Tag Archives: Protestant Reformation



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

The exact spot occupied by the Benedictine monastery is now unknown

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

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

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

‘The man at the top of the house’

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

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

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

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

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

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

He received a letter which apparently had been intercepted

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

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

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

Lytham Hall, ca. 1923

Lytham Hall, ca. 1923

‘O death, where is thy victory?’

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

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

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

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

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

A tythe-barn was fitted up as a chapel

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

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

In 1839, the present church was opened

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

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

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

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





Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Our Lady of Consolation

“Our Blessed Mother has been invoked under the beautiful title of Our Lady of Consolation since the fourth century – and probably for even longer than that. History records that St Eusebius of Vercelli, who was a heroic defender of the doctrine of Christ’s Divinity in an age when Arianism was gaining influential followers, brought back an icon of Our Lady of Consolation from Egypt in 363 when he was returning from exile.


This icon was presented to the city of Turin. Later St Maximus, Bishop of Turin 380 – 420, established a small Shrine to house the icon in a church dedicated to St Andrew. Here it became a popular centre of Marian devotion in the city. However, the following years brought a cycle of destruction, then restoration, followed by neglect, then revival.

During these troubled times a new shrine was built, only to be destroyed again during an invasion of the Barbarians. In 1104 the icon was found buried unharmed beneath some ruins and once again the faithful of Turin could honour Our Lady of Consolation in her shrine. Many miracles were attributed to her intercession and over the succeeding centuries the church in which the icon now is displayed has been reconstructed, embellished and added to, and has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica. The devotion to Our Lady of Consolation became widespread in Europe.

West Grinstead

The English Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, West Grinstead, Sussex is officially affiliated to the Turin Shrine. Although the church itself was built comparatively recently, it stands in a rural area which is steeped in Church history.

After the Reformation, the local major landowners, the Caryll family, were secret Catholics and welcomed priests who came disguised, at the risk of their lives, to minister to them and to the faithful throughout England.

The Priest’s House, with hiding places to shelter the priest if any investigating authorities were in the area, was originally a tiny cottage. There was also a hidden chapel intended to provide temporary safety for worshippers.

Eventually the government policy towards Catholics changed and instead of the risk of the death penalty, financial sanctions were imposed. The Caryll family remained faithful to the Church and eventually followed the Stuart Royal family to France, where they had an honoured place at the Court in Exile.

Monsignor Denis

When the Caryll estate in Sussex was sold in 1754, the Priest’s House at West Grinstead was given to the Church to ensure that a Catholic presence would continue there. Strange to say, the historical situation was soon reversed, as French Catholic priests fled to England to escape the French Revolution, and some found refuge at West Grinstead.

It was difficult for French speaking priests to minister to a rural English congregation and sadly local fervour declined. Eventually, however, following the establishment of a Catholic Diocese of Southwark (which included Sussex) a priest from Brittany, Mgr Jean Marie Denis, was appointed to West Grinstead and, encouraged by the Bishop, worked hard to revitalise the parish.

A new place of pilgrimage

It was Mgr Denis’s inspiration to establish the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead in 1876. He chose this title because the Shrine at Turin was an ancient one and was blessed with special privileges and Indulgences. Through affiliation, the Shrine at West Grinstead shares those privileges.

The combination of history enshrined in the Priest’s House and devotion to Our Blessed Lady under the ancient title Our Lady of Consolation excited wide interest and pilgrims began to visit and pray there and they continue to do so today.

Developments in Turin

Whilst the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, West Grinstead, in England was developing and attracting pilgrims, there had been developments at the Shrine in Turin. In 1880 a young priest, Father Giuseppe Allamano, was appointed Rector of the Shrine at the age of 29. Although his father had died when he was only three years old, his early years had been privileged with the example of at least two future saints: one being his uncle, later to become St John Cafasso, and the other being Don Bosco, later to become St John Bosco. The latter was his teacher and spiritual director.

Father Giuseppe had benefited from these early influences and, by the time he was installed as Rector of Our Lady of Consolation Shrine in Turin, he had a number of years’ experience of directing seminarians and newly ordained priests of the diocese. He was a dynamic Rector of the Shrine and enhanced its reputation and influence, but his achievements were not limited to that holy place.

Consolata Missionaries

Father Giuseppe was led by his intense devotion to Our Lady and his zeal for evangelisation to found the two religious missionary congregations that we know as the Consolata Fathers and Brothers (1901) and the Consolata Sisters (1910). They were soon active in Africa and now are spread across the world. Father Giuseppe, better known to us today as Blessed Joseph Allamano, died in 1926 and was beatified in 1990 by Pope St John Paul II. We may hope that he will soon be a canonised saint. The Consolata Missionaries eagerly await this and have dedicated the year 2014 to their founder. They are praying that the miracles required to support the Cause of his canonisation will soon be identified and they urge us all to ask his intercession.

The Consolata Icon

Blessed Joseph Allamano spent many hours in prayer at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Turin. The holy icon was a source of inspiration for him, and his prayer led him beyond the ancient representation, to the reality of Our Lady’s loving concern for the needy, the sick, the forlorn, the lost… a loving concern as alive today as it has been through the ages.

