A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN (fn. 1) stands in a fine situation on the north-west side of the town immediately north of the castle, with the towers and battlements of which it groups in picturesque fashion in all distant prospects of the town, and consists of a chancel (fn. 2) and nave, each with clearstory and north and south aisles, south porch, west tower, and a modern north chapel and vestries. The site is an ancient one, occupying with the castle the summit of the hill on and round which the ancient town was built, and is about 110 ft. above the River Lune, which curves past it at a distance of about 250 yds. to the north and north-west. The view from the west end of the churchyard is a very fine and extensive one, embracing the whole of Morecambe Bay, with the estuary of the Lune in the foreground, the fells of Lancashire and Cumberland and the more lofty Lake Mountains beyond.
Of the building which preceded the present church on the same site little or nothing can be said, but a number of sculptured stones of pre-Conquest date which have been found from time to time in different parts of the fabric seem to prove that some kind of stone structure stood here in Anglo-Saxon times, (fn. 3) and part of the west wall of the nave may possibly belong to this pre-Conquest period. The whole of the chancel and nave, however, with the exception of the west wall and a portion of the south wall as far as and including the south entrance, are of 15th-century date, and were probably built some time subsequent to the transference of the priory to the nuns of Syon in 1431. Apart from the tower and the modern additions, the building forms a parallelogram measuring internally 145 ft. in length by 58 ft. 6 in. in width, the chancel and nave being of nearly equal length, each consisting of four bays with continuous north and south aisles. The south-west doorway with the wall on either side is of late 12th-century date, and indicates a church of considerable importance at that time, though its extent can only be surmised. A moulded base stone found during the rebuilding of the vestry in 1872 was until recently the only other evidence of the building of that period; but in 1903, on taking down the north wall of the nave, another moulded base stone with foot ornament and four moulded jamb stones were discovered in the wall, all of transitional character and seeming to point to the existence of a north doorway in the early building. It is unlikely, however, that these stones were in their original position, the probability being that they were used up in the 15th-century wall at the rebuilding, and that the original early church was much less in width. Down to the year 1898 the west wall was internally covered with plaster, but on this being stripped in July of that year two doorways were discovered, one 9 ft. to the north and the other 2 ft. 6 in. (fn. 4) to the south of the centre line of the present nave, the northernmost of which appears to be of even more ancient date than the south-west entrance. The evidence of the masonry, however, is not conclusive, as the south jamb has been entirely rebuilt in one stone and the north jamb has been much encroached on by the 15th-century respond. The opening is 3 ft. wide and 6 ft. 3 in. high, with a square head in one stone supported by rough corbels, and the sill is 1 ft. 5 in. above the present floor. This door, if it belongs to a building earlier than the 12th century, is of great interest, as it has not been an external opening, and may therefore have been the door between an early nave and a west tower. The other doorway is of 14th-century date, and was originally an external opening, being moulded on the west side, and to this period the whole of the south part of the west wall of the nave, including the south-west diagonal buttress, may be assigned. There are also evidences of some building having taken place in the 13th century (fn. 5) in a moulded base placed upside down, built into the wall near the floor at the west end of the nave; and a respond cap of the same date, now in the church tower, was discovered in the north wall in 1903. But as neither of these fragments is in its original position they afford little help in tracing the development of the plan between the 12th century, or earlier, and its completion in the 15th century. Whatever the earliest church may have been, it seems clear that the 12th-century building was one of some importance and that work was in progress at various times in the three centuries following. Before the final rebuilding after 1431 the church seems to have been only about 49 ft. in width, made up probably of a nave 21 ft. 6 in. and aisles about 11 ft. wide, but whether this represents the extent of the Norman or even the 13thcentury building is uncertain. The Norman structure may have been of even less width than this, being extended northwards perhaps in the 14th century, when the present west door and wall were erected. However that may be, at the time of the rebuilding of the nave and chancel the north wall was pushed out another 10 ft., increasing the width of the building to its present dimensions. The whole of the earlier structure having practically perished in the 15th century, the size and extent of the mediaeval church must remain more or less a matter of conjecture.
