Tag Archives: Reformation


The Norris family of Speke Hall

“The Catholics of Woolton owe the preservation of the Faith in great measure to the family of Norris, of Speke Hall, two miles distant from Woolton. For several generations the Norris family played a prominent part in the life of Catholic Lancashire; one of the most interesting proofs of this is a document, preserved in the Public Record Office, endorsed ‘A Note of Papists and Priests assembled at St Winefrid’s Well on St Winefrid’s Day, 1629,’ of which a portion is printed in Vol. III Mis. Cat. Rec. Soc. as follows:

On St Winefrid’s day, 1629…

‘The Lord Will. Howard (Belted Bill), the Lord Shrewsburie, Sir Tho. Gerard, Sir Will. Norris, Sir Cuthbert Clifton, Mr. Preston of ye Manner (Furness), Mr. Anderton of Clayton, Mr. Anderton of Foarste, Mr. Gerard of Ince, Mr. Bradshaw of Haigh Hall, Mr. Harrington of Button Hey, Mr. Blundell of Crosbie, Mr. Scarisbrick of Scarisbrick, Sir John Talbot of Bashall Hall, Mr. Latham of Mossborow and his five sons who are all priests; The Lady Falkland, and with her Mr. Everard, the priest; Mr. Price, Mr. Clayton, priest; Sir Thos. Gerrard hath two priests resident in his house, namely Pittinger (Dom Dunstan Pettinger, O.S.B.) and Umpton. At Sir William Norris’s house, Speke Hall, two, namely Richardson (Robert) and Holland. At Sir Cuthbert Clifton’s two priests, Anderton and Smith; also Mr. Arrowsmith’s clothes and the knife to cut him up are at Sir Cuthbert Clifton’s house. Mr. Preston of the Manner hath two priests at his house – viz. John Mitchell and John Sefton. Mr. Mayfield, the priest (Will. Maxfield), is archdeacon under the Bishop Chalcedony, of Speke near the seashore.’

Speke Hall, ca. 1923

Speke Hall, ca. 1923

Speke Hall lies seven miles south of Liverpool on the banks of the Mersey. It was restored in the reign of Elizabeth and is now probably the most perfect example of the ancient timbered house. It contained many hiding-places for the priests who resorted to it – one in particular was said to lead to a subterranean passage affording easy access to the shore. Father Gibson (Lydiate and its Associations) gives the following instance when this passage would probably be used: ‘1586, Richard Brittain, a priest receipted in the house of Will. Bennet, of Westby, about the beginning of June last, from whence young Mr. Norris, of Speke, conveyed the said Brittain to the Speke as the said Bennet hath reported. The said Brittain remayneth now at the house of Mr. Norrice, of the Speke, as appeareth by the deposition of John Osbaldston.’

The young ‘Mr. Norrice’ mentioned above became, on the death of his father, Sir William Norris of Speke. He adhered to the ancient Faith, and had a strange altercation in 1631 with Mr. More, complaining that this latter ‘had been too precise in examining the church-wardens touching his, Sir William, not coming to church and that it was ungentlemanly dealing.’ Unfortunately the ‘altercation’ was not limited to words, for Sir William Norris later ‘drew his sword and struck the Plaintiff therewith, he being then a Justice of the Peace,’ for which assault he was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay the plaintiff £50 damages.

His wife was a ‘notorious recusant’

Regarding this family, Mr. Gillow says: ‘Edward Norreys of Speke Hall, against whose name Lord Bourghley in his map (1590) has placed a + , was the son and heir of Sir William Norreys. This latter was in so much trouble on account of his adherence to the ancient Faith in 1568. Edward Norreys, who built the greater portion of the Hall, was returned in 1590 as a suspected person – in religious matters – conforming in some degree, but of ‘evil note’; his wife was a notorious recusant, and in 1598 he had to pay £15 to the Queen’s service in Ireland. His children mostly adhered to the Catholic Faith, and at least one of his children suffered for it. Edward died in 1606. His son, Sir William Norreys, is described as ‘not conformable to the laws ecclesiastical, now established,’ and two years later he was a ‘convicted recusant,’ paying double taxes. He died in 1630.’

Thomas Norris, son of Sir William, who compounded for his estate during the Civil Wars for £508, was probably the last Catholic owner of Speke. The property was sold in 1797 to Mr. Richard Watt, but in accordance with the will of the late Miss Watt, who died in 1921, Speke Hall will again return to the Norris family.

Speke Hall, ca. 1923

Speke Hall, ca. 1923

Rev. John Almond

It was while Speke Hall was still in Catholic hands that Rev. John Almond died for the Catholic Faith. He was born about the year 1577 at Speke, so one account says, or on the borders of Alperton, as he himself states in his examination. He went to school at Much Woolton, and passed thence to the English College at Rheims and then to that at Rome. Little is known of his life on the Mission, but the following account of him is given in Challoner’s Memoirs of Missionary Priests: 

…came to suffer at Tyburn for the Catholic religion…

‘On Saturday, being 5th December, 1612, between 7 and 8 in the morning, came to suffer at Tyburn for the Catholic religion John Almond, a man of the age of 45, by his own relation; yet in his countenance more grave and staid, beginning to be besprinkled with hairs that were white – who having tarried beyond the seas about ten years to enable himself by his studies returned into his native country, where he exercised a holy life with all sincerity, and a singular good content to those that knew him, and worthily deserved both a good opinion of his learning and sanctity of life… full of courage and ready to suffer for Christ, that suffered for him.’

‘Ready to suffer for Christ, that suffered for him’

Mr. Almond, Challoner says, was apprehended on March 22, 1612, and brought before Mr. John King, lately advanced to the bishopric in London. At his examination he showed wonderful courage and most extraordinary acuteness, as the following will show. [A – Rev. John Almond; B – Anglican Bishop John King]

B. What is your name? A. My name is Francis. B. What else? A. Lathome. B. Is not your name Molyneux? A. No. B. I think I shall prove it to be so. A. You will have more to do than you ever had to do in your life. B. What countryman are you? A. A Lancashire man. B. In what place were you born? A. About Allerton. B. About Allerton! Mark the equivocation. Then not in Allerton? A. No equivocation. I was not born in Allerton, but in the edge or side of Allerton. B. You were born under a hedge then, were you? A. Many a better man than I, or you either, has been born under a hedge. B. What! you cannot remember that you were born in a house? A. Can you? B. My mother told me so. A. Then you remember not that you were born in a house, but only that your mother told you so; so much I remember, too. B. Were you ever beyond the seas? A. I have been in Ireland. B. How long since you came thence? A. I remember not how long since, neither is it material. B. Here is plain speaking, is it not? A. More plain than you would give, if you were examined yourself before some of ours in another place. A. I ask, are you a priest? A. I am not Christ; and unless I were Christ in your own grounds, I cannot be a priest. B. Are you a priest, yes or no? A. No man accuseth me. B. Then this is all the answer I shall have? A. All I can give unless proof come in. B. Where have you lived, and in what have you spent your time? A. Here is an orderly course of justice sure! What is it material where I have lived, or how I have spent my time, all the while I am accused of no evil?

He flung some three or four pounds in silver amongst the poor that crowded about the scaffold

He thus continued to parry the questions put to him through a long and tedious examination, after which he was committed to Newgate Prison, from whence after some months he was brought to trial, upon an indictment of high treason, for having taken orders beyond the sea by authority of the See of Rome, and for remaining in this country contrary to the laws. At his trial he showed the same vivacity of wit and resolution as he had done in his examination, but was brought in guilty by the jury, though he neither denied nor confessed his being a priest; and what proofs were brought of his being such do not appear.

At his execution he prayed earnestly for the king and all the royal family, and that his posterity might inherit the crown of England for ever. He flung some three or four pounds in silver amongst the poor that crowded about the scaffold, saying: ‘I have not much to bestow or give, for the keeper of Newgate hath been somewhat hard unto me and others that way, whom God forgive, for I do. For, I having been prisoner there since March, we have been ill-treated continually, for we were all put down into the hole or dungeon, or place called Little Ease, whence was removed since we came thither two or three cart-loads of filth or dirt; we were kept twenty-four hours without bread, meat or drink, loaded with irons, lodging on the damp ground, and so continued for ten days or thereabouts.’

‘Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my soul’

He gave the executioner a piece of gold, and desired him to give him a sign when the cart was to be drawn away, so that he might die with the name of Jesus in his mouth. He often repeated the words, ‘Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my soul,’ and at the sign being given, he cried, ‘Jesu, Jesu, Jesu,’ and than hanging for the space of three Paters [‘Our Father’, i.e. The Lord’s Prayer], some of the bystanders pulling him by the legs to dispatch his life, he was cut down and quartered, his soul flying quickly to Him who redeemed us all. So far the manuscript written by an eyewitness, says Bishop Challoner, who adds: ‘Mr. Almond suffered at Tyburn, December 5, 1612, in the forty-fifth year of his age, the eleventh of his Mission.’

The Molyneux family came to assist the Catholics of Woolton

It was not long after the Norris family had ceased to be Catholics, that the Molyneux family came to assist the Catholics at Woolton. About the year 1700 Hon. Richard Molyneux purchased the Woolton Hall estate, comprising the Hall and about 400 acres of land. He was then, says Mr. C. R. Hand, contemplating marriage, and like other young men in similar circumstances he became anxious about the house, and like some young men he paid for the house out of the money which his wife brought him. Although Richard’s father died in 1717, and he then succeeded to the title as Viscount Molyneux, he continued to live at the Hall until his death in 1738. Religious, political, and financial difficulties prevented him from moving to Croxteth Park, the family seat. On May 8, 1728, he made an important agreement with his lawyer, Isaac Greene, who charged in his bill for attending his Lordship at Woolton, and thus the view that Lord Molyneux lived on at Woolton is confirmed. It has recently transpired that in consequence of fines for recusancy and other disabilities the family was at this period in such straits that Isaac Greene, shrewd lawyer as he undoubtedly was, proposed to take over all the Molyneux estates and allow his Lordship a small annual income. Fortunately the kind offer was not accepted!

The family was in dire straits in consequence of government fines for recusancy etc.

During the Jacobite troubles of 1715, Lady Molyneux invited Dom Richard Holme, or Helme, of Goosnargh, to officiate at Woolton as the first priest. He had previously been chaplain to the Molyneux family at Sefton and Croxteth Halls, but he remained at Woolton until his death on December 18, 1717. Father Holme was succeeded by Dom Lawrence Kirby, who resided at Woolton till 1731, when he was removed to Childwall, dying there on July 18, 1743. He was followed by Dom William Lawrence Chapney, who died at Woolton, April 21, 1732. Dom Placid Thomas Hutton was the appointed chaplain, officiating at the Hall until his death on May 17, 1755, and after him came Dom Edward Bernard Catterall.

The founding of St Bennet’s Priory

Lady Molyneux continued to reside at Woolton Hall until her decease, and she was buried at Sefton, March 20, 1766. During the year before her death, in order to provide for the continuance of the Mission at Woolton, she gave twelve acres of land to the Order of St Benedict, and a chapel and presbytery, to which the name of St Bennet’s Priory was given, were erected, under the direction of Father Catterall, in Watergate Lane. On its completion Father Catterall took up his abode there permanently. This was probably occasioned by the proposed sale of the Hall to Nicholas Ashton. Father Catterall died at the Priory on September 9, 1781.

His house and chapel had been burned down by the ‘No Popery Association’

The noted Dom John Bede Brewer, D.D., was the next priest, coming from Bath, where his house and chapel had been burned down and demolished by the members of Lord George Gordon’s ‘No Popery Association.’ Dr. Brewer was famous as an erudite and brilliant theologian, and became later President of the English Congregation of the Order of St Benedict. It was on his invitation that the “black nuns” of the Benedictine Order came to Woolton, where they opened a seminary for young ladies in 1795, and in 1808 they removed to Abbot’s Salford, Stratford-upon-Avon. They are now settled at Stanbrook Abbey, near Worcester.

A Protestant minister, who came across the distressed nuns at an inn, amid uncongenial surroundings, kindly helped them 

Another account gives further details. On one occasion, when a party of Carmelite nuns had been beheaded, their clothes were taken and given to their English sisters in the prison. When the dresses of the murdered nuns were brought to them, the recipients received the gift on their knees, kissed them, and wet them with their tears. Thanks to the nuns being English, they did not suffer death, and when food became scarce they were liberated. They made their way across the Channel to Dover, thence to London. A Mr. Holt, a Lancashire Protestant minister, came across the distressed ladies at an inn, amid uncongenial surroundings, and he kindly undertook to find a better lodging for them. Dr. Brewer, of Woolton, hearing of them, invited the party to come to Southwest Lancashire; so, in 1795, they travelled down from London in three parties by stage coach to Woolton. Here they found employment as teachers of the seminary in connection with the Benedictine Mission in that ancient village.

In 1818 Dr. Brewer left for Ampleford College, but he returned to Woolton, where he died on April 18, 1822, and was buried at St Peter’s, Seel Street, Liverpool. His office of President of the Benedictine Order occasioning frequent duties elsewhere, he was assisted by Dom James Maurus Chaplin, Dom Stephen Hodgson (died April 9, 1822), and Dom James Calderbank (died April 9, 1821).