It seems appropriate that the icon at Turin is not replicated at West Grinstead, which has its own distinct painting … Our Lady is not limited in time or space. Her title of ‘Consolata’ reassures us of her motherly love and her attentiveness to us whenever we call on her, wherever we may be.

Our Lady of Consolation, pray for us.

Blessed Joseph Allamano, pray for us. “

– This article was published in the “Little Way Association” magazine (hard copy) Issue no. 94. For subscriptions and donations, please visit the Little Way Association’s website (external link)


Leave a comment

Posted by on July 21, 2015 in Devotions


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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

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

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

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

Birchley Hall, Lancashire, ca. 1923

Birchley Hall, Lancashire, ca. 1923

Everything was disorganised at that time

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

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

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

1. The Christian Manna.

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

3. Keepe your Text.

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. The Non-Entitie of Protestancy.

11. Puritanisme the Mother; Sinn the Daughter.

12. An Apologie of English Armenianisme.

13. An Antidote against Purgatorie.

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

15. Adelphomachia, or Ye Warrs of Protestancy.

16. Bellarmin of Eternal Felicitie. (Translated.)

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

18. Bellarmin of ye Words of Our Lord.

19. Clavis Homerica.

20. Miscellanea.

21. Luther’s Alcoran.

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

23. The Catholicke Younger Brother.

24. A Panegyricke, or Laudative Discourse.

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

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

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

At a time of most bitter persecution

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

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

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

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

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

Supplying imprisoned priests with food

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

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

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

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

Fr Penswick was the last survivor of the old Douai priests

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

No government informers ‘polluted’ this particular neighbourhood

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

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

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

Reporting Catholics as a source of extra income

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

Elizabethan style

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

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

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

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

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

A ‘mobile’ altar 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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

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

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

Catholic priests were hunted down and forced to live undercover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government informants and the succession

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

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

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

The mansion was full of priests’ hiding-places

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Ellen ffazakerley, sp(inste)r XVI d.

Margaret ffazakerley, sp(inste)r XVI d.

Lawrence Bryers, et ux IIs VIII d.

Will Chorley, gent et ux II VIII d.

Eme Chorley, sp(inste)r XVI

Nicholas ffazakerley, gent et ux II VIII d.

Henry Stananoght, et ux II VIII d.

Will Topping, et ux II VIII d.

Joane Tyror, vid(ua) XVI d.

Thos. Longhorne, et ux. II VIII d.

Dorothy Barker, sp(inste)r XVI d.

Ann Briage, vid(ua) XVI d.

John ffisher, et ux II VIII d.


West Derbie.

Elizabeth Mollinex, vid XVI d.

Katherin Mollinex, XVI d.

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

Margeria ux Hugh Barner, XVI d.

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

Thomas fflecher, XVI d.

Ann ux. Robt. Dorwin, XVI d.

Thomas Mollinex, XVI d.

George Woods et Susan, ux ejus II VIII d.

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

John Sergent, et ux. II VIII d.

John Stockley et Marie, ux ejus II VIII

Andrew Mercer, XVI

Alice Rigbie, XVI

Will Moore et Margery, ux ejus II VIII

John Edgerton et Ellinor, ux ejus II VIII

John Lathom Lathom, (sic) et ux II VIII

Ellin Standish, vid XVI d.

George Standish, et ux VIII d.

James Pemberton, XVI

Valentine Richardson, et ux II VIII d.

Thomas Bolton, XVI

Margret ux. Edw. Henshaw, XVI d.

Ellin ux. John Miller, XVI

Mary Leyland, XVI d.



Ursula ux. John Banckes, XVI

Jane ux. Henry Haskeene, XVI

Alice Harison, sp(inste)r XVI

Elizabeth Parkinson, XVI

Arthur Muckowen, XVI


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

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

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

And the names occur year after year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I count it great gain to do good and receive evil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1758 the chapel was again attacked 

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


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

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

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










Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


John Fisher was born in 1469; he studied at Cambridge University, was ordained, became Bishop of Rochester. He was a pastoral bishop, charitable to the poor, a man of prayer, and a persistent opponent of the errors of the Protestant Reformation.

Thomas More was born in 1477, studied at Oxford University, married and had one son and three daughters. He became Chancellor of England. His writings include ‘Utopia’, and many prayers and letters which reveal his spirituality. Both were executed on the orders of King Henry VIII.


you confirm the true faith
with the crown of martyrdom.
May the prayers of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
give us the courage to proclaim our faith
by the witness of our lives.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Tags: , , , ,


“Scandinavia might not be the first part of the world you think of when you mention the Catholic Church, but these northern European countries have a long Catholic heritage, and in recent years have seen the highest increase in church attendance and vocations in Europe. In October 2012, during the Synod of Bishops in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned Norway among the countries where the Church is experiencing renewal. He said, ‘Today we see, where one would not expect it, how the Lord is present and powerful, and how he continues to be effective through our labour and our reflection.’


