SHROPSHIRE PARISH REGISTERS.
ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS.
The Shropshire Parish Register Society.
Roman Catholic Registers.
THE REV. W. KINSELLA,
WITH INTRODUCTION BY
HENRY F.J. VAUGHAN, B.A., S.C.L.
HONORARY SECRETARY AND EDITOR:
W.G.D. FLETCHER, M.A., F.S.A,
PRIVATELY PRINTED FOR THE
SHROPSHIRE PARISH REGISTER SOCIETY. 1913.
Note for the Reader.
For this interesting volume of the Roman Catholic Baptismal Registers of Shropshire, we are indebted to the Rev. Fr. Kinsella, who has most kindly himself transcribed these Registers and has also seen them through the press. These five baptismal Registers, together with the burial Register of White Ladies (which was printed in volume III. of the Registers of Lichfield Diocese), complete the Roman Catholic Registers of the County to the year 1837. Many burials of Roman Catholics will be found scattered throughout the various printed volumes of Parish Registers.
Mr. Henry F.J. Vaughan has written the very able and valuable historical Introduction, in which he has endeavoured to trace the history of Roman Catholicism in Shropshire from the death of Queen Mary to the present day, and he has given some account of the old Catholic families and the origin of the various Missions in the County. It is well worth careful study, and it contains many new facts. It is, of course, written from the Roman Catholic standpoint, and the members of the Council of the Society do not necessarily agree with every conclusion Mr. Vaughan has drawn, nor do they accept every statement of his.
We most cordially thank Fr. Kinsella and Mr. Vaughan for their work in connection with the printing of this volume.
It is intended that these Registers shall be bound up in a volume with the Nonconformist Registers of the County, of which Part I. has already been issued, and Part II., containing several other Registers, and a General Index to the whole is to follow.
W.G.D.F. December, 1913.
|SHREWSBURY, S. MARY, 1775-1837||1-38|
|NEWPORT, SS. PETER AND PAUL, 1785-1837||39-59|
|ACTON BURNELL, 1769-1837||61-80|
|PLOWDEN, S. FRANCIS, 1826-1837||81-85|
|MAWLEY HALL, S. MARY, 1763-1831||87-125|
|General Index to these Registers||i-xxvi|
Roman Catholic Registers
3. ACTON BURNELL.
5. MAWLEY CHAPEL.
The Roman Catholic Registers of Shropshire.
On Thursday. 17th November, 1558, Mary Tudor, Queen of England, lay dying in the Palace of St. James's. Mass was being said in her Chamber, for England was then a Catholic nation, but ere the last word of the solemn rite had sounded, the soul of the Queen had departed to its doom. A few hours later the chamber of death heard the shouts of the populace vociferating ' God Save Queen Elizabeth,' who was proclaimed the same day. Queen Mary's friend and kinsman, Cardinal Pole, died only twenty-two hours later than herself. The Kingdom was divided between the rights of two who could claim the crown, and even foreign countries shared in the dilemma. Elizabeth Boleyne was Queen by her father's will, while Mary of Scotland was the legitimate heir. However, Elizabeth became ' de facto ' Queen of England and was duly crowned, taking the usual Coronation Oaths to maintain and uphold the Church. &c.
In tracing the abnormal position of Catholics in England it is not necessary to enter into religious controversy, nor must it be forgotten that the 16th century was not one in which either toleration or comprehension in the 20th century meaning of the term, was understood or appreciated. Hence, it is necessary to glance at the legislation carried on during Elizabeth's reign, which caused the dividing line between those who remained in the old ways and those who followed the new path of the legislature.
In the first year of Elizabeth was passed the Act to restore to the Crown the jurisdiction over the estate ecclesiastical and spiritual, abolishing all foreign powers. This Act repeals the legislation of the previous reign restoring the Catholic religion, and re-enacts that of Edward VI. The penalties attached to it were forfeiture of office, imprisonment and death as for High Treason. Archbishops and Bishops were to take an Oath that the Queen's Highness is the only Supreme Governor of this realm as well in all Spiritual or Ecclesiastical things as Temporal, and that no foreign prince, prelate, or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm.
Is it to be wondered at, that the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Viscount Montague stood up in the House of Peers, and placing their hands upon their breasts solemnly declared, that it consisted not with their honour to cast off their spiritual allegiance to the Pope, the Patriarch of the West, which they had so lately affirmed.
Here, then, is the dividing line, the question of the spiritual and temporal power. Both are immediately from God the fount of all authority, but Catholics have always referred the former to the head of the Church, though maintaining the latter to belong to the Sovereign of the kingdom. Hence also arose the nickname of ' Papist,' used to indicate those who attributed spiritual power to the Pope alone. It is curious that this name appears constantly in the lists of the Elizabethan and subsequent Bishops, thus affording incontrovertible evidence that England was never without its ' Papists,' who form an indigenous part of the English people, and are those who maintained the old faith of the country without alteration.
iv. SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS.
The next Act on the part of the Government, which widened the breach between those who stood firm and those whose religious belief was made to coincide with the demands of the Government, was the first Act of Uniformity of Common Prayer. &c. This Act, together with a subsequent one (13 and 14 Charles II.), used to be bound up with the Book of Common Prayer. It established a form of Liturgy, Service and Ordination founded upon the second Book of Common Prayer of Edward VI., and being ordered to be the only form to be used, abolished the Mass and other Catholic rites. This Act also obliges all persons to attend this form of worship on Sundays and Holydays, allowing the Bishop to punish such as refused. Hence arose another word, recusant, typifying those who declined to join in this service, and so in conjunction with the former appellative, arose the well-known expression " Popish Recusants."
It must be remembered that the greater part of the English people were Catholics at the time of Elizabeth's accession. and considerable difficulty was encountered in many places in introducing the English Service. In our own county it is related of Sir John Harley, of Brampton, that during the time of this service he walked up and down the Church reading aloud from his Latin book of prayers, of which he understandeth not one word, so that no one can hear what was said. Many of those also who conformed had a deep sympathy with their recusant neighbours. and did all in their power to assist them secretly, disliking this persecuting spirit. Indeed, Sir Moreton Brigges, of Haughton, was fined for not getting a larger sum out of Shropshire recusants, and in the next county, complaints of the same character are made against Mr. Bagot and Mr. Trentham, and so in most other counties. It is difficult to imagine how, under subsequent legislation, any Catholics could have survived had they not been so helped by men whose sense of justice and fair play revolted against such tyrannical Acts.
