Tuesday, March 31

2008: The Ordination of Bishop Campbell

This is Bishop Michael Campbell, the first Augustinian friar to become a Bishop in England since the Reformation. At the time of writing this blog, he is preparing to be formally inaugurated as the Sixth Bishop of Lancaster.

It's a year to the day since Bishop Campbell was ordained in a wonderful ceremony - one of the grandest that the Cathedral has ever witnessed. The church was filled to overflowing, with over 30 bishops, 200 clergy and several hundred religious and lay people from across the Diocese.

Presiding over the liturgy was Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, who was assisted by Bishop Brian Noble of Shrewsbury (who grew up in the Cathedral parish) and Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool (who served here as a curate early in his priestly life).

The two Bishops have had a joint responsibility for the Diocese since that day. On May 1st Bishop O'Donoghue will retire and Bishop Campbell takes on the task alone.

A number of people gathered in the garden and on the streets outside both before and after Mass, simply to watch the processions. The mitred heads of the bishops certainly formed an impressive sight.

It was also believed to be the only occasion to date when two cardinals had been present at the Cathedral. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, preached at the ordination; Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, also attended. The Pope was represented by the Papal Nuncio.

1601: Blessed Thurstan Hunt and Robbert Middleton

Among the names listed on the martyrs' plaque in the Cathedral are two Yorkshire priests who were executed in Lancaster on this day in 1601. Canon Billington says that their story has "something of the romantic" about it. This is, in the Canon's words, what happened: "Middleton, who had been brought up a Protestant, being converted when eighteen years of age, had been labouring near Preston, when he was in October 1600 captured by Sir Richard Hoghton. He was examined and sent to Lancaster, but on the way a rescue was attempted, the escort being attacked near Garstang. The attacking party, consisting of four horsemen and a footman, was driven off, and one member of it was taken and found to be another priest, Thurstan Hunt, who had lately escaped from Wisbech Castle. The two priests were sent to London to be examined, and being returned to Lancaster five months afterwards, were tried and condemned for their priesthood." At the gallows the two priests asked each other's blessing before being executed, weaing their cassocks. Seemingly many of the townsfolk sympathised with the priests. Billington records, "Every one lamented their death, for all the world perceived their innocency; and not only Catholics but schismatics and of all sorts strive to have something of their relics." He also quotes an earlier source which claims, "In all of Lancaster there could not be found any that would either lend horse of car or hurdle or any such-like thing for their death; so the sheriff was fain to take one of his own horses to draw the sledge."

Sunday, March 29

The Liturgy at Dalton Square

To visitors standing in Dalton Square there appears only one significant difference between the former chapel as it stood in 1799 and its current appearance: the entrance. The doorway which now leads into the building from Dalton Square was not originally there; in fact, the altar stood just behind this opening. Sadly there are no pictures of the inside of the chapel, but Canon Billington does give us some sense of what went on there: "Though the building was simple almost to bareness, the ceremonies of the Church were, at least in its later time, carried out with the greatest solemnity and beauty. Mass on Sunday morning was followed by a catechising for the country children. The afternoon service was vespers, and the public catechising for the local children came at the end of it. Benediction was given only once a month." 150 years after the chapel closed, Vespers is now sung each Sunday afternoon in the Cathedral which replaced it; Benediction is also given - these days weekly, rather than monthly.

Friday, March 27

1830: The ordination of Richard Brown

This is the Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral Church of Rome. It was here, on this day in 1830, that a certain Richard Brown was ordained to the priesthood by the Patriarch of Constantinople. He was the nephew of Rev George Brown, at that time rector of the Lancaster Catholic mission, who went on to become the first Bishop of Liverpool in 1850. Fr Richard Brown worked in Poulton, Leeds, Kilvington, Whitby and Dukinfield. There, in Billington's words, he "caused the church, presbytery, and schools at Stalybridge to be built." Ten years after his ordination he went on to run the Lancaster mission, and oversaw the building of the present St Peter's church. His character is described by Canon Billington: "He was severe with himself and austere in his manner to others, but the flock knew a faithful pastor... He was regarded as 'a man of great culture, with a taste for archaeological and architectural studies which had been developed and enriched by his residence in Rome'." He adds, "No portrait of him is known; he refused to have one taken." Canon Billington is not slow to praise Fr Brown; he begins his account with the sentence, "The Rev. Richard Melchiades Brown, to whose zeal and self-sacrifice St. Peter's, with the house, convent, schools, and cemetery form a noble monument, deserves a more extended notice than the scanty records available admit."