Christianity came to Scandinavia later than in the rest of the continent. St Ansgar, ‘the apostle of the North’ was the first missionary to bring the faith to Denmark and Sweden in around 820. He was followed by many more missionaries who came from England and Ireland over the next 300 years. Another Christianizing influence was the mass emigration of Danes to England and Normandy in those years. Thousands settled in east central England and northern France displacing or intermarrying with the locals who were Christian. By the 12th century, Denmark, Norway and Sweden had established their own archdioceses, responsible directly to the Pope.

The Catholic Church thrived in Scandinavia from the Middle Ages until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, when King Gustav I broke off relations with Rome. Monasteries and cathedrals were confiscated, and many priests and bishops were martyred. Gustav established the Church of Sweden, based on the teachings of Martin Luther, and this was the only legal church in Sweden until the middle of the 19th century.

A turnaround began in 1850, when the practice of Catholicism was again permitted. In 1951, the Freedom of Religion Act was introduced, allowing individuals to belong to a church or not. This may have been prompted by the aftermath of the Second World War, which saw thousands of Catholic refugees arriving from Eastern bloc countries. Lutheranism continued to be the State church until it was disestablished in 2000, but across Scandinavia religious practice declined dramatically in the Protestant churches, while the small immigrant Catholic communities were quietly growing. Nearly a third of the priests now are from Poland. Copenhagen’s Bishop Czeslaw Kozon was born and educated in Denmark, but his mother’s family immigrated from Poland, and his father was a Polish refugee after World War II. It would take several more years, until 1998, when Anders Arborelius was appointed Bishop of the Stockholm Catholic Diocese, and became the first ethnic Swede and second Scandinavian Roman Catholic bishop since the Reformation.


Fresh waves of immigration have brought more Catholics. After the war on Iraq, in Stockholm alone more than 20,000 Chaldean Catholic refugees arrived, and they have begun buying disused old churches and converting them for Catholic worship. Many Vietnamese refugees have settled in Norway; 400 are in Norway’s Catholic cathedral parish alone. The Vietnamese now have one priest ordained there and several seminarians. There is also a growing Filipino community.

When the Nordic Bishops’ Conference met in Iceland last September, it noted an ‘exciting new trend’. Fr Fredrik Heidling SJ, a Swedish theology lecturer at the Newman Institute in Uppsala wrote in The Tablet in January this year. He said, ‘The Catholic Church is growing in Scandinavia and is showing signs of vitality in several ways, one of which is the growing number of vocations both to the secular priesthood and to religious orders.’


Currently, out of about 282,000 registered Catholics in the Scandinavian countries, there are 31 candidates preparing for the priesthood. As a proportion of the total number of Catholics, the Scandinavian countries have more seminarians and people in the early stages of consecrated life than many other regions in Europe. The Archdiocese of Vienna, Austria, for instance, has 30 seminarians out of 1.3 million Catholics. The Nordic Bishops’ Conference issued the following statistics this year: Sweden has nine seminarians in formation for the secular priesthood and eight preparing for ordination in religious orders out of 103,500 Catholics (population nearly 9.5 million).

Norway has nine seminarians out of 115,600 Catholics (population 4.9 m), while Denmark has two seminarians out of 40,400 Catholics, with the Neo-Catechumenate in that country having a further 18 candidates in formation (population nearly 5.6m).

Finland has two seminarians and an additional 15 Neo-Catechumenate candidates in formation out of 11,900 Catholics (population 5.4m). Finally, Iceland has one seminarian out of 10,500 Catholics (population 319,000).

The Vatican Hierarchy website reports that there are 215 women religious in Sweden, 173 in Norway, 222 in Denmark, 36 in Finland and 34 in Iceland – a total of 680. There are no overall statistics to show how these compare to earlier figures, but anecdotally it would seem that numbers have increased and contemplative orders are growing more than apostolic ones…


Fr Heidling [who interviewed Swedish seminarians] found that, ‘Love for Jesus Christ and a sense of calling constitute an absolutely central motivation for the seminarians, several of whom have been received into the Catholic Church as adults’… Fr Heiding adds there is a spirit of optimism in the Nordic Church. While Scandinavia took the lead in an ‘anything-goes’ liberalism, he specifies that ‘What we are experiencing now is a counter-reaction to this liberalism, a reaction that may surface in other countries too.’

Dominican Sister Sofie Hamring, from Rogle monastery, just east of Lund in Sweden, argues that all academic explanations are secondary to the essential love for Jesus Christ, saying simply, ‘The Holy Spirit is at work.’ The 9th-century spirit of St Ansgar, patron of Scandinavia and its first Catholic missionary, seems to have been rekindled.”
– These are excerpts of an article by Josephine Siedlecka entitled ‘Nordic Lights’, published in “Messenger of Saint Anthony”, issue April 2013. For subscriptions, please contact: Messenger of Saint Anthony, Basilica del Santo, via Orto Botanico 11, 35123 Padua, Italy


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,