By an Act of 5 Elizabeth it was an offence to attribute any manner of jurisdiction to the See of Rome under penalties of Praemunire and Treason, while all persons were to take the oath declaring the Queen's Highness to be only Supreme Governor, temporal and spiritual in these realms. By the 13 Elizabeth all persons bringing into this realm any Bull from Rome, Agnus Dei. beads. &c., and anyone absolving or reconciling any person, were subject to the penalty of death as for treason. The same penalty awaits all who withdraw ' from the religion now by Her Highness's authority established,' while every person singing or saying Mass or willingly hearing Mass is to forfeit 200 marks, and to remain in gaol for one year until the fine is paid. All above 16 years of age not attending the place of Common Prayer are to pay £20 per month, which sum would now equal over £200.
In most Catholic families long lists of the payments of these fines are still preserved. and the remarkable thing is how the money was collected to pay them year after year. It slowly but surely impoverished even wealthy families, which were forced little by little to part with portions of their estate. A well-known instance in our County being the ancient family of Lacon, of Willey, so shrewdly shattered in estate that they were finally compelled to sell it to the Welds.
In the 27th year of Elizabeth was passed an Act by which any Jesuit, Seminary or other Priest ordained by any authority derived from the See of Rome since the first year of Her Majesty's reign, shall depart out of her dominions, or if they come into, be, or remain there, they shall be liable to be adjudged traitors, any person relieving or maintaining such, shall suffer death as a felon. It is further enacted, that to send relief to such persons or any College abroad involves
SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS. V.
Praemunire, any parent sending his child abroad incurs a fine of £100, and anyone concealing such persons as are mentioned above is to be imprisoned during pleasure.
A further Act was passed in the 35 Elizabeth to enforce attendance at Church, ' to hear divine service established by Her Majesty's Laws and Statutes,' a curious way of putting the matter. Everyone who kept a recusant in their house after admonition by the Bishop or Justice was to pay a fine of £10 per month, and all recusants are ordered not to remove more than 5 miles from their place of abode. By Section 11 of this Act, anyone suspected to be a Jesuit, Seminary or Massing Priest and not answering satisfactorily was to be imprisoned until he did so.
Such is some of the Elizabethan legislation against those who adhered to the ancient Faith and refused to change it for the religion established by ' the Queen's Statutes.' and upon consideration of it, those words spoken in the House of Commons by Mr. Balfour seem not too strong. ' No religion has suffered more than the Roman Catholic religion where Roman Catholics are in a minority. They suffered it at our hands in the 18th century, they are suffering it at this moment in those countries where there is a strong anticlerical majority ... nothing is more scandalous or more shameful in British history than some of the penal laws and some of the uses made of them in times gone by to divert people from the Faith of their forefathers.'
The series of persecutions emanating, under Elizabeth, from such men as Cecil, Walsingham, Dudley. &c.. did not at first affect the character of Catholics. It was impossible for those who had grown up as friends and neighbours, knowing each other intimately, to change in a moment, and so among the upper classes there was a sympathy of those who had conformed to the new religious legislation, with those who remained as they all had been in the late reign and as shewn above, the laws were, as far as they dared, mitigated. But as years passed on there was a sensible cleavage between those who enjoyed the full liberty of Englishmen and those who were cut off from that liberty by penal legislation. It was inevitable that Catholics themselves should change, for they had now to practice their religion under penalty of a death of loathsome obscenity and brutal, bloody, butchery. Their Priests had to be concealed, hiding places had to be constructed in ancient homes, and their children must grow up deprived of the education fitting their quality, or at best, by braving the death penalty, escaping to some college abroad, whence they returned with what Englishmen have always disliked, a foreign taint.
Incidentally this Elizabethan penal code had the effect of destroying the old English ' Uses,' e.g.. those of York, Salisbury, Hereford, &c., which many archaeologists deplore, since it is evident that the greatest inconveniences must have arisen when men accustomed to those different uses, lived together in one college, and one Priest said Mass after the Bangor rite, another after Hereford, another after Sarum, &c. It was necessary that one common rite or use should be carried out by all, and so it was decided that the most ancient use or rite, that of Rome, from which the others were derived, should for the future be alone employed, consequently the rest perished by desuetude.
But a darker hour was to come over the Catholics of England. As they had been loyal to their faith so also had they been loyal to the throne, and when the dreaded Spanish Armada approached these shores, many of the richer Catholics raised forces, which they were not allowed to command, for the protection of England. The political outlook gave them a ray of hope, for the next heir to the throne was Mary Queen
vi. SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS.
of Scots, who even now, by just right, bore on her signet the Arms of England and Scotland quarterly, which much incensed Elizabeth. It was hoped, therefore, that under Mary and her successors the persecution would cease, and Catholics enjoy equal rights and justice with their fellow Englishmen. This hope was doomed to destruction. Queen Mary was murdered, and when James came to the English throne he made only a few futile attempts to stem the course of persecution. Spies and paid informers abounded, gentle people languished and died in prison. Priests were martyred, and so the little flock grew less and less, and their wealth melted away under the enormity of their fines and confiscations. Then came the tragedy of the false Popish Plot got up to discredit Catholics, and supported by such men as the perjured Titus Oates, and Bedloe, under whose accusations some of England's best blood, innocent of crime, was poured out on the scaffold.
It was the policy of the Government of that time to attribute great crimes to the Papists and thus rob them of the sympathy and commiseration of their fellow Englishmen. They were accused of causing the Great Fire of London as well as of the Popish Plot, and modern investigations have made it probable that the Gunpowder Plot has been greatly exaggerated so that the design of a few men, driven to desperation by persecution, has been attributed to the whole religious body to which they belonged. Let us be thankful that we live in times when the spirit of toleration and fair play has greater scope, when Catholics may deplore the persecutions under Queen Mary and others those which extended from the time of Elizabeth to the present day.
