. ‘The family of Fazakerley,’ to quote Mr. Follow again, ‘was very ancient, and remained staunch in its adherence to the Faith. The name appears, generation after generation, in the recusant rolls through all the centuries of persecution… The mansion, besides its domestic chapel, was full of priests’ hiding-places.

The mansion was full of priests’ hiding-places

Regarding the history within the actual boundaries of old Liverpool, we are fortunate in having a most interesting account from the pen of Rev. T. E. Gibson, published in the Liverpool Catholic Almanac for 1887 and 1888.* [1]

Father Gibson devotes some pages to the history of St. Nicholas Church at the landing stage, and gives the original charters of the Catholic Bishops in 1361 and 1459, showing how by this latter, those who made offerings to the chapel of St. Mary of the Key (Quay) were granted an indulgence of forty days. ‘This shows,’ he says, ‘how ancient in our city was the custom of decorating the image of our Blessed Lady with flowers and lights, and silently appeals to us to emulate the piety of our forefathers.’ Indeed, I would like to quote more, but feel myself bound to adhere to the rule not to treat of pre-Reformation matters in these volumes, for fear of running to too great length. It should be noted, however, that the old church is marked on all the plans of the city up to 1821 as “Our Lady and St. Nicholas,” whilst the notice-board outside the church still proclaims it as ‘The Parish Church of Our Lady and St. Nicholas.’

They were denied burial by the government because of their Catholic faith

Of the Catholics within the city during the years 1600-1700 we obtain only occasional glimpses, for no priest was stationed in the town. In the catalogue of burials at Harkirke are the following: ’31 Aug. 1613, John Synett, an Irishman, borne in Wexforde, master of a barke, was excommunicated by the B(ishop) of Chester for being a Catholicke recusant, and so dying at his house in Liverpoole was denyed to bee buried at Liverpoole Churche or Chappell and therefore was brought and buried in this sayd buriall place of ye Harkirke in ye afternoone of the last day of August 1613.’ And again: ’20 May 1615, Anne ye wyffe of George Webster of Liverpoole (tenant to Mr. Crosse) dyed a Catholicke, and being denyed buriall at ye Chappell of Liverpoole by ye Curate there, by ye Maior, and by Mr. More, was buried in ye Harkirke.’ The Crosse family did not change their religious profession at once, for in 1628 John Crosse of Liverpool, as a convicted recusant, paid double to the subsidy (Vict. Hist.).

Government officials did not tire of harrassing people for them to renounce their Catholic faith

The recusant roll of 1641 contains only five names, four being those of women. In 1669 four papist recusants were presented at the Bishop of Chester’s visitation, namely: Beres, gent., Mary, wife of George Brettargh, William Fazakerley and his wife; but in 1683 there were thirty-five persons, including Richard Lathom, presented for being absent from [governmental Anglican] church, and in the following year there were thirty-nine. The revival of presentations was no doubt due to the Protestant and Whig agitation of the time. James II endeavoured to mitigate the effects of it: in 1686, being ‘informed that Richard Lathom, of Liverpool, chirurgeon, and Judith his wife, who keep also a boarding school for the education of youth at Liverpool, had been presented for their exercising the said several vocations without license, by reason of their religion (being Roman Catholics) and being assured of their loyalty, he authorised them to continue, remitted penalties incurred, and forbade further interference’ (Vict. Hist., p. 50).

Some of the lists are here inserted, containing names still prominent amongst the Catholics of Liverpool.

CONVICTED RECUSANTS, 1641

[original list; original entries incl. spelling & punctuation: ]

Walton.

Roberte ffazakerley, gent. et ux. IIs Vlll d.

Ellen ffazakerley, sp(inste)r XVI d.

Margaret ffazakerley, sp(inste)r XVI d.

Lawrence Bryers, et ux IIs VIII d.

Will Chorley, gent et ux II VIII d.

Eme Chorley, sp(inste)r XVI

Nicholas ffazakerley, gent et ux II VIII d.

Henry Stananoght, et ux II VIII d.

Will Topping, et ux II VIII d.

Joane Tyror, vid(ua) XVI d.

Thos. Longhorne, et ux. II VIII d.

Dorothy Barker, sp(inste)r XVI d.

Ann Briage, vid(ua) XVI d.

John ffisher, et ux II VIII d.

 

West Derbie.

Elizabeth Mollinex, vid XVI d.

Katherin Mollinex, XVI d.

Thomas Welsh & ffrancis, ux. ejus II VIII d.

Margeria ux Hugh Barner, XVI d.

Arthur Tyrer et Margret, ux. ejus II VIII d.

Thomas fflecher, XVI d.

Ann ux. Robt. Dorwin, XVI d.

Thomas Mollinex, XVI d.