Wednesday, March 25


"Dolphinlee from about 1580 was the residence of the Copeland family, who were leaseholders of the Daltons and acted as their agents... The house afforded shelter to the missionary priests." So writes Canon Billington in his parish history; the image here is also included in the book. Dolphinlee was one of many houses used for the celebration of Mass in the days when the practice of Catholicism was illegal in England. Billington refers to some of the Catholic families who lived in the Bulk area where Dolphinlee was to be found: "The Croskells and the Balls were yeoman families of great fidelity to the Catholic religion, and a number of priests sprang from them." One early source quoted by the Canon refers to a visit which took place on this day: "Thomas Tyldesley and his wife went to Bulk to 'prayers' on March 25, 1712, and he went again in the following April, but not later, so far as appears from his Diary." Sadly Dolphinlee is no longer standing; it was demolished in the early 20th century.

Tuesday, March 24

The Whiteside Chalice

This chalice - still in regular use at Mass - was given to St Peter's by James Whiteside in 1859, presumably to coincide with the opening of the new church. He died two years later, in 1861, as an earlier post on this blog recalls. The Whiteside family were great benefactors of the Cathedral, paying for (amongst other things) the 'Whiteside chantry', a side chapel to the south of the nave.

James Whiteside's mother, Catherine, died on this day in 1825, as the plaque in their chantry records.

The Whiteside Chantry contains a stained glass image of St Catherine. Presumably this saint was chosen in memory of Mrs Whiteside.

Sunday, March 22

1925: the first Lourdes Pilgrimage

On this day in 1925 Cathedral parishioners were hearing of the first Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. Led by Bishop Pearson, who would dedicate the Diocese to the patronage of Our Lady of Lourdes, it has become an annual event. The notice book for this day in 1925 records the announcement: "Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. The Bishop wants as many as possible to join this pilgrimage. He himself is going and proposes to dedicate the Diocese to Our Lady of Lourdes at her shrine. He wants it to be known that he will accompany his own diocesans. Forms and all information can be had from any of the clergy."

Thursday, March 19

Father Joseph Preston

This is Ushaw College, four miles west of Durham city. For 200 years it has been a seminary - a place for training priests. For most of his life it was home to Joseph Preston, part of a family (other members of which we will meet later in the year) who had close connections with St Peter's. He died on this day in 1889 and Ushaw is now his final resting place. Canon Billington tells us a little about Father Preston, as he was one of the many priests who contributed towards the rose window in the south transept of St Peter's. He writes, "Joseph Preston... was sent to Ushaw when he was only six years old, and stayed there all his life as student or teacher, becoming prefect in his later years. He was ordained at St. Peter's, Lancaster, on August 1, 1886, and said his last Mass there on the first Sunday of Lent 1889, dying at his brother's house on St. Joseph's Day that year. He was buried at Ushaw." In death he is in good company; the Ushaw cemetery also contains the graves of most of the former Bishops of Hexham and Newcastle, and of Fr John Lingard, the well-known historian and parish priest of Hornby.

Wednesday, March 18

Blessed John Thewlis and Roger Wrennall

On the hill above the Cathedral a memorial recalls the sacrifice of those who died for their faith in the city during the years of persecution. Today is the anniversary of the execution of two of those martyrs (1615/1616): Blessed John Thewlis and Blessed Roger Wrennall. Canon Billington writes about the martyrs:

Blessed John Thewlis
"Thewlis was born at Upholland about 1568, and after being trained abroad, was sent to England in 1592. Being arrested soon afterwards, he was imprisoned at Wisbech, and on his escape, or release, ministered in Lancashire till his arrest. At his trial William Leigh, the famous Puritan rector of Standish, was brought in to dispute with him, but to no avail. A godson, Mr. Assheton of Lever, offered him £20 a year if he would renounce his religion, but in vain. So he was for his priesthood condemned as a traitor... He was executed accordingly; his head was set up on the castle walls, and his quarters at Lancaster, Preston, Wigan and Warrington."

Blessed Roger Wrennall
"Before his trial, Thewlis had made his escape from the castle by the aid of another Catholic prisoner, the above named Roger Wrennall, a weaver from the Kirkham district. After wandering about all night, they found themselves in the morning close to Lancaster, and so were recaptured. Wrennall was condemned for assisting the priest, being hanged as a felon. At first the rope broke and he fell to the ground, whereupon the ministers present urged him again to take the oath and save his life. He answered 'I am the same man I was, and in the same mind; use your pleasure with me'; running up the ladder, as having had a vision of 'the good things of the Lord.' A new rope was found, and he was executed."