To make our history complete. let us briefly pass over the internal arrangements of Catholics. The last of the Catholic Bishops consecrated in Queen Mary's time, Thomas Watson, Bishop of Lincoln, died imprisoned in Wisbeach Castle in September. 1584, and Thomas Goldwell, Bishop of St. Asaph, died at Rome, 3rd April, 1585. The Catholics of England then fell under the supervision of Cardinal Allen, born in Lancashire, 1532, though of a Yorkshire stock, who was educated at and Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, and became a Canon of York in 1558.
With respect to Shropshire (the See of Hereford being vacant), the last of the ancient Catholic Hierarchy who had jurisdiction over the principal part of the County, was Ralph Bayne, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, who was deprived and imprisoned for not conforming to the new legislation, and died about the 18th November, 1559. After Cardinal Allen's death in 1594, owing to the fierceness of the persecution, it was not deemed advisable to send a Bishop into England, but in 1599, Pope Clement VIII. appointed an Archpriest, with twelve assistants, who formed a kind of Chapter, and in case of his death or imprisonment, might rule in his stead. The first to occupy this position was Rev. George Blackwell, formerly a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, who ruled from 1599 to 1608, when he was succeeded by Rev. George Birkhead or Birket, to whom Rev. William Harrison succeeded in 1614, and died in 1621. He repeatedly applied for a Bishop for England, and in 1623 Dr. William Bishop was consecrated Bishop of Chalcedon and constituted Vicar Apostolic of England, but only survived his consecration one year, being followed by Bishop Richard Smith from 1625 to 1655. From 1655 to 1685, which, it will be remembered includes the troublous time of the Commonwealth, no resident Bishop was appointed, but the Church was ruled by the Dean and Chapter, which had been appointed as assistants of the Archpriest. In 1685, Dr. John Leybourne, a member of an old Westmorland family, was consecrated titular Bishop of Adrumetum, and appointed Vicar Apostolic of England, and it was during his tenure of that office that James the Second became King. Dr. Leybourne
SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS. vii.
endeavoured, though in vain, to moderate the indiscreet zeal of that Monarch, and in the matter of Magdalen College, Oxford, bluntly told His Majesty that the Fellows and Students were wronged by his action of thrusting Dr. Giffard on them as President, and that restitution ought to be made to them on conscientious grounds.
In 1688, it was decided to divide England into four Vicariates Apostolic, called respectively the London, Midland, Northern, and Western Districts, and since our County of Shropshire became included in the second of these divisions, it fell under the jurisdiction of Dr. Bonaventure Giffard, who ruled from 1688 to 1703, when he was transferred to the London District. Dr. Giffard was of the ancient family of that name so long seated at Chillington on the borders of our County, being the third son of Andrew Giffard, killed in a skirmish in the Civil War (by Catherine Leveson his wife), younger son of William Giffard of Chillington, whose father, John, had entertained Queen Elzabeth at Chillington, and who married Joyce, daughter of James Leveson, of Lilleshall and Trentham. Upon his removal to London in 1703, Dr. George Witham was appointed and ruled until 1715. He was of the ancient family seated at Cliffe, Co. York, being the second son of George Witham, of Cliffe, by Grace, daughter of Sir Marmaduke Wyvile, Bart., of Burton Constable, Co. York. Upon his death in 1756, Dr. John Hornyold was appointed, the second son of John Hornyold, of Blackmore Park, Co. Worcester, and Knightley, Co. Salop. by Mary, daughter of Sir Pyers Mostyn, of Talacre, Bart. He was succeeded by Honourable Thomas Talbot, brother of George, Earl of Shrewsbury, who ruled until 1775, when Dr. Charles Berington, third son of Thomas Berington, of Moat Hall and Shrewsbury, was appointed, of whose family more hereafter. In 1800, Dr. Gregory Stapleton succeeded to the office, and lived near Wolverhampton (Longbirch ?). He had been the first President of St. Edmund's College, Herts., where his two nephews, Colonel and Major Stapleton, the former a distinguished officer in the Peninsular War, were educated under him. Dying suddenly at St. Omer's, he was followed by the well-known Dr. John Milner in 1803, who had been his secretary and to whom he was much attached. Dr. Milner describes his predecessor as a ' gentleman of ancient family and unimpeachable orthodoxy and morality.' Dr. Milner, whose real name was Miller, had been elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1790, and was a man of strong character. His residence was at Longbirch, an old mansion near Chillington, which belonged to the Giffards. Upon his death in 1826, Dr. Thomas Walsh was appointed, but in 1840, England was again divided into eight Districts, Shropshire forming part of the Central one, to which Bishop Walsh was transferred, and upon his death in 1848, Dr. W. B. Ullathorne succeeded and held the position until the restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850, when the counties of Salop and Cheshire, with North Wales, were constituted a Diocese. and Dr. James Brown was consecrated the first Bishop. Dying in 1881 he was succeeded by Dr. Edmund Knight, a son of Sir Arnold Knight of the City of York, who had been previously Vice-President of St. Mary's College, Oscott, but he resigned the See in 1895, and died in 1935, his successor being Dr. J. Carroll. Upon the death of Dr. Carroll in 1897, Dr. S. Webster Allen, who had been connected with Shrewsbury since 1870, was consecrated Bishop, and he was succeeded at his death in 1908 by the present Bishop, Dr. Hugh Singleton. The restoration in 1850 of the Episcopal Hierarchy caused at the time a great fanatical commotion chiefly led by the Whig party, which ended in some abortive Acts of Parliament generally ridiculed, as the common sense of the English people regained its equilibrium, and they found that none of the terrible prognostications of these political fanatics came to pass. The latest devolopment of Catholic Church government has taken place in our own time, when on 28th October, 1911 the Hierarchy was reconstructed and now consists of
viii. SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS.
three Metropolitan Sees, viz., London, Birmingham, and Liverpool, each having its Archbishop and thirteen Suffragan Sees.
