Sunday, August 30

1964: Our Lady's High School

45 years ago today the new Catholic High School for Lancaster was blessed and opened. Although it is outside of the Cathedral parish (it falls within the boundaries of St Joseph's, Skerton) it has many connections with St Peter's: many children from this parish have attended the school, it replaced some of the earlier school provision on the Cathedral site and Monsignor Brimley, at that time Administrator of the Cathedral, was influential in its establishment.

The new school, dedicated to Our Lady, clearly attracted a large number of clergy at its opening. A fair number of people can also be seen inside the new building.

Our Lady's was blessed by the Apostolic Delegate to Great Britain, Archbishop Igino Cardinale. He later went on to be Papal Nuncio to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union. Sadly - given his name - he was never made a cardinal; he died in 1983.

Here Archbishop Cardinale is seen with the Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev. Brian Foley. It is a sign of the significance of this event that the Apostolic Delegate agreed to come for the blessing.

Clearly members of the Cathedral Chapter were present, and here the Archbishop is assisted by two canons. The cope he is wearing belongs to the Cathedral; it is part of a set of vestments purchased for the centenary of the church in 1959.

To this day a plaque in the school (which is now known as Our Lady's Catholic College) marks the event. Our thanks are due to Mr J. Burscough for assisting us with this post.

Saturday, August 29

1628: Blessed Richard Hurst

The day after Edmund Arrowsmith's martyrdom another Lancaster martyr went to his death. Richard Hurst (or Hayhurst) was a farmer from Preston. His story is a little unusual, as Canon Billington relates: "Hurst's arrest had been ordered as a convicted recusant, and one of the pursuivants in attempting it received a blow on the head, and also broke his leg; he died, and Hurst was charged with murder, conticted contrary to justice, and executed. His real offence was his religion, and his life was promised him if he would take the oath." On the way to his execution he was met by Mr King, the vicar of Lancaster, and was asked about his faith. He replied, "I believe according to the faith of the holy Catholic Church." Canon Billington gives us the following details of his death: "He kissed the gallows on reaching the place of execution, and disregarding the ministers present, recommended himself to God, and begged the prayers of the Blessed Virgin, his angel guardian, and all the saints, especially St. John the Baptist, it being the day of his decollation. Ascending the ladder, he repeated the names of Jesus and Mary, and so was put to death."

Friday, August 28

1628: St Edmund Arrowsmith

Edmund Arrowsmith, a Jesuit priest and one of two Lancaster Martyrs to have been canonized, was executed in the city on this day in 1628. He was born at Haydock in 1585 to parents who had also suffered for their faith; his father had been imprisoned at Lancaster for a time. Educated at Douai, he came back to England in 1613 and joined the Jesuits in 1624. Canon Billington quotes a contemporary of Arrowsmith who said of the priest, "though his presence was very mean, yet he was both zealous, witty and fervent, and so forward (in disputing with heretics) that I often wished him merrily to carry salt in his pocket to season his actions, lest too much zeal without discretion might bring him too soon in danger, considering the vehement sudden storms of persecution that often assailed us." Arrested and then released in about 1620, he was captured again in 1628 after being betrayed by a Catholic who had a grievance against him "on account of a marriage dispensation." Billington also quotes William Leigh, whom he describes as "the famous Puritan rector of Standish", as saying that if not stopped Arrowsmith "would make half of Lancashire papists." Having been condemned, the Jesuit was taken from Lancaster Castle on 28th August 1628; St John Southworth, who at that time was imprisoned in Lancaster, gave him absolution as he crossed the castle yard. Southworth was later executed at Tyburn, close to present-day Marble Arch, London. Billington tells us that at 12noon, the time fixed for Arrowsmith's death, "Lancaster was emptied, all crowding the place of execution, Protestants hoping to see him waver, and Catholics confident in his virtue and constancy." As he mounted the scaffold he asked for the prayers of Catholics present, and his final words were "Bone Jesu" - "Good Jesus". His body was quartered and displayed at Lancaster Castle as a warning to others, but a hand was retrieved and is to this day preserved at St Oswald's church, Ashton-in-Makerfield.

1850: the Cemetery

On this day in 1850 Bishop George Brown of Liverpool blessed the new St Peter's cemetery. As yet there was no school, convent or church on the site. Canon Billington gives a few short paragraphs on the cemetery, noting that the site was improved by the government inspector and laid out according to his instructions; he also notes that four Masses are to be said each year for those buried in the cemetery. The central cross is not the original, he tells us: "A cross, designed by Mr. Paley, was erected in the centre of the ground in 1851. After it was blown down by a storm in 1896 it was replaced by a new one in 1899, the gift of Mr. Richard Smith." Billington notes that by 1886 nearly all the burial plots were sold and most Catholics were after that time buried in the public cemetery, a portion of which was reserved for Catholics and blessed by the Bishop around November 1855.

