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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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“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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