Externally the chancel and nave have undergone little or no change since the building was completed, (fn. 6) but many alterations have taken place in the interior during the 18th and 19th centuries. The first half of the 18th century saw the erection of galleries on the north and south sides and at the west end, (fn. 7) and in 1718 the east end of the church behind the altar was made into a registry and consistory court, the east end of the north chancel aisle being used as a vestry. (fn. 8) New seats were erected in the chancel in 1731, and the roof was repaired in the year following. In 1743, consequent on the recasting of the old bells, the then existing tower was raised 10 yds., being covered with rough-cast four years later. (fn. 9) The tower seems to have stood somewhat to the north of the present one, but no record of it, other than the evidence of old prints, remains, these showing it to have had originally a plain parapet and a projecting vice in the north-west corner. (fn. 10) In 1753 the tower, being unsafe, was taken down and the present structure was erected in the following year, it being agreed that 'the steeple be a distinct building of itself and not to be built upon any part of the church wall,' and that it should front to the south. (fn. 11) In 1761 a battlement 'equal and like to that upon the chancel' was raised upon the 'north side of the upper leads,' but little further work seems to have been done to the exterior of the church till 1816, when the old south porch was taken down (fn. 12) and a new one erected, which stood till 1903. The roof was found to be in a dangerous condition in 1821, but owing to a lengthy dispute in the following year, as to whether the corporation was under obligation to repair the chancel, the work of restoration was not begun till 1823, when the chancel and nave roofs were stripped, and the former being found in a ruinous state was renewed in 1824. Great changes took place in the interior of the building during the early part of the 19th century. In 1812 a gallery was erected for the accommodation of the charity children 'in lieu of the gallery removed lately on the erection of the new organ,' and in 1825–6, the consistory court being abolished, the altar was moved to the east end of the church and a new vestry and registry built on the north side of the aisle in 1828. Prior to this period the communion rails had crossed the chancel between the second pillars from the east, and the extra space thus gained in the chancel was used for the erection of 168 free seats. These alterations were in progress for some years after 1826, and included the removal of all the stalls to the east wall, where they were placed facing west, two on each side of the altar in the chancel and four at the end of each aisle. The communion rails were moved to between the first piers with returns north and south to the east responds, and the east ends of both aisles were filled with children's seats. The north and south galleries were extended eastward, a screen and partition erected at the west end, some alterations made in the seating of the nave (fn. 13) and the floor of the chancel levelled and flagged. The alterations then made subsisted till 1864, the interior of the building during the first half of the century being filled with square pews, which extended to the middle of the second bay of the chancel. A long gallery extended from the second pillar on the south side of the chancel till it joined the wide west gallery containing the organ, which returned along the north side as far as the second pier from the west. The two easternmost bays of the nave on the north side were free from galleries, the pulpit and reading desk standing against the pier, but another and smaller gallery occupied the two westernmost bays of the north side of the chancel corresponding to that opposite. The Duke of Hamilton's pew was at the east end of the nave on the north side and the seats of the corporation at the west end of the chancel on the south side. There were staircases midway in the chancel aisles against the north and south walls and at the northwest and south-west corners of the nave, and a separate staircase to the singers' seats in the west gallery near the westernmost pier of the south side. Access to the Record Room over the north vestry was gained from the gallery staircase.
In 1864 a complete restoration of the interior was begun, when the north and south galleries were taken down, the old square pews removed and oak benches substituted, the pulpit removed to its present position at the north-east corner of the nave and the chancel entirely rearranged. The west gallery alone was retained, but those portions of it which extended over the aisles were removed in 1903. In 1872 the organ was removed from the west end and rebuilt in an organ chamber on the north side of the chancel on the site of the old vestry, a new vestry being built beyond it further north. In 1903 a chapel was erected on the north side of the nave in memory of the officers and men of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment who fell in the South African campaign of 1899–1902, in the building of which the whole of the north nave wall was taken down and rebuilt 24 ft. to the north, forming the outer wall of the new chapel; the south porch was taken down and a new one built in the same year.
The church is constructed throughout of wrought stone, except in the older portions at the west end, the 15th-century structure being of local gritstone, and is of rather remarkable regularity of design, all the windows except the east window of the chancel being alike in detail, and without external distinction of nave and chancel. The roofs are of very flat pitch, and are hidden behind embattled parapets, and there were originally no windows at the west end. The chancel is 69 ft. 3 in. (fn. 14) by 24 ft., and of four bays with north and south arcades having piers of four engaged shafts 2 ft. 6 in. in diameter with moulded caps and bases, 16 ft. in height to the springing of the arches, which are of two moulded orders with label over. The east window is a pointed one of five cinquefoiled lights and perpendicular tracery in the head with hollow moulded jambs and internal hood mould, and is flanked on the outside by heavy square set buttresses, the wall finishing above in an embattled parapet slightly raised in the middle. The roof, which is 41 ft. 6 in. in height, is a modern reconstruction of the old flat panelled roof divided into four bays, the principals being carried for about 3 ft. down the wall on to stone brackets and the panels sparred and boarded. The aisles are 14 ft. in width, and have similar flat lean-to roofs, a threelight window at the east end, and similar windows to each bay north and south, except on the north side, where the third bay is occupied by the organ. These windows, like those in the nave and clearstory, have four-centred arched heads with external and internal labels and hollow-moulded jambs, external and internal, splayed sills and hollow-chamfered mullions, the lights, which go up to the heads, being cinquefoiled. The sills of the chancel aisle windows are slightly lower than those in the nave, and there is a doorway below the second window in the south aisle. (fn. 15) At the east end of the south wall of this aisle is a small piscina with four-centred moulded head and jambs, but otherwise no trace of the ancient ritual arrangements remains. The walls of the chancel and the greater part of the nave are, however, still covered with plaster, the removal of which might bring further original detail to light. There are four clearstory windows, each of three lights, to the chancel, which is separated from the nave by a pointed arch similar in detail to those of the chancel arcades, springing from clustered piers of twelve engaged shafts 5 ft. 6 in. in diameter, with moulded caps and bases. There are similar but smaller pointed arches dividing the chancel and nave aisles. The floor of the chancel is on the same level as that of the nave, the sanctuary alone, which occupies the easternmost bay, being raised two steps. The altar rails are modern and of iron, but the 14th-century canopied stalls are retained, five on each side and two on either side of the altar, above which the canopy work is continued in front of the window. The stalls are of great interest and excellent workmanship and probably date from c. 1340. The detail is rich and the tracery in the canopies of a very flamboyant character, but the work is nevertheless unmistakably English. There is a tradition that the stalls, which retain their misericorde carvings, were brought from Cockersand Abbey in 1543. The rest of the chancel fittings are modern.