For nearly three centuries the English people were taught to fear the Catholic Church, chiefly for political reasons, and on some occasions this took an acute form, as in the riots fomented by that wild fanatic, Lord George Gordon; but in our own days of wider knowledge and greater toleration, this fear is dying down, though it still lurks among the ignorant and half educated. What is called ' the Oxford movement ' greatly conduced to this desirable result, when the people saw men of the highest intellect and irreproachable honour, who had been educated as Englishmen in their own old Universities sacrificing all worldly considerations to return to the old Faith, and when received within the Church, occupying positions of the highest responsibility and honour.
Historically speaking then, there have always been Catholics in England, always Catholic Priests in England, and what is more, the great Monastic Order of the West, the dignified and learned sons of St. Benedict never left this country, but have continued their regular succession of Abbots. However, this body, which clung so persistently to their Faith, grew less and less in numbers, and we shall find their Faith was principally kept alive by certain ancient families under whose protection the humbler or more dependent members were able to rest in quietude. This was especially the case in counties more remote from London, so that Dr. Aylmer, the Elizabethan Bishop of that See suggests using some of the more violent puritans that as he says ' these men in mine opinion might by toleration be profitably employed in Lancashire, Staffordshire. Shropshire, and such other like barbarous countries to draw the people from Papism and gross ignorance.'
Since no marriage was allowed as legal except such as took place before a clergyman of the established Church, it happens that where Catholics were married privately by one of their own clergy, such marriage is ignored and the issue put down as illegitimate, which creates a false impression in many cases.
Another preliminary difficulty to marriage in those days was caused by the Five Mile Act, and there are instances in many of the old Catholic families of permission granted for the purpose of young people meeting. The following instance, though it may now raise a smile, shews the indignities to which Catholics. even those of high position, were subjected: " 1696, April 8, Durham, Licence under the hand and seals of Robert Ellison. Jo. Gordon, Mayor, Geo. Morland and Jo. Sedgwick for Thomas Maire of the City of Durham, gentleman, being a popish recusant convict, with his servant John Joppling, also a papist, who by laves and statutes are restrained from travelling above five miles from their place of abode." Maire had informed them, four of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace, that he had occasion to travel into the County of Oxford to court a young lady in order to a marriage. and had taken an oath that this was the true cause. They gave licence to him and his servant to go to Oxford and to be absent three months, and then he is to return to Durham. Again, 1696, June 11, Council Chamber, Whitehall, Licence under the hands of J. (Earl of) Bridgwater and the Earls of Stamford, Scarborough and Romney, and countersigned by Cha. Montague for Thomas Maire, Esqre., and his wife with four servants to go from Tusmore in Oxfordshire to his home in the County of Durham, notwithstanding the late proclamation of the 25th February last.
One more personal piece of persecution may be mentioned. especially since we have an instance in the case of a Shropshire man. One of the Plowden family when at his seat of Aston le Walls, in Oxfordshire, drove
SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS. ix.
into a neighbouring town, having some fine, valuable horses in his carriage. One of the neighbouring gentry (save the name) of Whig propensities, came up to the carriage and, offering £5 a piece for the horses, took them away, under an Act of Parliament which allowed that anyone seeing horses of the value of more than £5 in the possession of a Papist, might offer the £5 and take the horses. Mr. Plowden was so disgusted with this mean affront that he reduced his mansion to the state of a farm house and left Oxfordshire in contempt.
Since Catholics, that is Papists, were subjected to such mean and personal persecution for their Faith, it was necessary for them to leave as few records of themselves and their friends as possible, thus causing the loss of much valuable historical matter, which at the present day we all deplore; but in going through Catholic records, the presence of these disadvantages must be borne in mind, and we must recollect that we have before us not a full account but rather that which incidentally remains. As to the Priests who served the adherents of the old Faith in the County, practically nothing is known, as during penal times they had no fixed residence, and one of their chief preoccupations was to keep their names, their disguises and their existence a secret from the authorities. They usually had many aliases and this adds to the difficulty of tracing them. Then again in the various country houses which served them as hiding places and refuges, and also as chapels, they were anxious to leave in writing behind them no trace of their presence and their work. This accounts for the absence of baptismal registers. Most of our county registers go back no further than the middle of the 18th century, when the pressure of persecution was beginning somewhat to relax.
So difficult was it to find written testimony of baptisms that not infrequently before ordination the Seminarists were baptized conditionally even though they had been born of Catholic parents, and there was overwhelming probability of their baptism. Mgr Canon Ward, of St. Edmund's College, Ware, says ' in our early Ordination lists here, we find a large number who were conditionally baptized first, although they had been born Catholics, and in all probability had been duly baptized in infancy, but no direct proof was obtainable.
A fortiori the marriage registers are non-existent, as it was a penal offence for a Priest to marry people, and hence the records were naturally kept as privately as possible.
Among the Catholic missions, that of our County Town first calls for attention. The old Faith was kept alive in Shrewsbury by the ancient family of Berington, of Mote Hall, and Berington Square, Shrewsbury, but the Irelands, of Albrighton Hall remained Catholics until after the accession of the Hanoverian Sovereigns, and other families are known to have retained the Faith until about the same period. In 1715, Elizabeth Ireland registers her estate by jointure, at Shrewsbury. She was widow of Thomas Ireland, eldest son of Robert Ireland, by Lucie, daughter of Thomas Leigh, of Adlington. The family is descended from a younger son of Adam Ireland, of Hale and the Hutt, Co. Lancaster. and were early connected with Oswestry. Richard Ireland of that town married Tibot, daughter of Roger Salter of the same place. Their second son Thomas, married Mabel, daughter of Hoel ab Morris Kyffin (a descendant of Einion Evell, lord of Oswestry, natural son of Madoc ab Merrdydd Prince of Powys, from whom also descend the Kyffins, Vaughans, Edwardes. &c.), and left four daughters co-heirs of their brother, from one of whom, Gwenhwyfer, descended the Owens of Condover. From his brother Robert Ireland, of Shrewsbury, came a son David of Shrewsbury, 1592, who by Catherine, daughter and coheir of Robert Knight of Shrewsbury (afterwards married to Robert Dudley) was
x. SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS.
