Tag Archives: Carlisle cathedral

The Jacobite defence of Carlisle

castleIt would have to be said that the Jacobites were not as gentlemanly on their way home as they had been on their journey south and the prince was starting to look a bit grim round the edges.  They’d left Carlisle confident that Stuart supporters would flock to their cause but Lancashire with its pro-Jacobite sympathies hadn’t yielded the manpower that Charles’ Scottish generals had hoped for.  Lord George Murray had only agreed to continue to Derby to test the waters.

Prince Charles reached Carlisle on the 19th of December.  He bedded down for the night in Mr Highmore’s house – it’s long gone, replaced by marks and Spencer. He and his army marched back into Scotland on the 21st December. He left behind him a garrison of some three hundred and eighty men.  Many of them were from the Manchester Regiment as the prospect of entering Scotland was not one which some found appealing.  Colonel Townley commanded those men whilst Captain Hamilton was made governor of the city. This had the unlooked for effect of dividing command.

The rationale for leaving Carlisle in Jacobite hands was two-fold.  It would slow Cumberland’s pursuit and it would send the message that Charles intended to return and raise the siege which would no doubt follow.

Sure enough Cumberland arrived and found the city gates locked against him.  Carlisle was besieged once again – the last time in its long history: in fact the last time any English town was besieged. It was Cumberland who said that the castle was no better than an old hen coop.  He had a point. A messenger was sent to Whitehaven to demand canon.  IN order to break the walls the duke needed artillery.

A battery was set up on Primrose Bank whilst the Scots took pot shots from the castle.  It’s said that the duke only narrowly missed a bullet.Things started to deteriorate from the Scottish point of view when Dutch troops under the command of General Wade arrived and set up their own batteries at Stanwix.  The Scots fired their own artillery.  They don’t seem to have been particularly good shots.

As soon as the guns arrived from Whitehaven and were mounted on the batteries the siege was over. It took two days.  The Scots surrounded on the 29th of December. As the walls started to topple Hamilton asked for his men to be treated as prisoners of war.  His request was rejected.  The Jacobites found themselves incarcerated for a time in Carlisle Cathedral where they carved their names into the woodwork before they were eventually moved, tried and then many were returned to Carlisle to be executed; their leaders for treason, the ordinary jacobites for having the misfortune to have their names drawn by lot irrelevant of their role in proceedings.  Those who weren’t executed or didn’t die due to poor treatment could look forward to being transported to the Americas…more of that anon.

They weren’t the only ones for the high jump.  The Hanoverians had been scared by the fact that the Jacobites had got so far as Derby and now set about making an example of their foes and those who were deemed to be accomplices.  Carlisle’s mayor and town clerk found themselves under arrest along with eight other citizens of Carlisle.

Mr Highmore’s house now became home to the duke of Cumberland whilst he remained in Carlisle.

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Carlisle, Eighteenth Century, The Stuarts

Nostell Priory

Picture 651Before Nostell Priory came into being there was a hermitage but when the Augustinian Canons were introduced to Britain a priory was established soon afterwards on its site. The story of Nostell’s foundation is told in a fourteenth century manuscript detailing twelfth century events.

Apparently King Henry I was on his way to do nasty things to the Scots when his chaplain was taken ill at Pontefract. Whilst he was recovering the chaplain, Ralph Adlave or Adulphus, went hunting and came across the hermits in St Oswald’s Wood (we don’t know how many of them and it was quite normal to be on your own in a group if you were a medieval hermit). Adulphus decided on the spot that he wanted found a priory on the exact spot where he’d encountered the hermits and to become a monastic. Obviously you don’t resign from a job with a Plantagenet king, you ask nicely if it would be possible. King Henry I, having finished with the Scots for the time being gave his gracious consent. Adulphus became an Augustinian Canon in charge of eleven canons. Henry I favoured the new establishment, after all Adulphus had been his confessor, and made a grant of 12d. a day to it from his revenues in Yorkshire.

It was a good thing for a king to become a patron of a monastery. Nobles tended to trip over themselves to follow suit in order to win royal favour. Ilbert or Robert de Lacy swiftly handed over the land on which the priory would sit along with several churches including those at Huddersfield and Batley along with other property.

King Henry II, following the bust up between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, reconfirmed the grants including a three-day fair at the end of February each year coinciding with St Oswald’s feast day.

Nostell Priory was undoubtedly well endowed. As a result it ended up with six daughter houses. The two most important were at Bamburgh in Northumberland, and Breedon in Leicestershire.