George Woods et Susan, ux ejus II VIII d.

Robt. Mercer & Ellin, ux ejus. II VIII d.

John Sergent, et ux. II VIII d.

John Stockley et Marie, ux ejus II VIII

Andrew Mercer, XVI

Alice Rigbie, XVI

Will Moore et Margery, ux ejus II VIII

John Edgerton et Ellinor, ux ejus II VIII

John Lathom Lathom, (sic) et ux II VIII

Ellin Standish, vid XVI d.

George Standish, et ux VIII d.

James Pemberton, XVI

Valentine Richardson, et ux II VIII d.

Thomas Bolton, XVI

Margret ux. Edw. Henshaw, XVI d.

Ellin ux. John Miller, XVI

Mary Leyland, XVI d.

 

Liverpoole.

Ursula ux. John Banckes, XVI

Jane ux. Henry Haskeene, XVI

Alice Harison, sp(inste)r XVI

Elizabeth Parkinson, XVI

Arthur Muckowen, XVI

 

These were lesser gentry, the landowners coming under another rate.

‘1684. Extract from proceedings of the Portmoote or Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace holden for the Towne of Leverpoole, 12th Janr., 1684. Wee present the persons next undernamed for absenting themselves from divine Service. [Loyal Catholic Christians refusing to take part in enforced state church service (Anglican)]

Mr. William ffazakerley & his wife, Humphrey Harrison, John Hoole, James Mercer & his wife, John Tildesley, Edward Arthur & his wife, William Rydinge, William Segar, Mary Cowley, Margaret Bluckington, Alice, wife of Mathew Walker, Marie wife of George Braithwaite, Richard Lathom & his wife, Elizabeth Weaver, Mr. Richard Cleveland, Mr. Daniel Danser, Mr. Francis Tempest, William Gandy & his wife, Lawrence Myers, Ellen Bickesteth, Daniel Dwerrihouse, Henrie Thorpe & his wife, Trustam Jackson & his wife, Jane Canby widdow, William Burke & his wife, Ann fformby widdow, Peter Summers; Thomas Tyrer, smith & his wife; Thomas Lyon, smith; Henrie Knowles, baker & his wife; Richard Mercer, Tanner & his wife’

And the names occur year after year.

My wife went to Mass to Liverpool, to Pater Gelibrand at Mr. Lancasters

This brings our story to the commencement of the new century, when Rev. W. Gillibrand, chaplain to Mr. Nicholas Blundell of Crosby Hall, began to give service regularly in Liverpool. The diary* [2] of the latter records under date December 2, 1707: ‘Pater Gillibrand went hence: I could not prevale with him to hear ye discourse about Leige.’ A month later there is the following entry: ‘My wife went to prayers (Mass) to Liverpool, to Pat(er) Gelibrand at Mr. Lancasters.’ From this and other entries, says Father Gibson, we learn that Father Gillibrand lodged with Mr. Lancaster, who followed the business of a grocer. The Lancasters were a respectable Catholic family of the middle class; another brother was a doctor in good practice at Ormskirk, who is frequently mentioned in the diary; and a third was captain of a trading vessel. Some other extracts from the diary may be of interest:

Aged and infirm priests lodged at a building originally meant to be a school

’15th Aug. 1702. I went to Leverp(ool) with Coz(en) Edmund Butler. We halled ye Mary with a Handkerchaf but she answered not: he went on Bord ye Harington for Dublin.’ It is a long cry to the time when the Dublin Mail Packet could be hailed by passengers, but as the first dock – formed by deepening the old Pool, the site of the present Custom House – was not opened till 1700, the means of embarking for Ireland at that date must have been very primitive.

A similar entry is under date 2 May 1708: ‘Mr. Waring told us his Son was in danger to lose his Passage for Ireland, ye Ship being gone and he was forced to ride after her on Shore and so get on Border if he could.’

The next entry is interesting as showing the number of priests in this neighbourhood at the time: ’18 Aug. 1702. Mr. Mullins came in ye morning to pray and stayed till next day: Mr. Tasburgh and Little Man came hither in ye Afternoone.’ Mr. Mullins was priest at Mossuck Hall, in Bickerstaffe, a secluded spot a few hundred yards behind St Mary’s Chapel, Aughton. Rev. Henry Tasburgh, S.J., lived at the New House, at Ince Blundell, built shortly before with the view of its being used as a school. It never was so used, but became the home of aged and infirm priests of the Society. By ‘Little Man’ is meant his cousin and chaplain, Rev. W. Gillibrand, who throughout his life was a confidential friend and adviser. The following reads strangely to-day: ‘5 March 1705. I saw 3 Beggars whiped out of Leverpool,’ and next day: ‘My wife rid behind me to Leverpool: she saw ye Elephant.’