father of Thomas of Albrighton. buried 10th November, 1554, husband of Jane, daughter of William Oteley, of Pitchford, and father of George, 1592, whose son (by Mary, sole daughter and heir of Thomas Purcell, of Vainor). Thomas of Albrighton was Sheriff of Shropshire in 1632, and having married Jane, daughter of Roland Dutton, of Halton, Co. Chester, was father of Robert Ireland mentioned above as husband of Lucie Leigh. Thomas Ireland, of Albrighton, son of the above-named Thomas and Elizabeth, succeeded to Albrighton, and in his will dated 25th March, 1729, mentions his wife Mary and children. The writer is kindly informed by the present owner of the Albrighton estate that the last of the Irelands died there in 1792, soon after which it was sold.
But the family which principally sustained the cult of the ancient Faith in Shrewsbury was that of Berington of Moat Hall, an ancient seat near that town which still remains in the same name. Like most of the chief families of the County they had their town house in Shrewsbury, near St. Alkmund's Church, where Berington House still exists, some account of which may be found in an excellent work on " The old houses of Shrewsbury."
Roger Berington is the first recorded in the Visitation of 1623, who married Alice, eldest daughter and coheir of John de Ireland, by Alice, daughter of Richard de Eyton, of Eyton, near Pitchford. This John de Ireland rejoices in a somewhat weird genealogy, being called son of Sir Walter Fitzroy of Ireland, by Juliana, daughter of Nicholas Monemew, which Sir Walter was son of Edward I., King of England, by a daughter of the Earl of Kildare, in Ireland, so the redoubted Edward seems to have achieved conquests in Ireland as well as in Wales and Scotland. William, son and heir of Roger, married Agnes, dr. of John Baldwin, of Salop, whose son Thomas was father of Robert, father of another Thomas, who by Isabel, daughter of John Shotton, of Salop, had issue John, who married Elizabeth Schrimshire, a family once seated at Aqualate. Their son Thomas took to wife Cecilia, daughter of Roger Thornes, of Salop, a lady of some distinction, her mother having been Jane, daughter of Sir Roger Kynaston, by Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Grey, Earl of Tankerville, while her father was six times Bayliff of Shrewsbury, and obtained the soubriquet of ' the wise Thornes,' which he may have gained from his mother Mary, daughter of Sir Roger Corbet, of Morton. Their son, Roger of Shrewsbury, married twice; by his second wife Frances, daughter of John Haughton, of Beckbury, he had a son Richard and a daughter Eleanor, wife of Thomas Stephens, of London, whose daughter Elizabeth married Isaac Scott, of Shrewsbury, but by his first wife Margaret, daughter and heir of John Lynde (from Wisbeach, Co. Camb.), he was father of Thomas, of Moat Hall, in 1623, whose first wife was a daughter of Richard Sandford, of the Isle of Rossall, and his second Elizabeth, a daughter of Richard Allen and mother of the heir William, 25 years old in 1623, and who was buried at Pontesbury, 10th November, 1666, leaving issue by his wife Magdalen, daughter of John Lutley, of Bromscroft, a son Thomas, of Moat Hall, in 1663, buried at Pontesbury 28th October, 1719. This Thomas married Anne, second daughter of John Berington, of Winsley, Co. Hereford (buried at Pontesbury, 19th November, 1696), and had seven children, of whom Thomas was Dean of the Chapter and died 1755, while his brother William, by his wife Mary, nee More, had at least four children. However, by the death of Thomas Berington, sp., and also Philip Berington, of Stock, Co. Essex, the Salopian branch of the family became extinct and the estate was bequeathed to the Beringtons of Little Malvern Court, descendants of the Beringtons of Winsley, in which family it remains.
Some of the above notes were given to the writer by the late Dom Adam Hamilton, O.S.B., of Buckfast Abbey. but he has to thank Canon
SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS. xi.
Moriarty, D.D., of Shrewsbury, for the following inscriptions referring to the family and other information.
Inscription on a tombstone in St. Alkmund's Churchyard, within thirty feet of the Berington Mansion:-
In arte sua mira sagacitate conspicuus
et in humanum genus studio et amore
Pauperibus haud minus quam opulentis
Subvenire gestiit. Vir
Ob eruditionem animi candorem
Vitae integritatem morumque suavitatem
Doctis Bonisque juxta charus
Suis vero charissimus
Ut universus post fata luctus
Soevissimum calculi cruciatum
Per annos patientia singulari sustinuit
Quo graviter afflictus et tandem fractus
Animam Deo pace resignavit.
16 Junii, 1735.
Aetatis heu nimis cito exuntis.
On a memorial tablet in the Sacristy of the Catholic Church, Shrewsbury:-
A shield bearing 3 greyhounds courant in pale collared, in a bordure.
Gulielmus Berington, M.D.
Ex antiqua in Agro Salopiensi familia oriundus
Cunctis quibus innotuit flebilis occidit
Morum autem suavitas vitae integritas
et ceterae proetantis animi dotes
Artem medicam in qua nulli secundus
Divina prope benevolentia exercuit
Vixitque ut prodesset
Diem tandem supremum ita clausit
Ut qui vitae tenor fuerat
Esset et interitus
Februarii IIo, Anno 1766.
Dr. Berington is mentioned several times in the ' Records of the Plowden family ' as attending upon various members of it during illness. Some time late in the 18th century a chapel was built on the Town Walls below the Lion Stables; attached to it was a priest's house. Since then a regular succession of Priests has been maintained.
The great House of Talbot, though much connected with Shropshire, seems to be less so with the County Town, but a brass in the Church records that Earl Bertram was its founder. Earl John was also a benefactor, and one of them gave some vestments of exquisite workmanship to be used in the services. It was opened in 1856, and the old chapel was then used as the elementary school until 1892, when the new schools were built. In 1895 the old chapel was demolished and dwelling houses built in its place.
xii. SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS.
