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Time-honoured Lancaster ... Historic notes on the ancient borough of Lancaster online

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Parkinson, William Cumpstey, William Wough, Mrs. Beckwith
and Richard Pye wholives in the tenement belonging the Charity
near Windy Hill.

Prayers are still said on Wednesdays in the Chapel, which
has of late years been much improved and modernised in its interior.

Prayers were formerly said every Wednesday and Friday
from Easter to Michaelmas. At one time the Chapel was turned
into a school-house for the use of the boys of the Charity school
established in 1770. The bible in the Chapel was " presented by
the Misses Threlfall to Penny's Hospital, Lancaster, February 23rd,
1 881."

Clarke states as follows : — William Penny's Charity of twelve
small houses for the same number of men, included also an allow-
ance of 1 6s. 8d. per quarter for each inmate, and a new coat, value
13s. 4d., every year. In Penny's Hospital there died in April, 1836,
Joseph Liver, aged 87, the oldest freeman of Lancaster. Four
generations of the family could be traced at this period, and there is
the name Liver still found between St. Leonard's Gate and North
Road. In the preceding February of the same year, Thomas Rat-
cliffe, the oldest freeman of Preston, died.

Religious Houses.

Of Religious Houses in Catholic Times besides the Priory of
St. Mary there was a hospital for a Master Chaplain and nine poor


persons, whereof three were to be lepers, founded by King- John
when Earl of Morton, and which was afterwards annexed to the
Nunnery of Seaton, in Cumberland, by Henry, Duke of Lancaster,
about the 30th, Edward III. This Hospital was dedicated to St.
Leonard. Then there was a Priory for Blackfriars, a Dominican
House founded about 44th Henry III. by Sir Hugh Harrington,
Knight, which was granted 32nd Henry VIII. to Thomas Holcroft.
Lastly, a Friary for Grey Friars, " a Franciscan Convent near the
bridge." Though the more elevated members of the monastic
institutions might fare sumptuously the position of others was
humble in the extreme, for we learn that the allowance of food per
diem in the Hospital for Lepers, as it is termed in the " Notitia
Monastica," to each of the brethren was a loaf weighing 1 lb. 120Z.
and pottage on Sundays, Mondays, and Fridays. Worse, indeed,
was this than the fare granted to paupers in the great " prisons of
the guiltless," as a distinguished author once called Unions. As to
the exact situation of St. Leonard's Hospital there has been much
uncertainty, but the discovery, in 181 1, of a crossed tombstone and
human remains seems to fix it at the eastern end of St. Leonard's-
gate. According to some of the statutes passed in the latter part
of the reign of Henry VIII. a great and flourishing number of " the
faithful " existed in Lancaster, and from one of these statutes, of
the date 1544, it appears that " there had in time past been many
beautiful houses in Lancaster." Camden confirms this account, for,
writing in the time of the Virgin Queen he says : " Lancaster is at
present but thinly peopled, and all the inhabitants are farmers, all
the country about being cultivated, open, flourishing, and bare of

An Ancient Gild In Lancaster

In the Antiquarian Magazine and Bibliographer for 1884
there is the following account of the ancient Gild of the Holy Trin-
ity and St. Leonard, Lancaster, by Mr. Walford, F.S.S., who con-
tributed a series of articles under the title of " The Historv of Gilds."