The nave is 72 ft. by 24 ft., with aisles 14 ft. wide, and consists of four bays with north and south arcades having octagonal piers, 2 ft. in diameter, with moulded caps and bases, equal in height with those of the chancel and chancel arch, but the arches, which are 26 ft. 6 in. in height, are of two plain chamfered orders. The westernmost bay is 6 ft. 6 in. wider than the others, which are 13 ft. 6 in.—the same width as those of the chancel—and is occupied by the gallery, access to which is gained by a wooden staircase with 18th-century turned balusters at the end of the north aisle. The clearstory and aisles are a continuation of and similar in detail to those of the chancel, but externally the parapet above the clearstory is differentiated from that of the aisles by the buttresses being carried up as pinnacles above the parapet; otherwise the external detail is of a somewhat monotonous uniformity, the walls having a good moulded plinth and buttresses of four stages square at the bottom and v-shaped above, continued in a slight projection up the merlon of the embattled parapet of the aisle. The south aisle has three windows in the south wall and a modern one of four lights at the west. The north aisle is now open by a modern arcade of four arches to the memorial chapel, which is 67 ft. 6 in. by 21 ft., with an apsidal east end. The height of the aisles is 26 ft. to the outer wall-plate, the roofs rising about 3 ft. higher towards the nave, which is the same height as the chancel.
The late 12th-century south doorway has moulded inner jambs and outer angle shafts with bases and capitals, carrying a pointed arch of two moulded orders. The shafts and bases have been renewed, but the rest of the work is original and in a tolerably good state of preservation. Internally the doorway has a lofty splayed elliptical arch, and the walling on each side, as well as at the west end of the nave and aisles, has been stripped of plaster. The 14thcentury wall at the west end of the south aisle is of rough rubble masonry with a diagonal buttress projecting 4 ft. at the angle, having three sets off in its upper half and built of mixed sandstone and gritstone. The 14th-century pointed door, which now opens into the tower, is built of gritstone, and is 5 ft. wide, with continuous wave-moulded jambs and head and hood mould over, the jambs on the inner (east) side having a plain splay. The east wall of the 18th-century tower was built at a distance of 18 in. from the old west wall of the nave, entirely hiding the doorway, but not in any way injuring it. After its discovery in 1898 an oblique passage-way was cut through the east wall of the tower, and the 14th-century doorway is now once again used, in conjunction with the south tower door, as an entrance to the building.
The modern two-storied porch measures internally 15 ft. 6 in. by 12 ft., and is built of wrought stone, access to the chamber over being by a vice in the east wall. The former porch, built in 1816, was a low structure, slightly less in size, with a flat embattled gable and pointed outer arch, and square buttresses at the angles. The present porch was built in memory of James Pearson Langshaw and his wife by their daughter Fanny Austin.
The tower measures 16 ft. by 15 ft. internally, the greater length being from west to east, with walls 4 ft. 6 in. thick, and is of four stages with square buttresses, moulded plinth and embattled parapet with angle pinnacles, the total height to the top of the parapet being 96 ft. (fn. 16) It is faced throughout with wrought stone, and is a rather interesting example of Georgian Gothic harmonizing quite successfully with the 15th-century building to which it is attached, and at a distance giving little indication of its late date. Its detail, however, shows unmistakably its 18th-century origin, especially in the elliptical-headed belfry windows, the heads of which between the two principal openings are filled with ornament characteristic of the time. The west side is blank below the belfry, except for a modern clock dial which is repeated on all four sides, the doorway being on the south with a pointed traceried window of four lights above. There is also a round window in the third stage north and south, originally perhaps intended for a clock, but now glazed. The strings marking the stages are carried round the buttresses as gablets. There is no vice in the tower, access to the lower stages being by a built-up stone staircase in the north-east corner and by wooden stairs above. Externally, between the north-east angle of the tower and the modern walling of the memorial chapel, and 12 in. in front of it, a short portion of rubble walling about 6 ft. in length, with quoins at the angle, marks the extent northwards of the pre15th-century building.
On the south side of the church there was formerly an altar of St. Thomas of Canterbury. (fn. 17) There was also a chapel of St. Patrick. (fn. 18) In 1204 land was given for the maintenance of St. Mary's light, (fn. 19) and St. Nicholas's light is also mentioned. (fn. 20)
The font is modern, but has a carved oak pyramidal cover dated 1631. The bowl of an old plain octagonal stone font, 2 ft. 3 in. in diameter and 2 ft. high, was recovered some years ago from the vicarage garden, and is now in a recess at the west end of the nave.