I count it great gain to do good and receive evil

Father Gillibrand did not remain long in Liverpool. He was gone before 1710, probably to his friends at Chorley. Rev. Francis Mannock, S.J., succeeded him. He lodged with a Mrs. Brownhill, as we learn from the following entry: ‘1712, January 27. My wife and I went to Liverpoole and heard Mr. Mannock preach. Mr. Tute (Tuite) and Mr. Morphew etc. were there. We dined at Mrs. Brownbills with her and Mr. Mannock.’ Father Mannock left Liverpool in 1715, and was serving the Yorkshire district in 1741; he died at York in 1748.

Rev. John Hardesty, S.J., whose real name was Tempest, was living in Liverpool in 1715, when a visit is thus recorded: ‘1715, Sept. 11. My wife and I heard Mr. Hardesty preach. We dined at Mr. Lancaster’s: I drank at the Woolpack with Mr. Lancaster and his brother, the doctor.’ The Woolpack was an inn in Dale Street to which Squire Blundell, when in Liverpool, usually resorted. It seems probable that Father Hardesty rented a house of his own, as his address was: ‘Mr. John Hardesty, at his house in Liverpool,’ and he had another priest living with him later on. The diarist says: ‘1718, June 22. My wife and I went to Liverpoole to hear Pat(er) Doodell hold forth at Mr. Hardesty’s. We dined there with Mr. Tute and his nephew, Mr. Nugent.’

After the death of Rev. John Mostyn, S.J., at Lydiate Hall in 1721, Father Hardesty was instructed to give the congregation there a monthly Mass. The diarist and his wife occasionally go over on a Sunday to hear Father Hardesty ‘hold forth,’ and the latter employed him as her confessor. Brother Foley tells us that he built the first chapel in Liverpool in 1736. Some idea of the privations he endured in the prosecution of his work may be gathered from the following letter, written in reply to some cavils on the subject:

I lived frugally, as not many would have been content to live

‘I wonder how it should come into anyone’s head that what I built at Liverpool was by subscription, and that it is required that an account be given of the money laid out on it, I know therefore, and you may show this declaration to whom you please, that while I lived in the aforesaid town, I received one year with another from the people, about one or two and twenty pounds a year by way of contribution to my maintenance, and that no other subscription was ever made for me, or for the buildings. From friends in other places I had part of the money, but much the greater part was what I spared, living frugally, and as not many would have been content to live. What disaffected people may say and give out I do not matter (sic). I count it great gain to do good and receive evil, nor do I regret my having spent the best years of my life in serving the poor Catholics of Liverpool.

I don’t regret my having spent the best years of my life in serving the poor Catholics of Liverpool

This letter was written in 1750 from Tixall, Staffordshire, where he had gone to be chaplain to Lord Aston. Father Hardesty had an old Jesuit father living with him for several years – Rev. Will. Pennington, whom Mr. Blundell saw distribute, on Palm Sunday, 1727, 256 palms to the congregation. From this we may form some idea of the number of Catholics at that period. Father Pennington was buried next to Mr. Aldred, S.J., in the Harkirke. ‘After a long illness, being a sort of co-adjutor to Mr. Carpenter of Liverpool, he dyed there 8th June 1736.’

Father Gibson continues: ‘As Mr. Blundell makes no mention of Mr. Hardesty in this entry, it is not improbable that he built his chapel some time previous to 1736, when it appears that Mr. Carpenter occupied his place. The last entry in the diary that relates to Mr. Hardesty was made on the occasion of the death of his chaplain, Rev. R. Aldred, S.J.: ‘1728, Feb. 24. Pat. Hardesty prayed for Mr. Aldred in his chapel: there was a large congregation.’

He had provided a refuge for the poor persecuted Catholics of Liverpool after the destruction of their chapel

The next source of information is Mr. Thomas Green, whose mother was Elizabeth Clifton of the Lytham family. His father, Francis Green, had provided a refuge at his house in Dale Street for the poor persecuted Catholics of Liverpool after the destruction of their chapel in 1746. He also gives an account of its demolition, which is in substance as follows: ‘When the Scots had retreated from Derby in 1746 so far to the north as to relieve the people of Liverpool from any danger of a visit from them, the mob assembled to pull down the small Catholic chapel at the S.W. corner of Edmund st. The priests, Fathers Hermenigild Carpenter and Thos. Stanley, met the mob, which behaved with the greatest respect to the priests and without noise or violence opened a passage for Father Carpenter to go up to the altar and take the ciborium out of the Tabernacle and carry it by the same passage out of the chapel. After this the mob tore up the benches and made a bonfire of every thing combustible in the chapel and priests’ house, and pulled the whole of both down. Such was the end of the first Catholic Chapel in Liverpool.

