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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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