The pulpit is of oak, of 17th-century date—a good specimen of Jacobean work, and there are three brass chandeliers, suspended by ornamental iron rods—two in the chancel and one in the nave— given in 1717 by William Heysham.
An organ erected in 1728 in the west gallery was removed to Whalley Church in 1811, and was replaced by a new one which stood in the gallery till 1872, when it was removed and rebuilt on a larger scale in its present position. It was restored and enlarged in 1898.
There are some 17th and 18th-century brasses, one in the floor of the chancel being to the memory of Thomas Covell, '6 tymes maior of this towne, 48 yeares keeper of this castle, 46 yeares one of ye coroners of ye county palatine of Lancaster, captaine of ye freehold band of this hundred of Loinsdale on this side ye sands and justice of peace and quorum throughout this said county palatine of Lancaster who dyed ye 1 of August 1639, aetatis suæ 78.' The figure (fn. 21) which accompanied the inscription is now attached to a modern screen below the tower, together with a number of later brasses and name-plates from the old pews. In the chancel are memorials to Richard Adams (d. 1662), Seth Bushell (d. 1684), and Samuel Eyre (d. 1689), and one by Roubiliac to Dr. William Stratford, who died in 1751. At the west end of the north aisle is a modern tablet in memory of Henry Cort, who was born at Lancaster in 1740, 'to whom the world is indebted for the arts of refining iron by puddling with mineral coal and of rolling metals in grooved rolls.' (fn. 22) On the south aisle wall is a memorial bust of Archdeacon Bonsey, vicar 1893–1909.
Note.—The above description refers to the state of the church in 1910. Some changes have since been made and others are in progress or planned. The pulpit has been moved to the south side of the nave, and the Covell brass has been fixed in the porch. New oak roofs are to be placed on nave and chancel, of higher pitch than the present. The chancel is to be raised two steps above the nave and other steps will lead up to the communion table, which is to be brought forward so as to leave an ambulatory behind. The seats and ancient stalls in the chancel will also be rearranged. The floors of the church are to be taken up and asphalted. A new heating chamber will be provided.
On the east wall of the vestry are some strips of wood, probably from old pews, on which are carved the names of James Fenton vicar, Tho. Sherson esq. mayor, John Tarleton 1693, Richard Simpson 1693, and R. T. Westmore 1693.
Built into the south wall of the vestry are preserved two stone grave slabs, one bearing a floreated cross and the other a sword and shield, and there is a smaller stone with cross and sword in the west wall. There are also preserved in the vestry some pieces of Samian ware and a coin of Constantine II found below the foundations of the porch in 1903 and fragments of ancient glass obtained from the plaster of the old west wall. (fn. 23) Besides these fragments there is no ancient stained glass, but in 1738 the corporation received 8s. 'for a parcel of old glass taken out of the old window belonging to the chancel.' (fn. 24)
There is a ring of eight bells by Taylor of Loughborough, 1885–6, given by Mr. James Williamson, now Lord Ashton. (fn. 25) He gave the clock at the same time.
The silver plate consists of four flagons of 1678–9 with the maker's mark W S; a chalice of 1691 with the maker's mark W S with bow and arrow between; two breadholders of 1697–8 with the maker's mark F a; a small visiting chalice inscribed 'Given for the use of the sick Communicants of the Parish of Lancaster 1728,' the marks on which are very much worn, and a small breadholder apparently for use with it, the marks also much worn but a year or two later in date; a cup of 1757 of Newcastle make with the maker's mark R M; two cups of Sheffield make of 1848–9; a chalice and paten inscribed 'To the glory of God and in memory of Lieutenant Charles Gibson Michaelson, R.N. Presented in affectionate remembrance by some of his brother officers 1883,' the chalice being of 1881–2 and the paten of 1882–3 date; and a chalice and paten of 1908–9, both inscribed 'A.M.D.G. The gift of S. Mary's Guild in dear loving memory of their warden and vicar the Venerable Archdeacon Bonsey. R.I.P. 13 January 1909.' There is also a set of plated vessels, consisting of chalice, paten, breadholder and flagon, originally given to Carnforth Church in 1870, and presented in November 1902 to the vicar of Lancaster as chaplain to the Lancaster Workhouse for use in that institution.
The registers begin in 1599. The earliest volume (1599–1690) has been printed. (fn. 26)
The records of 'the Twenty-four' who superintended the affairs of the parish begin in 1641. (fn. 27) From these it appears that the church had a clock in 1652, and that a bell was rung at 4 a.m. and 7 p.m. from 1 November to 2 February. (fn. 28) The Twentyfour, sometimes called sidesmen, (fn. 29) were chosen thus: For Lancaster, the mayor and five others; Scotforth, Skerton and Over Wyresdale, two each; Aldcliffe, Ashton, Stodday, Thurnham, Poulton, Bare, Torrisholme, Heaton, Overton, Middleton, Bulk and Quernmore, one each. There were also nine churchwardens. (fn. 30)
To the south-west of the church opposite the tower door is a sundial on a high stepped base, the plate of which is inscribed 'Sic umbra vertit, sic vita fugit.' It is undated, but probably belongs to the late 18th century. It was restored by Joseph Fenton in 1894.