A man of great ability

Dr. Brewer was followed by Dom John Jerome Jenkins, who only remained here five years, being succeeded in 1824 by Dom Samuel Maurus Phillips. The latter was a man of great ability, ‘and drew large congregations’; in 1828 he enlarged the chapel, soon, however, to be in its turn too small for the Catholic worshippers of the district. Father Phillips died in 1855, and was buried in the little cemetery. Among others buried there have been a number of Catholic Irish, who, in 1847 (the fever year), had fled there, seeking in vain to escape the pestilence, Mr. Lomas, of Allerton Hall, and Mr. H. Bullen. The latter in his day was a public man; his name appears frequently in the Road Surveyor’s book, he having signed these records of the old township of Woolton. When the vault of the Bullen family, which is now overgrown with ivy, was opened to receive the body of a child, a corpse was exposed, which was found to be petrified. It was taken to a pond, washed, and replaced in the grave. In the wall of the garden nearest to Woolton Hall are two pillars. These indicate the site of the gate through which Lady Molyneux, the original foundress of the Mission, came to the church. The path through the graveyard garden is decorated with patterns formed of stones, mostly small cobbles, of a Maltese Cross, a Heart, a Monstrance, and other religious emblems.

The present church of St Mary

The Catholic population of Woolton becoming too great for the Priory chapel, it was deemed necessary to erect a larger place of worship, and the present church of St Mary was built by Dom R. P. Burchall, D.D., and opened on October 28, 1860. Dr. Burchall lived for some time at the Priory, and was the first to be buried in the grounds of the church, where his body now lies in the south-west corner. His funeral in March, 1885, was the occasion of a most imposing demonstration, as he was regarded by ‘Roman Catholics’ as by actual right the lawful Abbot of Westminster.

In 1870 Father J. P. O’Brien built St Mary’s presbytery and schools; Father J. P. Whittle, in 1878, enlarging the schools, and adding new vestries, confessionals, and a handsome cloister to the church.

The old chapel being no longer required, it was pulled down in 1872, and an addition made to the Priory on a portion of its site. There is thus nothing at all left of the former chapel. The year 1910 being the fiftieth anniversary of the building of St Mary’s, the Rector, Rev. Vincent Cornet, considered it a suitable opportunity for a complete renovation of the church, which was carried out at a cost of £1,000. The church is now considered by all who visit to be very beautiful.

A secret passage

It may further be mentioned in connection with the Priory and its chapel that the addiwere, on the left-hand side of the doorway, was mainly built of the materials of the old chapel, and erected on part of its site. The lawn immediately in front of that portion of the house is the old burial-ground. The grave-stones were levelled, and are a few inches under the surface. The right-hand side of the house is the original presbytery. Local tradition asserts that a subterranean passage under the meadow once afforded communication between the Hall and the Priory chapel.

In times of persecution the priests were so poor and danger of robbery so great, that chalices of pewter seem to have been in common use

There is preserved in the presbytery a chalice of pewter. It measures 5 3/4 inches in height, is 3 1/8 inches across the foot, and 3 inches across the bowl. It has been in the possession of the priests at Woolton for many years, and was in all probability unearthed in the old Priory burial-ground. It is now so corroded as to give it the appearance of having been at one time embossed. Mr. Charles Hand, whose ‘Notes on Woolton’ we have been following, seems to suggest that being of pewter it could not have been used in the Mass, but was merely a ‘coffin chalice,’ used at the internment of some priest. These pewter chalices are, however, so common in Lancashire, and so often occur in company with sets of vestments and other things, uncountably forming a part of the priest’s baggage, that the prevalent opinion now is that in times of persecution the priests were so poor and the danger of robbery so great, that chalices of pewter were in common use. When nicely polished, the pewter chalice could with difficulty be distinguished from that of silver.

The Woolton cross

In October, 1913, the old village cross of Catholic days was restored, the following account being contemporary. The cross now restored must have stood in the heart of the old village from the fourteenth century. The stump of the cross was removed for a time when the new Speke road was made, but was returned to its place in the year 1901 by the kindness of Colonel Reynolds, into whose garden it had been taken. It is now restored to something like its original form. The Woolton cross is Maltese in form, treated florally, and stands on a pedestal 6 feet high. On the north and south sides the Cross of the Knights Hospitallers is incised to record the association of that body with Woolton in the twelfth century, they having owned the greater portion of the land, and having a house of their Order there, the situation of which has never been ascertained. On the bronze band which serves to bind the new part with the old is this inscription:

Woolton Village Cross: Crux Potestas Dei (The Cross is the Power of God).

Colonel Reynolds, in a letter of apology for non-attendance at the opening, wrote that they had indeed come to better times in Woolton. He remembered his father begging to be allowed to be the custodian of the cross years ago, when it was demolished to allow for the widening of the Speke road. He had respected those ancient monuments of religious feeling in days gone by. The chairman of the meeting, Mr. Arthur S. Mather, through whose generosity the restoration had been made, said that the last act of the Urban Council was to arrange to have the old village cross restored, so that when the district was handed over to Liverpool they might hand over the cross renovated and restored as a momento of the good old times.

How does the silver chalice dated 1697 fit into the picture?

An interesting link between Woolton and the Molyneux family is the silver chalice, now at St. Alexander’s, Bootle. Dean Powell stated that in 1875 he bought this chalice from a dealer in old silver, who had thought of melting it down. It stands 7 inches high and weighs 13 ounces. On the underside of the foot is engraved in Roman capitals of the time: EX DONO D. C. MOLINEUX DNO RICHARDO HOLME ANGLO-BENED 1697. The giver of the chalice was Caryll, third Viscount Molyneux, who with his brother Richard raised two regiments for the King in the great Civil War, and was outlawed by Parliament. He died at Croxteth February 2, 1699. The recipient of the gift was Rev. Richard Holme, mentioned above as Chaplain to the Molyneux family at Sefton and Croxteth Halls, and latterly at Woolton.

Granting that Dean Powell is correct in his history of the Molyneux chalice, whence does the chalice now at Woolton come from? It is quite the equal of the Molyneux chalice, bears the hall mark H.L. and a lion passant, while on the foot is the lettering, ‘M.H., obiit Sepr. 2°, 1694.’ I had hoped to identify this with one of the Molyneux, so that the lettering would read, ‘Molyneux gave this chalice to Holmes.’ On the other hand, Dom Gilbert Dolan, O.S.B., in his paper to this Society (Hist. of Lancs. and Ches.) statestates that in 1717 Richard Hitchmough, the noted informer, deposed before the Commissioners for Forfeited Estates that ‘at Mrs. Harrington’s, at Aigburth, Co. Lancs., was one silver chalice and paten, which he had seen and used when officiating at the Altar there.’ But if M. H. refers to one of the Harringtons we have still to find out which Harrington died September 2, 1694; so far my enquiries have failed to do so.

How the government tried to break people’s spirits and succeeded in some cases

With reference to the statement that the Molyneux family had been greatly impoverished by fines, other examples, selected out of thousands are here given. The Norris family had an estate in West Derby, now marked by Norris Green. William Norris, of West Derby, had two sons, Henry and John, both living in 1566. Andrew, grandson of Henry, as a convicted recusant paid double to the subsidy of 1628. His children petitioned for annuities from the estate, which had evidently been sequestered for papacy. It was found that the sons were recusants, and a third of their annuities was allowed; the daughters were also recusants; the estates of Henry, the eldest brother, were under sequestration for recusancy. John Norris, brother of Henry, had three sons – Charles, Richard and Andrew – all Jesuits. But their cousin, Richard, son of Henry Norris, yielded to the persecution. Thomas Marsden, Vicar of Walton, wrote in 1681, asking a favour of him, as he ‘was not yet cleared in the Exchequer for his recusancy, and had heard his name was in the list of such as should have £20 a month levied upon their heads.’ Under these circumstances, the threat of fresh persecution, as the result of the infamous Oates plot, appears to have broken the resolution of ‘Mr. Norris, of Derby,’ who conformed to the legally established religion. It is a sad reflection that his apostasy did not save his estates; the family disappeared from notice, and all the property was later in the hands of a banker, of Liverpool (Vict. Hist., p. 37).

Instances of the fines inflicted on the poorer Catholics of those days may not be without interest. William Ballard, a leaseholder in Speke, had two-thirds of his estate sequestered for recusancy. Margaret Harrison, a widow, of Hale, had two-thirds of her estate sequestered for recusancy, and on her death her grandson, Thomas Harrison, applied for the removal of the sequestration. Thomas Lathom, of Allerton, suffered the like penalty (Vict. Hist., p. 103).

Again, in 1593 Edward Tarleton was considered ‘an obstinate recusant,’ but ‘could not be found by the Sheriff’; five years later he was, as a recusant, assessed at £10 for the Queen’s service in Ireland. His son and successor, also Edward Tarleton, in 1628, as a ‘convicted recusant,’ paid double to the subsidy. He died in 1653, leaving two sons. On account of their religion their estates had been sequestered (Vict. Hist., p. 127).”

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





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“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






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“This John, about the sixth year (1564) of her Majesty’s reign (Queen Elizabeth I) that now is, for professing the Apostolic Catholic Roman Faith was imprisoned first at Chester, then sent to the Marshalsea, then to York Castle, then to the Blockhouses in Hull, then to the Gate house in Westminster, then to Broughton in Oxfordshire, then twice to Ely in Cambridgeshire. And so now at 73 years old and blind, he is bound to appear, and to keep within five miles of Towneley, his house, and who has since the statute of 23 Elizabeth (1581) paid unto the Exchequer £20 a month for not going to the Protestant church and doth still; and there is paid already above £5,000.”


Towneley Hall, ca. 1923

Towneley Hall, ca. 1923



“Even previous to the so-called Reformation, Towneley Hall and its family had considerable influence in Lancashire, for in 1454 Richard, Bishop of Lichfield, granted licence to John Towneley for an Oratory and Mass at Towneley during the Bishop’s good pleasure. One of the first chaplains was Rev. Richard Parker: whilst in 1481 the Abbot of Whalley asked Richard Towneley to appoint Rev. John Green as chaplain in the place of Richard Parker, lately deceased.

Ye Chronicles of Blackburnshire

In 1590, Towneley Hall figures on Lord Burghley’s map as a marked house, indicated by the cross on it, as a sign that the Towneley family, for its fidelity to the Catholic Faith, was to be wiped out by fines and imprisonments.

For remaining faithful Catholics, the family was to be wiped out by the government with fines and imprisonments

These severe measures continued for fully two centuries, yet at the end of that period the family emerged into a state of opulence never dreamed of by the Townley of 1450, whilst their defence of the Catholic Faith was recognised as the chief cause, under God, that the old Faith was still preserved, and was able, between the years 1800 and 1900, to blossom forth with such wonderful vigour. We are fortunate in having for all this period the history of the late Rev. R. Smith, to whom the present writer readily acknowledges his indebtedness. This [article] on Townley is almost entirely condensed from Ye Chronicles of Blackburnshire.

Each stone of the Chapel was marked

The chapel, which the aforesaid priests served, was originally on the second floor. Until the year 1700, the front of Towneley Hall consisted of this chapel and library. Charles Towneley removed the chapel and sacristy to their present position. Each stone was marked, and everything removed with religious care and reverence and rebuilt on the present site. On the beautifully worked door of the confessional to the right of the altar, there is the date 1601, and the initials of John Towneley, of Richard, his son, and of the Confessor. The public entrance to the chapel was from the back up some steps, and though the door is now walled up, the mark of the stairway outside can still be seen.

In this chapel hundreds of our Catholic forefathers, under varied conditions and great fears, have heard Mass and received the sacraments

Regarding the chapel itself, which one cannot visit with feelings of deep affection and devotion, it measured 33 feet in length and 18 feet in width. About one-third of the length formed the chancel and the rest was the have. It is 12 feet high with a flat ceiling, composed of elaborately moulded oak beams and joists; but the chancel portion is double this height, thus affording room for a good altar and fine reredos, over which was a window. The entrance door to the chapel was handsomely carved, and to the north-east side of the chapel was the entrance to the small priests’ room, or vestry. In this chapel hundreds of our Catholic forefathers, under varied conditions and great fears, have heard Mass and received the sacraments; for long years in penal times it was the centre of Catholic life in the North of England. It served Catholics for many miles round, till, in 1817, Burnley Wood Chapel was built, and after that it continued as the family chapel till about 1895.

These holes were the only sources of light and air to the imprisoned priest in the hiding-place

In the Hall there are now two hiding-places: the larger and better-known one is situated at the south end of the central hall. The entrance to it is through what is really the ceiling of this secret chamber, the floor of which is composed of daub, a mixture of clay and rushes. This material would no doubt be selected in order to prevent any sounds being heard from the hiding-place: it measures 18 feet by 15 feet and 6 feet high, which is very large for a hiding ‘hole’, as they used to be called. In the walls are four holes, about 9 inches square, almost right through the masonery. My guide suggested that these had been made by inquisitive visitors, who were probing for further secret chambers; but I pointed out to him, that so far from this being the case, these holes were as old as the main walls themselves. Each hole is built of square stones until within a few inches of the outside, when the opening has evidently been closed up from outside. These holes were the only sources of light and air to the imprisoned priest, and thus they played a most important part in the designing and building of the room. But when the chapel was moved to its present site and a new priests’ hiding place was made, these holes were closed up from the outside. The second hiding-place was only discovered a fortnight before my visit in August, 1923. It measures 6 feet by 5 feet and is 4 to 6 feet high, being situated immediately above the sacristy and alongside the present chapel.

