Saturday, October 31

A view from the Square II

Slightly further up the road, and somewhat later, here is a view from East Road in the mid-20th century. The garage at the front of the picture was only demolished fairly recently (in the last decade or so) to make way for some new apartments. The trees have certainly grown somewhat since this picture was taken, and - as every Lancaster resident knows - the roads are a good deal busier. Seeing pictures of Lancaster through the ages it is striking how long-standing landmarks, such as the Cathedral, provide reassuring continuity in a rapidly changing city.

Friday, October 30

A view from the Square I

This image shows the view from Dalton Square as it would have appeared at around the turn of the twentieth century. St Peter's (not yet a cathedral, of course) is clearly visible further along East Road, and the Baptist Church on Nelson Street, which had only recently been built, can also be seen. Among the items which have disappeared are the tram lines and the house to the right of the picture. This belonged to the Coulston family, and was used as Nazareth House when the Sisters of Nazareth came to Lancaster in 1899. The house was demolished to make way for the Town Hall, which opened in 1909.

Wednesday, October 28

1928: The Metropolitan See of Liverpool

This banner, which hangs in Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral, reminds us that Liverpool is a 'Metropolitan See'. As such it has an Archbishop, who acts as a figurehead for the seven dioceses of the north of England, even though he has no direct jurisdiction outside of his own diocese. Liverpool was made a Metropolitan See on this day in 1928; today the other six dioceses in this province are: Hallam (Sheffield), Hexham and Newcastle, Lancaster, Leeds, Middlesbrough and Salford.

Monday, October 26

Another view of the pulpit

Following our earlier post here, today we share another view of the pulpit. This one dates from the 1960s or early 1970s. Note the different lighting and arcading still visible around the Sacred Heart altar. The statues are also in different positions: the Sacred Heart statue is seen to the left of the picture, just outside the chapel of St Charles Borromeo, while the statue of St Joseph can be seen to the right of the pulpit. On the far right it is clear that the confessional is still in use; it was one of four confessionals which were active at the time. This particular space was later converted for use in the preparation of flower arrangements for the Cathedral.

Sunday, October 25

1946: The Visit of Cardinal Griffin

On this day in 1946 Cardinal Bernard Griffin, Archbishop of Westminster, visited Lancaster. It was one of the most important events yet for Catholics in this city, not least because the Cardinal was received with a warm welcome at the Town Hall. A letter from the Town Clerk advises councillors: "The Cardinal will appear in robes, and accordinly the Mayor would be glad if members of the council would robe and wear any badges or decoration to which they are entitled." Cathedral parishioners were also being encouraged to turn out in force, as details of the visit were given - so the notice book entry for 20th October 1946: "Friday is a great day for the Catholics of Lancaster. His Eminence Cardinal Griffin will be received by the Mayor and Corporation at the Town Hall at 11:30am; the Cardinal will come out to speak to the children at 11:45am and will return home at 12noon. If wet, the Cardinal will address the children in the Ashton Hall. Since this is a great event for us, we hope that as many Catholics as possible will assemble at the Town Hall on Friday at 11:15am - adults will be placed on the Town Hall steps, if they wish. The children will be arrayed in front of the Town Hall. Let this be a real Lancashire welcome for the Cardinal; let him see what the Catholics of Lancaster can do, when a Prince of the Church pays a visit to the city." The following week the notice book suggests that everything had gone well: "His Eminence was very much impressed by the welcome which you gave him, and begs to thank you for your grand reception. You responded to the appeal and proved yourselves worthy of the Cathedral and Lancaster. The children were really marvellous and the singing was impressive. A big thank you to all those who took part in this affair and who helped so willingly to make it so great a success."

Saturday, October 24

1981: Music from Lancaster Cathedral

Billington's Blog has often featured music, and the figure of Dr Dixon stands out as one who has appeared many times. After his retirement in 1971, however, much work went on to try to keep the Cathedral's musical tradition alive. In the early 1980s a boys' choir achieved a great deal, even on one occasion singing at the Vatican. In 1981 this LP was produced, and a number of copies are still extant.