The mob tore up the benches and made a bonfire of everything combustible in the chapel and priests’ house, and pulled the whole of both down

‘Soon after the Battle of Culloden, in 1746, Henry Pippard, Esq., a principal merchant, then married to Miss Blundell, of Crosby (whose name he took on succeeding to the property), treated with the Mayor and Corporation to allow the Catholics to rebuild their chapel. This they peremptorily refused. Mr. Pippard observed that no law could prevent him from building a warehouse, and making what use he pleased of it. It was acknowledged that he might do this, but at his own risk. He then collected subscriptions, and built a warehouse of two stories upon vacant ground purchased from a Catholic family, lying on the south side of the same Edmund Street, the front of which street was covered by buildings and ‘six-yard’ houses, with small back yards opening into the intended chapel-yard. On the east side of this warehouse there were two large folding doors, one above the other, surmounted by a teagle rope, block and hook, capped against the rain as was then usual in Liverpool. The upper storey was to act as the chapel, its upper folding doors being bricked up within and the walls stuccoed: large leaded windows on the east, south and west, admitted light, and these were protected by strong outside shutters to be closed when there was no service. The ascent to the chapel was by a broad staircase on each side within the lower warehouse room, the centre of which was used for lumber, the entrance to the room being secured by strong folding doors.’ The plan of 1765 shows this ‘Romish chapel,’ and from the enlargement this description can be seen to be perfectly accurate. Mr. Blundell’s chapel was actually in use from 1746 till 1845, exactly one hundred years.

The new chapel, which was disguised as a warehouse, was in use for exactly 100 years

‘After September 24, 1764, Mr. and Mrs. Green went to their house in Dale Street; ‘while the new chapel was being built, Mass was said on Sundays and holidays in their garrets, the whole of which, with the tea and lodging-rooms of the two storeys underneath, were filled by their acquaintances of different ranks, and admitted singly and cautiously through different entrances from the two houses immediately adjoining on each side, which belonged to two very respectable and kind neighbours who were Presbyterians.

Clandestine Holy Mass took place in silence, by candlelight, without any ringing of the bell at the Elevation

‘Everything was done in silence, by candlelight, without any ringing of the bell at the Elevation,’ etc. With reference to the foregoing, Mr. Burke (Cat. Hist. of Liv.) justly remarks: ‘From this simple but graphic story we may infer that the anti-Catholic spirit ran high at this period, while ‘the different ranks’ tells us plainly that the Faith was still preserved among the better off as well as the poorer classes.’

In 1758 the chapel was again attacked 

The priests who successively served the ‘new chapel’ were Rev. Hermenegild Carpenter and Rev. Thomas Stanley, Rev. Michael Tichbourne, Rev. John Rigby, 1749-1758, Rev. William Wappeler, Rev. Anthony Carroll. In this year the chapel was again attacked by an infuriated mob, but was reopened in the following year. This chapel was enlarged in 1797 and continued to be used until St. Mary’s, from the design of A. W. Pugin, was built on the same site and consecrated in 1845. [Following the Catholic Emancipation Act etc., a process of restoring to Catholics in Britain and Ireland the human rights which they had been deprived of for several hundred years.] In consequence of the enlargement of Exchange Station it was taken down, but rebuilt stone by stone in Highfield Street, being re-consecrated July 7, 1885.”

Footnotes

*1) The present writer feels an apology is due for some of the more personal statements; he is, however, only quoting the Catholic Almanac, which contains many statements still more laudatory.

*2) The whole diary makes quite interesting reading. Copies are still on sale at the Philomena Co., Bold Street, Liverpool.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“FOR MATTERS BELONGING TO THE CATHOLICKE RELIGION” – CATHOLIC HISTORY FROM LITTLE CROSBY, ENGLAND

“The early history of Little Crosby might be written at great length, for there are preserved at the Hall over 500 deeds of date from 1200 to 1500. They are in good preservation, and form a very remarkable series. Most of them are witnessed by the Molyneux of Sefton, whose residence was only two miles away. A similar series of very early deeds exist at Croxteth, these being originally at Sefton Hall, and are grants of land to and by the Molyneux of Sefton; these deeds are mostly witnessed by the Squire of Crosby of that date. The two series, if published, would be found to corroborate each other in a very interesting manner.

The deeds above mentioned have been utilised by the authors of the ‘Victorian History of Lancashire’ to prove the unbroken descent of the owners of Little Crosby from the time of Robert de Ainsdale in 1160 to the present time; Robert, especially, eldest son of Osbert, having a grant dated 1190 from John, Count of Mortain, and later confirmed when John became King of England.