The Newport Mission is virtually the development of the Chaplaincy of the Talbots at their old seat of Longford, which had been in the family for some centuries before it was sold in 1788 to Mr Leeke for £27,000, an event deplored by many of Lord Shrewsbury's friends. An old mansion in the neighbourhood called Salter's Hall, having been formerly the seat of the Salter family, one of whom, a judge, is buried in Newport Church with an alabaster altar tomb, was purchased, partly re-built and added to, and a chapel adjoining erected upon part of the garden to serve for the Catholics of the neighbourhood. The Talbots had a chantry chapel of their own in the old Church of Longford, of which they retained possession after the re-building of the parish Church on another part of the churchyard, but the chief part of the Talbot property in this County lay at Albrighton, and extended at one time to Shiffnal. Their residence at Albrighton was Pepper Hill, but the Shiffnal part of the estate passed with Lady Alethea Howard, finally sole heir of Gilbert, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, to her husband Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel. Longford became the property of a younger son under the Will of Gilbert Talbot (eldest son of Sir Gilbert Talbot of Grafton), who by his Will in 1542 left his Manor of Longford to his son Humphrey.
The necessity for concealment which harrased Catholics made Salter's Hall, a desirable spot for building a chapel, situated as it is in the outskirts of Newport on the road to Longford, in a quiet and retired neighbourhood. In the entrance of the Chapel is an account of 136 persons who suffered fines and imprisonment for the old Faith in the neighbourhood. The list contains the names not only of gentle people like the Pigotts, Talbots, Fforsters, Ffowkes, Whitgreaves, &c., but also of yeomen and ' poor ' men, with their wives and daughters. If it be asked how could working people pay such a fine as (which would equal £1,200 at the present day) the reply is, they could not do it, and so as an alternative had to linger out their lives rotting in prison until death relieved them. It is a pathetic thought, the amount of misery represented by such a list, and to know that the same thing was going on all over England. We admire the children in the fiery furnace of old and the prophet in the den of lions for refusing to give up their ancestral Faith at the word of a wilful King, let us not stint our meed of admiration for those who followed their example.
Some seven miles to the south-east of Shrewsbury, lies Acton Burnell, a parish, if the expression may be used, replete with history. It is one of the six places in Shropshire having the cognomen of Acton, and received the name of one of the early and most celebrated owners to distinguish it from others. The Burnells held the manor under the Corbets and became a family of the greatest influence in the time of Edward I., who appointed Robert Burnell, his Secretary, to the Chancellorship of England. So excellent was the advice given to his Sovereign by this remarkable man that Edward gained the surname of ' the English Justinian.' In a parliament held at Acton Burnell was passed the celebrated Act de Mercatoribus, and in the same parliament the wicked murder of the last British Prince was determined upon. Chancellor Burnell also decided between the several claimants for the throne of Scotland in favour of John Baliol. We next find the ancient family of Lee of Langley in possession of the estate, of which Sir Humphrey was the first man to be created a Baronet in Shropshire. But the estate passed with Mary, daughter and coheir of his son Richard, to her husband, Edward Smythe, of Eshe Hall, Co. Durham, with whose descendants it still remains. At one time when expelled from Douai by the French Revolution, the Monastic Order of St. Benedict, which has always remained in England and so kept up its English Province, settled at Acton Burnell, and the Chaplaincy here has since been served by those Monks, the great body of whom passed on to Downside, Belmont,
xiii. SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS.
near Hereford, and other places. It is scarcely too much to say that to this great Order Western Europe owes its civilization, for they preserved to us the sources of learning and fundamentals of the Christian Faith. The latest historical incident relative to Acton Burnell has been furnished by the permission of the late King Edward VII. to make known the contents of certain secret papers formerly carefully preserved in Coutt's Bank, but now at Windsor Castle. One of these documents is the attestation or register of a marriage which took place at her house in Park Street, Park Lane, London, between George Frederick Augustus Prince of Wales, and Maria Fitzherbert, the owner of the house, now pulled down. This marriage took place on the 15th December, 1785, in the presence of John Smythe and Henry Errington. Maria Fitzherbert now so celebrated for the romance of her career and the excellence of her life, was the daughter of Walter Smythe of the Acton Burnell family. Her father had taken Tong Castle in Shropshire from the Duke of Kingston and here, as the late Madame Durant, of Tong Castle told the writer, Mary Anne Smythe was born, in the red room, on 26th July, 1756. She usually signed herself Maria. The Tong Castle estate was sold to the Durant family by the Duke of Kingston in 1762. Mrs. Fitzherbert exercised a beneficial influence in the direction of Catholics, though her life was one of great trial, and it is probably owing to her that the Prince shewed many acts of kindness to exiled Priests and Religious at the time when the French Revolution drove so many from their country. Others, however, came to the succour of these unfortunate people, and in our County we have a noble example in the Forester family, who gave up their seat of Dothill Park, near Wellington, (derived from Steventon) for the use of some of the emigre clergy. The owners of the Acton Burnell estate have always been Catholics.
In the south-west part of Shropshire, where the formation of hill and dale, moorland and wood make pleasing variety and suggest the near contiguity of wild Wales, there lies in the recesses of a valley, well sheltered from storm and wind, an ancient home built and inhabited by a still more ancient family. Old Plowden Hall, still the Hall of the Plowdens, dates for the most part, from the Elizabethan period, but portions of the original house of a much earlier date survive. The family pedigree is lost in the mist of ages, but there must have been many owners of Plowden before the good man Roger de Plowden, who accompanied Richard I. at the Siege of Acre in 1191, and who from that exploit traditionally decorated his shield with the golden fleur de lis, it having previously borne only a fess dancette or on its azure field. It is probable that our ' barbarous ' part of the country as Dr. Aylmer calls it, was little disturbed by troubles which arose under the Tudors and until Elizabeth gained the English throne, the Plowdens kept the quiet tenour of their way, but Edmund Plowden of that date was far too brilliant a legal luminary to be hidden, and Elizabeth, a clever woman, was anxious to have men of superior mental ability in her service. She wrote an autograph letter to Edmund Plowden offering him the Chancellorship of England if he would change his religion. His answer is still extant: ' Hold me, dread Sovereign, excused, your Majesty well knows I find no reason to swerve from the Catholic Faith in which you and I were brought up, I can never therefore countenance the persecution of its professors, I should not have in charge your Majesty's conscience one week before I should incur your displeasure, if it be your Majesty's Royal intent to continue the system of persecuting the retainers of the Catholic Faith.' Sergeant Plowden had been a Member of Parliament under Mary, and is said to have headed a body of members who seceded from the House after vainly opposing the persecution of Protestants in that reign.