Thursday, October 22

Football Team 1945

Thank you to Sister Mary Campion FCJ for sending in this picture of the Cathedral's junior football team, 1945. We even have names for most of the boys pictured: Back row - left to right: Michael Jeffries, Terence Jackson, Colin Atkinson, John McCarren, Kenneth Barnes; Front Row: Bruce Heap, ?, Robert Stirzaker, Ben Connolly, Jimmy Howard, Freddie Carr. Click on the picture to enlarge, and feel free to contact us with any further information or any pictures you would like to share.

Tuesday, October 20

William Leeming and the Pulpit

William Leeming, who donated the pulpit died on this day in 1912. He had been born in 1827 and was the younger brother of Richard Leeming, donor of the church organ. Canon Billington writes: "In the nave proper one of the ornaments is the pulpit, which stands on the south side against the western pier of the transept arch. It was the gift of Mr. William Leeming, now of West Derby near Liverpool. The body is of light veined marble, semi-octagonal in shape, with four dark-coloured marble shafts on the corners, on each of which stands a white alabastar figure of one of the evangelists." The pulpit is pictured above, in its original position. The image here also gives a rare glimpse of the Pugin arcading which previously surrounded the Sacred Heart altar.

Sadly the pulpit was removed and seemingly destroyed in the 1970s; all that is known to remain is this one panel, which is still in the Cathedral's possession. It is one of four scenes which Canon Billington describes in his book. This appears to be the first scene, that of "St Peter and the other apostles preaching on the day of Pentecost".

Sunday, October 18

1936: STM Foundation Stone

Of all the parishes and churches founded from St Peter's, St Thomas More's on the Marsh has been most closely associated with the Cathedral; today it is again part of the Cathedral parish. The foundation stone for the church was laid on this day in 1936; the building was consecrated the following May.

Friday, October 16

Cardinal William Allen

This portrait of Cardinal William Allen, who died on this day in 1594, hangs on the wall in Cathedral House. He was born near Fleetwood in 1532. After having refused to take the 1559 Oath of Supremacy, he sought refuge in England but eventually had to flee to the continent in 1565. Soon afterwards he was ordained priest. He is one of the most significant figures of the counter-reformation, as he worked to found seminaries for the training of English priests on foreign soil. In 1568 he established the English College at Douai, and later assisted in the foundation of the Venerable English College in Rome (1575) and the English College at Valladolid (1589). These last two foundations are still used for the training of priests, while Douai, which closed in 1793 as a result of the French Revolution, is the origin of the colleges at Ushaw (Durham) and Allen Hall (Chelsea). Pope Sixtus V made Allen a cardinal in 1587. Cardinal Allen's legacy cannot be overestimated: he provided the colleges which trained many of the priests who kept Catholicism alive in England during the years of persecution (including many of the martyrs). More recently, most of the priests who have served the Cathedral owe their formation to a seminary founded by him.

Wednesday, October 14

The Cathedral Newsletter

For long-standing Cathedral parishioners there may be a touch of nostalgia about today's post. Frequently Billington's Blog has referred to the 'notice books', which record announcements made at Mass over the years. Although announcements are often still made, such notice books are no longer kept; their demise was brought about by the introduction of a weekly newsletter. The humble origins of this newsletter (or bulletin) can be seen above. Set out on a typewriter, the bulletin would then have been copied in house. The advent of cheaper printing technology paved the way for this innovation! The example above is from May 1980.
By the early 1990s the newsletter was a little more sophisticated. A folded A4 sheet, produced on a computer, included a cover picture of the Cathedral. This version, from July 1991, also shows that by this time the Cathedral was also serving St Thomas More's parish.

Further changes were to come: on the first Sunday of Lent in 2006 the newsletter saw the introduction of colour. One side was mass-printed, with spaces left for the parts that change from week to week, then overprinted each week in the Cathedral office. In a sense the colour part worked a bit like an elaborate headed notepaper.