" Lancaster. — There was an early Gild which differed in its
constitution but little from the type of burial societies which prevail
so largely, and almost exclusively in this country, at the present day ;
and it still more remarkably embodies the "collecting" "feature,
being the only Gild of this period known to have a regulation for
collecting the dues by the aid of special officers. We give the
ordinances in their entirety, with the exception of one slight devi-
ation. Gild of the Holy Trinity and St. Leonard, founded 1377. —
These Ordinances were made on the Feast of St. Leonard, A.D.
1377. Whoever is admitted to the Gild shall make an oath to keep
these Ordinances. No one of the Gild shall do anything to the loss
or hurt of another, nor shall allow it to be done so far as he can
hinder it — the laws and customs of the town of Lancaster being
always saved. No one of the Gild shall wrong the wife or daughter
or sister of another, nor shall allow her to be wronged so far as he
can hinder it. No one of the Gild shall take into his house anyone
known to be an adulterer, nor shall himself live in adultery : and if
it be shewn that he has done either, and after two warnings he will
not amend, he shall be altogether put out of the Gild. If any one
of the Gild die within Lancaster, all the brethren then in the town
shall come to placebo and dirige, if summoned by the " belman,"
or pay ijd. All shall go or send to the mass held for a dead brother
or sister, and offer ob. under the same penalty. Every one of the
brethren shall say, for the soul of the dead, as quickly as he can, lx
Paternosters, with as many Hail-Marys. And the anniversary of
every brother shall be duly kept. If any of the Gild dies outside
the town of Lancaster, within a space of xx miles, xij brethren
shall wend and seek the body, at the cost of the Gild. And if the
brother or sister so dying wished to be buried where he died, the
said shall see that he has fitting burial there, at the cost of the Gild.
Each brother and sister so dying shall have, at the mass on the day
of burial, six torches and xviij wax lights ; and at other services
two torches and iiij wax lights. All the brethren and unmarried
sisteren of the Gild shall meet four times a year, on four Sundays
(which are named). Each shall then pay xiijd. towards finding two
chaplains to celebrate divine service in the town for the welfare of


the King - and Queen and the Lord Duke of Lancaster, and the
whole realm, and all the dead brethren and sisteren of the Gild.
Whoever does not come to these meeting's, and does not pay the
money within three weeks afterwards shall pay half-a-pound of wax
which shall be doubled if there be a further arrear of three weeks.
It is ordained that xij good and discreet men of the gild shall be
chosen, who shall have power of admitting fresh brethren and
sisteren ; shall arrange with each of these what shall be paid on
entry ; shall deal with what other matters touch the good name,
profit, and well-being of the Gild ; and shall appoint the places and
times of meetings : — and these xij shall be chosen afresh every year
if it be thought fit. Collectors shall be chosen, to gather in all dues.
They shall render an account to the aforesaid xij, or the greater
part of them, so that xij may every quarter let the Gild know how
its affairs stand.

Holy Trinity Church was a Church of the Black Friars,
situated where tne Wesley Chapel now stands. St. Leonard's was
a hospital for lepers."

In the summer of 1889 excavations were carried on near the
site of this ancient Hospital, which existed prior to the year 1198
when Pope Celestine filled the papal chair, a Hospital mentioned in
the Valor of Pope Nicholas IV., a.d. 1291. A little more of the
history of the place may as well be given before alluding to the
remains discovered.

This Hospital, " founded for a Master, Chaplain, and nine-
persons, of whom three were to be lepers," as appears by an in-
quisition of the 17th Edward II., 1324, was probably founded by
King John when Earl of Moreton and Bologne, or by the earlier
Earls of Lancaster, and it was subject to the Prior of Lancaster.
In 1357, Henry, Duke of Lancaster, annexed this Hospital to the
Nunnery of Seton alias Lekelay, one mile from Workington, in
Cumberland, and the ancient home of Orme, son of Ketel alias
Kelet, grandson of Ivo de Taillebois, and afterwards of the well-



known family of Curwen. Henry, Duke of Lancaster, had heard that
the Nunnery was too poor to support the Prioress and Nuns, and
therefore granted them this Hospital in honour of God and Saint
Leonard, as appears by the charter dated at Preston, in the sixth
year of his dukedom. A Chantry was, of course, attached to the
Hospital, and included in the grant, subject to the concurrence of
the burgesses of Lancaster in regard to the bestowal of their alms
and ancient incumbencies on the Hospital. The " History of the
Priory of Lancaster " and the "Register of St. Mary's," contain
several allusions to this old shrine of St. Leonard. In the 4th.
loth, nth, and 13th Henry III., the lepers were allowed pasture
for their cattle, wood for their fires, and timber for their buildings.
[n 1291 the value of the institution was put down at viis. iiijd. In
1232, it possessed six acres in alms given by William de Scertune,
In 1324 the lands attached to the Hospital in Lancaster, Skerton,
and Wyresdale, were valued at vjl. viijd. The allowance to the
brethren was one loaf daily which weighed the eighth of a stone,
(lib. 120ZS.), with pottage three days per week, Sunday, Monday,
and Friday.