A fascinating discovery – preventions in case of a government raid (removing all traces of Holy Masses)

A very quaint paper was recently published in the Burnley Express, August 1, 1923. It had been sent to the Mayor of Burnley by Lord Abingdon, whose first wife was Caroline, daughter of Charles Towneley. It is here given in the original spelling.


In the library over against the closet door the middle panell slides back, and the same over against the window. On the floor over against the door, the base slides up and takes out; in the floor is a hole, in which an iron hook is to be put, and will open to a large place by lifting up the whole floor.

At the back side of the library door, the side wainscote may be taken out, and lets you into a place, where some boards may be taken up, which will let you into a large place, which held all the library books: at the chapel door taking up one board, which is not nailed fast, will let you into such another.

In the chapel the altar table draws out, and also the upper steps, which will let you into a large place, in which may be laid all the guilding, which is only put on with pegs, and takes to pieces: care must be taken not to knock the gilding in taken down or putting up.

Over the cannopy of the altar in the library lies a door for the tabernacle balls for the top of the pillars, instead of the flower pots, and also capitals and bottoms instead of the gilding, so that the place may be made use of though the gilding be taken down.

At the steps going from the stone stairs to the garret a step may be taken out, where there is a large place all over the green parlour. In the second room in the gallery the wainscote opens in the middle of the chimney upon hinges, where there is a hole in the wall not very big.

In the third room in the gallery is the close stool closet, the pannel towards the garden has a latch within, which is opened with an iron pin at a hole in the door, which lifts up the latch, which may be made faster by those within: it has a seat and will hold two persons.

No servants should be trusted with this, but upon some occasion some trusty servant may be made use off for some of the places to be used, but not made acquainted with them all.

Copied from a paper found in 1793 in my father’s pocket book and wrote by my great I grandmother, Ursula Towneley; she was D (daughter) of Fermor of Tusmore in Oxfordshire.                            C.T.


The Chapel at Towneley Hall, ca. 1923

The Chapel at Towneley Hall, ca. 1923


Before 1700 or after?

Her marriage took place in 1685 and her husband died in 1711, so that it is difficult to determine whether the note refers to the house before the alterations of 1700, or after. Then, again, extensive alterations have taken place since the Hall became the property of the Burnley Corporation. For, to make the two long galleries for which the upper storeys of the fine old castle-like building are now famous throughout the country, dividing walls had to be taken down and other changes made, whilst at different times there have been numerous alterations carried out elsewhere.

The Catholic prisoners had to bear the cost of their own food and lodging during imprisonment, and that at extortionate rates

Of the different members of the family who suffered for the Catholic Faith, the first in the long list is John Towneley, of whom a contemporary account says: ‘This John, about the sixth year (1564) of her Majesty’s reign (Queen Elizabeth) that now is, for professing the Apostolic Catholic Roman Faith was imprisoned first at Chester, then sent to the Marshalsea, then to York Castle, then to the Blockhouses in Hull, then to the Gate house in Westminster, then to Broughton in Oxfordshire, then twice to Ely in Cambridgeshire. And so now at 73 years old and blind, he is bound to appear, and to keep within five miles of Towneley, his house, and who has since the statute of 23 Elizabeth (1581) paid unto the Exchequer £20 a month for not going to the Protestant church and doth still; and there is paid already above £5,000.’ This fine, says Father Smith, was only one of the many which he had to pay; the Catholic prisoners, moreover, had to bear the cost of their own food and lodging during imprisonment, and that at extortionate rates.

Binding them in London, away from their family, friends and acquaintances

In 1584 the Privy Council states that Dean Nowell – one of Elizabeth’s commissioners – had requested that John Towneley, committed at Manchester for not conforming in matters of religion, and now fallen into certain diseases, might be suffered to repair to London to consult with the best physicians. The Council directed Mr. Towneley to be sent up in the company of some trusty person, so that he may not be suffered to go out of the way to any house than the ordinary inns. At the same time the Council decided that ‘both Sir John Southworth and Mr. Towneley having paid their fines according to the law, cannot be longer imprisoned, for that would be a double punishment for one offence.’ The Council thought them at liberty more dangerous in Lancashire, where they greatly allied and friended, than in London, and therefore it was better to bind them to remain in the Metropolis.

More sequestrations 

Another notable member of the family, from the Catholic point of view, was Richard Towneley, who was born at York in 1628. He became famous as an astronomer and mathematician. He sold the Nocton estates to repair the heavy fines and losses entailed upon his estates by the sequestrations of the Commonwealth. Of his children, Thomas became a secular priest, and served for some forty years on the Lancashire Mission – namely, from 1693 to 1733. Five more of his children embraced religious life on the Continent. John became a monk and Richard a Carthusian at Nieuport; Margaret and Cicely became nuns at the English Augustinian Convent, Paris; of these, Margaret was born at Towneley in 1664, and took the veil in 1683, became Subprioress in 1714, and died in 1731. Cicely was born at Towneley in 1676, took the veil in 1695, and died in 1728. Frances, their sister, married, but, being left a widow, she, too, entered the same convent as a boarder in 1719, whilst her daughter Elizabeth became a nun at Cambrai in 1712.

Richard Towneley, the father, along with Edward Tildesley, took a prominent part in the Rising of 1715. They were imprisoned, and would have lost their lives, but so great was the horror created by the barbarous way in which the other condemned prisoners had been executed, that the jury accepted the plea of Towneley and Tildesley – that what they did had, in a manner, been forced upon them – and acquitted them.

How greatly the fines for recusancy and loyalty had reduced the fortunes of this once great family may be judged from the following letter of Richard Towneley, dated February 12, 1716, to Mr. Richard Starkie, at his Chambers in Furnival’s Inn, London:


Yours received, and I must beg you will not fail going as soon as you receive this to the Commissioners and acquaint them that Thomas Hilton came this day along with an Attorney and two Bailiffs and took forcible possession. I desire they will give me orders per the first, what I shall do, for they threaten to sell the small goods I have procured for my poor children and throw them out of doors within a few days. Dear Sir, I beg you will not fail me in this by the very first, and you will ever oblige,

Your Humble Servant


Unless they renounce their faith, they inherit nothing, because their late father was Catholic till the end

That the measures of repression after the Rising fell especially heavy on the Catholics is shown from the following letter from the Sheriff of Lincoln. Mrs. Towneley was a daughter of Lord Widdrington.

‘May it please your Honours, in obedience to your Honours’ precept I made enquiry… after the Widdringtons to receive their goods at Blankney House, and all has been sold except these few… the only item is a large table in the hall, supposed to be an heirloom. The family of the late Lord Widdrington are to receive nothing out of his immense estates, because their father was a Catholic, unless every child shall be educated in the Protestant religion, and orders were given to one of the principal Secretaries of State that he might proceed to sell their estates.’

These were sold in 1729, and realised the enormous sum for those days of £96,525.

How closely the Towneley were associated with the Royal Stuart family is seen from the prominent part two members took in the Rising of 1745. Sir John Towneley, a great and learned scholar, was tutor to ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie,’ and took part in the campaign of 1745-46. After the Battle of Culloden he escaped to France, and long kept up his friendship with the Prince and his brother, the Cardinal Duke of York. Sir John died in London in 1782, aged eighty-five.

They were publicly butchered by the common hangman in London

Francis Towneley became Commander of the Manchester Regiment. He was the bravest and most faithful to his Prince of even those devoted followers, and defeated Carlisle till forced to capitulate. Contrary to the written promise of William, Duke of Cumberland, Towneley and other Lancashire gentlemen were tried and found guilty of treason. They were publicly butchered by the common hangman in London, and the horrible injustice of their death heaped additional unpopularity on George II. Towneley’s fate became the theme of the following popular ballad – William being, of course, the Duke of Cumberland.

Towneley’s Ghost

The bloody axe his body fair

Into four partes cut,

And every part and eke his head

Upon a pole was put.


When the sun in shades of night was lost

And all were fast asleep,

In glided Towneley’s murdered ghost,

And stood at William’s feet.


‘Infernal wretch, away,’ he cried,

‘And view the mangled shade,

Who in thy perjured faith relied

And basely was betrayed.


Embraced in bliss, embraced in ease,

Tho’ now thou seem’st to lie,

My injured shade shall gall thy ease

And make thee beg to die.


Think on the hellish acts you’ve done,

The thousands you’ve betrayed;

Nero himself would blush to own

The slaughter thou hast made.


No infants’ shrieks nor parents’ tears

Could stop thy bloody hand;

Not even ravished virgins’ tears

Appease thy dire command.


But oh, what pangs are set apart

In hell, thou’lt shortly see;

When even all the damned will start,

To view a friend like thee.’


With speed, affrighted William rose

All trembling, wan, and pale

And to his cruel sire he goes

And tells the dreadful tale.


‘Cheer up, my son, my darling son,’

The bold ursurper said;

‘Never repent of what you’ve done

Nor be at all dismayed.


If we on Stuart’s throne can dwell,

And reign securely here,

Thy uncle Satan’s King in Hell,

And he’ll protect us there.’


Charles Towneley – He never neglected his duties as a faithful Catholic

Charles Towneley, nephew of the above [Francis Towneley], was born in 1737, and succeeded to the estates at the age of five. At ten years of age he was sent to the English College, Douai, and thence to Paris. Later he resided much in Rome, and made a magnificent collection of statuary, which he playfully called his ‘dead family.’

He acquired a European reputation, yet he never neglected his religious duties as a faithful Catholic, nor his obligations to his friends at Burnley. He regularly spent some months of every year at Towneley Hall, embellishing its grounds, and forwarding the interests of its people. Dignified, amiable, cheerful and accomplished, untiring in his care of his tenantry and the poor of his estates, a splendid cultivator of the beautiful, the figure of Charles Towneley appeals to the imagination as that of an ideal Englishman of the eighteenth century. (Father Smith, p. 182.)

After his death in 1805, the British Museum acquired his collection, which now forms one of the very greatest treasures of our National treasure house. ‘In a general way, Lancashire is thought of chiefly as a county which has made important contributions to machinery and manufactures. It is pleasant to remember that for the enjoyment of such works of art as the Capitoline Venus, and other beautiful and noble sculptures, which compose the Towneley gallery, the thanks of the nation are due to the taste, energy, enterprise and liberalities of a Lancashire Worthy, Charles Towneley.’ (Lancs. Worthies, II Series, p. 200.)

Great is Truth, and it will prevail

Peregrine Towneley, born in 1772, succeeded in 1813, gave the land for the Burnley Wood chapel, and himself contributed £1,000 towards the building. In 1831 he was made High Sheriff of Lancashire, an office held by his ancestor John Towneley in 1532. Stirring times had indeed filled those past three centuries, but the family had been true to the motto ‘Tenez me Vraye’ (‘Hold the Truth’) and certainly few better examples could be found in the renewed prosperity of the family in the nineteenth century of another: ‘Magna eat Veritas et praevalebit’ (‘Great is Truth, and it will prevail’).

What do we know of the priests of Towneley and Burnley?

Of the priests who successively attended the Catholics of Towneley and Burnley, Robert Woodruff entered the English College, Rheims, in May, 1577; he was ordained in Rome, 1582, and sent to England along with John Nutter and Samuel Conyers. In 1586 ‘It appeareth that Robert Woodruff, a seminary priest, was received at the house of Janet Woodruff, of Bank Top, in the parish of Burnley, this half year, by common report.’ In 1590 he was arrested again at Crosby Hall, and imprisoned along with his host, Mr. Richard Blundell, who died in prison the following year. In 1603, after thirteen years’ imprisonment, Father Woodruff was reprieved and sent into exile, as reported in the Douai College Register, and after that he is lost sight of.

Father William Richmond, after his escape from York Castle, lived with the Towneleys at Towneley Hall, where he probably died in the first quarter of the seventeenth century.yer. Gillow says that he searched in vain for Father Richmond’s burial notice at St Peter’s, Burnley, and he thinks that Burnley, and especially Towneley, were too closely watched for this priest to be able to stay here long without being recaptured, so nothing more is known of him (p. 131).

Some of the district’s martyrs’ biographies

But constancy to the Old Faith was not confined to the squire and his family: the yeomanry and peasantry of the district were just as staunch. No less than three martyrs are most closely connected with the district.

Hang, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, London

Of these, the first in order was John Nutter, born at Reedley Hallows, Burnley, who entered the English College, Rheims, in 1579, and was ordained in 1582. He came to England intending to land at Scarborough, but the ship foundering upon the coast of Norfolk, Mr. Nutter was put on shore at Dunwich. He was at once arrested and sent to the Marshalsea, in London, and the following year, 1584, he was tried and condemned with four other priests. After lying in irons five days in the Tower, he was drawn, together with the same four confessors, to Tyburn, and there hanged, cut down alive, bowelled and quartered.