Of course, things didn’t always go so swimmingly. The reign of King Edward II was not, in general, noted for its successes. The Scots raided deep into England and the revenue from Bamburgh turned into a loss for fifteen years in succession. The arrival of the Black Death didn’t help matters, neither did the politics of the period nor the fact that avaricious archbishops kept trying to snaffle the most profitable churches from the care of the canons. By 1438 the canons of Nostell Priory were in so much financial difficulty that the young and pious King Henry VI granted to the canons the hospital of St. Nicholas, in Pontefract. These financial woes were not unusual. Bottomley notes that about a fifth of all Augustinian foundations failed because of lack of income.

Nostell Priory,however, was able to overcome its difficulties. It developed a reputation for fine manuscripts that ensured a steady flow of income from their commission.  In 1536 it’s gross income was £606 9s. 3½d in part also because it had become a site of pilgrimage to St Oswald which Cromwell’s commissioners recorded as superstition. Dr Legh, one of the most notorious of Cromwell’s henchmen, was granted the site on which Nostell Priory stood.

Nothing medieval remains at Nostell Priory. In its place is the eighteenth century house and gardens created by the Winn family. There are three buildings that date from the monastic period “Wragby church, which, though it stands within the park, served the parish and not the monastery; and buildings called ‘The Brewhouse’ and ‘The Refectory’ which lie within the precincts of the adjacent 18th-century Nostell Home Farm. These are all at some distance from the Winns’ house”(Wrathmell ).

Where the Augustinian Canons had parochial responsibilities their priory churches survive rather better. Carlisle Cathedral was an Augustinian priory church as was Hexham Abbey. It is interesting to note that despite the fact that Carlisle, Lanercost and Hexham were Augustinian establishments that the main stronghold of the Augustinians was in fact the Midlands. Derby for instance was home to a number of Augustinian priories but little or nothing of their buildings have survived.

Bottomley, Frank. (1995).  Abbey Explorer’s Guide. Otley: Smith Settle

‘Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Nostell’, in A History of the County of York: Volume 3, ed. William Page (London, 1974), pp. 231-235 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/vol3/pp231-235 [accessed 8 August 2015].

Wrathmell, Stuart. Nostell Priory. http://www.archaeology.wyjs.org.uk/documents/archaeology/newsletters/News21pag6.pdf accessed11.08.2015 09:23

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Misericords

DSC_0046Misericords from the Latin word meaning pity are also known as ‘mercy seats’.  These are the ledges or rests in choir stalls so that clergy singing the divine offices could rest their weary legs.   The clerical perches were often hinged so the misericord carving could only be seen when the perch was raised. Many oak choir stalls with their misericords were placed in churches during the medieval period; their carvers are largely anonymous and the meaning behind the carvings sometimes lost but they remain a fascinating glimpse of the past.

Hemingborough in Yorkshire has some of the earliest examples of misericords in this country and Exeter Cathedral has a complete set dating from the Thirteenth Century.

The carvers used their imaginations when they created each misericord.  Some scenes come from the Bible; others like the foliate green men sporting leaves from their mouths come from an earlier folklore; some images such as elephants come from medieval bestiaries.  Hyenas were popular because not only were they an exotic species but they had legendary status as well according to Richard Hyman in that they were supposed to disinter and eat corpses…lovely.  In addition they represented “vice feeding on corruption.” (Hyman: 21)  Other inspirations came from everyday life; from animals realistic and fanciful and from mythical creatures such as mermaids.  A carver in Fairford captured a woman raising a ladle to hit her unfortunate spouse  .  In Ludlow a man warms himself in front of his fire and in Manchester a game of backgammon can be spotted.  Less amusingly in Lincoln a knight tumbles from his hours mortally injured.

Sometimes it is possible to spot a carver who has travelled around a locality.  Greystoke Parish Church has some delightful misericords that are matched by similar examples in Dacre and also in Cartmel.  Carlisle Cathedral has some impressive examples as does Hexham Abbey.  Perhaps the man who carved them travelled from one church to the next in search of work.

DSCN1236

Further south Ripon, Richmond and Chester have some intriguing misericords as does Wakefield, Halifax, Gloucester Cathedral, Worcester, Southwell Minster and Ludlow.  In fact these lovely little works of art not only give an insight to medieval craftsmanship and mindset but they can also be alarmingly addictive…you’ve been warned and I’ve not even started on bench ends, corbels, capitals, grotesques and gargoyles.

DSC_0036This misericord from Cartmel depicts a rather alarming two-tailed mermaid with her mirror and comb.  In medieval times a mermaid symbolised lust and temptation.  I’m not sure that the Cartmel mermaid would tempt anyone with that ribcage!

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Monks, Money and Borgia woolly hats

DSCN3074The Austin Canons of Carlisle found that their church sometimes felt very overcrowded by ecclesiastic types in vestments with  diverse official roles and an eye on the coffers.

