The Late Sister Mary of St. Philip (Frances Mary Lescher). 1825 – 1904

The name which heads this article (writes a correspondent) was dear and familiar to thousands, and the shadow which her loss has cast over the great Convent and College of Mount Pleasant falls indeed over the whole of Catholic England. Frances Mary Lescher was the eldest child of William Joseph Lescher of London, and his wife Mary, daughter of John Hoy, of Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk. The Leschers were of German descent, and had preserved the Catholic faith unsullied since pre-Reformation times. So, too, had the Hoys; and their ancestors, the Daveys, and the Cruises, were well-known ” Papists “ in Oxfordshire. There seems to have been in both families something of the old Chivalry of the Knights of the Middle Ages—their warlike spirit, enthusiastic devotion to a great cause, the exquisite tenderness and finished courtesy. And all these things were inherited to the full by Frances Mary, the child who came into the world on May 8, 1825.

Her first education was confided to the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, New Hall, where she remained till the age of 14, bearing away the gold medal, the highest prize for excellence in the school. From this time onwards she pursued her studies under the supervision of her father, whose constant companion she now became, reading with him and travelling with him on the Continent.

The Oxford Movement aroused her keenest interest, and her sympathy with the converts, to whom the Leschers’ house in Nottingham-place stood always open, was unbounded. Frances threw herself heart and soul into the great movement of revival among English Catholics, which had been set on foot immediately after the Catholic Emancipation Act, and with which the names of Bishop Wiseman, Dr.Gentili, Father Spencer, Frederick Lucas, and the elder Pugin are intimately connected, and gave in her own generation all the support a woman could give to those anxious to devote themselves to the furtherance of the Catholic cause in England. Her wide reading, brilliant conversation, and personal attraction charmed all, and she was as wise and practical as she was accomplished and ardent. The teaching of poor children—that work with which the name of Sister Mary of St. Philip is indissolubly connected—found early a place in her life; she made a classroom of the coach-house and there taught them their catechism, and more than once led the ragged waifs and strays, who formed her Sunday school class, through the streets of the city to church. This passion of her heart, for in truth it was nothing else, eventually drew her into the institute of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, which is wholly devoted to the education of girls, more especially of the poor. About the time of Miss Lescher’s entrance into the order, Father James Nugent (now Mgr. Nugent), Father James Carr (now Mgr. Carr), and others of the Liverpool clergy, had invited the Sisters to take charge of some of the elementary schools in the town.

Mount Pleasant.