Sunday, March 15

Elizabeth Dalton: the last of a devoted race

During March Billington's Blog is looking at, amongst other things, the former Catholic chapel at Dalton Square. Today we look at one of the Dalton family, who were very prominent in Lancaster, and were also faithful Catholics even from the days of the Reformation. In the Cathedral Lady Chapel is a memorial (at present in need of a little restoration) to the family. Elizabeth Dalton, who died on this day in 1861, gave £1098 for the chapel to be built. The inscription on the memorial reads as follows: "Pray for the five sisters of the family of Dalton of Thurnham: Charlotte, deceased Feb. 28, an. 1802; Mary, Aug. 17, 1820; Bridget, Aug. 5, 1821; Lucy, Nov. 14, 1843; and Elizabeth, Mch. 15, 1861. Elizabeth, the last of a race firm through troublesome times in their devotedness to the Catholic faith, which they sustained in this neighbourhood by their sufferings and influence, built and endowed this chapel of our Lady Immaculate to secure for herself and sisters the prayers of the faithful."

Saturday, March 14

Inside Dalton Square II

Yesterday's post gave some indication of the interior of Dalton Square, from the writings of Canon Billington. Today we won't hear from the great man himself, but we will pick up some clues from more recent inspections of the former chapel. The window pictured above is original to the building. When work was taking place to convert the space for office use some evidence found to indicate that this window may have contained stained glass. No mention of it is made in Canon Billington's history, however.

The ceiling is an attractive feature to today's visitors, and one which is of interest to us. The above picture was taken in 1979 when the building was being converted for its present use; it shows some of the roof space.

Today it is brighly painted and presumably looks quite different from the chapel days. The structure is original, though, and would no doubt be recognisable to Catholics who attended Mass there in the first half of the nineteenth century.

This image shows some traces of what is believed to be the original ceiling decoration. Again, the image dates from 1979. This part of the ceiling is covered now and not visible to those using the building, however the original decoration still remains, out of sight.

Friday, March 13

Inside Dalton Square I

On this day in 1798 the foundation stone was laid at the new Catholic chapel in Dalton Square. It would take less than a year to complete the building, which opened on 1st March the following year. To mark the anniversary we take a two-day look at what it was like inside the chapel. The doorway you can see in the picture is presumably original; Canon Billington records, "The entrance was by a wide square-headed door at the north-east corner. As Friar Street slopes down from the square, this entrance was below the level of the floor and internal steps were needed... Internally the arrangements were quite simple. The altar... was placed at the Dalton Square end. The wall behind it was 'ornamented with a beautiful altarpiece', executed in chiaroscuro by Mr. Baker of Wakefield... On each side of it were figures, one of St. Peter and the other of St. Paul."

Today the interior is divided into several floors, but the visitor can still get a sense of the size of the chapel; the building seems bigger inside than it appears from without. Room to seat a few people, then: "The seating arrangements were those usual at the time; there was no central aisle, but two side passages, the seats being fixed in the centre (with a partition down the middle) and against the east and west walls. At the north end was a gallery, in which an organ was afterwards placed. At the same end, below the floor, was a burial vault. There were no stations of the cross, nor any side altars; but in its later days an image of our Lady was placed in the chapel, and there was also a crucifix on the west side. Two large candlesticks stood by the altar rails, containing candles lighted during the elevation."

Today the reception area of the offices stands at the south end of the building, where the sanctuary was in earlier days. A window in the reception gives a wonderful view of the church of St Peter which replaced the Dalton Square chapel. Our thanks are due to Mr Stephen Gardner and the authorities at the City Council Planning Department, whose offices now occupy the building. We owe to them the pictures in the posts today and tomorrow, along with some other images being used later this month.

Tuesday, March 10

1537: The Execution of John Paslew

This is an image of the 1536 'Pilgrimage of Grace', a popular uprising that protested against the dissolution of the monasteries, the break with Rome and other aspects of the way England was being run. After the uprising ended, King Henry VIII had over 200 people put to death in an attempt to prevent any further trouble. Amongst those executed was John Paslew, Abbot of Whalley, who died in Lancaster on this day in 1537. Canon Billington writes about the event in his history of the parish: "The townsmen in 1536 clearly sympathised with the Pilgrimage of Grace, and a significant warning was given them early in the following year, when John Paslew, the venerable Abbot of Whalley, and a Sawley monk were executed at Lancaster for participation in that movement. William Trafford, Abbot of Sawley, soon afterwards suffered at the same place for the same cause. Two of the Furness monks were imprisoned in the castle." The Abbots are not counted among the Lancaster Martyrs, though they are mentioned at the foot of the Martyrs' Plaque on the Cathedral sanctuary.