The churchyard was enlarged in 1818. The oldest dated stone is 1671. (fn. 31)
The church is approached from the town on the south-east by a wide and picturesque flight of steps leading from the top of Church Street. The steps were 'new laid' in 1761 (fn. 32) with 15-in. treads and 6-in. rise, 'the flats to be proportioned as the ground will admit of, not having above two steps together between each flat,' a disposition which has since been maintained. The present steps were laid in 1884.
The old vicarage-house (fn. 33) was pulled down in 1848 and the present one erected. Over the door was a stone inscribed
a. w. 1636
The existence of a church before the Conquest is implied in the name of Kirk-Lancaster in Domesday Book; the ancient inscribed crosses lend support to the belief that it existed in the 7th or 8th century. (fn. 34) Whatever may have been its earlier history, the church was in 1094 given by Count Roger of Poitou to the Norman abbey of St. Martin at Sees, and in return a prior with some fellow monks was placed in charge. (fn. 35) No vicarage was to be ordained, (fn. 36) but when the priory had been finally suppressed by Henry V and its endowments conferred upon Syon Abbey, (fn. 37) a resident vicar was deemed necessary. Hence in 1430–1 a vicarage was ordained by the Archdeacon of Richmond, (fn. 38) the Abbess of Syon of course having the presentation. The vicar was to occupy the house which had been the priory, reserving a chamber and stable for the use of the abbess's representatives whenever they might have to visit Lancaster. He was to reside and show hospitality according to his means. His endowment consisted of the tithes of corn of Lancaster township, Thurnham and Glasson, Ribby, Wrea and Badgerburgh; the oblations of the three principal feasts—Christmas, Easter and the Assumption— and various offerings and small tithes, including all sums given to the high altar. His total income was then estimated at £76 19s. 7¼d.; out of it he had to maintain divine worship as if rector, and pay various dues, such as Peter pence, the tenth to the Crown, whenever granted, &c. (fn. 39)
After the dissolution of Syon the advowson was granted out by the Crown, (fn. 40) and after several transfers was acquired by Edward Marton of Capernwray, elder brother of the Oliver Marton who was vicar from 1767 to 1794. (fn. 41) It has since descended with Capernwray, the present patron being Mr. George Henry Powys Marton.
The rectory was in 1291 assessed at £80 a year, but after the invasions of the Scots thirty years later the value was reduced to £26 13s. 4d. (fn. 42) In 1341 the value of the ninth was given as £26 18s. 9d., but this did not include the borough of Lancaster, 47s. 11d., and the small tithes and altarage, £22. The loss resulting from the devastation made by the Scots was estimated at 43 marks. (fn. 43) In 1527 the rectory was said to be worth £100 a year, (fn. 44) and this was also the return made in 1535 (fn. 45); the vicarage in those years being valued at £80 and £40 19s. 10d. respectively. (fn. 46) In 1650 the vicar was said to receive £280 a year, (fn. 47) but in 1717 only about £200. (fn. 48) In 1824 an Act was passed commuting the vicar's tithes for a corn rent to produce £1,358 a year at least. (fn. 49) The net value of the vicarage is now stated to be £ 1,500. (fn. 50)
The following have been vicars:—
|Instituted||Name||Patron||Cause of Vacancy|
|27 Aug. 1431||Richard Chester, D.D. (fn. 51)||Syon Abbey||—|
|oc. 1466–84||Richard Burton (fn. 52)||—||—|
|c. 1525–40||William Green, D.D. (fn. 53)||Syon Abbey||—|
|oc. 1554–62||Francis Mallet, D.D. (fn. 54)||—||—|
|— 1566||John Wainhouse (fn. 55)||—||—|
|29 Dec. 1575||Hugh Conway, M.A. (fn. 56)||William Leyburne||d. last vicar|
|25 Jan. 1581–2||Henry Porter (fn. 57)||—||—|
|18 Feb. 1608–9||Geoffrey King, M.A. (fn. 58)||[T. Farington, jun.]||d. H. Porter|
|8 Nov. 1630||Augustine Wildbore, D.D. (fn. 59)||Thos. Farington||d. Geoff. King|
|30 June 1631||The king|
|— June 1654||William Marshall, M.A. (fn. 60)||George Toulson||d. A. Wildbore|
|6 Sept. 1660||Hugh Barrow, M.A. (fn. 61)||The king||d. A. Wildbore|