In 1856 they opened in Mount Pleasant a training college for schoolmistresses, and Frances Lescher, immediately on the completion of her novitiate, came to fill the post of Mistress of Studies. From that moment her name was identified with the work; the training college was what it was, and is, because of Sister Mary of St. Philip—and from that Feast of Candlemas, when she gave her first lessons to the little band of 21 students, to the last day when she sat among the 160 girls gathered round her in the splendid new hall, it has been her spirit and her heart which have been the life and light of the place. All, Catholics or Protestants, inspectors, clergy, university professors, admired her superiority of mind, respected her judgment and her counsel, and recognised her influence. “She is a woman,” said Sir Francis Sandford, then Secretary of the Education Department, “who might fearlessly place her hand even on the helm of the State.” His appreciation of her was ratified by that of his successors in office, and by many men eminent in the educational world, who from time to time visited the College. Such, in the early days, were Sir James Kaye Shuttleworth, Earl Granville (who in 1861 was President of the Committee of Council on Education), the Marquis of Ripon, and in later years Mr. Mundella and Sir G. Kekewich. MM. Inspectors of Training Colleges, Mr. Tinling and Mr. Warburton, both Canons of the Church of England, Sir Joshua Fitch, and Mr. Scott Coward, regarded Mount Pleasant as a model institution, unique in its organisation and work, and the local inspectors have not been less warm in their praise. It may be fitting to remark here that the home and centre for pupil teachers at Mount Pleasant paved the way for the foundation of similar centres for the collective teaching of pupil-teachers, first in Liverpool, then in the metropolis and other large towns. Mr. Sadler, in his recent report, says : “There is, so far as I am aware, no educational institution in England exactly comparable to that which, by the patience and foresight of the Sister Superior, has gradually been built up at Mount Pleasant. here in one long range of buildings, the slowly achieved outcome of half a century of work, every grade of girls’ education is provided for, from the primary school upwards, including the professional education of girls preparing themselves for the work of teaching in elementary or in secondary schools. Nor, in spite of the magnitude of the undertaking, is it the impression of mere size or numbers that dwells in the recollection of the visitor. It is rather the sense of quiet, cheerful, untiring, labour and of care for each individual pupil that lingers in his mind, and comes back vividly to his thoughts as he recalls what he heard and saw.” This appreciative and sympathetic report of Mr. Sadler’s was one of her last human consolations. In the beginning of December she caught a serious internal chill, and from the first, on account of her advanced age, the doctor entertained grave apprehensions as to the issue. From her sick bed she took the keenest interest in the College celebrations of the jubilee of the Immaculate Conception, arranging for the solemn Act of Consecration, and listened to the notes of the hymns borne up from the procession winding along the corridors below. On the morrow she received the Last Sacraments in great peace, and from that moment she laid aside completely, with the simplicity of a little child, the burden of her solicitous work, to give all her thought and care to the last great journey. But her splendid constitution, the widespread and incessant prayer sent up to God for her dear life, and, above all, her own extreme clearness of mind and freshness of memory made her sisters and children hope against hope. A serious crisis on the afternoon of Friday the fifth took away all illusion; it was repeated on Saturday, and on Sunday night at about 11 p.m. she gave up her soul into the hands of God, very tranquilly and gently. Her noble life had closed nobly, fittingly. All that the Church could give her she had; and two days before the end the Bishop had brought her the supreme consolation of the Holy Father’s blessing. To the last she kept an unclouded mind, visibly uniting herself to ‘the prayers and hymns, pressing the crucifix to her lips, lifting her feeble hand to make one of her old large signs of the Cross as she received her frequent absolutions—to the very end her own sweet, simple, great self.

She was laid out in the community-room in all religious simplicity with no other pomp than that of the kneeling Sisters, who watched her night and day, and the never-ceasing influx of her dearly loved and faithful “old students,” whose grief was pitiful to behold.

The Funeral.

On Thursday last Bishop Whiteside sang the Solemn Requiem in the beautiful convent chapel, whose sanctuary was entirely draped in black. The Mass was admirably chanted by the diocesan choir, conducted by the Rev T. A. Walmsley. The Right Rev. Mgr. Carr, V.G., acted as assistant priest ; Canon Gordon, of Birkdale as deacon; Canon Banks, of St. Edward’s College as subdeacon. The deacons at the throne were Canon Kennedy and Canon Cosgrave ; the masters of ceremonies the Revv. J. Clarkson and W. Slattery. More than 80 priests were present in the chapel amongst them Provost Clegg, Mgr. Marsden, Canons Beggan, O’Toole Barry, Singleton, Richardson, Chisholm ;the Rev. T. J. Walshe, chaplain to the community; Father Hayes, Rector of St. Francis Xavier’s; the Rectors of the churches of Liverpool and the outlying district, and representatives of different religious orders.

Immediately after the absolutions the cortege passed from the chapel down the main staircase and along the spacious corridor to the door of the new wing in Hope-street, where a long line of coaches awaited the mourners—clergy, sisters, and former students with other friends, all anxious to give this last testimony of esteem and affection to her whom they had loved and venerated in life. But the most touching part of the funeral was the assemblage of poor children drawn up at intervals along the route in front of each school with their parents and teachers, patiently standing in frost and fog, the boys with raised caps, girls with joined hands and bowed heads. Some 40 coaches reached the Great Crosby Cemetery, where the procession formed and passed through lines of teachers and former students proving by their presence and their sorrowful demeanour that she whom they mourned had been their best and truest friend.

Expressions of sympathy and condolence have flooded in upon the Sisters from all quarters ; telegrams were received from the Marquis of Ripon, from H. M. Inspectors, from the Professors of the Liverpool University ; letters from his Grace the Archbishop of Westminster and the bishops and clergy all over the British Isles. A vote of sympathy was passed by the Association of Principals of Training Colleges holding their annual Conference in London, and “carried in silence,” wrote the President, “by the whole body of members rising in their places.” A deputation from the University conveyed expressions of esteem and regret from that body ; and the Liverpool Education Committee passed a unanimous resolution : “That this Committee desire to express their deep regret at the death of Miss F. M. Lescher, Principal of the Mount Pleasant Training College ; to place on record their high appreciation of the services rendered to the cause of education in the city ; and to convey their sympathy with the authoritieS of the college in the loss they have sustained.”