He was prisoner in the Tower of London as early as 1583, and was tortured

The second martyr was Robert, brother of the above, who was ordained priest in 1581, and in the following year came on the English Mission. He was a prisoner in the Tower as early as 1583, where he was twice tortured with the ‘scavenger’s daughter’. He was banished in 1585, but returned, and was again imprisoned. Escaping with Venerable Edward Thwing, he was rearrested in Lancashire and executed at Lancaster, July 26, 1600, solely on account of his priesthood. (Challoner.)

He openly acknowledged that he was a priest, and as such was sentenced to death

The third martyr was Thomas Whitaker, born in 1611 at Burnley, where his father was schoolmaster. At the age of twenty-three he went to the English College, Valladolid in Spain, the Towneleys paying the expenses of his journey. He was ordained in 1638, and at once came on the English Mission. He exercised his priestly functions with great zeal for five years, until he was seized and committed to Lancaster Castle. Thence he escaped, only, however, to be captured again in 1643, when he was again imprisoned in Lancaster. After three years of most holy life in prison he was brought to trial, when he openly acknowledged that he was a priest, and as such was sentenced to death. He suffered at Lancaster, August 7, 1646, in the thirty-third year of his age and the eighth of his mission. Further details of his life may be read in Bishop Challoner’s Memoirs of Missionary Priests.

The number of those confirmed shows that many of the old Catholics still survived

In 1661 Rev. Peter Gifford came to be Chaplain to the Towneleys. In 1675 he was Secretary of the famous Lancashire Infirm Clergy Fund, and in 1682 was elected Vicar-General of the North. He died, aged sixty-six, in 1689, at Towneley Hall, where he had probably found moderate security under the protection of the family. During his stay at Towneley, Bishop Leyburne held a great confirmation there. King James II. had come to the throne in 1685, and had heartily welcomed the Bishop, lodging him in Whitehall, and granting him a pension of £1,000 a year. There would be much rejoicing at Towneley when the good Bishop came, and the number of those confirmed – 203 – shows that many of the old Catholics still survived. Burnley at that time was only a small town.

Pre-reformation vestments, perhaps originally from Whalley Abbey

Father Thomas Anderson, born in 1675, of the Euxton family, was the next priest. He was ordained in 1702, and in 1705 came to Towneley Hall and lived with the family. His record of baptisms, marriages, and stipends of Masses still exists. After the Stuart Rising of 1715 he was convicted as a recusant at the Lancaster Sessions, when he was described as ‘one Anderton, a reputed Popish priest at Towneley.’ That year he received from Mrs. Ursula Towneley £10 for the half-year, his annual salary being £20. Father Anderton’s notebook was sold at the last dispersion of the Towneley Hall library, and became the property of the Burnley Literary and Scientific Society, while at a still more recent date (1922) the Burnley Corporation secured the very valuable pre-Reformation vestments, which are now on exhibition at their old home, Towneley Hall. It is said that these beautiful vestments originally belonged to Whalley Abbey.

Father Anderton spent the whole of his missionary career at Towneley. He was greatly respected by his patrons, and esteemed by the numerous Catholics who formed his congregation. He was a member of the Old Chapter, and in July, 1732, was elected Archdeacon of Lancashire. He closed his days peacefully at Towneley, July 13, 1741, aged sixty-six.

He was succeeded by Rev. George Kendal, who also succeeded him as Archdeacon of Lancashire. At this time Towneley was the centre and headquarters of the secular clergy, the archdeacons, and later the vicars capos topic, residing there. In 1744 Dr. Kendal resigned the Mission of Burnley and Towneley to take charge of that at Fernyhalgh.

Rev. John Harrison, born at Cottam in 1714, was priest there in 1746, when his house and chapel were burnt down by the fanatical mob from Preston. Father Harrison removed to Towneley and served that Mission for thirty-one years, until he was no longer able (1746-1777). He then went to live with his brother in Preston, and died there in 1780. At this period (1773) Bishop Petre reported to Propaganda that there were sixty-nine residences for priests in Lancashire, and that the Catholics numbered 14,000. The following year Bishop Walton confirmed at Burnley, but the numbers – only thirty-nine – seem to show that the Catholics had been dwindling under the bitter persecution of those times. In 1784 Bishop Mathew Gibson confirmed twenty-five at Burnley.

Dear to God and the poor

Rev. Thomas Caton was priest from 1785 to 1811. He gathered together the various registers which begin in 1705, and which he himself continued till 1809. He was succeeded by Rev. Louis Merlin, whose epitaph may be seen in St Peter’s churchyard, Burnley, as follows: ‘There rests here, dear to God and the poor, Rev. Lewis Merlin, who, an exile from his home in France, first in Scotland, then in England, gave himself to works of piety and charity; at length, broken down by his arduous labours, he died at Towneley December 12, 1819, in his fifty-fifth year.’

Father Charles Lupton came to Burnley in 1819, and died at Towneley five years later. Previous to his death, Father – later Canon – Hodgson came to relieve him, and remained twenty-five years. In 1824 the Easter communicants numbered 116, and in 1825 150. In 1829 Burnley Wood Chapel was enlarged, and in 1849 it was replaced by St. Mary’s, which was opened amidst great rejoicings, Cardinal Wiseman being the preacher of the day.

The opening of St Mary’s Catholic church after centuries of suffering

But bigotry was still very rife in Burnley; the town was flooded with a most sacrilegious poster, and the walls of the town were plastered with ‘no popery’ placards; the exterior carvings round the church were greatly damaged, and the statue of Our Lady, within a niche of the church, was often shot at, but was never hit. St Mary’s Bazaar Book of 1902 truly says: ‘It is a far cry now to the time when, in 1817, the first Catholic church was built in Burnley Wood. Up to that time the chapel in Towneley Hall had been from time immemorial the only place of worship for miles round. It seems difficult to realise that, when the little Burnley Wood chapel was built, it was the only one for Burnley, Todmorden, Bacup, Colne, Barrow Ford, Nelson, Brierfield, Lowerhouse, and Padiham. Now all these places have churches of their own, whilst in Burnley itself we have four churches where our grand old Catholic Faith is practised.’

Witness of the piety and sufferings of past generations

Towneley Hall, in consequence of mining and other industrial operations, became quite unsuited for a private residence, and was sold to the Corporation of Burnley in 1902. In the following year it was opened as an art gallery and museum, so that may of our readers will be able to see round it, and to visit the chapel and priests’ hiding places, witnesses of the piety and sufferings of past generations which have borne such fruit in our own happier times.”

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








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“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










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“A report from Rome in May 1527 included the words: ‘Hell has nothing to compare with the present state of Rome’. The writer was reporting the unimaginable catastrophe that had happened to the city. An army without discipline or leadership was roaming the streets. The city was being sacked by the soldiers of Charles V […] The distinguished historian of the Popes, Dr. L. Pestor, wrote of the evening before the assault on the city: ‘The rays of that setting sun of the 5th of May lit up for the last time all the magnificence of the Rome of the Renaissance, then the fairest and richest city of the world’. No barbarians had ever wrought such havoc as this horde from Christian Europe. It was a fitting symbol for the disintegration of the unity of Christendom.


The sack of Rome took place just ten years after Martin Luther had first publicly protested against the grant of a Papal Indulgence for those who would contribute towards the building of St. Peter’s in Rome. He had gone on from there to proclaim his understanding of the Gospel […]. The army that sacked Rome in 1527 was composed of 20,000 Germans and most of these were Lutherans. Besides being Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V was King of Spain. He also could claim the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples […] Nobody, however, foresaw that the Imperial Army in the North of Italy would march on Rome. They were ill paid and underfed and Rome was the richest city in the world. There was also among the Lutherans the belief that the Pope was Anti-Christ. It would surely be legitimate to make him pay for his folly in opposing the Emperor. And so this murderous horde swept down from the north. By the evening of May 5, 1527 they surrounded the city of Rome.


Throughout the night of May 5th the great bell of the Capital sounded the tocsin summoning the defenders of the city to their posts. These included 2,000 Swiss Guards, 2,000 mercenaries and about 4,000 citizen militia. They were a paltry force in comparison with the 30,000 Imperialists. But they were to fight bravely against fearful odds. On the morning of May 6th a thick mist rose from the Tiber making it difficult for the defenders to discern the movements of the attackers. They soon breached the walls and poured into the city.


The Pope was praying in his private chapel in the Vatican when word was brought to him that he should go quickly to the safety of the Castle of San Angelo […] For the following eight days the city was given over to the soldiers who slaughtered men, women and children. A Lutheran who took part in the sack recorded in his autobiography: ‘In the year 1527, on the 6th day of May, we took Rome by storm, put over 6,000 men to the sword, plundered the whole city, seized all that we could find in all the churches and anywhere, burned down a great part of the city and seldom spared, tearing and destroying all copyist’s work, registers, letters and state documents’.


It is not possible to calculate exactly how many died during those terrible days. The population of the city was estimated at 55,000. Over 2,000 bodies were recovered from the Tiber and over 10,000 from the streets. Many others vanished without trace in fires and burning houses. A Frenchman who was sheltering in the house of a Spanish Bishop wrote: ‘From every side came cries, the clash of arms, the shrieks of women and children, the crackling of flames, the crash of falling roofs’. Bishops, priests and nuns were slaughtered indiscriminately. Churches and houses were looted for anything of value that could be found. Costly vestments, sacred vessels and works of art were carried off. Even tombs were ransacked…”
– These are excerpts from “When Rome ran red with blood” (part of the feature “It happened this month”) by Henry Peel OP; published in “Saint Martin Magazine” issue May 2014. For subscriptions please visit (external link).


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“Take a large view of the faith of Christians during the centuries before Constantine established their religion. Is there any family likeness in it to Protestantism? Look at it as existing during that period in different countries, and is it not one and the same, and a reiteration of itself, as well as singularly unlike Reformed Christianity? Hermas with his visions, Ignatius with his dogmatism, Irenaeus with his praise of tradition and of the Roman See, Clement with his allegory and mysticism, Cyprian with his ‘Out of the Church is no salvation’, and Methodius with his praise of virginity, all of them writers between the first and fourth centuries, and witnesses of the faith of Rome, Africa, Gaul, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, certainly do not represent the opinions of Luther and Calvin. They stretch over the whole of Christendom; they are consistent with each other; they coalesce into one religion; but it is not the religion of the Reformation.
– Bl. John Henry Newman; The Catholic Church is fundamentally unchanged. H.S. I, 402-3

“[In] the Catholic Church … I recognised at once a reality which was quite a new thing with me. Then I was [aware] that I was not making for myself a Church by an effort of thought; I needed not to make an act of faith in her; I had not painfully to force myself into a position, but my mind fell back upon itself in relaxation and in peace, and I gazed at her almost passively as a great objective fact. I looked at her; – at her rites, her ceremonial, and her precepts; and I said, ‘This IS a religion’.”
– Cardinal Newman’s reaction on becoming a Catholic. Apo., 339-40


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“‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also on heaven’ (Matthew 16:18-19).


Jesus made Simon Peter the rock or foundation stone of His kingdom. In the mind of Jesus all power in His kingdom, the power to teach the divine message, the power to rule men unto salvation, the power to sanctify men for salvation, all these powers were to be centralised in Simon Peter and his successors to the leadership of the apostolic college.


That the early Christian community recognised this is a historical fact. It was at Peter’s suggestion that the other Apostles elected Matthias to take the place left vacant in the apostolic college by the defection of Judas. It was Peter who first preached the establishment of the kingdom on Pentecost Sunday. It was Peter who worked the first miracle to testify to the power of Jesus Christ. It was Peter who punished Ananias and Sapphira for attempting to deceive the first Christian community at Jerusalem. It was Peter who admitted the first Gentiles into the new kingdom. At the Council of Jerusalem it was Peter who decided to what extent Gentile converts to the kingdom were bound by the old Mosaic Law. It was to Peter that St Paul went seeking confirmation of his own call to preach the Gospel. So great was his authority among the earliest members of the kingdom that even St Paul boasts of having induced Peter to accept his own position on a matter of discipline.


Peter died as Bishop of Rome, and the Bishops of Rome succeeded to his leadership of the whole Church. Thus it is that we see the Popes, the Bishops of Rome, exercising in the Kingdom of God through the centuries the authority which Jesus had entrusted to Peter.


So it was that Clement of Rome, at the end of the first century, sent a letter to the Christians at Corinth asking them to restore to office the priests whom they had illegitimately deposed. His wishes were fulfilled by the Corinthians. In fact, they held his letter in such esteem that it was read during liturgical celebrations just as the letters of the original Apostles. This recognition of the authority of the Bishop of Rome is all the more remarkable since St John, one of the original Apostles, was still alive at Ephesus, much nearer to Corinth than Rome.


At the end of the second century Pope Victor threatened to excommunicate the Asian bishops who refused to celebrate Easter on the date used by the rest of the Church. On the urging of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, Victor did not carry out the threat. But the very fact that Victor threatened to do so, and the fact that Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna, and therefore a man acquainted with the traditions of the Church both in the East and in the West, felt it necessary in the interests of concord to urge him not to do so, testify to the recognition of his power to rule the whole Church. It should be mentioned also that Irenaeus gives testimony to the fact that members of the Church receive the full teaching of Jesus from the Bishop of Rome.


In the third century two bishops of Spain who had been accused of loss of faith appealed to Pope Stephen I. Similarly Pope Dionysius asked Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, who was suspected of adhering to the Sabellian heresy, to make a profession of true faith.