1928: Organ and Choir

This handbill gives the progreamme for a concert of organ and choral music led by Dr J. H. Reginald Dixon and featuring the Cathedral Choir. The concert, which appears to have been held to welcome visiting organists, took place on this day in 1928.

Thursday, August 27

1901: the baptistery altar

The baptistery altar was consecrated on this day in 1901, as Canon Billington records: "The baptistery was designed by Messrs. Austin and Paley. It is octagonal in form, with groined roof of flecked Runcorn stone, and is lighted by four two-light windows. On the east side there is an altar, containing relics of SS. Innocent and Justus, martyrs. It was consecrated on August 27, 1901, and is used on Maundy Thursday as the altar of repose; mass is sometimes said there on the festival of the saints. The front of the altar has a panel showing the baptism of our Lord. The arcaded reredos contains statues of four saints: Thomas of Canterbury, Chad, William of York, and Richard of Chichester. The altar was carved by Boulton of Cheltenham."

Wednesday, August 26

1901: The Whiteside Altar reconsecrated

On this day in 1901 the altar in the Whiteside Chantry (pictured) was reconsecrated. This is somewhat unusual, and the circumstances surrounding it are not entirely clear. Here is Canon Billington's account of the altar's history: "The altar was first consecrated on October 5, 1859, by Dr. Turner, Bishop of Salford. The front has two panels, each containing the figure of an adoring angel. The reredos has a carving of the Agony in the Garden, by Lane of Birmingham. The dedication is to the Agony of our Lord and the Apostles John and James the Great. On August 26, 1901, the altar was reconsecrated, the lid of the sepulchre containing the relics having been broken and the relics damaged; other relics had to be substituted, viz. some of SS. Felix and Placida, martyrs." It remains a mystery as to how the relics could have been damaged.

Canon Billington gives little other detail about the Whiteside chantry, other than reproducing the text of the Whiteside memorial on the far wall and commenting that the railings are more elaborate than those in the neighbouring Coulston chantry. A final remark notes that the chantries cost between £500 and £560 each.

Monday, August 24

1939: the threat of war

The threat of war was looming large over Lancaster, as much of Europe, at this time back in 1939, as a notice book extract for 24th August that year reveals: "Now that the world is threatened with destruction, it is absolutely necessary that we should follow the advice of our Holy Father and turn to God in continual prayer – not just during the time of a crisis, but always pray that the leaders of nations will practice justice in their endeavours to settle the many so called problems of strife. Thus we appeal to you to turn to your God and pray most earnestly for peace – attend the public prayers – Mass, Rosary, Benediction at all times and show a sincere trust and confidence in the power of God."

Saturday, August 22

1970s Gala Days

Back in the 1970s the citizens of Lancaster were entertained with yearly Gala Days, in which the Cathedral played a great part. There were floats and costumed people parading through the city, and other celebrations taking place.

Here are two Cathedral parishioners dressed as Wombles at the 1974 Gala Day.

And here, a year or two later, parishioners take the role of characters from the Magic Roundabout.

Wednesday, August 19

1945: The War is Over

On this day in 1945 celebrations were being held at the Cathedral to mark the end of the Second World War, a few days after Japan surrendered and the long and bitter conflict came to an end. An extract from the notice book for 19th August 1945 reads as follows: "Today at 10.30 Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving for Victory and Peace – the local regiment will send armed guard to present arms at the elevation. On this solemn occasion, the Bishop has given permission for the National Anthem at the end of Mass instead of the usual prayers for the King. This is forces day and so the benches on the Gospel side from second pillar to back of church reserved for forces. No special collection today." A few days later, on 25th August, a full peal was rung on the Cathedral bells to mark the end of the war. Later this month and in September on Billington's Blog we will hear a little about how the Cathedral parish and the Diocese coped with the outbreak of the war in 1939.

Monday, August 17

Summer in Hornby

Those who know the small village of Hornby, a few miles outside of Lancaster, will recognise its castle on the skyline of the photograph above. All of these pictures were taken at Hornby at an event marking the centenary of the death of the celebrated priest and historian Fr John Lingard. He died on 17 July 1851, so we can presume that this event took place somewhere around the same date in the summer of 1951. Although the date of this blog post is, therefore, a month late, the images are too good not to share!

Clearly Mass was celebrated by Bishop Thomas Bernard Pearson, the auxiliary bishop who had been ordained a couple of years ealier. Here he blesses the huge crowd which had gathered.

The scale of the event is extraordinary, as can be seen from these images. Clearly Catholics must have come from all around the surrounding area (perhaps even from further afield) to celebrate the anniversary.