In 1556, five burgages (land held of the king or some other
lord at a certain yearly rent), and sixteen acres of land called the
"Nuns'" fields, of the annual value of ^3 5s., were, says the
Notitia Cestricnsis, sold to one, John Duddinge. No doubt the
Hospital in Skerton and the Grange (Beaumont Grange) were both
founded at about the same time. Several human remains in an ex-
ceedingly fine state of preservation have been turned up by the
workmen engaged in levelling that part of the Bulk or Newton
Estate at the end of St. Leonard Gate and on the left side of the
ruined Chapel or Mortuary. Portions of a skull submitted indicated
an extremely large head ; the occiput was very fine. A couple of
shin bones at hand are fourteen inches in length, and other crural
appendages are correspondingly large. One medical gentleman
secured an almost perfect skull, and another gentleman soon after-
wards met with a good specimen. The bodies seem to have been
buried at a depth of only two feet and in circles, so the workmen


say. It is to be regretted that this grand old site should ever be
disturbed or profaned by the workmen's spades. To unearth these
bones in order to build on the ground consecrated as their resting-
place augurs badly for the sanctity that may exist in two or three
centuries' time concerning any of our present most cherished God's-
acres. No one knows what will become of the remains unearthed
and how they may be scattered ; but the relic collector is as likely
to hold them sacred as anybody, indeed more so than the majority
of people might who ridicule such or irreverently destroy them.
A cremationist who visits the surroundings of the old silk mill has
certainly a grand argument in favour of the crematorium. But of
course, urn-burial might be liable to sacrilege just as earth-burial is
liable to disturbance ages after interment when lapse of time seems
to license posterity to do far worse than moralize over each departed

It is to be hoped that the owner of the old Mortuarv Chapel
of the Hospital of St Leonard will not suffer what few fragments
remain to be razed to the ground. There are surely many amongst
us who would contribute their mite towards a careful restoration of
the edifice which might be converted into a small museum of re-
ligious antiquities — antiquities many a visitor would not fail to
appreciate when out on tour. A brief history of the place and its
original form including its original possessions could easily be en-
graved on tablets fixed in the interior. Unfortunately this age
deems nothing practical which is unallied to successful cash-turning-.
With such a sordid misinterpretation of the word practical true men
have little sympathy.




Lancaster Castle — A tour through it-

Recent Improvements and

ROM whatever point the towering masonry
of " Gaunt's embattled pile" is viewed, the
effect is solemnly picturesque. Whether you
approach Lancaster from the field route by
the broad river coming from Halton, from
Wyresdale on the south, ortheneighbourhood
of Carnforth on the north, you are struck with
the sublimity of the situation, and cannot but
meditate on the ability displayed by men of
far-fled ages concerning the choice of sites
for their strongholds and impregnable resi-
dences. But if "distance lend enchantment to the view," con-
tiguity imparts feelings not altogether allied to poetry, romance and
chivalry, for he who knows something of the castle's history
experiences sensations which well may hold him spell-bound He
feels that he is standing before a monument of time, a mighty relic
of Roman, Saxon, and Norman greatness, a stupendous memento
that, sermon like, silently proclaims the fickle nature of human
glory, and how races and dynasties have come and gone, playing
their parts upon life's stage, and that now the stage alone remains,
never to be peopled as in days of yore. As the thoughtful wanderer
ascends the stony slope that leads to the sombre doorway surmounted
high above, in 1822, by the figure of John of Gaunt, or Ghent, Duke
of Lancaster, he will find in the massive work before him fit emblems
of the natural savagery of man and the hardness of his heart. Not
of Roger de Poictou or John o' Gaunt will lie be thinking, poet-
like, but of the great fact that the building he is about to enter is
nothing so much as a memorial — a frowning memorial — of many a


miscarriage of justice as regards a past, not stretching to days oi
martial conquest and invasion, not even to mediaeval times, but to
a past dating only from the end of the eighteenth century.

