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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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“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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FOR YOUR DIARY: ALL THE DATES AND VENUES OF ST ANTHONY’S RELICS’ UK VISIT

ST ANTHONY’S RELICS VISIT UNITED KINGDOM – OCTOBER 24 TO NOVEMBER 3

÷ A MESSENGER OF HOPE FROM PADUA, ITALY ÷

• Thursday, October 24
BELFAST
St Peter’s Cathedral
St Peter’s Square, Belfast
Ph.: 028 9032 7573

• Saturday, October 26
GLASGOW
Blessed John Duns Scotus Church
270 Ballater St, Gorbals, Glasgow
Ph.: 141 429 0740

• Sunday, October 27
ABERDEEN
St Mary’s Cathedral
20 Huntly St, Aberdeen
Ph.: 1224 640 160

• Monday, October 28
NEWCASTLE
St Anthony of Padua Parish
Welbeck Road, Walker,
Newcastle upon Tyne
Ph.: 0191 262 3817

• Tuesday, October 29
MANCHESTER
All Saints Franciscan Friary Church
Redclyffe Road, Urmston,
Manchester
Ph.: 0161 749 7626

• Wednesday, October 30
LIVERPOOL
St Anthony’s Friary
1 Elmsley Road, Mossley Hill,
Liverpool
Ph.: 151 724 2109

• Thursday, October 31
CHESTER
St Francis’s Church
Grosvenor Street, Chester
Ph.: 0124 435 1331

• Friday, November 1
LONDON
St George’s Cathedral
Southwark, Lambeth Road, London
Ph.: 020 7928 5256

• Saturday, November 2
LONDON
Westminster Cathedral
Victoria Street, Cathedral Piazza, London
Ph.: 020 7798 9055

• Sunday, November 3
LONDON
St Peter’s Italian Church
136 Clerkenwell Rd, London
Ph.: 020 7837 1528

The Veneration Events are sponsored by: Messenger of Saint Anthony: http://www.saintanthonyofpadua.net (external link) and The Greyfriars of Britain and Ireland: http://www.thegreyfriars.org (external link)

 
 

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SUPPORT NETWORK OF CATHOLICS LIVING WITH HIV

“We include Christians active in Church life and Christians who have been ‘away’ from the Church for many years…”

“We are supported by a Roman Catholic priest who has been our ‘Chaplain’ since the beginning and has many years’ experience of ministry with people living with HIV. Our liturgies are often opportunities to receive the Sacraments of anointing and reconciliation…”

“We host three retreats every year. Our main guided retreat takes place on the first weekend in August. This retreat is usually at Douai Abbey, near Reading, where children are also welcome…”

“We meet about once every month to share food, prayer and conversation. Groups meet in London, Manchester and Birmingham. Anyone wishing to explore their faith is invited to contact us in confidence. Prayer requests are welcome; all prayer requests will be remembered at our regular meetings, liturgies and retreats.”

For more information please visit the “Positive Catholics” (Catholics for Aids Prevention & Support) website http://positivecatholics.com (external link).

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2013 in Prayers for Ordinary Time

 

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