Even though the Council of Nicea – in 325 the first general or ecumenical council of the Church – was summoned at the order of the Emperor Constantine, it was the two legates of the Bishop of Rome who presided. Toward the end of the same fourth century Pope Siricius reminded the bishops of Spain that it is St Peter who speaks through the Pope.


In the fifth century the General Council of Chalcedon accepted the famous dogmatic letter of Leo as a statement of the true faith against the Monophysite heresy and proclaimed, ‘Peter has spoken through Leo.’ And, as we have previously seen, it was Pope Gelasius who during this century pointed out to the emperors that the Church held its power to rule from God and, thus, independently of the civil authority.


In the sixth century Pope Gregory the Great reorganised the Church in Italy and sought to promote the reform of the Church in Gaul. It was Gregory who sent Augustine of Canterbury to convert England to the true faith.


In the seventh century the third council of Constantinople accepted the teaching of Pope Agatho against the Momothelite heresy. In the eighth century Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the West. Nicholas I excommunicated the bishops of Trier and Cologne for sanctioning the second marriage of King Lothair. He also intervened in the Photian schism at Constantinople and restored Ignatius to the bishopric of Constantinople.


From the ninth century on, the Papacy was involved in a long and serious struggle with secular rulers for the independence of the Church from civil authority. This struggle reached a climax in the reforming efforts of Pope Gregory VII, who succeeded in freeing the Church from the ’emperor’ King Henry IV of Germany.


From this time on, the power of the Popes was supreme in matters of religion and Western Christendom generally recognised the supremacy of the Church over the State. But the situation changed after the conflict between Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and Philip the Fair of France. Philip, in an effort to strengthen the French monarchy, sought a great measure of control over the Church in France. Boniface resisted his efforts, but without success. In the fourteenth century the Popes made the mistake of taking up residence at Avignon, within the borders of France. This gave the Papacy the appearance of being too favourable with the French. When finally the Popes returned to residence at Rome after the death of Pope Urban V, the French King Charles V disputed the election of Pope Urban VI and induced some French cardinals to elect Robert of Geneva as Pope Clement VII. This was the start of the Great Western Schism. Until the election of Martin V in 1417 Christendom was troubled and confused at the sight of rival claimants to the See of Peter. In 1417 there were three claimants to the Papacy. This unfortunate situation gave rise to the ‘Conciliar theory,’ the idea that a general council is superior to the Pope. Though Jesus Himself had made Peter and his successors (the Bishops of Rome) the supreme heads of His Church, the schism, coupled with the beginning of nationalism and the consequent desire of some nations (at least on the part of their sovereigns) to achieve independence of the divinely constituted authority of the Popes, gave impetus to the theory that a general council was superior even to the Pope. As a consequence the Popes had to fight against this attempt to destroy the foundations of authority in the Kingdom of God on earth. Pope Eugene IV found it necessary to dissolve the Council of Basel, which pretended to have authority over the Pope himself.


In the sixteenth century the Popes faced the most dangerous threat to their authority up to that time. In 1517 Martin Luther, a German monk, revolted against the authority of Rome. This sparked a movement which has become known as the Protestant Reformation. Luther, and other reformers such as Zwingli, were aided by kings and princes who sought control of church affairs. Pope Leo X did not act with sufficient force. As a consequence roughly half the Christians of Europe – chiefly those in northern Europe – left the true Church and joined heretical sects. The Council of Trent, which was summoned toward the middle of the century by Pope Paul III, by its reforming measures in the area of Church discipline and by its authoritative statement of Catholic teaching helped to stem the tide. But too much damage had already been done. And so from then until now the world is faced with the spectacle of millions of men, claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, who will not submit in matters of discipline, doctrine or worship to the vicar of Christ, the Pope of Rome.


One of the results of the so-called Reformation, with the establishment of powerful Protestant states, was that by the seventeenth century the Papacy had been reduced to a state of political unimportance. But it is to the credit of the Papacy that even though the Popes were anxious to restore Christian unity to the world they did not compromise Christian doctrine or moral principle in the effort to do so.

But the decline of papal political influence was less unfortunate than the decline of spiritual and moral influence of the Papacy which accompanied it. Basically the political power of the Papacy was only a reflection of its enormous spiritual influence. Ultimately kings and princes, such as Pepin and Charlemagne, gave grants of land and political power to the Popes because the Popes wielded great spiritual influence over the Christian people of Europe and were a stabilising factor in a war-torn world. But in time this political influence, though only in appearance, came to overshadow the spiritual force which it reflected and bolstered.

But the ‘Reformation’ struck directly at the spiritual authority of the Papacy. Up to the ‘Reformation’ the Church itself, the Church centralised in the authority of the Popes, was the first and the ultimate source of all doctrinal and disciplinary decision. But the ‘reformers’ asserted that the faith and the religious practice of every Christian was based on the right of every Christian to interpret the Bible for himself. For the divinely instituted authority of Peter the ‘reformers’ substituted the authority of the individual mind of the individual man. Naturally those who embraced this individualistic rule of faith no longer looked to Peter, in the person of the Pope, for the teaching of the message of Jesus and its application to the ever-changing conditions of history.


The weakness, even the falsity, of this new principle became evident very quickly in the multiplication of Protestant sects, each differing from the others in one or more points of faith or religious discipline. Moreover many of these sects, in their efforts to survive, accepted the principle that the local prince or king was the head of the Church.


This was a concession to the growing principle of nationalism. But it was also a rejection of the real supranational character of the Christian kingdom, and it represented a betrayal of the principle enunciated by Jesus Himself: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ It was in this spirit that the Lutherans in Germany recognised the right of the German princes to determine the religious views of their subjects and that Henry the Eighth made himself the supreme head of the Anglican Church. And so, at least for some time, what began as an emancipation of men from the authority of the Pope in the name of individual liberty became in fact an enslavement of religion to civil authority.


The loss of millions of members of the kingdom to the new heretical sects was in itself a great blow to the Church. But it had an even more insidious result. The princes of Catholic Europe were not slow to see the political advantages gained by the control which the Protestant sovereigns exercised over the Protestant churches in their domains. Anxious to make their own kingdoms as strong as possible in the face of growing nationalistic rivalries, Catholic princes also sought to control the Catholic Church within their own territories. Thus it was that in 1682 thirty-six French prelates, under the urging of Cardinal Richelieu, adopted the famous ‘Gallican Articles’ and sent them to the bishops in France. The ‘Articles’ held that the Pope is subject to a general council, the king is not subject to the Pope and that the Pope is not infallible. It is true that Pope Innocent XII succeeded in persuading Louis XIV of France to annul the ‘Articles.’ But the fact that they were disseminated at all shows that the spirit of anti-papism was to be found in Catholic France. The same tendency to reduce papal influence and enlarge the civil control of religion was shown also in the Febronianism and Josephinism which arose in Catholic Germany. All in all, these movements in Catholic countries coupled with state control of religion in Protestant countries were a concrete manifestation of the growing political theory of the absolute state, the state supreme in all the affairs of human life, even in the affairs of religion.


To these religious and political counter-currents seeking to undermine the Church there was added in the eighteenth century the far more formidable adversary of rationalism in religion. The Kingdom of God is always a kingdom founded on faith, in fact on faith in mysteries which cannot be fully understood by the limited powers of the human mind. This faith is sustained in the world by the teaching authority of the Church, an authority sustained by and centralised in the Papacy. When Protestantism divorced the minds of men from this authority it was not long before these same minds were divorced from the divine revelation itself. Under the influence of Locke, Hume and Kant the message of Jesus was reduced to a purely natural religion, founded no longer on a divine revelation to man but now on the limited resources of the human mind. Since the philosophy of the time reduced the powers of the mind to the simple consideration and ordering, not of reality of real things but only of the ‘appearances’ of things, it became fashionable to hold that men could not prove the existence of God or the immortality of the human soul. In such an intellectual atmosphere men tended to become either atheists and irreligious or to found religious values purely on man’s emotions and the pragmatic necessity of supplying ease and satisfaction to these irrational emotions.


Thus, in modern times the Papacy, seeking to preserve in the world the true Kingdom of God, has had to attempt to undo the ravages of the ‘Reformation,’ to preserve the independence of the Church [from secular power, also under the guise of Protestantism] and to assert the divine authority of the Christian revelation in the face of the attacks of rationalism. Through the General Council of Trent the Popes replied to the ‘Reformation.’ Through missionary efforts, especially under the central control of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith (established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV), the Papacy has carried on its divinely commissioned task to bring the Gospel to all the world. And so, in the providence of God, the losses occasioned by the ‘Reformation’ have been partly offset by the tightening of discipline within the Church and by the recruitment of members of the Kingdom in Africa, the Far East and the Americas.


In the face of attempts on the part of states to control the Church the Papacy has fought a long battle which is not yet, perhaps, over. The political power and prestige of the Papacy itself declined until in 1870 with the annexation of the Papal States by the newly founded kingdom of Italy it was eclipsed. Under Pius XI, in 1929, the ‘Roman Question’ was settled by the Lateran Treaty with the government of Mussolini. The tiny Vatican State was established and its rights recognised by Italy. In this way the independence of the Papacy of all civil states was formally recognised.


But the right of the Church to speak in the world for God is still an uneasy one to exercise. This is shown by the fact that the Popes of the last few centuries have found it necessary to make concordats or agreements with modern states guaranteeing to the Church the right to function under certain limitations.


In the struggle with rationalism the Popes have found it necessary to condemn many of the intellectual errors of modern times. In this regard the Vatican Council convened by Pius IX stands out. The council affirmed clearly the ability of the human mind to discover the existence of God, and to recognise God’s message to men by the divine signs (especially miracles and prophecies) which accompany it in its journey through time. In addition it announced firmly to the world the supreme power of the Pope, the successor of St Peter, to teach, rule and sanctify men. In the face of scepticism it affirmed also the power of the Pope to teach infallible matters of faith and Christian morality.


The history of the Papacy, then, shows that the words of Jesus are being fulfilled. The Papacy is the rock on which the kingdom is founded, founded so firmly that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Down through the centuries the Papacy has been the indefatigable defender of the independence of the Kingdom of God. Down through the centuries the Papacy has been the faithful guardian of Christian truth, protecting the kingdom against the loss of even the least element of the divine message entrusted to it by Jesus.


At the present moment the position of the Papacy as the Vicar of Christ is clear. In the face of political totalitarianism it stands out as the champion of the independence of the spiritual Kingdom of God. In the face of religious indifferentism, of intellectual scepticism and nihilism, the Papacy is the divinely appointed voice of supernatural religion, the champion of both reason and faith. Confronted with irreligious and misguided rationalism, the Church speaks to the world under the guidance of the Popes, the words of God, the divine revelation whose divine dimensions cannot be reduced to the narrow confines of unaided human reason, but whose mysterious depths of truth lie open to the humble eyes of faith.


It is a remarkable fact that in our contemporary era, at a time when the political power of the Papacy is practically extinguished, the character of the Papacy as the rock on which Christ founded His Church can be seen with outstanding clarity. From Pius IX to Pius XI the Pope was popularly known as the ‘prisoner of the Vatican.’ Yet no ‘prisoner’ has ever, in the world of the spirit, been more influential in the world at large.


From Leo XIII to Pius XII the Popes have stood head and shoulders above the rest of men in their struggle to foster what is best in man, to safeguard and raise the spirit of man. In the midst of the political turmoil of the nineteenth century it was Leo XIII who freed the Church from allegiance to any particular form of government. It was Leo who, in the face of the Industrial Revolution and its creation of a landless, poverty-stricken proletariat, proclaimed the rights of the working man and the obligations of capital to provide decent working conditions and an adequate wage for workers. It was he also who revived the sane philosophy and theology of St Thomas Aquinas as an antidote to the intellectual errors of scepticism, naturalism and materialism.


Under his successor, Pius X, we see the Church strengthening itself within itself. He inaugurated a liturgical revival, urging the faithful to a greater personal understanding of and participation in the Church’s worship of God through the Mass and the Sacraments. The internal discipline of the Church was strengthened by the clarification and codification of Canon Law, the law which regulates Church discipline.

Pius XI, confronted with the attack on individual freedom by totalitarian philosophies of fascism, nazism and communism, affirmed the liberty of the individual in the face of the all-powerful state. Against the racial bias of these political philosophies, against the theories of racial superiority by blood, he affirmed the equality of all men in the sight of God. Conscious of the need of the Church to bring the message of the Gospel to all men, he encouraged the works of Catholic Action. He urged the Catholic laity to assist the bishops in the work of the apostolate, in the task of leavening an unbelieving world with the elevating yeast of Catholic doctrine and practice. Outside the Church the growth of the practices of divorce and birth control were destroying the moral fibre of society. Pius XI denounced the immorality of [artificial] birth control and asserted the sanctity and the indissolubility of marriage.


During this period two great world wars showed how far the bonds of social and political action between the nations of the world had deteriorated. Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII spoke clearly for peace and the cultivation of virtues which maintain peace. Though the nations did not listen, the Popes carried on a worldwide work of bringing succour to those made homeless by the destruction of war.