IMPRISONED FOR BEING CATHOLIC

At the period of the Reformation, Richard Blundell, then Squire of Crosby, adhered to the ancient Faith, and was imprisoned in Lancaster Castle.
The following are extracts from the statement written by his son:

‘In the year of our Lord God 1590, 11th June, the Right Hon. Henrie, Earl of Darbie, sent certaine of his men to searche the house of Richard Blundell, of Little Crosbie, in the Countie of Lancashire, Esq., for matters belonging to the Catholicke religion &c. where they apprehended and took away with them his honor’s house, one Mr. Woodroffe, a seminary priest, and the said Richard Blundell and mee, William Blundell, son of the said Richard: and the day next following we were severally examined by the Earle: and on the 13th day of the said Month we were all sent to be imprisoned in Chester Castle…. About the 5th August next following &c…. the Priest, my father and I were sent prisoners to Lancaster (where we found prisoners there before us, Mr. Henrie Latham of Mosborowe, and Mr. Richard Worthington, of Blainschough, committed for their conscience), where also my father and I remained for the most part until 19th March 1592, on which day my saide ffather, changed this life for a bbetter.’ Not only did Mr. Blundell die a Confessor of the Faith, but Mr. Worthington also, as we learn from another letter, soon ‘changed this life for a better’ in the miserable dungeons of Lancaster Castle.

CATHOLICS INCARCERATED IN THE DUNGEONS OF LANCASTER CASTLE

William Blundell, the son and heir of the foregoing, would never make the least show of conformity, and in consequence underwent five years’ imprisonment for the Faith, and after his release was frequently obliged to seek safety in flight. His wife also was confined for a long time in Chester Castle, and was at last released through the intervention of Sir Richard Molyneux and Rev. John Nutter, parson of Sefton. What her sufferings must have been we can infer from the statement of Father Richard Blundell, S.J.: ‘My father, son of William Blundell, was born, or at least suckled, in prison, where his parents for a long time lay on account of their Faith.’ Another statement infers that the good lady actually gave birth to the child in prison. Little wonder that he, too, should have been a stout Confessor of the Faith.

BORN IN PRISON BECAUSE OF HIS MOTHER’S FAITH

The late Bishop Goss, of Liverpool, in his learned ‘Introduction to Crosby Records’ (Cheltham Society, vol. xii), says: ‘In a previous page mention has been made of the penalties of excommunication inflicted on recusants, and of the riot which ensued near Hereford on the refusal of the curate to bury the body of a Catholic. In 1610 the storm visited Lancashire. The Parson of Sefton refused to bury the corpse of a poor Catholic woman on the plea of her being excommunicated; and her sturdy friends, not wishing to carry it home again, buried it outside the churchyard in the highway. Some swine that had run off the lanes, happening to come to the spot, grubbed up the body and partially devoured it.

CATHOLIC BURIALS

‘This outrage coming to the ears of William Blundell, Esq., of Little Crosby, who was himself a Popish recusant convict, he enclosed a piece of ground, part of a plot called the Harkirke, within his own domain, in the Lordship of Little Crosby, for the burial of such Catholic recusants deceasing either of the said village or of the adjoining neighbourhood as should be denied burial at their parish church of Sefton. The first burial took place on the 7th April, 1611.’

The list of those buried in Harkirke – the original in the handwriting of William Blundell and his successors – is published in vol. xii, Chetham Society, from which the following extracts are made:

‘1. ffirst of all, Wm. Mathewson, an ould man of ye Morehouses within little Crosbie, dyed a Catholicke, the 6th daye of Aprill 1611, and was buried in ye Harkirke ye day following … being first denyed buriall at Sephton Churche by the Parson thereof.
‘2. Secondly, Ellen Blundell, the wyffe of Thomas Blundell of ye Carrhouses in Inceblundell, was buried in the Harkirke upon 10th day of Aprill 1611, being first denyed buriall at Sephton’; and after similar entries comes –
’12. John Synett, an Irishman borne in Wexforde, Master of a barke, was excommunicated by the B(ishop) of Chester for being Catholicke recusant, and so dying at his house in Liverpool was denyed to be buried at Liverpoole Church or Chappell and therefore was brought and buried in this said buryall place of ye Harkirke in ye afternoon of the last day of August 1613.’
Nor was this a solitary instance.
’22. Anne, ye wyffe of George Webster of Liverpoole (tenant of Mr. Crosse) dyed a Catholicke and bein denyed buriall at ye Chappell of Liverpoole by ye Curate there, by ye Mayor, and by Mr. More was buried &c. 20th May, 1615.’