In the domestic Chapel at Plowden Hall is a brass, removed from the Church at Bishop's Castle, whereon are depicted Humphrey Plowden,
xiv. SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS.
his wife and seven daughters, with the following inscription in latin: ' Here lies Humphrey Plowden, Esqre., son of John Plowden, who was the son of Edmund Plowden, and Elizabeth his wife, daughter of John Sturry, of Down Rossall, Esqre., and formerly wife of William Wollascott and the said Humphrey, died March 10, 1557, and had issue, Edmund Plowden, who was a lawyer and who resided at one time at Shiplake in Oxfordshire, at another time at Burghfield in Berkshire, John, who died without issue, and Edward and seven daughters, viz., Margaret, who married Richard Sandford, Jane, who married firstly Richard Blunden of Burghfield, in Berkshire, and secondly Lewis Jones, Elizabeth married Peter Greenway, Anchoret married Rowland Eyton, of Eyton, Anne, Thomas Higge, Mary, Charles Needham, Joyce, Leonard Meysie-.
A fragment of an old pedigree says that the above Edward Plowden married Mary, daughter of Thomas Lee, of Langley, and left a son Humphrey, and we learn further particulars from the family papers of the Sandfords of the Isle and from Harl. MS., 1666, which contains a Plowden pedigree, from which it would appear that the Mary Plowden who married Charles Needham subsequently became the wife of Thomas Lee, of Langley, and had a daughter Jane, wife of Edward Giffard, of the Whiteladies, near Boscobel, whose daughter Jane Giffard, buried at Fitz, March 25th, 1671, was wife of Humphrey Sandford of the Isle, ob. 28th March, 1654, son of Humphrey Sandford by Anne, daughter of Thomas Lascelles, of Brakenburgh, and grandson of the Richard Sandford of the Isle who married Margaret Plowden. The Sandfords were related to the Beringtons, and in 1624 Mrs. Gibbons, a daughter of Humphrey Sandford of the Isle was certified to the House of Commons as a Popish Recusant. The father of Thomas Lee, Mary, wife of Edward Plowden, Joyce wife of Robert Morton, of Haughton, and others, was the Thomas Lee, of Langley, who married Jane, daughter of Sir Robert Corbet, of Morton, and direct descendants in the male line of Roger de la Lee, who married Joan, daughter and heir of Edward Burnell of Acton Burnell.
So at their quiet old home the Plowdens kept alive the old Faith of England without change, handing it on as a precious inheritance from father to son, but their lives were by no means so quiet and monotonous as some might imagine, for they frequently went on to the continent and made rounds of visits. Thus in April, 1760, they go up to London with six horses and five servants, and while returning home in October visit Idsworth, Burton in Sussex, Arundel, Cowdray, Stouor, Heythrop, Chillington and Shrewsbury. Life on the continent was not without its dangers since anyone moving in society came into contact with the infidel ideas of the day, and young Edmund Plowden who succeeded his father when eleven years of age, met many of that school, among others Voltaire. He married in the parish Church of Atcham, Anna Maria, daughter of Robert Burton, Esqre., of Longnor, the marriage by a Catholic Priest being performed in secret. Their only issue, Anna Maria, was brought up in the religion of her mother, as was common in mixed marriages of those days, and married Rev. John Eyton, Rector of Wellington, some of whose descendants returned to the old Faith.
This Edmund Plowden lived for many years at Tong Castle, near Shiffnall, and subsequently at Haughton Hall near the same place. His wife died in July, 1830, and was buried in the Church at Shiffnal, but he himself in the Plowden vault in Lydbury Church, being remarkable as having possessed the estate for more than seventy years. His grand- father's sister, Frances, had married Robert Aglionby Slaney, of Hatton, near Shiffnal. This is the only instance in this long line, of the estate not passing from father to son, Edmund being succeeded by the son of his brother.
SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS. xv.
Thus, as in other places, the Faith remained unchanged at venerable Plowden, and the present Squire kneels at the same Liturgy and holds the same doctrines which his ancestor the Crusader held and from which the learned Sergeant Edmund Plowden refused to swerve, even when the honours of the woolsack were offered to induce him to do so. Nor while speaking of the more eminent should we forget the more numerous members of the humbler classes, for whom Plowden formed a centre and refuge.
Mawley Hall, the palatial seat of the family of Blount, is situated in a wild, wooded country, near Cleobury Mortimer. The family, derived from the Blondi, of Italy, sojourned in France, and members of it came over with William the Norman to England, where they intermarried with the highest families. The union of Sir Walter le Blount (obt. 1332) with Joan, sister and coheir of Sir William de Sodington, brought them into the country where Shropshire and Worcestershire join, and where the family has since lived. They remained steadfast to the old Faith and suffered accordingly, but in the later days were able, when a Priest's life was moderately safe, to have their own Chaplain so that the Mission at Mawley is virtually a Chaplaincy. In former days there was a Chapel with a means of concealment and escape for the Priest constructed in the upper part of the mansion, but in 1776 a Chapel was solemnly blessed by Bishop Thomas Talbot, one of the Shrewsbury family. However, for fear of persecution it was commonly spoken of as ' the servant's hall.' On the 5th January, 1813, Prince Louis Buonaparte, son of Lucien Buonaparte, brother of Napoleon I., was baptized at Mawley.
The blood of the Blounts, in the several branches of the family, is largely distributed in the veins of Shropshire men.