Today the entire newsletter is printed at the Cathedral, and the availablity of much cheaper colour printing makes it possible for colours and texts to change whenever necessary. Photographs are also now widely used, and the newsletter is printed on A3 paper, allowing much more space for features and information. This is the current version (front and back covers shown), which includes pictures of the recent 150th anniversary celebrations. The growth of computer technology poses questions, however: will newsletters, like the notice books, one day become a thing of the past? Will we all receive news of the parish only by email in future? Time will tell.

Monday, October 12

1958: Requiem for Pope Pius

On this day in 1958 a requiem Mass was celebrated for Pope Pius XII, who died on 9th October that year. He had spent almost 20 years in the chair of St Peter, and had led the Church throughout the difficult years of the Second World War. The Cathedral's notice book for 12th October 1958 includes the entry: "Pontifical Requiem for Pope Pius XII tonight at 6.30. It is your duty to be present tonight to pray for the soul of the Pope who has done so much to help you in your spiritual life – so you must all be present. The Mayor and Deputy were to come to the service, but have to attend services already fixed previously."

Saturday, October 10

1859: The First Baptism

The registers record that the first baptism in the new St Peter's church took place 150 years ago today. Margaret Lambert, Daughter of Thomas and Anna Lambert (née McVay) was born on 7 May 1858 and baptised on 10 October 1859. It wasn't in the baptistery, of course - this was only opened in 1901. The original font stood at the back of the south aisle, close to where the statue of St Peter now stands.

Friday, October 9

1861: the original altar

On this day in 1861 the original high altar of St Peter's church was consecrated. It served the church until 1909, when it was replaced by the new altar, reredos and triptych. Canon Billington tells us about the origin of the first altar: "The old high altar, the gift of Mrs. Gabriel Coulston, was the work of Stirling of Liverpool. The table was a slab of veined marble supported by four pillars of Devonshire marble which rested on a granite base." The altar is here seen in its original position in St Peter's.

This close-up is a modern photograph of the altar, which is currently in storage in the care of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. Canon Billington describes the panels: "The lower part of the altar was divided into three panels; the centre had a carving representing the Lamb of God shedding His blood for men, and the side pieces showed ministering angels with outspread wings. The altar was consecrated on October 9, 1861, by the Bishop of Liverpool [Dr Alexander Goss]."

To accompany this picture, which again shows the altar in its original position, a few more words of Canon Billington's description: "the upper half was arcaded in a simple manner, the niches being filled with statues of Saints Peter, Paul, Cuthbert, William, Wilfrid, and Oswald, these four being the most prominent of the saints of northern England. In the centre there was a tabernacle of marble with ornamental brass doors; above stood the throne, having a pinnacled canopy of alabaster."

After 1909 the altar was moved: "This altar has been given to the church of St Malachy, at the south end of Liverpool." The parish referred to was in the Toxteth area; it had opened a few years earlier, in 1900. Sadly it was closed in 2001, and the altar, as previously noted, is now in storage.

Thursday, October 8

1859: The Coulston Chantry

150 years ago today the Coulston chantry altar was consecrated. The chapel was founded for Thomas Coulston of Well House, who left £2000 to the parish upon his death in 1856; this money, Canon Billington tells us, "gave the impulse to building the church." He goes on to give a description of the chantry: "The chapel opens into the aisle by two arches filled with iron screen-work. The roof is vaulted in stone. The floor of the chapel is one step above the aisle, and two more steps lead up to the altar. This was consecrated on October 8, 1859."

"The front of the altar has three ornamental panels, and as reredos there is under an arch a beautiful Pieta, or group showing our Lord in His Mother's arms after the taking down from the cross; this was carved by Ginflowski. The dedication is to the Sorrows of our Lady, St. Thomas the Apostle, and St. Thomas of Canterbury. During the jubilee alterations [1909] the floor was relaid in marble, with stone strips."