|10 Dec. 1672||Edmund Garforth, M.A. (fn. 62)||George Toulson||d. H. Barrow|
|19 June 1682||Seth Bushell, D.D. (fn. 63)||"||d. E. Garforth|
|17 Mar. 1684–5||James Fenton, D.D. (fn. 64)||"||d. S. Bushell|
|29 Oct. 1714||James Fenton, D.C.L. (fn. 65)||Robert Gibson||d. J. Fenton|
|8 June 1767||Oliver Marton, LL.B. (fn. 66)||Sir Thomas Hesketh||d. J. Fenton|
|17 Sept. 1794||William White, M.A. (fn. 67)||Trustees of O. Marton||d. O. Marton|
|13 Sept. 1806||John Manby, M.A. (fn. 68)||The king||d. W. White|
|24 Apr. 1844||Joseph Turner, M.A. (fn. 69)||George Marton||d. J. Manby|
|7 Feb. 1871||John Allen, D.D. (fn. 70)||George B. H. Marton||d. J. Turner|
|20 Oct. 1893||William Bonsey, M.A. (fn. 71)||R. A. Yerburgh||res. J. Allen|
|5 June 1909||Joseph Udell Norman Bardsley, M.A. (fn. 72)||G. H. P. Marton||d. W. Bonsey|
An account of 1324–5, when the priory was in the king's hands, shows the staff employed, viz. the prior, five monks and two chaplains. (fn. 73) In 1430 it was recorded that by ancient usage there were daily said matins and two masses by note—one of St. Mary (de Domina) and one of the day; a mass of Requiem each Monday for benefactors; also an early mass each morning between 5 and 6 o'clock. On Sundays and festivals another mass was celebrated, with priest, deacon and subdeacon. A lamp was kept burning continually. Six wax candles were lighted at masses, matins and vespers diebus ferialibus and twelve double feasts, and six torches at the high altar at the elevation of the Body of Christ. (fn. 74)
By the ordination of the vicarage in 1430 the vicar was bound not only to reside himself but also to provide six chaplains—three for Lancaster and one each for the outlying chapels of Gressingham, Caton and Stalmine. A sacrist or clerk was necessary also. Though the income assigned was £77, it was found insufficient for so great a charge, and in 1440 the vicar complained that his expenses amounted to more than £160 a year, of which £50 had to be paid to the chaplains and clerk, about £60 was estimated to be requisite for hospitality, the repairs of chancels, house and books took £26, and various other expenses the remainder. Among the minor charges may be noted one for incense for incensing the ploughs at the Epiphany. (fn. 75) The vicars may on this account have been excused from residence; some of the later ones certainly had other benefices.
The services of the church, chapels and chantries would require a resident staff of eight or ten priests, and before the Reformation there were probably others, paid by private persons or living on the casual offerings for masses, &c.; there were also the friars. (fn. 76) The visitation list of 1554, after much destruction had been wrought by the Reformation, records eleven names in all, two being at Caton and Gressingham, and the list of 1562 records ten, of which two were inserted perhaps a little later; five of the clergy appeared at the visitation. Bishop Coates visited this part of his diocese about the end of 1554 and restored the ancient ceremonial and worship; he administered confirmation to the children. (fn. 77)
There appears to be no evidence of the general disposition of the clergy and people of the town towards Elizabeth's establishment of religion. Dr. Mallet, the vicar in 1559, was notoriously hostile, but, while resigning some of his preferments, willingly or unwillingly, he retained the deanery of Lincoln, and must therefore have renounced communion with the Roman Church and accepted the queen's ecclesiastical supremacy. (fn. 78) Though he did not reside at Lancaster, it may be assumed that the legal services were duly performed at the parish church and the dependent chapels of Gressingham, Caton and Stalmine, Overton and Over Wyresdale being more doubtful. A staff of four ministers would be required, and this is in the 17th century found to be the normal one. Of Mallet's immediate successors nothing is known; but Henry Porter was a zealous preacher, probably of the Puritan school, and his twenty-seven years' labour would have a powerful influence on the new generation which had sprung up since Elizabeth's accession, and would know little or nothing of the old religion.
