Monday, November 30

Bishop Robert Dobson

On this day in 1922 Robert Dobson, until that point rector of St Peter's church, was ordained bishop for the Archdiocese of Liverpool. Born in New Orleans in 1867, he grew up on the Fylde and was ordained priest in 1891. He succeeded Dean Holden as parish priest in Lancaster upon Fr Holden's death in February 1922, but his time here was short-lived. On 22nd August that same year Pope Pius XI named him Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool; as a result he is the only rector of the present church to be made a bishop. Ordained to the episcopate by Archbishop Keating (with Bishop Richard Collins of Hexham and Newcastle and Bishop Joseph Cowgill of Leeds as co-consecrators), he served as auxiliary bishop in Liverpool until his death on 6th January 1942. The notice books make little mention of the event, though it is clear from the entries that some parishioners made the trip to Liverpool for the ordination ceremony.

Saturday, November 28

1893: the death of Provost Walker

Provost William Walker, the second rector of St Peter's, died on this day in 1893. He had overseen a time of much development within the parish, as an earlier post recalls. Canon Billington tells us, "His health failed early in 1892, and he died at Lancaster, November 28, 1893, fortified by the last sacraments; he was buried at St. Peter's cemetery next to his predecessor... The requiem Mass on December 1 was sung by Dr. Gordon, Bishop of Leeds; the Bishop of Salford (Dr. Bilsborrow) and the coadjutor Bishop of Shrewsbury (Dr. Carroll) and about a hundred priests were present. The church was crowded, the congregation including the High Sheriff (Sir Thomas Storey) and the Mayor (Alderman Gilchrist). The discourse was preached by Rev. R. N. Billington, who became his successor. The Bishop of Liverpool was unable to be present on account of his own illness." Canon Billington goes on to say that a memorial fund raised £668, which was used to pay for one of the St Peter windows, for the installation of electric lights in the church and house, and for part of the decoration of the chancel. He also quotes 'a local newspaper' which described him as "a local celebrity of the first rank, whom to know personally was to admire. No words could describe adequately his fine nature, genial and friendly always, even to those who in secular matters might differ from him. He was generous to a fault, and the kindness of this heart not unfrequently made him a victim of impecunious imposters. He always took a deep interest in the affairs of the town, especially in any work intended to promote the general welfare of the people. The Infirmary was one of the public institutions he most cordially supported, and his attendance at the annual meeting in February 1892 was his last public appearance." Our thanks are due to Sr Mary Campion FCJ, who sent in the memorial card which is pictured in this post.

Wednesday, November 25

The English Martyrs' Window

The Cathedral's English Martyrs' window, which can be seen in the north transept, was installed in 1888. It shows four martyrs: St John Fisher, St Thomas More, Blessed John Houghton and St Cuthbert Mayne. Above these figures are the patron saints of the donor: St Matthew, St Helen, St Mary Magdalene and St Richard of Chichester. The window was donated in memory of Matthew Hardman, a parishioner and former Lancaster town councillor who died on this day in 1886. Canon Billington tells us, "it was given by his widow, and her nephew and neice, Mr. Robert Preston and his wife Mary."

Monday, November 23

The Cathedral Chapter, 1996

This last offering from the archive of old images of the Cathedral Chapter shows the group in 1996. Bishop John Brewer is seen at the centre of the picture, with Rt Rev. Jack Nicholls, the Anglican Bishop in Lancaster at that time, to his right as we view the photograph.

From the same day we see an image of the Chapter in the Cathedral cemetery, where they gather to prayer for the deceased clergy of the Diocese each November. The Provost, Monsignor Slattery, here leads the prayers.

Sunday, November 22

1924: The new Diocese of Lancaster

85 years ago today Pope Pius XI signed a decree, Universalis Ecclesiae Sollicitudo, creating the new Diocese of Lancaster and raising St Peter's Church to cathedral status. It was a few days later, on 3rd December, that Archbishop Keating of Liverpool received notification of the decree. By all accounts he was surprised at the decision, and seemingly somewhat angry: not only had the decree been issued without his knowledge, it also made his great project - the building of a cathedral for Liverpool - somewhat more difficult. The image above shows the 'new' Lancaster Cathedral soon after the creation of the Diocese.