PRIESTS HAD TO BE BURIED AT DEAD OF NIGHT

‘In regard to the burial of Priests,’ says Father Gibson, who edited the volume aforesaid, ‘it is generally notified that they were carried to the grave at dead of night. The burials that took place after the year 1629 are nearly all those of Priests; a few examples are here given:

’15. John Saterthwait, P. and was buried in the Harkirke on Christenmas eave at 8 o’clocke in the evening. 24 Dec. 1613.
’40. John Birtwisell P. dyed ye 26th Feb. and was buried in ye Harkirke the night following about 2 of the clocke, anno 1620, priest.
’69. John Laiton, P. dyed ye 18th of ffebruarie about 8 o’clock at night and was buried ye 19 day of ffebruarie about 9 of the clocke at night, Priest.’

In all there were 131 burials at Harkirke, 26 of these being priests, of whom the following are the names and dates of death:

John Saterthwait … P. … 24 Dec. 1613
John Worthington … P. … 31 July 1622
Will Raban … P. … 27 May 1626
Richard Horne … P. … 19 Sep. 1634
Raph Melling … Priest … 2 May 1660
Alex. Barker … Priest … 12 Oct. 1665
John Birtwistle … Priest … 27 Jan. 1680
Thos. Eccleston … Clergy Priest 1700
Edw. Moleneux … Clergy Priest 29 Apl. 1704
Henry Tasburgh … S.J. … 27 Jan. 1717
Robert Aldred … S.J. … 25 Feb. 1727
Francis Williams … S.J. … 173 –
James Clifton … S.J. … 27 Sep 1750
John Birtwistle … P. … 27 Feb. 1620
John Laiton … P. … 19 Feb. 1624
John Melling … P. … 26 Apl 1633
Rich. Robertson … … 29 Oct. 1634
Thos. Fazakerley … Priest … 24 Mar. 1664
John Beesly … Priest … 31 Mar. 1674
Thos. Martin … … 11 June 1691
Thos. Blundell … S.J. … 27 May 1702
Rich. Foster … … 9 May 1707
George Lovell … S.J. … 14 Dec. 1720
Will Pinington … S.J. … 8 June 1736
Will Clifton … S.J. … 19 Aug. 1749
Peter Williams … S.J. … 27 Nov. 1753

GREAT DIFFICULTIES

But the charity of the good Squire led him into great difficulties. He was summoned before the terrible Star Chamber, and ordered to pay a fine of £ 2,000, besides costs, and amount equal to ten times that figure in the present money. He was, moreover, subjected to years of persecution on this account (see Chetham Soc. vol. xii. p. 35).

‘THE CAVALIER’: ALL HIS ESTATE WAS SEIZED

The next Squire of Crosby was ‘The Cavalier’, whose diary Father T. E. Gibson published in 1880, and from which the following details are taken:

King Charles I was rallying his adherents round his standard, and had gratefully responded to the applications of certain loyal Lancashire Catholics to be permitted to take up arms in his defence. With all the ardour of youth Mr. Blundell threw himself into the struggle, accepting a captain’s commission from Sir Charles Tildesley, Knt., authorising him to raise a company of 100 dragoons for the royal cause. This commission, dated Leigh, December 22, 1642, bearing the neat signature of the famous Lancashire general, is still preserved at Crosby. The following year Mr. Blundell was wounded at the siege of Lancaster Castle, his thigh being shattered by a musketshot. This wound rendered him a cripple for life, and in his own neighbourhood his tenants, indulging the Lancashire propensity for nicknames, commonly called him ‘Halt-Will.’

From this period to the close of the Civil War his life was one of privation and anxiety. He was thrice imprisoned, and again, a fourth time, in 1657, at Liverpool, which he describes as a loathsome prison. Moreover, by the law of 1646, no Papist delinquent could compound for his estate; consequently all Mr. Blundell’s estate was seized and remained in the hands of the Commissioners for nine or ten years.

HAVING TO RE-PURCHASE HIS OWN ESTATE AND OTHER INJUSTICES FOR REMAINING CATHOLIC

In the repurchase of his estate Mr. Blundell employed the intervention of two Protestant friends. The sum paid appears to have been £1,340. In addition to this, Mr. Blundell found himself saddled with the arrears of rents reserved to the Crown arising out of frequent grants for recusancy, some of which had never been discharged. These went back as far as the reign of Elizabeth, and though Mr. Blundell represented the injustice of charging him with rents which should have been paid by those who had the benefit of the forfeitures, the Government was inexorable, and he was compelled to pay on this score £1,167 15s. 6 1/2d. Moreover, the cost of making out this prodigious bill was added to the account, making an addition of £34 10s. 2d. to the foregoing sum. This remarkable document, a roll of 20 feet in length, has been carefully preserved at Crosby. May it long serve to remind his descendants of the faith and loyalty of their ancestor. Thus writes Father Gibson; he might have added that one of the chief sources of revenue of the Government at the time were fines imposed upon the poor Catholics for the practice of their religion, and that many families were thus fined out of existence. How nearly this was the case with the Squire of Crosby his own accounts show only too plainly.