In 1610 the clergy were the vicar and the chaplains of Gressingham, Wyresdale and Stalmine. (fn. 79) In 1622 the vicar, curate and schoolmaster of Lancaster and the lecturer at Stalmine contributed to a levy on the clergy, so that some of the chapels were neglected or served by lay 'readers.' (fn. 80) Sir John Harrison gave £10 to secure a lecturer or special preacher in the town, and continued this in 1647. (fn. 81) During the Commonwealth period there was some improvement here as elsewhere; there were five or six ministers in 1650, and each of the chapels, except Admarsh and perhaps Overton, seems to have been supplied. (fn. 82)
Though Dr. Wildbore, the vicar, compounded in 1649 for his 'delinquency' in adhering to and assisting the king's forces during the war, (fn. 83) he was not restored to either of his benefices. He was perhaps too strict an Episcopalian to accept the Presbyterian discipline then established. Marshall, his intruding successor, had to contend with George Fox, who designated him by the (with him) opprobrious epithet of 'priest' when brought before the justices in 1652. Fox had entered 'the steeple-house and declared the truth to the priest and people, laying open before them the deceit they lived in and directing them to the power and Spirit of God, which they wanted. But,' he confesses, 'they haled me out and stoned me along the street till I came to John Lawson's house.' (fn. 84)
At the Restoration Marshall's title was for some reason ignored. Probably he neglected to secure the royal confirmation, and this may have been deliberate, for he did not proceed with his ministerial work. The king therefore appointed a successor to Dr. Wildbore, who had died several years before. There is little to call for comment in the later history of the church. Nonconformists and Quakers were numerous. Dr. Bushell, who was vicar for two years only, is said to have treated them with great tenderness, in marked contrast to his predecessor and successors, who were 'severe' in exacting their dues. (fn. 85) In August 1687 Bishop Cartwright visited the church and confirmed 500 persons, 'most of them aged people.' (fn. 86)
During the Jacobite occupation in 1715 prayers were read on 8 November by a chaplain, William Paul, who substituted King James's name for that of Anne, which he found in the printed book. 'The vicar of Lancaster was asked to preach, but it seems that he was not so averse to it any more than some of his brethren, but he wanted to see how the scales would turn before he would think of venturing so far.' (fn. 87) The same vicar in 1745 took a vigorous part on the Hanoverian side, and the Jacobites in their retreat north sacked the vicarage and demanded £20 for leaving it unburnt; they told his servants they would shoot him if they met him, being the greatest enemy they had, alike as a preacher and a justice of the peace. (fn. 88)
The visitation returns have few details of interest. In 1724 it was stated that the vicar read prayers twice every Sunday and once every week-day; in 1737 he celebrated the Lord's Supper at least twelve times in every year. A second church was built in the town in 1754. (fn. 89) The recent history has been marked by a dispute between the vicar and some of the parishioners respecting tithes in 1897 to 1900; the agitation arose from a reassessment and subdivision of the tithes. It was at last agreed that the dues should be redeemed by the corporation on behalf of the town, and a single payment is now made yearly out of the poor rate.
The mayor and burgesses in 1546 maintained two priests at the parish church, one out of Gardiner's grammar school endowment (fn. 90) and the other out of an estate called St. Patrick's Lands, which had been left for charitable uses. (fn. 91) The priest of the former had £4 a year and of the latter £4 13s. 4d. One of them celebrated the 'Jesus Mass.' (fn. 92) There was a Gild of Jesus at the parish church. (fn. 93) At Gardiner's almshouse by the church there was a chapel of St. Mary, with a chantry priest 'to celebrate mass daily and four bedemen to pray for the souls' of the founder and his ancestors. The endowment was £11 6s. 8d. a year, and the chapel was furnished with chalice, two vestments, mass book and bell. (fn. 94) At the Dominican house a chantry had been founded by one of the Lawrence family (fn. 95); there was an endowment of £4 12s., and after the suppression of the friars and dismantling of their house the cantarist continued 'at his pleasure to celebrate mass in other places.' (fn. 96) A fraternity of the Holy Trinity and St. Leonard was founded in or before 1377; it was a burial gild. (fn. 97) A chantry called 'St. Loyes Chapel' had land in Deep Carr; it may have been one of those already mentioned. (fn. 98) There is some evidence of the existence of a Franciscan house, (fn. 99) but it may not have survived long.
There was an official inquiry into the charities of the parish in 1901, and the report, together with the former report of 1826, was issued in 1903. The following particulars have been taken from it. Educational and ecclesiastical endowments excepted—these including the grammar school and Ripley's Hospital— the annual income is £2,775. In addition the Lancaster Infirmary has an income from endowments of £1,073.
Lancaster Castle having been the prison for the county, funds for the relief of poor prisoners are a characteristic feature. Abigail Rigby in 1709 left a rent-charge of £2 for the prisoners for debt in the castle; she also left £100 for an 'orthodox divine' who should 'preach and read . . . divine service and administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper after the manner and according to the usage of the Church of England to the prisoners within the Castle.' George Rogerson in 1619 left a rent-charge of £4 to relieve poor prisoners with meat and drink. Peter Lathom in 1700 left £200 to buy land, the income of which was to go to the use of poor prisoners. William Edmondson in 1735 left money with which Low Field in Scotforth was bought, and the rent according to his direction was given in bread to the prisoners at Lancaster and Preston, being equally divided between each place. Sir Thomas Gerard of Garswood gave a rent-charge of £8 for the debtors in prison. Henrietta Rigby in 1741 left £100 to provide 20s. a year for poor widows, the remainder of the interest to be given to 'twelve of the most necessitous prisoners in the castle who should be known to be laborious sober people and who should not lavish their money and time in drinking and gambling.' These benefactions are intact. The incomes from the estates of Peter Lathom and Abigail Rigby have greatly increased, and a further augmentation was derived from money given by charitable visitors. The gross income is now about £114, but as prison conditions have entirely changed a new scheme was in 1890 made for the administration. (fn. 102) The net income is now given to the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society.