The main lines, large and simple, of Sister Mary of St. Philip’s striking personality were apparent to all who came into even passing contact with her. A countenance, noble and eminently good, and easy dignity of presence that was far removed from stiffness or condescension, and above all the genuine and unaffected interest which she took in the doings, plans, joys and sorrows of the most casual visitor, and what someone has happily called “that princely gift of making herself all in all,” these things charmed and won multitudes. Multitudes too, recognised and admired her royal gifts of mind—her quick and sure judgment, her wise and temperate counsel, her quite exceptional capacity for organisation and. administration and few who knew her ever so little, but felt the charm of the freshness, the enthusiasm, the youngness of heart which were so beautiful and harmonious a contradiction of her ripe years. Others have been privileged to see more— the grand simplicity of her daily life, devoting to others, without suspicion of heroism, time, talents, labour ; the large sympathy that went out to the smallest the most trivial of sorrows ; the ever-growing gentleness and forbearance and long patience ; and that lowliness of spirit which was so marked and beautiful a trait in one so great. The fragrance of all these things and many more is with those who immediately lived and loved and laboured under one roof with Sister Mary of St. Philip, and they are to them part of her very name. Yet not to them alone does that name belong, but to the whole Catholic Church in England, to the poor of Christ and the priests of Christ, wherever they suffer and toil between its three seas. R.I.P.

The Sisters of Notre Dame, Mount Pleasant, desire to thank most warmly all those who have written to express sympathy with them in their sorrow. Owing to the large number of letters received from friends and from students, past and present, it is impossible to write an individual acknowledgment.

The above text was found on p.26, 31st December 1904 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

Liverpool riots 1909

LIVERPOOL: ORANGEMEN AND A CATHOLIC PROCESSION.

A disturbance arose in Liverpool on Sunday during the passage of a procession of Catholics of St. Joseph’s parish through a part of the city in which an Irish population predominates. [St Joseph’s was in Grosvenor Street, off Rosehill. It was Liverpool Scotland ward, which returned the only Irish Nationalist M.P.outside the island of Ireland, between 1885 and 1929.]  A disturbance a fortnight ago, reports The Manchester Guardian, resulted in the arrest and conviction of two members of the Orange party on a charge of smashing windows in the house of an Irish family. The party is said to have threatened reprisals, and yesterday there was serious rioting, followed by thirty arrests.

During the week notice was issued calling upon Orangemen to gather in force and prevent any “illegal procession “ taking place, the assumption being that the Catholics would carry in the procession the host, but this, it is said, was never intended. It is also asserted that a contingent of Orangemen arrived on Saturday night from Belfast. But whether this is true or not, it is certain that nearly an hour before the time fixed for the procession to start the Orangemen invaded the neighbourhood of St. Joseph’s Church in great force. Consequently, when the procession started, it was thought wise to confine it to the immediate neighbourhood of the church. The Orangemen seemed determined to prevent even this, and the two bodies came into collision. Bricks, bottles, and other missiles were soon flying, and the fight continued for a considerable time, in spite of the efforts of between 500 and 600 police, including a mounted contingent. Those arrested include both Catholics and Orangemen. A number of people were treated for cuts on the head and other injuries. The police assert that many Orangemen carried naked swords beneath their coats, which they brandished in a menacing manner when the two parties came into collision. During the whole evening the district remained in a ferment of excitement, although the police patrols prevented any further organised attacks. The prisoners will be brought up at the police-court this morning and charged with rioting.

Another message says that the police made charges upon the crowd, which would otherwise have got beyond bounds. Some took refuge in passages and backyards from the cover of which they pelted the police with stones. Several were struck and injured by other missiles. Meanwhile, quite a number of houses were being wrecked, and windows were smashed in a wholesale fashion. In one case a house was fired. Upwards of fifty arrests were made, many of the prisoners being injured. About a dozen policemen were also injured, and treated at hospitals.