Sunday, March 8

1961: The Dialogue Mass

Forty-eight years ago parishioners of the Cathedral were, perhaps, beginning to see the first signs of the liturgical revolution which would take place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It seems that it was at this time in 1961 that the 'Dialogue Mass' was being introduced; in this Mass people were permitted to join the priest and the server in reciting certain parts of the Mass. The notice book entry for 5th March 1961 gives more detail: "Dialogue Mass - the Holy Father is anxious for people to take part with Priest in offering Holy Mass - He allows people to say certain parts with Priest - we should then try to fulfil his wishes. Hence the children now have Dialogue Mass on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and we shall have Dialogue Mass on Sunday mornings at 9.0am. Please bring your books next Sunday for this Mass and join with the Priest - Psalm, Kyrie, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and all the responses - Pater Noster also." It is interesting to note that liturgical reforms had begun some time before the Second Vatican Council, which would not meet for another 18 months. In fact, although the Dialogue Mass was clearly only being introduced here in the early 1960s, its earliest forms date back as far as 1922.

Saturday, March 7

From Chapel to Cinema

The chapel at Dalton Square has had quite a history since it was sold in 1859. The first buyers were the Lancaster Total Abstinence Society, who renamed the building 'The Palatine Hall and Temperance Institute'. In 1907 John Porter and William Ferguson bought the building and turned it into the Hippodrome Music Hall; seemingly Gracie Fields was one of the artists to perform there. A Blackpool-based company turned it into the County Cinema (as seen above) in 1920. The city council currently owns the building, which has reverted to the name 'Palatine Hall'. Canon Billington's parish history includes a brief reference to the post-church use of the building: "The Dalton Square chapel, which had never been consecrated, was sold in 1859 to the Total Abstinence Society for £1400. This did not include the priest's house. Under the new name of Palatine Hall it was used for concerts, public meetings, &c. It was again sold in 1907, and is now a place of variety entertainments called the Hippodrome."

Thursday, March 5

The other garden ornament

Yesterday's post featured the old school cross, which now stands in the garden of Cathedral House. A few yards down the path is another unusual garden ornament. In 1859 it stood at the very top of the spire of St Peter's, and was the base of the large cross which stands there. Canon Billington explains, "The spire is surmounted by a copper cross, 9 feet 10 inches high and 4 feet across. The spire was repointed and the cross regilt in 1900; the three topmost stones, which were found to be decayed and had to be renewed, may be seen in the garden." On 4th May 1955 the Lancaster Guardian featured the stone; Monsignor Brimley, then the Cathedral Administrator, seems to have been the source of the article, which was prompted by the curiosity of passers-by.

Wednesday, March 4

The Old School Cross

"A large stone cross still marks the entrance" of the old school, Canon Billington reported in yesterday's post. His words, of course, were written in 1909, and things have changed a bit since then. The old school in Dalton Square is now gone, but the cross has survived. Above it is pictured in its original setting (the photograph dates from the early 19th century); below the image shows the cross as it is today - in the garden of Cathedral House. Very many people walk past it every day; probably very few realise its origins.

Tuesday, March 3

The School at Dalton Square

Behind the chapel at Dalton Square stood a school, as Canon Billington records: "The next work of Dr. Rigby's was to provide for the children. A school was built in 1805 at a cost of £222; and in 1818-20 a considerable addition, or perhaps a new building - that to the west of the chapel - was erected at a cost of £317. The school stood or stands in Friars' Passage, at the north-west corner of the chapel. It is a small building of two stories, the lower one for the boys and the upper one for girls. A large stone cross still marks the entrance. According to the proposals of 1805, the master was to have £20 a year and to teach twenty-five children free, so that the place was classed as a 'charity school'; any children in excess of that number were to pay fees. In 1825 about eighty children attended." Seemingly little or nothing remains of the old school, but Friars' Passage still exists. The name is not insignificant - on this site before the Reformation stood a Dominican (Black Friars) house.

Sunday, March 1

1799: The Opening of Dalton Square

210 years ago today the new Catholic chapel, forerunner of the present church, opened in Dalton Square. It replaced an earlier church just off St Leonardsgate. Canon Billington records, "On October 8, 1797, Dr. Rigby, as appears from his note-book, agreed to purchase four lots of ground at the north end of the square, measuring in all 79 feet by 87 feet, and he was to pay £260 for them. Only two days after doing this he printed an address to the Catholics of England asking for contributions... In the end the subscriptions mounted up to £974, 18s. The old chapel and buildings in St. Leonardsgate were on August 31, 1798, sold by auction at the Shakespear, Mr. Gillow being the purchaser at £610."

By the time Canon Billington was writing, of course, the Dalton Square chapel was itself closed and sold off, but the building remains to this day. He writes, "Externally the building yet remains but little altered, apart from the addition of an entrance porch in the square to adapt it for its more recent uses, and a further entrance at the corner in Friar Street." Today the building, which became known as Palatine Hall, somewhat appropriately houses conservation offices for the city council. There will be more about life at Dalton Square throughout March on Billington's Blog.