But the one thing that has become increasingly evident in modern times is that the Church, under the leadership of the Papacy, is the great champion of the spiritual element in human life against the prevailing materialism of the age. This is evident both in the Papal defence of what we might call specific human spiritual values and in the Papal insistence on the validity of the divine mysteries which have been revealed to the Church and which constitute the only true basis of human hope for salvation.


Thus, under Pius IX, the Vatican Council insisted on man’s ability, as a creature composed of body and spiritual soul, to discover the great fundamental truths of the existence of God and of his divinely founded Church. Leo XIII defended the dignity of all men in an age which was seeking to make men simply the tools of a materialistic state. Pius XI and Pius XII defended man’s freedom as a spiritual being in the face of the encroachment of totalitarian materialism on the sphere of man’s free spirit.


But, best of all, in a world which has returned to the old error of Adam, the error of seeking salvation by its own unaided efforts, the Popes have, with ever increasing vigour and courage, insisted on the great revealed mysteries which the Church possesses. The worldly prophets of the time preach a universal brotherhood of men founded on the tyranny of an absolute state. Pius XII held out to the world the only possibility of achieving a true human brotherhood of men, the super-union of all men in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. In the Mystical Body of Christ men may achieve that fraternal union with one another which grace and charity make possible. In a secularist world where false prophets seek to institute a world government totally divorced from religious principles Pius XI insisted that all nations must recognise the kingship of Christ. World unity is possible only if men and nations are motivated by truly religious principles. In a world deep in despair because it has been taught that man is only matter doomed to eternal extinction by death, Pius XII fearlessly proclaimed the dignity, the spirituality and the immortality of all men in the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary, the Mother of God, body and soul into heaven. To the world’s despair he proclaimed the hope of salvation, the hope of resurrection and immortality.


In this present age the Papacy stands out once again as the Rock of Peter, the Rock on which God founded His kingdom among men. The furious tides of political opinion and international disputes have stripped the Rock of political power. But this stripping has only served to reveal its essential character. In the midst of the rushing waters of materialism and barbarism, staunch against the breaking waves of war and despair, the Rock of Peter stands unmoved as the first and last champion of man and of God.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (headings in capital letters added afterwards)


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“The Kingdom of God which Jesus founded on earth is fundamentally a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of the spirit. When Jesus acknowledged before Pilate that He was a king, He also said that His kingdom was not of this world. The objective of His kingdom was not worldly wealth or power but rather the salvation of men, the forgiveness of sin and the reunion of men with God both in time and eternity.


But though His kingdom was primarily a kingdom of the spirit, the men who would compose it were not pure spirits. Men are spirits in bodies. As spirits men become conscious of the world and of themselves through the vital, sensitive activities of their bodies. Though it was theoretically possible for God to speak the message of salvation directly to the spirit of each individual man, He did not choose to do so. Instead He chose to speak to a few and commission them to transmit the message to the rest of men. In so doing God chose to respect and work with man as he is, a unit composed of body and spirit. It is through the human body and its senses, through human language, whether spoken, written or by gesture or sign, that men communicate with each other. God chose to use this normal means of human communication to transmit His message to all men.


Similarly God could, if He had so chosen, give His grace to men, the grace which carries with it forgiveness of sin and a share in His kingdom in a purely spiritual way, operating secretly and invisibly in the interior of men’s souls. But God chose to act in accordance with the nature of man. He chose to enable men to know His invisible gifts to their souls by external visible signs, the Mass and the sacraments.


Now therefore the external transmission of the divine message of salvation and the sensible means of salvation instituted by God make His kingdom on earth a visible kingdom. The necessity of safeguarding the integrity of His message and the need of preserving the sacramental means of salvation were provided for by Jesus. To His Apostles, under the leadership of Peter, He gave the power to teach His message without error and to bring to men the sacramental means of salvation. Consequently, though His kingdom on earth is primarily a kingdom of the spirit, it is also a visible kingdom; visible in the evident distinction between the Apostles, who possess the authority to teach, to sanctify and rule the members of the kingdom for eternal salvation, and the members, who receive this teaching, partake of the sacraments and follow the apostolic rule to their salvation; visible in the administration of the sacraments which can be seen and heard; visible and audible in the teaching of the Apostles; recognisable in the obedience in spiritual concerns which the members give to the Apostles and their successors, the Pope and the bishops of the Church.


As a visible, organised society, with the most important mission in the world – the salvation of all men – the Church of God has the right to preach its divine message in the world, the right to administer the means of salvation to men and the right to rule the moral and spiritual behaviour of men for their salvation. Now, if all men were perfect, both in knowledge and in moral behaviour, if all men recognised at once the divine character of the Church of Christ, and if all men had at once the good will to recognise the divine authority of the Church to sanctify and rule men for salvation, the Church would experience no difficulty in the world of men. But men are not perfect, neither in knowledge nor in behaviour. It was to be expected therefore that the appearance in the world of a new society claiming the freedom and the right to teach, rule and sanctify men in the name of God would be neither unnoticed nor unhindered in its efforts to exercise this freedom and right. Over the centuries the weakness of men, both within and without the Church, would occasion not only misunderstanding but also conflicts between the Church and human states. Jesus Himself had given His disciples the general principles to follow: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.’ It is our intention now to trace briefly the working-out of this principle in human history.


The Church, the Kingdom of God, was born in the Roman Empire. In matters of religion the Roman State was eclectic and tolerant. The Romans allowed all subject-peoples to retain and practise their own religions. They asked only that all the subject-peoples (except the Jews) acknowledge the Roman Emperor as a manifestation of the divinity. Since the conquered peoples were generally polytheists, believing in the existence of many gods, and since many of them were accustomed to the idea that kings or emperors were either gods or manifestations of gods, this practice caused no difficulty. On the other hand, it was a powerful symbol of the unity of the empire. The Jews, since they were monotheists, were not asked to worship the emperor. Besides, since they showed no very active inclination to convert the peoples of the empire to monotheism, they were not a threat to the worship of the emperor, nor to the symbol of imperial unity.


But the Kingdom of God founded by Jesus proclaimed itself to the world as a society with a world mission. Its objective was to reunite all men to God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As men came to believe in Jesus, as they freely began to worship the Trinity which He preached, they ceased to worship the many gods of the empire. Most significantly they ceased to worship the emperor. And the more numerous the followers of Jesus became, the more evident it became to the imperial authorities that the Christian Church was a threat to the symbol of imperial unity, the symbol which helped to sustain that unity.


Thus it was that the Church attracted the unfavourable notice of the Roman authorities. Viewed with suspicion, as a possible threat to the well-being of the Roman State, it could not escape persecution by the imperial authority. In the first three centuries of its existence therefore the Church was subject to persecution by the civil authority. The profession and practice of Christianity were forbidden by the State. Those who refused to give up their faith in Christ could be deprived of their titles and property, imprisoned, forced to work in mines, tortured and put to death. It was a time when, as Jesus had said, men would think they were doing God a favour by putting the disciples of Christ to death.


The imperial persecution of the Church ceased with the advent of Constantine in the first quarter of the fourth century. Although Constantine himself was baptised a Christian only at the close of his life, he favoured the Church of Christ. But, as a Roman Emperor, he regarded himself as possessed of power over the Church, even in spiritual matters. Unfortunately for the Church in the eastern half of the empire, Constantine established his capital at Byzantium (Constantinople). The tendency of the emperors to exercise control over Church affairs prevented the true ecclesiastical authority from realising its proper freedom in matters of religion. The real dependence of the Eastern bishops on the power of the emperors and the human weakness and ambitions of the bishops made the Eastern Church unduly subservient to the civil power.


On the other hand, the removal of the capital from Rome to Constntinople proved fortunate for the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St Peter, the supreme authority on earth in the Kingdom of God. The fact that the imperial power was centred at Constantinople in the East and at Milan or Ravenna in the West gave the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, a greater measure of freedom from interference by the civil rulers than that enjoyed by the bishops of the East. As a result the supreme authority to teach, rule and sanctify which Jesus had entrusted to Peter and his successors, the Bishops of Rome, not only became more clearly recognised in the Western Church but it also developed in greater freedom. The barbarian invasions of the empire, which began toward the close of the fourth century, also served to increase the freedom and prestige of the Popes. As the imperial organisation of the empire in the West began to break up under the successive waves of invasion, the Popes appeared to be not only the authoritative heralds of the religion of Christ [James 1:27] but also the champions [of fairness to all,] of the law and order which the old empire had realised.


Thus, from the beginning of the fourth century to the end of the eighth century, two different ways of harmonising man’s duties both to God and to Caesar were being developed. In the Eastern empire, while the state became Christian, the bishops became too dependent on the civil power and the emperors gained too great authority over the Church in matters of religion. In the West the true and divinely given power of the Papacy was able to develop more freely according to its inner nature. The acceptance of the authority of the Popes also safeguarded the authority of bishops generally from the tendency of civil authority to encroach upon Church affairs.


The tendency of the emperors to assume control of the Church was given free play during the rise and fall of the Arian heresy. The Arians denied that Jesus was God equally with the Father. Through the efforts of Eusebius, the Bishop of Nicomedia, they gained the favour of Constantine and of his son Constantius II (337-361). In the Church in the East the power of the emperor was used to depose the true bishops and impose Arian bishops in their place. The Pope and the Western bishops generally resisted these imperial attempts to make the Church Arian. With the advent of the Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) the imperial patronage of the Arian heresy ceased. But, in the East, it had already become customary for the emperors to interfere at will in the affairs of the Church. The bishops there were also accustomed to such interference.


The influence of the emperor in ecclesiastical affairs was also responsible for the increase in power and prestige of the Bishop of Constantinople. At the time of the Council of Constantinople (381) the bishop of the imperial capital was a simple suffragan bishop of the Archbishop of Heraclea. But at the Council through the influence of the Emperor Theodosius, it was decreed that the Bishop of Constantinople was to hold a primacy of honour over all the bishops of the world except the Bishop of Rome. The Council granted the Bishop of Constantinople only a primacy of honour. It did not give him any added powers. But the granting of this honour was based on the principle that the presence of the emperor (or the imperial power) at Constantinople added prestige to the bishop of the see. In this way there was established between the Church in the East and the state a link that was to prove the downfall of the Eastern Church.


In the West the tendency of the state to lord it over the Church was met with resistance. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan (where the Western capital of the empire was then located), gave an example to the rest of the Western bishops. When, with the support of Justina, the mother of the Emperor Valentinian II, the Arians asked that one of the Catholic churches of Milan be handed over to them, Ambrose refused, saying that ‘palaces are the concern of the emperor, but Churches belong to the bishop.’ He also pointed out that the ’emperor is within the Church, but not over the Church.’ It is worth noting that St Ambrose in this tilt with the imperial power, appealed constantly to the principle laid down by Jesus Himself: ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ In the year 494 Pope Gelasius I, in a letter to the Emperor Anastasius, laid down the principle that the world is ruled by two powers, the sacred power of the Popes and the royal power. The power of the priesthood is more important because the priest must give an account to God even for the kings of men. In the West, then, both in principle and in fact, the Pope and the bishops maintained the independence of the Kingdom of God from the civil power. In matters affecting the conduct of the civil affairs of the state, the Church and its members would obey the laws of the state. But in matters of religion the Church is independent, subject only to God.


This teaching of Pope Gelasius was a clear re-affirmation of the principle laid down by Christ Himself. It helped to guard the Church of the West from the dangers of Caesaropapism. But the bishops of the Eastern Church were already too accustomed to subservience to the civil power. Moreover, the tendency of the peoples of the East to become embroiled in theological and liturgical controversies, coupled with the human ambitions of the bishops of Constantinople, helped to bring about the triumph of Caesaropapism and ultimately a rupture between the Eastern and the Western Church.


The first open signs of this rupture are found in the story of the Photian schism. In 847 Ignatius, a son of the Emperor Michael I, was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. His opposition to Bardas, guardian of the emperor, brought about his deposition as Patriarch. Photius, a layman, was chosen in his place. Pope Nicholas I sent legates to Constantinople to mediate the dispute between the followers of Ignatius and those of Photius. His legates took the dide of Photius, but the Pope himself decided in favour of Ignatius. With the support of the emperor, Photius remained in power. But he had been alienated from the Papacy by the decision of Nicholas I. In his anger he wrote a number of works against the See of Rome. These have provided ever since an arsenal of arguments used by Eastern theologians against the Western Church. Even though, ultimately, Photius died in communion with the Pope at Rome, the seeds of the schism had been sown.


In 1053 the Patriarch Michael Caerularius began an active campaign against the Church of the West. In 1054 he was solemnly excommunicated by the papal legates. This brought about the rupture between the Eastern and the Western Church. At the general councils of Lyons, in 1274, and Florence, in 1438, unsuccessful attempts were made to reunite the churches of the East and the West. But the schism remains to this day. Now and then, in the course of succeeding centuries, some bishops and peoples of the East have been reunited to Rome. But the majority of the Christian Churches of the East are still in schism. Thus Caesaropapism – the attempt of civil authority to dominate in a sphere where it has no real authority – helped to remove many of the followers of Christ from the unity of His sheepfold which He so ardently desired.