A close-up of the image shows a canopy about half-way up the picture, attached to the arches on the left-hand side. This is a temporary arrangement put in place to highlight the cathedra (bishop's throne) which was placed beneath it. Later, in 1928, a permanent cathedra was installed and the canopy removed. The new Diocese of Lancaster was formed from the northern part of the Liverpool Archdiocese (from which were taken 46 parishes, 67,647 Catholics and 91 priests), and from the western part of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle (from which a further 18 parishes, 21,098 Catholics and 32 priests were taken). From the date of the decree 85 years ago there must have been some fairly frantic activity to prepare for the installation of the first chapter and the consecration of the first Bishop of Lancaster, in February 1925.

Friday, November 20

Bishop Foley and the Chapter, 1970s

Thanks to those who have sent in information about photographs of the Cathedral Chapter posted so far this month. Here's the latest offering, which shows Bishop Foley with the Chapter outside Cathedral House. You may recognise Cathedral Administrator Monsignor Canon Brimley (to the right of the Bishop as we view the picture). As for the date, we are unsure, though it seems likely that to be sometime in the mid 1970s. Monsignor Slattery, who succeeded Brimley at the Cathedral, is not yet a member of the Chapter, and he took over in 1975, so it is unlikely to be much later than this date. The entire Chapter is pictured, though Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Pearson is missing from this particular gathering.

Wednesday, November 18

1894: the local boy returns home

Archbishop Thomas Whiteside, whom we met earlier in the year, visited St Peter's on this day in 1894. Just a few months after his episcopal consecration, it was his first official visit to his home parish since becoming Bishop of Liverpool. Canon Billington's account of the visit tells us, "On his first official visit to Lancaster he pontificated at St. Peter's on November 18, Mr. Robert Preston, the mayor, attending the church in state, and his brother, Dr. Richard Preston, preaching on the text, 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.' On the following evening there was a public reception of the bishop, when addresses of congratulation were presented by the Catholics of Lancaster and the schoolchildren." The local press reported that an estimated 2000 people attended the Mass sung by the Bishop.

Tuesday, November 17

Bishop Pearson's Chalice

Among the Cathedral's sacred vessels is this chalice, which belonged to Lancaster's only Auxiliary Bishop to date, Rt Rev. Thomas Bernard Pearson.

At the base of the chalice is Bishop Pearson's coat of arms and motto, 'Jesu, super mel et omnia' -literally, 'Jesus, above honey and all things'. The motto is taken from the hymn Jesu Dulcis Memoria, which speaks of the sweetness of Jesus - hence the reference to honey. The text is attributed to St Bernard, and this may well have been a factor in the choice of motto, as Saints Thomas and Bernard were the Bishop's two patrons. Bishop Pearson died on this day in 1987.

Sunday, November 15

The Cathedral Chapter, 1960s

Today another Chapter photograph, this one seemingly dating from the 1960s. Bishop Foley and auxiliary Bishop Thomas B. Pearson are seated centrally on the front row. Also, on the far left of the front row is Monsignor Canon Oswald Brimley, the Cathedral administrator at the time. Click on the image for a larger version. If you can shed any more light on the date or the priests pictured, please let us know.

Friday, November 13

Built on rock

Like any large building, Cathedral House needs a fair amount of maintenance. The pictures here date from the early years of the current century, when work had to be done to underpin the structure. Although the Cathedral itself is - thankfully - built on solid rock, the house had suffered from subsidence and cracks were opening up.

This is the result. If you look carefully at this image you won't spot too many straight (let alone parallel!) lines. This picture shows the south end of the upper floor of Cathedral House as it appears today; you can clearly see that the subsidence has caused damage.

Along the same corridor, this bathroom door no longer fits its frame! Although the door is firmly closed, a gap has opened up in the top left corner. When the work was done devices were installed for monitoring the stability of the house, and so far the underpinning seems to have been effective. This major project is one of the more prominent pieces of work to have taken place in the 150-year history of the building, but in reality both house and church require a constant programme of maintenance and repair.

Alongside the repair work occasional improvements are made. At about the time of the underpinning work a new staircase was installed near the south end of the house. Here Fr Jim Burns, one of the Cathedral's priests at the time, surveys the progress.

Thursday, November 12

A view inside Cathedral House

Following yesterday's post, here is a view of the long passage which runs the length of the ground floor of Cathedral House. The large arch near the front of the picture marks where the original house meets the extension (the photograph is taken from the newer part of the building). These days the corridor is carpeted and divided by fire doors, but the tiled floor can clearly be seen here. Some of the furniture - and even the light fittings - survive to this day.