PAYING FINES AND BEING FRAMED

In 1689 Mr. Blundell underwent, at Manchester, his fifth imprisonment, being confined with others of his religion. This confinement lasted seven weeks, and was rendered less irksome by the company he met with. Of Mr. Towneley of Towneley, one of the prisoners, he says that his cheerful society would have made life pleasant anywhere. But Mr. Blundell, to judge from his own diary, was an optimist whom no trials could embitter, and his statement regarding Mr. Towneley might equally well be applied to himself. The Catholic gentry of Lancashire were certainly wonderful folk. One last trial awaited Mr. Blundell before his long and eventful career came to a close. He was one of the Lancashire Catholics of position accused of participation in the sham plot of 1694. The late Bishop Goss, in ‘Manchester State Trials’, which he edited for the Chetham Society from papers at Crosby, gives the following account of this transaction:

‘On Monday 30th July 1694 at half past five in the morning, three of the King’s messengers, with two of the informers, invaded the hall at Crosby, with the intention of carrying off old Mr. Blundell. As however he was then in his 75th year and had been lame for many years, in consequence of the injuries he had received while fighting in the royal cause, they did not take him with them. Mr. William Blundell Junr. having shown them to his father’s room, left the house; but finding on his return that they carried off his horses, he went to Liverpool, to Mr. Norris, of Speke, who gave him in custody to the Mayor, who sent him to Chester Castle, and thence to London, where having been examined, he was committed and taken to Newgate. None of the authorities concerned in this illegal arrest seem to have doubted the justice of committing the son for the supposed crime of the father.’

THE PRIEST ATTENDED TO THEIR SPIRITUAL NEEDS WITH AS MUCH PRECAUTION AS POSSIBLE

Father Gibson continues: ‘The brave, loyal and virtuous Cavalier whose life we have been attempting to sketch ended his days peaceably at Crosby Hall on May 24, 1698. He was succeeded by his son William, who only survived him a few years, dying in 1702.’ Regarding the practices of religion, the same writer says: ‘At a time when no Catholic Chapel except the Queen’s and those of foreign Ambassadors were tolerated in England, the services of the Church were necessarily performed in secret in some obscure part of the dwellingm to this the tenants and neighbouring Catholics had access, and the priest attended to their spiritual wants with as much precaution as possible. All this was accompanied with great risk to the host, and still greater to the priest, whose life was at the mercy of the meanest informant. The Chaplain had generally, for greater security, his room at the top of the house, and in time of danger was obliged to keep very close and retired. Mr. Blundell, in his letters to Haggerston, often desires to be remembered ‘to the Gentleman at the top of the house.’ Here too he was, when necessary, served from the family table…. A frequent change of residence was very necessary, and we do not find that any Priests had a settled abode till the close of the Civil War.

Curiously enough, it happens that Crosby Hall is the first place in Lancashire named in conjunction with a resident Priest. The Rev. John Walton, S.J., became Mr. Blundell’s Chaplain about 1652, but was obliged to leave through ill health in 1656. The next Chaplain at Crosby was Rev. Francis Waldegrave, S.J. After having served Crosby for many years, Father Waldegrave went to Lydiate Hall, where he died in 1701. He was a man of zeal and talent, and Mr. Blundell contracted a friendship with him which lasted through life. He speaks of a horse to which he gave the name of ‘Waldegrave’!’

On one occasion he had no slight difference of opinion with Mr. Waldegrave, all the details of which he gives in the diary. We are only concerned with the date and circumstances. ‘Upon the Eve (Dec. 7) of the conception of Our Lady, I, being of the sodality with others of my family, proposed to our spiritual director that we might all together say the Rosary upon the said feast day. He said he did very well like it,’ etc.

Actually how long Father Waldegrave stayed at Crosby we do not know; he was probably succeeded by Mr. Edw. Molyneux, of whom it is said in the Harkirke Register: ‘Mr. Edw. Molyneux, bourn at Alt Grange, was unfortunately killed by a faule off his horse, Aprill ye 28th, 1704, being in ye 65th year of his age: he was a Clergy Priest of Doua, and had for 38 years been a painfull Missioner in Formby, Crosby, and many other places, having under his charg at his death more than 800 penitents, besides children, that depended upon him.’

800 PENITENTS THAT DEPENDED UPON HIM

Next came Mr. Aldred, of whom the same Register says: ‘Mr. Robert Aldred was born at London; he was a Priest of the Society of Jesus: he came to live with me in 1707, and continued with me for som years, then lived as my Priest at Edward Howerds, in Little Crosby, till the West Lane House was built for him, where he died in 1727-8 and was buried in the Harkirke 25th Feb.; he was a Laborious good Missioner, a Fasatious pleasant man, and well beloved by Protestants as well as Catholicks. After Mr. Aldred came Mr. James Clifton, Priest of S.J., who lived about 20 years at West Lane House in Little Crosby and died at said house in 1750. He was a very laborious good Missioner.’