In the West the relations between Church and the state followed a different course. At that time when the Eastern Church was coming under the domination of the civil power, the activity of St Ambrose and the statement of Christian principle by Pope Gelasius, aided by the breakdown of the western empire, preserved the Church from the danger of Caesaropapism. The prestige of the Church in western Europe was greatly increased by the fact that the Church, in the persons of the Pope and the bishops, emerged from the chaos of the barbarian invasions as the symbols of law and order and the preservers of the ancient culture. The conversion of the Franks improved the position of the Popes as the leaders of the Church. Pepin, the founder of the Corolingian dynasty, gave Pope Stephen III a donation of lands in Italy for the protection of the Roman See. In the year 800 Charlemagne, by accepting coronation as Emperor of the West at the hands of the Pope, consolidated the position of the Pope. Though Charlemagne himself had tendencies toward Caesaropapism, his great empire broke up after his death and the Western Church was temporarily relieved of this embarrassing situation.


But this relief was productive of its own embarrassments. The Mohammedans had begun a series of sea raids on the coasts of Italy and France. The Danes had begun their raids on Ireland, England and the continent itself. The breakdown of Charlemagne’s empire, with the consequent rivalry between kings and princes, helped to increase the chaos which spread through Europe. In these conditions the Papacy became subject to the intrigues of the nobles of Rome and Italy. In the tenth century, under three German emperors, Otto I, Otto II and Otto III, order was restored and the Papacy rescued from the local intrigues of the Roman nobility. But the Ottos tended to make the Church dependent on the imperial authority. Under Otto I the empire founded by Charlemagne was re-established. But, unfortunately for the Church, the emperors sought to nominate Popes or control their election. In addition it had become customary for emperors, kings and princes to nominate bishops and abbots. In the development of feudal Europe bishops and abbots had often become great landowners and feudal allies of the civil sovereigns. Thus it seemed just to the princes that they should have the disposal of ecclesiastical offices and dignities. But such a system of providing successors for the Apostles was extremely bad for the Church.


A movement of reform began during the reign of Pope Leo IX, who had been named Pope by the emperor in 1049. The aim of the reform movement was to liberate the Church from the dominance of the secular princes. The movement came to a climax in the reign of Pope Gregory VII. Gregory forbade laymen to appoint men to ecclesiastical offices and threatened anyone who did so with excommunication from the Church. The Emperor Henry IV disobeyed the decree. Gregory excommunicated Henry and deposed him. The deposition of Henry from the rule of his kingdom was the first case in which a Pope actually attempted to depose a king. In the actual struggle which ensued, Gregory did not obtain a victory. But his action was a manifestation of his own view on the meaning of the Christian principle ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ Gelasius had recognised that there are two divinely instituted powers in the world, the civil authority and the authority of the Church. Gregory showed that in his mind the civil authority was ultimately subject to the power of the Church, since the Church had to render to God an accounting for the actions of princes. At any rate, the action of Gregory set the tone for the policy of the Church in relation to the state for the succeeding centuries. The particular question of laymen appointing and investing ecclesiastical officers – bishops and abbots – was settled at the Concordat of Worms (in 1122) under Pope Calixtus II. By the concordat it was agreed that in future all bishops and abbots should be elected by the proper ecclesiastical authorities. It was thus agreed that the civil authority should not control the Church by its custom of appointing bishops.


In the twelfth century the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa attempted again to subject the Church to the imperial power. His efforts were opposed by Pope Alexander III. It was not until 1177 at the peace of Venice that the struggle ended. Under Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) the Papacy reached the height of its power in both spiritual and temporal affairs.

The struggle was renewed during the reign of Emperor Frederick II. It did not end until Charles of Anjou defeated Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufen emperors, in 1268.

Philip the Fair of France (1285-1314) quarreled with Pope Boniface VIII. Philip, seeking to increase the royal power in France, levied taxes on the French clergy. Boniface held that the Church could not be taxed without its own consent. Later Philip arrested the Bishop of Pamiers. Boniface threatened to depose him. Then, in the Papal Bull ‘Unam Sanctam’ the Pope reaffirmed the doctrine that the temporal authority ‘should be subjected to the spiritual.’ But Philip dealt a severe blow to the prestige of the Papacy by sending his army into Italy to arrest the Pope. Through the loyalty of the people at Anagni the Pope escaped. But the violent action of the king helped to reduce the awe in which the people had held the Pope.


From this point on the power and prestige of the Popes declined. Pope John XXII was denounced by Louis of Bavaria. Marsilio published a book ‘Defensor pacis’ in which he proposed the theory that everything was subject to the emperor. The Papacy was subject to a general council and councils were subject to the emperor. In 1378 there began the Great Western Schism. Some cardinals, contesting the election of Urban VI, elected Robert of Geneva as Clement VII. In 1409 a so-called general council at Pisa elected a third Pope, Alexander V.

The existence of rival claimants to the Papacy gave impetus to theories that the Church generally, especially as represented by general councils, was superior to the Pope. Practically, the schism was settled at the Council of Constance. Two of the rival Popes resigned their office. The council elected Martin V Pope. While this action of the council provided a practical solution to the schism, the council itself claimed power over the Papacy. This claim was later renewed at the Council of Basel. Thus the Popes, in their efforts to maintain the independence of the Church from the state, now found themselves compelled to resist the theory that a general council is superior to the Pope.


The dissensions within the Church occasioned by the Great Schism enabled the princes of Europe to strengthen their own authority over the Church. In 1438 Charles VII of France promulgated the Pragmatic Sanction whereby all papal nominations of clergy in France were forbidden. The German princes were not slow to imitate this action. Meanwhile there developed the tendency to appeal from Papal decisions to a future general council, as if such a council was superior to the Pope. In this way, through the so-called Concilliar Theory, the supreme authority which Jesus had given to the Papacy in the person of Peter and his successors at Rome was attacked and weakened.


This weakening of papal authority paved the way for the great disaster which befell the Church in the sixteenth century – the Protestant Reformation. Whatever faults of the Church needed correction, whatever the numerous and interwoven causes which led to this so-called Reformation, one thing is clear – the ‘Reformation’ destroyed the religious unity of Europe and separated from the true Church of Jesus many nations. Parts of Germany, Denmark, sweden and Norway, England and Scotland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and a small but influential group in France, were separated from Christian unity of belief and practice. The princes of these nations, anxious to assert their independence of the Popes and to gain complete domination over religious affairs, aided the so-called reform movement. The reformers, for their part, anxious to establish their own interests against the Popes, accepted the idea that civil princes had authority over the Church in their own domains and could dictate the kind of religion which would be practised there. Thus, in the new Protestant lands the Caesaropapistic tendency finally triumphed.

For centuries the Popes had fought the tendency of princes to rule the Church. But the secession of the reformers from the Church, while it freed them from the exercise of papal authority, subjected them to the sovereignty of the civil power. Unfortunately through conquest and colonisation, the influence of the new religious views spread to the American continent.


The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 was a recognition of the division of Europe into a Catholic and a Protestant sphere. The concurrent rise of nationalism made matters even more difficult for the Church. In non-Catholic countries Catholics were either persecuted or forced to emigrate. Even in Catholic countries the kings found it expedient to gain control of the Church for their own nationalistic purposes. At this time the theory of the ‘divine right of kings’ came to the fore. Monarchs claimed that their authority came to them directly from God and they could be held to account by God alone. Since royal power was now much more stable than heretofore this claim could be made with greater success. This reinforced the claim of civil rulers to determine the religious views and practices of their subjects. In non-Catholic countries it meant the outlawing of Catholicism, the true Kingdom of God. In Catholic countries it signified the intention of Catholic monarchs to control the Church.


Thus in Switzerland, Holland, the Scandinavian countries and England the property of the Church was confiscated and discriminatory laws were passed against Catholics. It was not until Frederick the Great of Prussia (1740-1786) granted religious toleration to the Catholics of Silesia that the rigour of non-Catholic religious intolerance began to abate. This move toward toleration was not an unmixed blessing. If it had been the result simply of a due regard for the sanctity of individual consciences it might have been truly a step forward in the relations between Church and state. But it was also the result of the new intellectual atmosphere generated by what was called the ‘Enlightenment.’


The cardinal principle of the Protestant Reformation was ‘private judgement.’ The reformers, in seceding from Rome, had repudiated the authority of the Pope and bishops to teach and interpret infallibly the teaching of Christ. Instead they claimed that each individual believer, by reading the Bible, could judge for himself the content of God’s revelation to man. If God’s revelation had been concerned only with natural truths easily accessible to human reason, such a principle might have worked. But, as we have seen, God’s message is concerned chiefly with supernatural mysteries which man could not discover for himself and which he cannot completely understand even after he has learned them from the Church. In history therefore the principle of private judgement broke down. As men began to read the Bible with only their own talents and prejudices to guide them, they began to question more and more the content of the divine message.


It was easier to reject mysteries than to accept them in submission to the wisdom of God. From the rejection of divine mysteries to the rejection of reason itself – a philosophical position known as scepticism – was not a difficult step.


Nor did it take the sceptics long to question even the existence of God Himself. In such an intellectual atmosphere – generated remotely by the ‘Reformation’ with its principle of private judgement, and proximately by the scepticism of the ‘Enlightenment’ – the tolerance of Frederick the Great reflects not so much a tenderness toward the rights of the individual religious conscience as a supercilious attitude toward all forms of religion. Since all religion, as he held, is simply a matter of questionable opinion it matters not what form of religion the subjects of a state may embrace as long as all forms are subject to the power of the absolute monarch.


In Catholic states at this same period the Church also experienced difficulty. In Austria Joseph II, imbued with the same absolutist tendency which motivated Frederick in Prussia, attempted to place the Church completely under the control of the royal power. His rules and regulations for the governance of the Church were so minute – descending even to the details of the appointments of a Church altar – that he became known to his fellow-monarchs as ‘Joseph the Sacristan.’ In France, under Louis XIV, this tendency to gain control of the Church was also manifested. In 1682, under the urging of Louis, there was promulgated a ‘Declaration of the Gallican Clergy.’ It declared that the power of the Pope was restricted to spiritual affairs; that kings and princes were not subject to any ecclesiastical authority in temporal affairs. To protect and strengthen his monarchy Louis felt it necessary to maintain complete control of the Church within France itself.


The combination of growing nationalism, of absolute monarchies and of scepticism made it difficult for the Church, by nature an international organism [Jesus Christ: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ etc.], to preserve its proper independence of civil authority. Absolute monarchs (whose minds were often tinged with religious scepticism), intent upon strengthening their own powers and extending the borders of their kingdom, found it expedient to seek to control even the affairs of religion within their own borders. This tendency was a threat to the international, in fact the supra-national, character of the Kingdom of God on earth.


In the nineteenth century the forces of nationalism and scepticism combined to produce an even more hazardous situation for the Church. The French Revolution of 1789 was the first of a series of revolutions against the absolute monarchies in Europe. The first French Republic sought to eliminate papal influence in the French Church by insisting that bishops and priests should be chosen by the people. In addition the properties of the Church were confiscated.


Throughout the century the philosophy of liberalism propagated the idea that faith had nothing to do with politics. In practice this meant that politicians were neither to be hampered by nor guided in their political actions by the principles of either religion or morality. On the other hand, politicians, moved (even, if not fully conscious of the fact) by the idea of the Absolute State, felt it quite proper to interfere in matters of religion. Thus, in Italy, after the unification of Italy under the House of Savoy, monasteries were suppressed and ecclesiastical property was secularised. In Germany in 1872 the ‘Kulturkampf’ sought to impose state control of all religious schools and expelled religious orders. In France at the end of the century similar measures were taken and religious orders were not allowed to teach in the schools and many of them were expelled.


In the twentieth century the Church found herself confronted with the menace of the ‘totalitarian states.’ Communism, nazism and fascism, each sought to control the Church for its own advantage. In Italy fascism accepted the existence of the Church and came to a kind of uneasy peace by the settlement of the Roman Question in 1929. In Germany nazism, even though it made a concordat with the Church, persecuted all forms of religion. In Russia (and in the countries subject to or allied to Russia after the Second World War) communism [was] the overt enemy of all religion. Its avowed object [was] to destroy all religion.


The far-reaching extent of communist domination – [which reached all the way] from China in the East to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Jugoslavia in the West – [had] made it difficult for the Kingdom of God to function or exist in a great part of the world. But the situation of the Church is not hopeless. In Western Europe and the Americas the movement of religious tolerance has grown. England, by the Emancipation Act of 1829, restored Catholics to equal rights with the other citizens of England and the British Isles. In 1850 Prussia also granted equality to Catholics. In Central and South America, while liberalism and communism for a time sought to exterminate the Church, there are signs that a more tolerant policy is being adopted. In the United States and Canada the Church is [nominally] allowed to function freely.


It can be seen that the existence and functioning of the Kingdom of God on earth has not been easy. As a divine supra-national organism it must surpass the particular interests of individual nations, states and empires. As an independent, autonomous organism of the spiritual order it must possess the freedom necessary for the accomplishment of its own goal, the salvation of all men. On the other hand, nations and states possess their own, though lesser, goals, the common welfare of their members in this world. The Church has sought always to employ the principle given it by Jesus – “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s’ – in the solution of the problems of the relation between states and the Church.


While at times it may seem that difficulty arises between the Church and the state because individual churchmen have sought or obtained an excessive influence in temporal affairs, the chief cause of difficulty has always been the tendency of states to control the spiritual world of the Church; to control it either to the advantage of the state or to the extermination of the Church.