Amongst those who played their part were a team of bellringers from the Cathedral, who rang the bells in Hornby to commemorate the anniversary. If some of the faces look familiar, you may have seen them before: click here to be reminded!

Saturday, August 15

1894: A Lancastrian Enthroned

115 years ago today the 37-year old Lancastrian priest, Thomas Whiteside, was consecrated Bishop of Liverpool at St Nicholas' Pro-Cathedral, Copperas Hill. The Lancaster Times printed no less than forty-four column inches on the consecration, under the heading, "The New Roman Catholic Bishop of Liverpool - A Lancastrian Enthroned." The principal consecrator was Cardinal Vaughan, Archbishop of Westminster; he was assisted by Bishop William Gordon of Leeds and Bishop John Bilsborrow of Salford. Bishop Whiteside played a large part in the golden jubilee celebrations at St Peter's in 1909, consecrating the new altar, celebrating Mass for the reopening of the church (after the various works carried out for the jubilee) and officiating at Benediction on the same day. He also made a well-documented visit to Lancaster in November 1894, a few months after his consecration; we shall hear more of this later. You can read a little more about Archbishop Whiteside in an earlier post, here.

Wednesday, August 12

1687: early signs of dawn

After the death of the last of Lancaster's Catholic martyrs in 1646, it became at least a little safer for Catholics to practise their faith. Lancaster Castle (pictured), for so long a place of imprisonment for Catholics, became a little less threatening. Canon Billington's narrative speaks of "a brief interval of religious liberty both for Catholics and Protestant Dissenters" during the reign of King James II (1685-1688). He reprints some short extracts from a diary written by Thomas Cartwright, the Bishop of Chester, who visited Lancaster "at assize time, when one of the judges was Catholic". An entry for 12th August 1687 records, "I went with Judge Powell, a colleague of Allibone, to the [parish] church. Sir Richard Allibone and the Catholics went at the same time to the school house, where they had mass and a sermon." Allibone, the judge referred to, had a brother who was a priest. Canon Billington notes that "During this assize (August 16 1687) the Corporation of Lancaster enrolled both the judges among their freemen; also Sir William Gerard, Sir Thomas Clifton and a few other Catholic gentlemen." It would be another 140 years before Catholic Emancipation in 1829 gave a fuller degree of freedom to Catholics, but perhaps these entries record the first signs of a new dawn for Catholic freedom. It is interesting to note that the list of priests who have been resident in Lancaster begins at about this time: the plaque in the Cathedral displays a list dating from 1678.

Monday, August 10

A bishop back in time

Bishops may not be used to being outdressed, but here Bishop Foley concedes defeat as he meets some people in period costume. As far as we know this picture is from the Martyrs' Rally held on 17th May 1963.

Sunday, August 9

The Site of Martyrdom

Earlier in the year we heard a little about the Martyrs Rallies which have taken place in Lancaster over many decades. These pictures show a gathering at the execution site; the scale of these events is impressive.

Clearly there was a procession to the site; the clergy here, wearing red stoles for the martyrs, take their part in the procession. The date appears to be sometime in the 1970s.

Friday, August 7

1646: Blessed Edward Bamber, Blessed Thomas Whitaker, Blessed John Woodcock

On this day in 1646 three priests were executed in Lancaster on account of their religion. After sixty years of executions they were the last to be martyred in this city, and on account of this August 7th is now kept as the feast of the Lancaster Martyrs. Canon Billington records, "The three were drawn together to the place of execution on August 7, 1646, 'the Catholics being much comforted and edified, and the Protestants astonished and confounded to see that cheerfulness and courage with which these servants of God went to meet that barbarous and ignominious death to which they were condemned." Canon Billington tells us a little about each of the men:

Blessed Edward Bamber
"Bamber was of the Fylde, and lay three years in prison before his trial, the wars preventing the regular holding of the assizes. Two fallen Catholics swore that they had seen him baptize and marry, which was considered sufficient proof of his priesthood."; "Bamber, the first to suffer, absolved a condemned felon at the place of execution"; he then suffered, in Billington's words, a "parculiarly barbarous" death.

Blessed Thomas Whitaker
"Whitaker came from Burnley, where he was born in 1611. and where his father had been master of the school and must therefore have been a conformist. He was educated at Valladolid, and after ordination laboured on the mission from 1638 to 1643, when he was arrested, and lay in Lancaster Castle till his trial. His time there was spent in prayer and in acts of charity to other prisoners." Canon Billington also records that he was a "timid man, and greatly afraid of death", and therefore tempted by those around the gallows who promised him life if he renounced his Catholic faith. He remained firm, however, and, as Billington tells us, "commending his departing soul into the hands of his Saviour, he was despatched."