Tuesday, October 6

1859: open to the public

It was on this day in 1859 that the new church of St Peter was first opened to the public. Canon Billington gives a fairly lengthy description of the proceedings, recording that High Mass was celebrated by Bishop Goss, with Bishop Turner of Salford and Bishop Briggs of Beverley also attending. Haydn's Imperial Mass was sung. Dr Roskell, the Bishop of Nottingham, preached on the words, "Go, make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). After Mass the Te Deum was sung. Billington notes, "The music was conducted by Mr. Gustave Arnold, a former organist; he brought a full orchestra from Manchester. Mr. Schmitz was organist." There is some evidence - though as yet no proof - to suggest that the orchestra referred to was Manchester's famous Hallé orchestra, which had recently been established. After Mass there was "a luncheon in the schoolroom", presided over by Mr. R. T. Gillow of Leighton Hall. There were toasts to the Pope, the Queen, the bishops, Dean Brown, the architect and the ladies. Canon Billington tells us, "Bishop Goss in his speech congratulated the people of Lancaster upon having raised 'one of the most glorious works of the present age' without appeaking to external aid." Dean Brown himself spoke of the great generosity of the people of Lancaster, of how he had desired only the best for the new church, and of the purpose of the building's grandeur: the honour and glory of God. He also thanked those who were not of the Catholic faith and yet had "given help or shown favour" towards the building of the new church.

1996: The Martyrs' Stone

Thirteen years ago the memorial to the Lancaster Martyrs was blessed. It was almost exactly 350 years since the last of the martyrs had been put to death.

The event included representatives of other denominations, including the local Anglican suffrigan bishop, a local Methodist leader and representatives of the Society of Friends. Crowds gathered in Dalton Square, from where Bishop Brewer and the other religious leaders led the way.

Mounted police cleared the road ahead of the procession; a brass band is also visible in this picture.

A crowd of several hundred people gathered for the event, which had something of the spirit of the earlier hugely popular martyrs' rallies.

Today the memorial still stands on the hill above the Cathedral. Each year on 7th August - the feast of the Lancaster Martyrs - prayers are said around it. The site for the memorial was chosen after much historical research carried out by Lancaster University students Susan Anderson and Peter Williamson, under the supervision of Dr Mike Mullett. Bishop Foley, who had a noted interest in local Catholic history, was also very involved. It appears that different executions were carried out in this area but not always on the same site; a number of places in the locality appear to have been used.

Monday, October 5

1859: The Lady Chapel

A day after the main altar was consecrated, the Lady Chapel altar followed. Miss Elizabeth Dalton of Thurnham gave £1098 for this chapel to be built, and hence it is sometimes known as the Dalton Chapel. Here are some extracts from Canon Billington's section on this chapel: "The Dalton Chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in honour of her Immaculate Conception, is entered from the north transept. It is 26 feet long and 12 feet wide. The two arches on the chancel side are enclosed by open iron screen-work, and the arch into the transept has another screen, with gates. The floor of the chapel is raised by two steps above the transept, and is of mosaic work. Two more steps lead to the altar, the table of which is of veined marble and is supported by Irish green marble shafts. The reredos is also of marble. Over the tabernacle in the centre it has a figure of our Lady carved in white marble and standing under a canopy; on one side there is a panel carved with the Annunciation, and on the other side one of the Nativity of our Lord. The altar was consecrated by the Bishop of Liverpool the day after the church, viz. October 5, 1859."; "The chapel was restored in 1904 at a cost of £380, in celebration of the jubilee of the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception in 1854."