The various almshouse and pension charities have been consolidated under schemes of 1870 to 1900. (fn. 103) They are known as 'the Lancaster charities,' and have a gross income of £2,180. The almshouse for a chaplain and four bedemen founded by John Gardiner in 1472–85 has been mentioned above. The Crown in taking possession of the endowments allowed the £7 7s. 4d. payable to the bedemen and their attendant to continue, and the lessee was to keep the building in repair. That income, composed of small ground rents, has been lost, but fresh endowments have been provided by various benefactors between 1856 and 1900. The houses near the east end of the church were rebuilt in 1792. (fn. 104) William Penny in 1715 left money for an almshouse with twelve apartments, each with a garden plot, for as many 'poor, ancient, indigent men and women,' and a chapel 'for prayers to be read therein to the said poor people.' Some surplus money was to provide apprenticeship fees. The houses were built accordingly in Back Lane, now King Street. In recent years several additional sums have been given to the endowment, and most of the lands have been sold, the proceeds being invested in consols. (fn. 105) Anne Gillison in 1781 gave a piece of land behind her stables and abutting on Common Garden Street to the mayor and town for the erection of eight houses for the reception of as many 'destitute unmarried women of good character' belonging to the town. A widow might be chosen should there be no suitable unmarried woman. To this charity also additional gifts have been made. (fn. 106) Mrs. Margaret France in 1818 gave £300, partly for the Dispensary and partly for Penny's and Gillison's almshouses. Sir John Harrison in 1669 (fn. 107) gave £100 to buy land for the benefit of the poor; this is now represented by an annual charge of £5 on the corporation funds. William Heysham in 1725 bequeathed his estate called the Greaves to the corporation for the benefit of eight poor men. The land has recently been sold and the money invested in £13,760 consols and land near Carnforth. (fn. 108) Various other gifts have been made to the trustees of the combined charities, (fn. 109) who administer in accordance with the different trusts.
Miss Betsy Jane Bradshaw in 1890 bequeathed £750 to the vicar and churchwardens of St. Thomas's for the benefit of the poor of that parish. The income, £24 7s. 6d., is distributed in small grants of groceries and meat at Christmas time to persons of all religious denominations. John Brockbank devised the Highfield estate to his sister, who (as Dorothy Peacock, widow) in 1875 gave it with various moneys to trustees to provide annuities of £30 a year each to widows or spinsters over fifty years of age, members of the Church of England having preference. The income is £265, and there were seven annuitants in 1903. The following benefactions had not become effective in 1901: that of Charles Blades, who in 1891–3 left £2,000 to found annuities for poor men 'of the Protestant Christian faith'; and that of Mrs. Jane Greene, who in 1890–1 left the income of £160 Lancaster Corporation stock for a dole to forty poor widows every Christmas Eve, the vicar and mayor to choose the recipients.
Several other townships of the parish have special funds.
The Poor's Land in the Common Holme at Caton is supposed to have been bought by a gift of £20 by Edward Fincham for the poor of the township. Doles of about 3s. each are given at Christmas to some twenty poor men.
At Gressingham several old rent-charges, amounting in all to 31s., are distributed by the vicar and churchwardens to six poor persons each January.
For the poor of Heaton 29s. 8d. a year is available, being the interest of a sum of £50 bequeathed (before 1700) by William West. (fn. 110)
John Troughton in 1729 charged his estate at Colliwell (Colloway) with £3 a year for the poor of Overton. In 1826 the charity was distributed by the curate in small doles, but it has been lost since 1869 because the collection and distribution of the money remained in the hands of a representative of the benefactor, who refused to have a trust properly constituted. The persons liable for the rent-charges have become exonerated.
In Poulton, Bare and Torrisholme an annual charge of 7s. 6d. from a donation of Edward Lodge, formerly spent in gifts of wheat or money, has been lost since 1826. Another fund, of unknown origin, is now represented by £59 consols, yielding 32s. 8d. a year. It has long been utilized for apprenticing.
John Taylor in 1874 bequeathed £50 to the poor of Scotforth, but this was lost by the insolvency of the trustee. Anne Cawson in 1660 gave a rent-charge of 3s. on Brandrigg for the poor, still paid, and William Cooke in 1640 gave a like charge, now partly lost, on an estate in Ellel; the resulting sums have been given at Christmas time to three poor persons.
For the poor of Skerton a fund of £28 was in existence in 1760, represented by two messuages and a garden. In 1826 the sidesmen received £3 a year, which they distributed on 21 December in small doles. The endowment now consists of five cottages, producing £32 10s. a year, which is still distributed in small doles to a large number of applicants—as many as 258 in 1900. The administration has become irregular through the extinction of the 'township' of Skerton. Henry Kendall in 1857 left three houses in Main Street for the poor; the net income, £12 13s. 6d. in 1900, is distributed in a manner similar to the last-named charity. Mrs. Augusta Jane Parkin in 1895 left the Quarry field to provide coal during the winter for the poorest residents, those attending St. Luke's Church and schools to have prior consideration. In practice much of the income, which is £7 5s. 4d. from £264 consols, has been given in money doles.
Thomas Thompson in 1810 bequeathed £1,400 for the benefit of poor and indigent persons in the vaccaries of Lentworth, Lee, Tarnbrook and Greenbank in Over Wyresdale. This charity was entirely lost by bankruptcy. Richard Townley in 1851 bequeathed £400 for the poor of the same township. The capital is invested in consols and produces £10 12s. 4d. which the trustees give to eight or nine poor persons.