Passing by the estate of the Cannings and Howards at Middleton, on the Meadowley Hills, there are two other places in Shropshire which cannot go without notice. One is sometimes called the Mother of the Missions in Shropshire, and takes its origin from the old Priors of Wenlock Abbey and family of Brooke. The Manor of Madeley, with its picturesque Court House, was purchased by Sir Robert Brooke, Chief Justice of Common Pleas, from Henry VIII., on 23rd July, 1544, for the sum of £946 3s. 8d. Sir Robert seems to have purchased it as a place of retirement for the last of its former owners, the Priors of Wenlock. In the Purchase Deed are mentioned Ironworks at Coalbrookdale. These have so developed, with coalmines, that at the present day the old mansion stands naked and gaunt, surrounded with mounds of mineral refuse, and looking down into an inky pool formerly part of the moat. Yet it still has a certain dignity. Here in a Chapel in the north end the Brooke family fostered the ancient Faith. In successive generations they inter-married with the families of Grosvenor of Farncote, Waring, Shirley of Staunton Harold, Brudenel, Nevile and Guildeford; then came the last Basil Brooke of the direct line, who left his sisters Margaret, Catherine and Mary, his coheirs. But the male line was carried on by his uncle Thomas, who, marrying the heiress of the Comberfords, of Comberford, had issue four sons and two daughters, all of whom died without male issue except the eldest son Comberford, whose only son Basil died young, and Madeley was divided between his two sisters, viz., Catherine, wife of John Unett Smitheman, and Rose, wife of John Giffard of the Chillington family. About the year 1760 the Giffards gave some land for a Church and house, and the foundation stone of the present Church was laid on 21st April, 1852, by Dr. Brown, the first Bishop of the restored Hierarchy with jurisdiction over Shropshire. The Church of Madeley is now served from Shiffnal, another of those places where the old Faith was fostered in secret.
xvi. SHROPSHIRE ROMAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS.
The Manor of Shiffnal had passed from the Talbots to the Howards and so became the property of Sir William Howard, who married Mary, sister and coheir of Henry, fifth Baron Stafford. The Lords Stafford were already connected with the neighbourhood by the marriage of Edward, the fourth Baron (grandfather of Mary) with Isabel, daughter of Thomas Forster (now spelt Forester). The visitor to the fine Parish Church of Shiffnal will notice in the chancel a recumbent figure in Mass vestments of Thomas Forster, Prior of Wombridge, Warden of Tong, and Vicar of Idsall, who was buried there in 1526. His brother William, of Tong was the ancestor of Lady Stafford and the Forsters of Tong, who always kept the old Faith, and the eldest brother Richard had the estate at Evelith, and was the father of Anthony Forster, of Cumnor, Co. Berks., whose name has been used by Sir Walter Scott in his novel of Kenilworth. Another branch of the family was seated on the Watling Street, near Wellington, of whom John, having married Joyce the heiress of Upton, had issue with others William the ancestor of Lord Forester already mentioned as benevolently lending his mansion of Dothill Park as an asylum for emigre Priests driven out of France by the revolution, and Edward, whose daughter and heir Isabel married her cousin John Forester, of Sutton Madoc and Ruckley Grange, 1592.
The House of Stafford had been stripped of its wealth and the younger members had little whereon to maintain the dignity of a peerage, but the Act of Charles I. in trying to deprive the family of its title and confer it upon Sir William Howard cannot be justified. Both giver and receiver lost their heads upon the scaffold, Charles through rebellion, Viscount Stafford at the hands of false witnesses. Lord Stafford's eldest son died without issue, and though his second son had male issue it became extinct, and the final representation passed to a daughter Mary Howard, wife of Francis Plowden, of Plowden, whose daughter and heiress Mary Plowden, becoming the wife of Sir George Jerningham, Bart., their son Sir William claimed and obtained the title of Baron Stafford. So Shiffnal has always belonged to Catholics, and Mass was said in secret in a hidden Chapel at the old Manor House until times of greater toleration made it possible for Lord Stafford to build a Chapel in the town in the year 1860. Here is preserved a most interesting relic, a pre-reformation Chalice of ancient design, having engraved underneath the base ' Restore me to Sheafnall in Shropshire.' Lord Herrics found it at Everingham in Yorkshire, and restored it to its proper place through the medium of Lord Stafford.
As might naturally be surmised, many memorials of this kind exist, as at Newport, where there are 1, the orphreys of a late 15th or early 16th century chasuble remounted on a more modern foundation; 2, a large chalice of silver gilt having the inscription ' Jesu fill David miserere mei, Thomas Talbott, 1671'; 3, a small gothic chalice of the 17th century, almost a replica of that of Fr. Postgates represented by photography in Dom Bede Camm's ' Forgotten Shrines,' &c. There is also a portrait on panel with a knife plunged into the breast inscribed ' Joannes Docket, sacerdos, passus Londini Sep. die 7, 1644, aetatis suae And indeed in most of the old Catholic families of England vestments, &c., are preserved and still used which belonged to them before the 16th century. Such is a slight sketch of the Catholics of Shropshire and indeed of the rest of England, a body of men remarkable for two characteristics, constancy to their Faith which they never left, and fidelity to their King. The historical documents in the Record Office and other repositories bear witness to this. They were reduced by law to a state bordering upon slavery, but in our County the feeling of the gentry was against this persecution and in favour of those who were their relatives and connections.
SHROPSHIRE RONAN CATHOLIC REGISTERS. xvii.
It remains for the writer to thank those who have assisted him by the information they have kindly sent, among whom must be mentioned the Bishop, Canons Moriarty and Dallow, the Revs. Chichele Giles, H.E. Hazlehurst, D.D., Costedoat, &c., &c., and W.F. Plowden, Esqre., of Plowden, with others of the County gentry. Special thanks, however, are due to Rev. W. Kinsella for his kindness in copying out the several Registers in Shropshire, a work taking much time and labour.
HENRY FRANCIS J. VAUGHAN, B.A., S.C.L., OXON. 9th April, 1913.Return to top of page