Sunday, October 4

1859: The Consecration of St Peter's

Around the walls of the Cathedral there are candles; these mark the places where, on this day in 1859, Bishop Alexander Goss anointed the walls of the new church with oil. The Cathedral Church of Lancaster, as it became in 1924, is today 150 years old. Given the great crowds that will come to celebrate the anniversary today, it seems strange that in 1859 only a small number were allowed to be present (Canon Billington will explain!). Sadly, there are no know photographs of the event and Canon Billington's account of the day is surprisingly brief: "The ceremony of consecration, lasting over four hours, took place on Tuesday, October 4, 1859, Bishop Goss officiating. As it requires the floor space of the building to be kept clear, the people are not admitted to it as a body. The new church of St Peter, Prince of the Apostles, wsa opened for public worship on the following Thursday, with pontifical high mass." The account then gives a fuller desciption of this event, which we will share in due course. One signifcant fact about this day is very striking: it is not permitted to consecrate a church that is yet to be fully paid for. Therefore every penny (indeed every farthing) towards the building of the church had been paid off before it was ever opened to the public. The people of Lancaster had paid for their new church. If you'd like to know more about the consecration ceremony, a blog from Westminster Cathedral has details and images of its consecration in 1910 (the rite of consecration would be largely unchanged between 1859 and that time); you can find the post here.

Saturday, October 3

1872: Bishop Alexander Goss

Rt Rev. Alexander Goss, the second Bishop of Liverpool, died on this day in 1872. Born at Ormskirk, he was educated at Ushaw and the Venerable English College, Rome, where he was ordained priest in July 1841. In 1853 he became coadjutor Bishop of Liverpool (alongside George Brown) and he took over the Diocese on 25th January 1856. For St Peter's he was an important figure: it was he who consecrated the church on 4th October 1859; he also consecrated many of the side altars. He was present at the funeral of Dean Brown, the founder of this church, and appointed Provost Walker as Brown's successor.

Friday, October 2

1995: The Cathedral reordered

Just ahead of the date of the Cathedral's consecration, today Billington's Blog features a few words about the 1995 reordering of the Cathedral. The work has already been featured in some earlier posts; today we briefly look at its completion. The Cathedral was rededicated and the new altar reconsecrated on 4th October 1995 by Bishop John Brewer; the church was packed with representatives from around the Diocese of Lancaster, along with eight bishops and over 100 priests. The Apostolic Delegate was also present, representing the Pope. The restoration work, masterminded by Preston architect Frank Roberts, met with great critical acclaim. It included the creation of a new sanctuary at the transept crossing; in this sanctuary were a new altar, ambo and cathedra, and above the altar a corona lucis was installed. The 1909 triptych, which for many years had been removed to other parts of the church, was returned to the east end of the Cathedral.

The diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Voice, led its November 1995 edition with the reordering, under the title "A Cathedral to be proud of". Indeed it was an occasion for congratulation around the whole Diocese of Lancaster, throughout which a great fundraising campaign had taken place to secure the £250,000 needed for the work; a grant from English Heritage also made a significant contribution. The restoration work was undertaken at the request of Bishop Brewer and the Cathedral Chapter, and was overseeen by the Administrator at the time, Canon Patrick Mulvany.

Thursday, October 1

1909: The New High Altar

100 years ago today the new high altar, installed to mark the Golden Jubilee of St Peter's, was consecrated. Canon Billington gives us some details: "On Friday morning, beginning half-past seven, the bishop proceeded to consecrate the altar, Mgr. Gillow and Fr. Langtree being masters of ceremonies. The Rev. T. Murphy of Skerton and Dr. Kenny acted as deacon and subdeacon, the Rev. R. O. Bilsborrow being book-bearer, and the Rev. E. Stephens thurifer. In the stalls were Canon Billington and Dean Crookall. The service for the consecration of an altar lasts about two hours, and though of great interest to those who take part in it, is scarcely intelligible to the distant spectators in the body of the church." He goes on to outline the rite, and his account is too long to reproduce here. In short, it involves the recitation of at least five psalms and other scriptural texts, the placing of the relics within the altar, the use of holy water and later holy oil to anoint the altar with five crosses and then the anointing of the entire surface of the altar. Incense is also used on several occasions during the rite. "When its consecration was finished", Canon Billington tells us, "the bishop said mass at the new altar. Later the Blessed Sacrament, which had during the alterations been reserved in the Lady Chapel, was placed in the tabernacle of the high altar." The church reopened to the public on Sunday 3rd October.