Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Whalley Abbey martyrs of 1536-7

The blog Supremacy and Survival last year had these posts about Pilgrimage of Grace martyrs from Whalley Abbey in Lancashire, which I am re-posting today as this year, not last, is the anniversary of their deaths. What was March 1536 - up to the 25th - is, since 1752 in England -  now March 1537. The Pilgrimage of Grace had been in the autumn of 1536. 

The two posts are The Last Abbot of Whalley Abbey: John Paslew and William Haydock of Whalley Abbey


The remains of Whalley Abbey
The River Calder is at the bottom of the picture and the foundations of the church in the centre

Image: webbaviation.co.uk

Whalley was a Cistercian house, originally founded at Stanlow on the Cheshire banks of the Mersey and moved due to that site being unsuitable to Whalley in 1296, being refounded by its patron Henry de Lacy Earl of Lincoln.

There is an illustrated online account of the history of the foundation and buildings at Whalley Abbeyand the much more detailed account from the VCH Lancashire vol ii  ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1908) can be read at Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Whalley

As the Lacy family were lords of Pontefract I have an additional interst in the history of Whalley, and from the names in the list of abbots it is clear that quite a few Yorkshiremen joined the community. If my memory serves me right a monk called John of Pontefract was killed by a fall from the buildings when the abbey was being built. 

One other surviving link with the abbey are the vestments rescued by the Towneley family and now on display at their ancestral home, Towneley Hall in Burnley. The museum's web page has a piece about them at Whalley Abbey Vestments

At Towneley Hall are a chasuble and dalmatic or tunicle (the third item of the set is in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow), which are the only High Mass set to survive from medieval England. Originally made about 1390-1420 or 1415-1435 (depending upon your expert) and remounted late in the fifteenth century, they were rescued from Whalley by the recusant Towneley family. The red fruits on the ground textile are probably pomegranetes.

The vestments from Whalley Abbey, preserved at Towneley Hall

Image: New Liturgical movement

The front of the chasuble

Images:college holycross.edu

There is more about the vestments at What Might Have Been - The Whalley Abbey Vestments at Towneley and details of some of the embroidery panels

There can be little doubt but that Abbot Paslew and probably Dom William wore these vestments.

Today Whalley Abbey is the Diocesan Conference Centte for the Diocese of Blackburn and the quite considerable remains of the monastery and grounds are accessible to visitors, and the surrounding countryside very attractive. The anniversary of the martyrdoms of the abbot and one of his monks and the survival of the vestments areminder of the human and cultural cost of the events of the sixteenth century.

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