For two or three days the rioting was followed by brawls and disturbances in the quarter affected. On Tuesday there was a conflict between the children of St. Polycarp’s Anglican Schools and of the Catholic Schools of St. Anthony’s. This caused a disturbance between their respective mothers. Uneasiness among the mothers increased during the afternoon, and they began to apply at the schools for the release of the little ones to get them home in safety. In many cases excitement outran discretion, and mothers forced an entry into the schools and dragged out the children by force. The result of this was that some fifty schools in the Scotland-road district were promptly closed by the Education Committee.

The above text was found on p.39,26th June 1909, in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

 

Liverpool Workhouse

Brownlow Hill Workhouse, © University of Liverpool. The site is now the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.

The Poor Law Institution, or Work House, on Brownlow Hill had been a shelter for Liverpool’s destitute from 1771 until 1928 when the revision of the Poor Laws brought the property on to the market. In 1800 one thousand inmates had been on its register, in 1900 over four thousand,  over half of whom were Catholics. Many of them were Irish people driven from their own country by famine. In 1930 the Catholic diocesan authorities purchased the nine acre site for £110,000, as the site for the new Roman Catholic cathedral. The workhouse was a tough hard place.

The following is taken from Tom Burke’s ” Catholic History of Liverpool “, 1910. He is not a disinterested party. He was Liverpool born and bred, with Irish parents. He was for many years, a magistrate, councillor, and Alderman on Liverpool City Council where he represented Vauxhall ward as a member of the Irish Nationalist Party.  None of this really detracts from the power of Tom Burke’s writing, or his analysis of politics in the city. The original footnotes from the book are bracketed, and in italics, along with a couple of additional explanations of mine also in bracketed italics.

Another public body came into existence as a consequence of the new Poor Law, [1834]  the Liverpool Board of Guardians, better known by its official title, the Select Vestry. The first elections resulted in the return of a solid phalanx of Tories, due to the extraordinary behaviour of the returning officer. Dr. Bilsborrow, late Bishop of Salford, described the Guardians as ” that awful Protestant body,” [ In a conversation with the writer at St Charles , Aigburth Road,] and good reason he had for so naming it. In 1839, under the old law, Father Parker, of St. Patrick’s, reported that during the month of October, he had heard the master of the workhouse school, addressing the children in the schoolroom, say that ” every Catholic would go to Hell with a Testament in his hand.” Of the hundred children thus addressed a small proportion were Catholics, and in their presence he held up a wafer, with the blasphemous observation, ” this is the God of the Papists. “ An inquiry was held, and the charges sustained, but the Orange party would permit no punishment beyond a mild censure. In 1841, Father John Dawber asked the Vestry to allow him the use of a room in which to say Mass, and in a very modest appeal pointed out that it was a great hardship for old and infirm people to be compelled to rise early in all kinds of weather, and walk half-a-mile to hear Mass outside. The ” Liverpool Courier,” the Conservative organ, opposed this proposal as ” an act of Popish aggrandisement.”

The Vestry held its meetings for the first year with closed doors, the ” Liverpool Mercury,” which took the most active share in bringing about a change in its composition, describing it as ” the secret conclave.” The Liberals and Catholics joined in a cordial union to alter its complexion, and at the Easter of 1845, returned Messrs. Bright, Thorneley and Maynard, to fight for equality and open dealing, against twenty-six of the most illiberal men who ever possessed a share in the government of the town, municipally or parochially.

The Select Vestry had decided, in obedience to Dr. McNeill, that no religious service of any kind for the Roman Catholics should be permitted inside the workhouse. Mr. Bright sought to remove this restriction by a proposition that the use of the dining hall be allowed for the celebration of Mass. The Rector of Liverpool was, ex-officio, the Chairman of the Board, [ This anomaly was removed by Mr. Gladstone’s Parish Council Act, 1894.]  and on this occasion he declared that the law of the realm did not contemplate the performance of any religious ceremony, other than those in conformity with the laws of the Established Church. No doubt this was a perfectly accurate statement, but it did not help to remove an irritating restriction from a Catholic point of view, or prevent gross abuse from the point of view of good administration and discipline, inmates being allowed to go out on Sundays, without supervision, if they declared themselves to be Catholics, whether they were so or no. [ Bedclothes, linen, &c., were stolen by the inmates, who declared themselves Catholics in order to get out and sell the articles thus obtained.]  Mr. Bright’s motion was rejected. At the same meeting it was decided to ask permission from the Bishop of Chester to allow Divine Service to be held for the Protestant inmates of the Kirkdale Schools, in the dining hall of that institution.