The last two priests were in the time of Nicholas Blundell, whose diary Father Gibson had prepared for the press, though it was actually edited by Mr. Augustine Watts. It is a large quarto volume of 250 pages, and contains many references to the priests of that time and to places where Mass was said. It forms very quaint reading; a few selections are here given.

EXCERPTS OF THE DIARY

‘1702, Aug. 2nd. I sent to Dungen-Hall to acquaint Coz. John Gelibrond of my father’s danger. About half an hour after Tenn in the morning being Sunday, many people in the Roome hearing Mass, and Mass just almost finished, My Dearest Father departed this life being much lamented by all; as his Life was virtuous and edifying so was his death, Sweet Jesus receive his sole.

1702, Aug. 18. Mr. Mullins came in ye Morning to pray and stayed till next day, Mr. Tasburgh and ‘Little Man’ came hither in ye afternoone’ – to which Father Gibson adds a note: ‘Mr. Mullins was Priest at Mossock Hall, in Bickerstaffe, a secluded spot a few hundred yards behind St. Mary’s Chapel, Aughton. Rev. Henry Tasburgh S.J. lived at the New House, at Ince Blundell, built shortly before with the view of its being used as a school. By ‘Little Man’ is meant his cousin, Rev. Will. Gelibrond or Gillibrand, S.J., who was throughout his life a confidential friend and advisor. He was then doing duty as Chaplain at Crosby, but soon after went to Liverpool and seems to have been the first Priest settled there since the Reformation.’

‘1702, Dec. 30th. I went with Pat(er) Gelibr(and) in ye after Noone to Mr. Wairings. Lord Molyneux sent for me home from Mr. Wairings, he and his son entered each of them a Running hors before me at my own hous by telling me their names and describing them.

‘1703, Jan. 15th. I met Mr. Blundell (of Ince) a coursing and saw two Hairs Runn that were found set. Pat(er) Gelibr(and) and I went home to writ a letter to Mr. Philpot.

‘1703, Feb. 20th. I went with Pat(er) Gelibrand to Croxteth to wish my Lord a Good Journey to London.

‘1703, April 17th. Pat(er) Gelibrand went to Liverpool to buy Cloth for a Black Coat.

‘1703, Oct. 20th. Mr. Alban Butler came to me with a letter from Lord Molyneux.’ The Molyneux family were still Catholic at this date.

‘Nov. 26th. Lord Biss(hop) Smith and Mr. Martin came to lodge here’ (Right Rev. James Smith, Bishop of Callipolis and V. A. of the Northern District; he died May 13, 1711, aged sixty-six. He confirmed 110 at Crosby).

‘Nov. 30th. Lord Biss. went to ye Grange, dined there and confirmed about 100 as tis believed. My wife walked towards ye Grange in disgise.

‘Dec. 19th. My wife and I heard Mr. Edw. Molineux hold forth at Marg(aret) Howerds.

‘Jan. 16th. My Lady Molineux sent Mr. Butler hither a How-do-you-do.

‘1704, June 5th. Pat(er) Thos. Wofold held fourth the first time at Winny Marrowes, most of my servants went to hear him.’

Note. – Rev. T. Wolfall had come to succeed Rev. Molineux.

1705, Feb. 5th. My wife and I went to Lidiat: she fell of(f) the Hors just after her mounting, we took a Fat Goose with us for Bess Fazak(erley).

‘Feb. 21st. Pat(er) Wofold gave Ashes here and spoke to us.

‘1705, Dec. 8th. Pat(er) Gelibrand went to Ormskirk. My wife and I went along with him to see him safe over Sefton Water.

‘Dec. 16th. Pat(er) Gelibrand comes not to Calves Feet.

‘1706, May 21st. Mr. Babthorp sent to Pat(er) Gelibrand not to leave us further orders.’

At this period Mr. Gillibrand – as the name is more usually written – was giving service occasionally at Liverpool, which at that date had a population of 5000 souls. In the Records of the S.J., vol. xii, p. 363, we read: ‘In 1701, we find Father Willen am Bill brand serving it occasionally from Crosby, with a stipend of £3 from Mr. Eccleston’s fund ‘for helpinge at Leverpoole.’ ‘ And again: ‘The Catholics of Liverpool were attended by Father Gillibrand, S. J., chaplain of Mr. Nicholas Blundell, of Crosby’ (Canon Hughes, Congress Handbook, 1920). Such was, in fact, the beginng of the Post-Reformation Church of Liverpool, so far as Catholics were concerned.”

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

 

 

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