A stranger entering Lancaster with the view of visiting the
Castle as the first object of interest, will soon find from the small
printed bills pasted here and there on the Castle walls or doors that
his first duty is to observe upon what days the grim structure is
open for inspection. He can gain admittance to the courts and
keep any day of the week by first obtaining a ticket at the large
residence in Church Street known as the " Judges' Lodgings The
hours of admission are from 9 to 11-30 in the morning, and from
1 to 6 in the afternoon. The courts and keep are available any day
of the week as stated ; but there can only be access to the dungeon
or well-tower on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In summer
time, he will notice as he ascends the steps of the house at which
he will receive his passport, that the door of the entrance hall is
open. A lady is waiting in the hall who will, for the modest sum
of sixpence, issue him a ticket with the words " Lancaster Castle "
thereon, and also in prominent type, " Admit the bearer to the courts
and keep, 6d.," the terms " courts and keep " being most prominent.
In smaller lettering follow the directions as to ingress, viz. :—
" Entrance only from the Parade, opposite the Church Gale." The
Church Gate here mentioned is the southern entrance to the old
Priory Church. The ticket is for all the world like a railway ticket,
numbered as is such passport, and dated by an " Edmonson " dater
on the back, when issued. The numbers serve as a check or proof
just as does the machine whose asterisk-projections you push forward
when paying to go on the pier at a sea-side place of enjoyment. It
must not be forgotten that admission to the Castle cannot be had
for purposes of inspection when the assizes, or sessions, are being

Tour through the Castle.
The court-keeper, Mr. Bingham, a smart, amber-whiskered
officer, whose countenance itself is as the glass front of a book-


case, in that it is the reflector of a history from within, kindly greets
th? waiting band, and, without loss of time, bids them follow.
Through a gateway and kind of corridor the sightseers are led up a
few steps, and through an open doorway, when a halt is made.
The lecturer informs the tourists that the strangely shaped chamber
the}" are now standing within is the " Drop-room," so called because
from this room all criminals sentenced to death have had to pass
after being pinioned therein to the scaffold, since the year 1800, and
until the passing of the bill for private executions. Prior to the year
named, prisoners for execution were taken in a cart (the seats there-
in being their coffins) to a place just above Christ Church, called
Gallows Hill, and the fringe of what was once Lancaster Moor.
But we are dealing with a matter only mentioned because we antici-
pate strangers to the Castle asking how it happens that executions
have but dated from 1800 in this Castle. The morbid reader, if any
such there be, will presently have enough literary carrion to feed
upon in regard to punishments, capital or otherwise, extending
ages past, in the vicinity of the old fortress.

In the " Drop-room " some very harrowing stories aie heard,
and as the stories are illustrated with the mechanical appliances
murderers have used in their deadly work, and those, too, by which
they have suffered, the listener feels an icy coldness rush over him,
notwithstanding the warmth of the day or the crowd of visitors he
is amongst. He seems to realize faintly the feelings of the culprit
whom the executioner has here pinioned securely with his straps ;
and as the describer alludes to a certain window almost opposite to
him, and behind the auditor, he seems to conjure up the ghosts of
the coffins of the condemned before his eye as he learns that upon
that massive window ledge, more like a cornice or huge square
table than an inside window-sill, those dark-stained chests of death
were laid. Next he perceives a high chair of very peculiar shape by
the speaker's right hand. Presently the same is moved, and the
audience learns that it was made for one Jane Scott, who was
wheeled out on to the scaffold on the 22nd of March, 1828. This
miserable girl, for she was only eighteen years old when executed



for the murder of her mother at Preston, had become so weak and
emaciated that walk to the drop she could not, and so an office
stool was fitted with castors, and the seat with back and arms. It
is a dreadful chair, or stool-chair, to look upon. The body o\' this
young woman was given to the doctors for dissection, and some
years ago her skeleton was " on view " at a house in Walker Street,
Preston. The visitor is next favoured with a sig'ht of the drop-
board, on which for the last time the criminal has stood, and which
has resounded his last footfall. Then the narrator takes up a short
chain with a piece of rope attached and dilates upon the old method
of hanging, or rather strangling, contrasting the same with the
present long drop instituted by Marwood. The sight of the ropes,
the real hemp of execution, since each one had drawn out the life
of some poor wretch, ropes noosed by the holder of them as he ex-
plains the awful arrangement, makes you anxious to quit this verit-
able criminals' hearse room and breathe freely.