Mr. Bright observed that as the Rector had objected to Divine Service for Catholics in a dining hall, he ought surely, on ecclesiastical or rubrical grounds, to object in this instance. Mr. Rector Brooks did not reply, but a Mr. Bremner retorted, “ No ! not at all ; the one is Popery, the other the Established Church.” The language of this gentleman was so offensive that five Conservatives voted for Mr. Bright’s motion. It was urged that, as sixty-one inmates, owing to ill-health, were unable to attend Mass outside, a room might be set apart for the purpose of a private celebration. But to no avail. Mr. Bremner represented the whole trend of Tory Protestantism.

Catholics and Liberals, at the following elections, made one supreme effort to secure further representation, and carried eleven seats out of twenty-one. Three out of four overseerships also fell into their victorious hands. Mr. John Yates, junior, was the first Catholic Poor Law Guardian. The concession of a room was granted, and peace prevailed for a short time. In the Council, Mr. Blackburn, member for Vauxhall Ward, made a last despairing effort to break down the policy of exclusion embarked upon by the Church party, but failed, and never again did Catholics appeal to that Municipal body for any concession.

 

Tory and Catholic relations in Liverpool in the early C19th.

This is taken from Tom Burke’s ” Catholic History of Liverpool “, 1910. He is not a disinterested party. He was Liverpool born and bred, with Irish parents. He was for many years, a magistrate, councillor, and Alderman on Liverpool City Council where he represented Vauxhall ward as a member of the Irish Nationalist Party. Liverpool Scotland constituency, which Vauxhall was part of, returned T.P. O’Connor as an Irish Party M.P. for 44 years between 1885 and 1929, the only constituency outside Ireland ever to return an Irish Nationalist Party MP. None of this really detracts from the power of Tom Burke’s writing, or his analysis of politics in the city. The rest of the post of his with the original footnotes from the book bracketed, and in italics, along with a couple of additional explanations of mine also in bracketed italics.

Princes Dock, Liverpool

It is extremely probable that a great number of Irish labourers found work in the year 1819, in excavating the Prince’s Dock. Most of the docks were constructed by Irish labourers, and other works of a similar character requiring muscle were so carried out by them. The Orangemen of the town appear to have had their political passions inflamed by the presence of a large Catholic and Irish population in their midst, and the development of church buildings as well as the marked tolerance of the Liberal party aggravated the situation. They began a series of attacks both wordy and physical on the Catholic Church and Ireland, which to them as to more enlightened persons were regarded quite erroneously as synonymous terms. Retaliation was inevitable. On the 12th July, 1819, when the Orange body celebrated the famous scrimmage “twixt a Dutchman and a Scot ” [See humorous squib, Dublin Leader, July, 1908.]  they were waylaid at the corner of Dale Street [The exact spot where the Holy Cross procession was attacked on May 9th, 1909.] and Byrom Street by a host of Irish labourers who made a desperate onslaught on them. Stones, sticks and other weapons were freely used, and both sides sustained severe injuries. It was the beginning of that wretched race quarrel on false issues which was assiduously kept alive by one political party in the city for the most unworthy ends, [the Tories] and continued to disturb the harmony of the citizens for half a century.

Caroline of Brunswick, c.1804.

The Irish Catholics of the early years of the nineteenth century were accused by interested politicians of disloyalty, an accusation which has not yet been discontinued. Strangely enough it was their loyalty to the unfortunate Queen Caroline which accounted for their first appearance in the political arena of Liverpool, the prelude to effective interference in much more important matters both of religion and politics. The sympathies of the great bulk of the Liberal party lay with the persecuted consort of a worthless Hanoverian, and when the news reached Liverpool that she had triumphantly vindicated her honour, they organised a huge public demonstration to express their delight, in November 1820. [Support for Queen Caroline meant opposing Lord Liverpool’s Tory administration who were siding with George IV ]In the public procession which wound up the festivities the Catholic and Irish Societies took no unimportant place. They had at length lifted their heads, and begun to realise the duty they owed to the city of their adoption.