Blessed John Woodcock
Woodcock's two companions were secular priests, but he was a Franciscan. Canon Billington writes, "Woodcock, in religion Father Martin of St. Felix, was born at Leyland in 1603, the offspring of a mixed marriage; he was brought up as a schismatic or heretic, but after his conversion at the age of twenty, was educated at St. Omers and Rome. He was received into the English Franciscans in 1631. About 1640 he was sent on the English mission, but returned to his convent, to die there as he supposed. In 1643 or 1644 he obtained leave to return to England, but was captured immediately after his arrival in Lancashire, and kept for two years in prison in the castle... Woodcock was specially distinguished by the expressions of thanksgiving with which he heard his sentence."

Thursday, August 6

Wedding Season

August is often a month of weddings; in recognition here are a couple of pictures of wedding services in years gone by. The images above and immediately below clearly show the same ceremony, and also reveal something of the unsatisfactory nature of the temporary liturgical arrangements that were put in place after Vatican II. A temporary altar and lectern can be seen in the sanctuary, though it appears that the pulpit was still in use.

Here the vows are being made.

This final image is clearly a good deal older, though the exact date is not known.

Tuesday, August 4

Provost William Walker

On this day in 1849 William Walker, the second rector of St Peter's Church, was ordained priest at Ushaw College, Durham. He had been born at Layton Hall near Blackpool on 2nd August 1820 and went to study at Ushaw when aged 15; after his ordination he remained there for a further seven years as professor of humanities, poetry and rhetoric (in succession).He was then given charge of St Augustine's, Preston, where he remained until coming to St Peter's in January 1869. He was made Provost of the Chapter of Liverpool (in which Diocese Lancaster then was) in 1889. The image of him here is taken from Canon Billington's parish history, which also gives some information about the contribution which Provost Walker made: "He continued the work of his predecessor [Dean Richard Brown] in beautifying St. Peter's Church and increasing its usefulness, for he too loved the beauty of God's house. He published little guides on the occasion of the blessing of the bells and the opening of the great windows in transepts and nave. The schools were enlarged by him in 1878; a former pupil teacher, George Sergeant, was ordained priest in St. Peter's in 1891. Provost Walker was a man of culture and genial manners, very popular among his brother clergy and his flock, and in general esteem with non-Catholics; he was generous to a fault, impoverishing himself that he might give to others." Canon Billington, who succeeded Provost Walker as rector of St Peter's, also records that Provost Walker "served on the burial board and the Infirmary Committee, and in other ways took part in local movements."

Monday, August 3

Monsignor Slattery and the thief

Monsignor Francis Slattery, who took over from Monsignor Brimley as Administrator of the Cathedral in 1975, is pictured here. He served at the Cathedral until 1987, and was Provost of the Chapter until 2009. He currently serves as Parish Priest at St Herbert's, Windermere. Monsignor Slattery won a mention in this week's Lancaster Guardian newspaper, which (in the nostalgia section) reproduced a report first published on 3rd August 1984. It tells of how a burglar had entered both Cathedral House and the neighbouring convent and had taken a total of £208. When the man fled, having been disturbed by Convent superior Sister Colette, Monsignor Slattery gave chase, and was soon assisted by two local men. The thief was eventually caught on Moor Lane just outside the Duke's playhouse. It may have been one of the less significant events in the history of the Cathedral, yet it gives a small insight into the varied duties of Cathedral clergy - and even Administrators - over the years.

Sunday, August 2

1982: Monsignor R. O. Brimley

Monsignor Provost Richard Oswald Brimley, a priest who served at the Cathedral for more than half his life, died on this day in 1982. Born at Longton just outside of Preston on 5th August 1895, he was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Keating on 3rd June 1923. Ten days later he came to St Peter's, Lancaster, where he remained for 52 years. During that time he saw - and was involved with - some major changes and great events in the church's history. Within two years of his arrival the Diocese of Lancaster was founded and St Peter's became the Cathedral; Fr Brimley acted as secretary to the first Bishop for a time. In 1935 he became Administrator of the Cathedral, a post he held until retirement in 1975. During that time he oversaw the foundation of two new parishes: St Thomas More's (1937) and St Bernadette's (1958). He was also involved in the foundation of Our Lady's High School in Lancaster and the Lancaster University Chaplaincy Centre. In 1971 he became Provost of the Cathedral Chapter. Outside of the Church he was greatly admired in the city of Lancaster, where he served for many years as - amongst other things - a city councillor and as a member of the governing committee of the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. He was awarded the Honorary Freedom of the City of Lancaster in 1971. With many changes to the liturgical life of the Church during his time, Monsignor Brimley oversaw the early reorderings of the Cathedral, before a more permanent solution to the changes was found in 1995. His requiem Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral by Bishop Foley, and he was laid to rest in the Cathedral cemetery.