Wednesday, November 11

Cathedral House

Canon Billington's history includes a little section on the presbytery, which is now known as 'Cathedral House'. He writes: "A priests' house adjoining the church and connected internally with it was part of Dean Brown's plan, and in spite of some financial difficulties the building was erected, forming three sides of a little court, the other side being the wall of the church... in 1895-6 the house was extended by adding a large bay to the south, from the designs of Austin and Paley. The cost of this extension, including furnishing, was greater than that of the original house, reaching to more than £3000, for in the forty years' interval there had been a great alteration in prices and in the conditions of labour." The extension mentioned is the part of the house nearest the camera in the above image, which appears to date from sometime in the early part of the 20th century. Part of the upper floor of this extension was used as a Chapter room after the Diocese of Lancaster was founded in 1924, though the whole area later reverted to providing accommodation for the priests serving the parish.

Monday, November 9

The Cathedral Chapter, 1987

As promised, here is the first of a series of old pictures of the Cathedral Chapter. This one dates from 1987. Bishop Brewer is surrounded by the canons, some of whom have especially close links with the Cathedral: on the far right is Monsignor Canon Slattery, who finished his term as Cathedral administrator in the same year; he was succeeded by Canon Mulvany, who is seen third from the right on the back row. Canon Tom Dakin, who grew up in the Cathedral parish, is seen in the top-right of the picture. Stood behind the Bishop, right in the centre of the doorway, is Monsignor Paddy O'Dea, who was elected Administrator of the Diocese when Bishop Brewer died in 2000.

Saturday, November 7

1996: RIBA award

The November 1996 edition of the Catholic Voice, the newspaper of the Diocese of Lancaster, reported that the Cathedral had been given a regional architecture award for the 1995 reordering by Francis Roberts. The award, granted by the Royal Institute of British Architects, is commemorated in a plaque close to the Cathedral's south-west door.

Thursday, November 5

1860: The altar of St Charles Borromeo

The Cathedral's altar of St Charles Borromeo was consecrated in 1860 by Dr Goss, the Bishop of Liverpool; the exact date of consecration is not known. Canon Billington records that the altar was "the gift of the Misses Coulston of Dalton Square, eminent benefactors of the Catholics of Lancaster and district and of the poor in general." He also notes that St Charles was the patron of the local deanery, and that "Fr. Brown, who had great devotion to St. Charles... determined that it should be dedicated to him, and carried his point." The image here is the result of work from the 1909 celebrations: "In memory of Miss [Margaret] Coulston, this chapel was decorated during the jubilee by Alderman [Robert] Preston. Mr. G. G. Scott directed the work." You can see more of this altar and reredos on the main Lancaster Cathedral blog: click here.

Wednesday, November 4

1961: The Death of Bishop Flynn

Rt Rev. Thomas Flynn, Second Bishop of Lancaster, died on this day in 1961. He had presided over the Diocese for just over 22 years, a time which included the whole of the Second World War and its aftermath, the appointment of Lancaster's only auxiliary bishop to date, and the centenary of the Cathedral Church.

The notice book is surprising brief about his death; an entry for Sunday 5th November 1961 simply reads, "Bishop Flynn died about noon yesterday. His body will be brought here Wednesday at 4pm and the Requiem will be at 11.0 on Thursday." The entry for the following week suggests that there had been much activity in the intervening period: "We express our sincere thanks to those who kept guard over Bishop Flynn['s body], to those who worked in the cemetery and in the grounds to tidy them up for the funeral, to those who helped in church for the funeral Mass, to the bearers of the coffin and to those who helped in the presbytery while the visiting bishops were in residence. We call on you to pray for the soul of Bishop Flynn."

Tuesday, November 3

1859: First Marriage

According to the parish registers, the first wedding in the new St Peter's church took place on this day in 1859. Thomas Brown of Elswick, son of John and Helen Brown, married Joanna Ball of Heaton, daughter of William and Margaret Ball. The witnesses were Robert Ball and Maria Ball. The image above, of course, is of a rather more recent wedding!

Sunday, November 1

The Cathedral Chapter

One of the most modern photographs we have featured on Billington's Blog, this image shows the Cathedral Chapter in May 2009. The Chapter (members of which are known as 'Canons') has some responsibility for overseeing the running of the Cathedral, and - when the diocese is a vacant see - for electing an Administrator who runs the diocese until a new bishop is appointed. The Diocese of Lancaster was founded in November 1924 (more on that later), and to mark the anniversary we will feature some old pictures of the Chapter throughout this month of November. In the meantime, you can find out more about the Chapter in an earlier post about the installation of the first canons, here.