An unfortunate incident occurred in the month of February 1840, which illustrated the delicate relations between the English and Irish Catholics of the town, and the ease with which the susceptibilities of the latter could be touched in a tender spot. The developments of the political situation in Ireland had gradually removed O’Connell from his great and influential position as a purely Catholic leader. Catholic Emancipation was one thing, Repeal of the Union another. The glamour of O’Connell’s personality had captured in any case the support of the Irish in Lancashire, whilst many Englishmen who were still under a deep debt of gratitude to him for his great services to the Catholic cause, had their doubts as to the wisdom of the new movement. Irishmen, on the other hand, failed to recognise the right of an English Catholic to his own views on important imperial political questions, such as the restoration of the Irish Parliament.

St Patrick’s, Park Place, Toxteth.

Friction was inevitable, and unfortunately the parish priest of St. Patrick’s was the central figure if not the actual cause. His strong personality refused to adapt itself to surrounding conditions and as the result he became at once unpopular, if not obnoxious, to his Irish congregation. A petition to Parliament demanding the repeal of the Union was placed outside the doors of St. Patrick’s Church for signature on a certain Sunday morning. Father Parker forbade the promoters to place the petition there on the ground that to act otherwise would be an infringement of the trust deed, and, secondly would cause dissension in his congregation. The more ardent Irish spirits declined to accept his explanation and attributed his action to pro-English prejudices. As a matter of fact this was far from being the truth, and had Father Parker not set up the groundless contention of violation of the trust deed the difficulty might have been smoothed over.

Daniel O’Connell

He then committed the mistake of appealing to O’Connell himself, which only seemed to irritate the Repealers, and the more so as O’Connell’s letter severely censured the opponents of the rector. It was a curious revelation of O’Connell’s views on the legitimacy of Anglo-Irish interference in the Repeal movement, to find Father Parker reminding him that during a previous visit to Liverpool they had both discussed the advisability or otherwise of pushing forward the agitation in Liverpool, and that O’Connell had advised the inexpediency of such a proposal, being of opinion that it would be illegal.

“Since that time,” wrote Father Parker, ” an association of Repealers has been started in a way calculated to do serious injury to the cause of civil and religious liberty.” O’Connell’s reply is not without interest : ” I am deeply shocked at hearing of the conduct of the Repealers in the vicinity of your chapel, and more disgusted than I can express at men using disrespectful language towards any of their respected clergy. The Repealers have no right to bring their petition into the vicinity of your chapel without your permission.”  O’Connell then goes on to say that the rule in Ireland, ” never broken,” was to ask permission from the parish priest, and concludes a vigorously written letter by emphatically declaring that he ” will not accept any support from Liverpool Repealers if they shew any further disrespect to the clergy of the town.”

Instead of following O’Connell’s advice, a Liverpool Repealer, also named O’Connell, entered into a lengthy correspondence with Father Parker, the net result being a widening of the breach, and though the strain was relieved to some extent later on, this painful display of want of confidence in each other s integrity had the effect of severing the Irish and English Catholics of the town from working harmoniously except on rare occasions, and in later generations helped to undo the fine work accomplished heretofore by united effort.

Rickman pedigree from 1480.

This post derives its content from two different  sources. The first was a hand written family tree on lined paper, along with two cuttings from “The Times” from 1961, in a book called “A Hundred Years of Enterprise, – Centenary of the Clay Cross Company Ltd, 1837 -1937”. They had all been in an old tea chest for at least thirty five years. The second source was from My Ancestors, By Norman Penney, F.S.A,, F.R.Hist.S. Printed For Private Circulation By Headley Brothers, Bishopsgate, Ex., And Ashford, Kent, 1920.” found online back in February 2017.

Initially, I was very impressed that Mme. Rickman had traced the family back to 1512, though because she was doing direct  descendants, it could be frustrating at times, because it would name a great, grandfather, for example, and “4 other sons”. The direct great-grandfathers are in bold.

Richard Rickman Born in Wardleham, Hampshire, England in 1480, and had a son called Richard

Richard Rickman 1512 – ???? Born on 1512 to Richard Rickman. Richard married Isabell – unknown surname and had 3 children. He died in Wardleham, Hampshire, England.