Henry I granted landed in Carlisle in 1102 for the foundation of a priory in Carlisle.  It was funded by four churches in Northumberland as well as the wealth of Walter the Priest who endowed the priory with all his lands when he entered holy orders.  Slowly other landowners began to make endowments and with the continued support of the king the Austin Canons continued to build their home.  It was completed by 1130.  They had three years in which to enjoy sole ownership of their new home.

The foundation of the bishopric within the priory church of St Mary in 1133 meant that the priory church  now became a cathedral.  The first Bishop of Carlisle, Adelulf had previously been the prior of Nostell Priory near Wakefield.  He tried to ensure that the revenues of the monks and the bishop were kept separate.  At a conclave in Drax he sent a messenger to ensure that  it was clearly understood that what the monks did was one thing but that what the bishop might do was entirely separate on account of the bishop having a role more like a parent within the ecclesiastic community.  Just to add a drop of confusion to the discussion – rather like adding an extra thread to a ball of wool that already has its share of tangles –  the Commons of Carlisle referred to the priory as the abbey but there was never an abbot appointed to be subordinate to the bishop.

This shared ownership presented something of a difficulty.  As the Victoria History of Cumberland edited by James Wilson explains:

The bishop’s supremacy over his cathedral church cannot be questioned. It has been already pointed out that the bishop and his chapter formed one ecclesiastical corporation and held the lands and spiritual possessions of the church of Carlisle in common. When a division of the property was made and the see became an institution in some measure separate from the priory, care was taken to define the relationship of the head of the diocese to the corporate body occupying the church which represented the unity of his diocese and contained the seat of his jurisdiction. There is little doubt that at the outset the appointment of the prior was in the patronage of the bishop, and perhaps of the king when the bishopric was void. When the terms of the arrangement for the separate endowment of the see were complete, this privilege seems to have been relinquished to the chapter in compensation for the redistribution of emoluments. At all events it was not until 1248 that the canons had the liberty of electing their own superior. On 25 November in that year, Pope Innocent IV. granted protection and confirmation of possessions to the prior and convent, and especially the chapelry of the church of Carlisle, with all offerings, tithes, and parish rights belonging to the said church, except the offering at Whitsuntide, all the land formerly belonging to Walter the priest, which King Henry gave and confirmed by his charter, and other possessions. The pope also granted to the canons the right of electing the prior and prohibited the bishop from disposing of their emoluments without their consent.

Clearly the monks had sound business heads on their ecclesiastical shoulders but they weren’t the only ones.  The bishop maintained some control over the Austin Canons.  He had a say in the selection of the sub-prior and cellarer, the two principal officers of the house. And things didn’t always go smoothly Prior Adam de Warthwyk received a stern lecture from Bishop Halton and later on Prior John de Kirkby was excommunicated by Bishop Ross which puts a whole new meaning on being sacked!  Some priors even resigned their posts and perhaps it’s not surprising since the bishop had the power to carry out a visitation. Given the canons’ church was the bishop’s cathedral it is easy to imagine some of the petty grievances and slights that resulted in the full weight of the Churches authority being bought down on the monks.  Prior Warthwyk was charged with negligence and remissness in the discipline of his house contrary to the statutes of the order.  His  household was much too expensive, he only consulted with Brothers Robert Karlile, William de Hautwysil, and William de Melburne, order was not preserved among the brethren, the business of the house was not transacted, and its goods were wasted beyond measure by his expensive entourage; the list- or rather rant- went on at some length.

 

Quite what the Bishop would have made of the canons being allowed to wear hats on account of the cold is a matter of historical speculation.  In 1258 Pope Alexander IV- the Borgia Pope- permitted the Canons of Carlisle to where caps in the choir on account of the northern cold. How this concern for monastic pates occurred is not a matter of the historical record but its nice to know that while Alexander was busy poisoning people, fighting wars, keeping bees and dallying with mistresses – though possibly not in that order- (yes- I’ve watched the series) that he had time to carry out his pastoral responsibilities for the Austin Canons of Carlisle.

 

As well as being the priory church and the cathedral, it also served as the parish church of St. Mary, Carlisle, from the date of its foundation.  Once again finances became an issue when the problem of endowing a dedicated vicar arose.  The citizens of Carlisle made a complaint that the sacrist of the priory, to whom the issues of the parish were committed, had neglected the cure of souls and that insufficient ministrations were supplied to the people.  The Bishop of Carlisle gave judgment in favour of the priory, because he said that the canons were able to serve the church through their own chaplains under the care and direction of the prior.  No one mentioned the fact that the bishop may have lost some of his revenue and powers had a third ecclesiastic been appointed to the aisles of St Mary’s.

The smallest cathedral in England was once larger than it is now but its choir and chapels must have echoed with the hiss of political intrigue and the sound of ruffled feathers – though of course at least the monks had warm heads.

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