The Church, of course, is not surprised to encounter this difficulty. Its divine Master, Jesus Himself, told it it would meet suspicion, hatred and persecution. The servant is not greater than her Master. She represents God, God stooping down from eternity to the world of time, seeking to save men, to invite men to enter freely into the Kingdom of God. But she knows that men must enter freely into God’s kingdom. She knows that the sinful wilfulness of men cannot be changed completely in all men in a day or in centuries. Her task is universal not only in space but in time. In each generation she must repeat the divine invitation to salvation and in each generation she must meet the same wilful, sinful tendencies of the free human will.


So in divine patience, if not always in peace, she seeks to exist and to function among all nations, in all states, applying as circumstances suggest the divine principle regulating her relation to human temporal states: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.'”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (Headings in capital letters added afterwards)


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“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.


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.


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.


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.


‘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.’


‘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


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 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.


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.


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.’


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.’


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.


‘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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“My first introduction to the Catholic Church was being spat in the eye by a Roman Catholic boy at school. He was bigger than me; so I let it pass. But I remembered he was a Roman Catholic.

My next was at a magic-lantern entertainment to which I was taken by my mother. In the course of it there appeared on the screen the picture of a very old man in a large hat and a long white soutane. I must have asked my mother who it was, and been informed briefly that it was the ‘Pope of Rome.’ I don’t quite know how, but the impression left in my mind was that there was something fishy about the ‘Pope of Rome.’


At school, I learned in ‘English history’ (which I discovered later was not altogether English and not altogether history) that there was something fishy not only about the Pope of Rome, but about the whole of the Pope’s Church. I gathered that for a thousand years or more the Pope had held all England in his grip, and not only England but all Europe; also that during that period the ‘Roman’, ‘Romish,’ or ‘Roman Catholic’ Church had become more and more corrupt, until finally the original Christianity of Christ had almost disappeared; that idols were worshipped instead of God; that everywhere superstition held sway. No education; no science.

I read of how the ‘Glorious Reformation’ had come; how the light of the Morning Star had burst upon the darkness; how the Pope’s yoke had been flung off, and with it all the trappings and corruptions of Popery; of the triumph of the Reformation in England; of the restoration of the primitive doctrines of Christ and the ‘light of the pure Gospel’; of the progress and prosperity that followed in the reign of ‘good Queen Bess’; of the freeing of men’s minds and the expansion of thought released from the tyranny of Rome.

All this, as an English schoolboy, I drank in. And I believed it.

Next, I did a thing that we all of us have to do; I grew up. And I grew up without questioning the truth of what I had been taught.


The time came when I decided to become a Church of England clergyman. For this purpose I entered an Anglican Theological college. And there I must confess I began to get somewhat muddled; for I could not find out what I should have to teach when I became an Anglican clergyman. Even to my youthful mind it became abundantly clear that my various tutors were contradicting each other on vital matters of Christian doctrine. My own fellow students were perpetually arguing on the most fundamental points of religion. I finally emerged from that theological college feeling somewhat like an addled egg, and only dimly realising that the Church of England had given me no theology. I appreciated later that it had no system of theology to give.

It was during that period at college that I first of all went out to Rome, on a holiday. And whilst there I managed to see no less a person than the Pope of Rome himself. It was Pope Pius X – being borne into St Peter’s on the sedia gestatoria. He passed quite close where I was standing, and I could see his face very clearly. It was the face of a saint. I could only suppose that somehow he had managed to keep good in spite of being Pope of Rome. That incident left a deeper impression on my mind than I was aware of at that time.

I kept a diary of all that I saw in Rome, and wrote in it: ‘I can quite imagine a susceptible young man being carried away by all this, and wanting to become a Roman Catholic.’ I myself was safe from the lure of Popery, of course.


As a full-fledged Anglican clergyman, I first of all worked in a country parish. At the end of the year, however, my vicar and I came to the conclusion that it would be wiser to part company; for we were disagreed as to what the Christian religion was.

I then went to a parish in the East End of London, down amongst the costers, hop pickers, and dock labourers. I went down there full of zeal, determined to set the Thames on fire. I very soon discovered, though, that the vast mass of the East-Enders had no interest at all in the religion that I professed. Out of the six thousand or so in the parish not more than one or two hundred ever came near the church. Our hoppers’ socials in the parish hall were well patronised, however. Great nights they were, with a thrilling din of barrel organ, dancing, and singing. I found the Donkey Row hoppers immensely lovable and affectionate. We had wonderful days with them each September in the hopfields of Kent. It was social work. The mass of them we could not even touch with religion.

I grew somewhat ‘extreme’ in this parish under the influence of my vicar, to whom at first I was too ‘Protestant.’ I remember he disliked the hat that I arrived in – a round flat one. The vicarage dog ate the hat, and I bought a more ‘priestly’ one.

For a year or two things went fairly smoothly and I suffered from no qualms about the Anglican religion. How far I sincerely believed that I was a ‘Catholic’ during that period I find it difficult to estimate now. Sufficiently at any rate to argue heatedly with ‘low-church’ and ‘modernist’ clergy in defence of my claim.

And sufficiently to be thoroughly annoyed with a Roman Catholic lady who, wherever we met, told me she was praying for my conversion to the ‘true Church,’ and a Franciscan Friar in the hopfields who told me the same. I felt like telling them they could pray until they were blue in the face. I remember, too, that whenever I met a Roman Catholic priest I experienced a sense of inferiority and a vague feeling of not quite being the real thing, or, at least, of there being an indefinable but marked difference between us.


It was when I could no longer avoid certain unpleasant facts with which I was confronted in my work as an Anglican clergyman, that the first uneasiness came.

I was in the house one day of a certain dock labourer who lived exactly opposite our church but never darkened its doors. I chose the occasion to ask him – why not? His reply flattened me out; it was to the effect that he could see no valid reason for believing what I taught in preference to what the ‘low-church bloke dahn the road’ taught. I could not give a satisfactory answer to his challenge. I don’t suppose he believed in either of us really; but he had placed me in a quandary. We were both Anglican clergymen, and we were both flatly contradicting each other from our respective pulpits.

It set a question simmering in my mind – Why should a n y b o d y believe what I taught? And a further question – What authority had I for what I was teaching?

I began, for the first time with real anxiety, to examine the Anglican Church. And with that examination I found I could no longer blind myself to certain patent facts, which hitherto I had brushed aside. The Established Church was a church of contradictions, of parties, each of which had an equal claim to represent it, and all of which were destructive of its general claim to be a part of the Church of Christ – directly one affirmed in its unity.

As far as authority was concerned, it was possible to believe anything or nothing without ecclesiastical interference. You could be n extreme ‘Anglo-Catholic’ and hold all the doctrines of the Catholic Church except the inconvenient ones like Papal Infallibility; you could be an extreme modernist and deny (whilst retaining Christian terms) all the doctrines of the Christian religion. No bishop said Yes or No imperatively to any party. The bishops were as divided as the parties. For practical purposes, if bishops did interfere, they were ignored, even by their own clergy. If the Holy Ghost, as claimed, was with the Church of England, then, logically, the Holy Ghost was the author of contradictions; for each party claimed His guidance. These facts presented me with a quandary which appeared insurmountable, and which remained insurmountable.

I have often been asked, since my conversion, how, in view of them, Anglican clergy can be sincere in remaining where they are. My reply has been – they are sincere. There is a state of mental blindness in which one is incapable of seeing the plain logic of facts. I only know that it was over a year before I acted on these facts myself. And I honestly believe I was sincere during that period. Only those who have been Protestants can appreciate the thick veil of prejudice, fear, and mistrust of ‘Rome’ which hampers every groping towards the truth.


It was about this time that there fell into my hands a book written by a Catholic priest, who himself had once been an Anglican clergyman, who had been faced by the same difficulties, and who had found the solution of them all in the Catholic Church. ‘But the Catholic Church can’t be the solution,’ I said. And there rose before my mind a vision of all I had been taught about her from my boyhood upwards – her false teaching, her corruptions of the doctrines of Christ. The Catholic Church, though, was the Church of the overwhelming majority of Christians, and always had been. If what I had been taught was true, then, for nearly two thousand years the great mass of Christians had been deluded and deceived by lies. Could Christ have allowed a hoax, an imposture of that magnitude? In His name? The Catholic Church was either an imposture or – Or what?


I began to buy Catholic books to study Catholic doctrines. To read history from the Catholic standpoint. The day came when I sat looking into the fire asking myself: ‘Is what the world says of the Catholic Church true? Or what the Catholic Church says of herself? Have I all these years been shaking my fist at a phantom of my own imagining fed on prejudice and ignorance?

I compared her Unity with the complete lack of it outside. Her Authority with the absence of anything approaching real authority in the Church of which I was a member and a minister. The unchangeable moral code she proclaimed with the wavering, shilly-shallying moral expediency that Protestantism allowed. She began to look so very much more like the Church that God would have made, just as the Established Church began to look so very much more like the church that man would have made.

When I was passing Westminster [Catholic] Cathedral one day I went in and knelt for half an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. I came out terribly shaken – spiritually shaken. It is impossible to describe ; but in that short half an hour what, until now, I had contemplated as a problem, had suddenly assumed an aspect of imperativeness. A problem that had to be solved, not played with. For within those four walls there loomed up before my spiritual vision an immensity, a vast reality, before everything else had shrunk away. The church, whose clergyman I was, seemed to have slipped away from under my feet.

I returned to the East End dazed. That night amongst the hoppers I felt like a stranger moving about.


I went about for weeks in a state of uncertainty, undecided in my conscience as to whether I was morally bound to face things out or not – wretched under the suspicion that what ‘Rome’ said might be true – that I was no priest: that my ‘Mass’ was no Mass at all; that I was genuflecting before – ?; that my ‘absolutions’ were worthless. The more I prayed about it, the more unreal my ministry appeared.

I decided to consult a certain very ‘extreme’ clergyman, whom I believed sincere beyond question (as he was), and a man of deep spiritual piety. I had three or four talks with him in all, the general result of which was to leave me more confused intellectually than ever, but spiritually more at peace; though it took me months before I realised that this peace was a false one, and that I had shelved the matter not from its intellectual difficulties, but for worldly reasons. For those talks had banged upon me an unpleasant vista of what might happen if I went ‘over to Rome’ – the loss of my position, my salary, friends and all; not only the burning of all my boats, but the wounding of my mother and father cruelly. Even more, ‘Rome’ might not accept me for her priesthood; in any case it would be starting all over again, possibly from baptism. If she did not want me for a priest, I should have to…

My whole being revolted against the prospect. It was impossible – such a demand. I had been carried away by emotions. It was a snare of Satan. I should be a traitor to the Church of my baptism. God had placed me here in the Church of England. He was blessing my work as its minister. He had given me endless graces.

I buried myself in that work again, and for a time succeeded in forgetting, or at least stifling, the fears that had been my torment – until the haphazard remark of a photographer (registering my features), an agnostic I believe, opened my eyes to my inability to defend the Established Church’s position; it was to the effect that if Christianity were true, obviously the Roman Catholic Church, with her authority was right.


It was the testimony of a man who had no ax to grind. A Jewish dentist made the same remark in effect to me shortly afterwards. The man-in-the-street testifies the same with his: ‘If I were religious, I’d be a Roman Catholic.’

Whether it was the photographer or not, my fears were released once more from their repression, abruptly and acutely, and this time I resolved that it should be a fight to the finish, either way – that no worldly or material consideration should interfere. The clergyman whom I had consulted had already made one thing clear in my mind – that the issue between Rome and Canterbury, the crux of the whole problem, was the claim of Rome to be the Infallible teaching authority appointed by God, and the denial by Canterbury of that claim. The whole question boiled down to the question of Infallibility, and on that everything else hung.


I entered upon an intensive study of the point. I read the history of the doctrine, the Fathers and the Councils of the Church, and what they had to say; examined its rationality. At the end of some months I came to the conclusion – that, as far as Holy Scripture, history, and reason were concerned, the Catholic Church could prove her claim to be God’s Infallible Teacher up to the hilt.

It is difficult after all these years to recapture the exact mode of its appeal to my reason; but it was the appeal that the doctrine of the Infallibility of the Church inevitably presents to any man who is prepared to lay aside bias, prejudice, and preconceptions. I will try to state it in the fewest words possible.

Infallibility is the only guarantee we have that the Christian religion is true. Actually, if I, at the moment, did not believe in an Infallible Teacher appointed by God, then nothing on earth would induce me to believe in the Christian religion. If, as outside the Catholic Church, Christian doctrines are a matter of private judgment, and therefore the Christian religion a mere matter of human opinion, then there is no obligation upon any living soul to believe in it. Why should I stake my immortal soul upon human opinion? For that is all you have if you refuse the Infallible Church.”
– This is part I of “Practical Failure of Anglicanism” by Fr Owen Francis Dudley from “Through Hundred Gates”, The Bruce Publishing Company. Milwaukee, WI, USA: 1938, pp. 308; reprinted in “Christ to the World” (International Review of Documentation and Apostolic Experiences), N 6 Nov-Dec 2009 Vol. 54; email:

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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Prayers for Ordinary Time


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