But the by no means hurrying curator has not quite finished.
He tells you that in the mad years gone by, a conviction, rightly or
wrongly, meant execution, and how offences now punishable bv a
term of six months' imprisonment were punished by death. It is
said that in the year 1800 eleven poor creatures were strung up to-
gether and tantalized into eternity ; but this story is scarcely
credible, as it is not believed that eleven persons could be executed
all at one time without some contretemps being likely to happen, and
such under the old and unskilful method of execution could readily
have been foreseen. However, in 1817, as many as nine were
executed at once, and so badly were the arrangements conducted
that the suspended men struggled fearfully, and were almost on the
top of each other. The guide winds up by stating a painful circum-
stance consisting of the hanging of persons proved to be innocent, the
evidence against them having been the outcome of spite ; but a
conviction meant death, and respite was impossible. There are
few who doubt the miscarriage of justice in the case of those
legallv murdered men who faced their death bravely singing a hymn
as they were turned off. The bodies of the nine men previously


alluded to are interred under the two cannons taken at Sebastopol,
and to be seen on the Castle lawn in front of the courts. It is
harrowing to find that, despite the bungling- of the executioner,
( here was a magistrate in existence who could congratulate him upon
his ability and skill. Surely that magistrate must have had strange
notions as to how capital punishment should be carried out. Had he
been a King or a Czar, perhaps "Jack Ketch " would have received
a knighthood

The narrator next unlocks a drawer and reveals, as a final
display, the axe, sheeting, and razor, with which Bligh, the Kirkham
policeman, performed his lurid work on his little children. All
appear bloodstained. The razor with which the murderer intended
to practise upon himself is tied — the knife or blade — to the handle
In such a manner as to prevent a slip, an evidence, remarked the
exhibitor, of a mind the reverse of insane. With a knowing look
the speaker says that the proprietors of a show at Blackpool profess-
ed to give their patrons a sight of the articles just displayed. It may
here be mentioned that another *chair is pointed out to you before
leaving this apartment. It is a very cumbrous chair — a kind of
dropbox into which lunatics were placed. It is a very formidable
piece of furniture, almost like a Yankeedoodle shanty or cabin fitted
with bolts and rings, so that a mad man would have to be stronger
than iron to free himself from its grasp. It is totally different from
the chair previously noticed.

About a mile from the town going along the south high road
you come to a spot which used to bear the name of " Weeping Hill "
or "Tear Hill." The spot was so named because from this poin-1
the great prison of the county could be seen in all its terrible
majesty, and the sight excited no small emotion in the breasts of the
prisoners who were travelling to its gates and often to their certain
place of doom.

* This chair is now in the Hadrian's Tower.


At last you quit this hideous chamber, and Mr. Bingham
speedily leads you to Hadrian's Tower.

Respectfully the conductor waits until everyone has landed
on the circular balcony in Hadrian's Tower, and is looking down at
the flooring below and at the recesses formerly occupied by cup-
boards. Then he steps forward and explains that the quaint tower
you are within is believed to have been erected in the reign of the
Roman Emperor Hadrian. He calls your attention to the fact that,
notwithstanding the alterations from time to time, and the addi-
tional masonry consequent upon renovation, there is yet a large
quantity of the old masonry in the ancient pile. As you pass out of
this tower, long used as a store depot, your attention is called to a
number of large brass candlesticks, all dated 1743, which were used
in the courts of justice before the introduction of gas. They are
apparently as good and substantial as when new.

Recent Improvements.

During the winter of 1889-90, much has been effected by
way of amelioration, adornment, and careful search at this great
fortress which as of old still stands guardian-like over this time-
honoured borough. Masons have been very busy in the older por-
tions of the immense fabric, particularly in this tower which was
erected in- the year 124, and visitors who in future go over the
royal fort representing Roman, Saxon, Danish, and Norman epochs,
will be greatly surprised to observe what has been accomplished.
The Hadrian's Tower is now transformed into a veritable museum.
The basement has been thoroughly explored, and the wall also, the
results being highly satisfactory. One cannot fail to be struck with
the improved appearance, the walls having been restored to their
original form and one or two new features of interest opened out.
First of all is the half of the ancient mill-stone used by the Romans
for grinding their corn Underneath this stone, which was found
in a bed of marl, eight feet six inches below the present floor,
an old rat's nest was discovered together with some small
bones probably brought by the rat in order to feed its


Online LibraryCross FleuryTime-honoured Lancaster ... Historic notes on the ancient borough of Lancaster → online text (page 5 of 55)