  1. Robert Rickman
  2. John Rickman 1542-1599
  3. William Rickman 1547-1609

William Rickman 1547 -1609 Born in Wardleham, Hampshire, England on 1547 to Richard Rickman and Isabell unknown surname  He died in 1609 in Stanton Prior, Somerset, England. Mme Rickman’s notes continue; ” He removed to Stanton Prior, near Bath where he possessed the manor, advowson [ the right to appoint the priest] , and other appurtenances. “ He had a son, John:

John Rickman  1587 – ???? Born to William Rickman and unknown wife. John married Edythe Bally, and also married Ophelia Marchant and had a child. Mme Rickman’s notes continue; ” He was baptised at Stanton Prior on 25th March 1587.”

  1. John Rickman 1611-1680

John Rickman. Born on 1611 to John Rickman and Ophelia Marchant.Mme Rickman’s notes continue; ” He was baptised at Stanton Prior on 7th July 1611.” John married Alice Dunn Unknown-1680 and had 2 children. He died in 1680 in Selborne, Hampshire, England.

  1. John Rickman 1656-1722
  2. Joseph Rickman 1657-1745

John Rickman Born in Inams, near Great Hamwood, in the parish of Selborne, Hampshire, England on 1656 to John Rickman and Alice Dunn. John married Margaret Knell 1659-1704, [Mme Rickman has her as Margaret Edwards. She is, in fact, both, because it was a second marriage] and had 8 children. John married Abigail Reynolds Unknown-1723 and had a child. He died in 1722 in Hurstmonceux, Sussex, England. Mme Rickman’s notes continue; ” He was the first who joined the ‘Friends’ [Quakers].”

  1. Joseph Rickman 1691-1747
  2. John Rickman 1681-1713
  3. Mary Rickman 1683-Unknown
  4. Gershan Rickman 1688-Unknown
  5. Margaret Rickman 1689-Unknown
  6. Ambrose Rickman 1690-Unknown
  7. Nicholas Rickman 1695-1713
  8. Elizabeth Rickman 1698-Unknown
  9. Benjamin Rickman 1707-1751

Joseph Rickman was born in the village of Gardner Street, near Hurstmonceux, Sussex,  on 1691 to John Rickman and Margaret Knell. Joseph married Ann Baker 1694-1778 and had 4 children. He died on 7 Feb 1747 at Park Farm, in Hellingly, Sussex, and buried in Gardner Street.

  1. Joseph Rickman 1714-1776
  2. John Rickman 1715-1789
  3. Thomas Rickman 1718-1803
  4. Elizabeth Rickman 1722-1757

John Rickman 1715 – 1789  married Elizabeth Peters and had 8 children, according to one account, or 10 according to another. Born in Hurstmonceux, Sussex, England on 1715 to Joseph Rickman and Ann Baker. He died in 1789 in Lewes, Sussex, England.

  1. Elizabeth Rickman 1743-1797
  2. Richard Peters Rickman 1745-1801
  3. Joseph Peters Rickman 1745-1810 married Sarah Neave 1747-1809 died in Dublin. They had three sons: Thomas Rickman 1776-1841, John Rickman 1779-1835 this one appears to have married Sarah Godlee,1798 -1866,  George Peters Rickman 1785-1875.
  4. John Rickman 1747-1764 died aged 17
  5. Samuel Rickman 1755-1799 died aged 44
  6. Ann Rickman 1757-1793
  7. Sarah Rickman 1759-1837
  8. Thomas Clio Rickman 1760-1834

Richard Peters Rickman 1745 – 1801 married Mary Verrall 5th June 1767, and had 9 children, or possibly 16 children, or even 17. All the children were apparently educated at Ackworth school in Yorkshire,He died in 1801 in Lewes, East Sussex, England.  Richard Peters Rickman was the elder of twin brother, and had rather more children than his brother Joseph Peters Rickman who seems to have only had three.

  1. Elizabeth Rickman 1768-1833 married John Hodgkin of Pentonville (1766-1845), , had four sons of whom the first two died in infancy. The third son, Thomas Hodgkin MD (1798-1866), Thomas Hodgkin MD married relatively late and left no children: with Sir Moses Montefiore he travelled to the Holy Land and Morocco to plead for better treatment for Jews in those areas; it was on a journey to the former that he died in 1866, and he is buried in Jaffa.It is from his younger brother, John Hodgkin junior (1800-1875), that the contemporary Hodgkin family descends. John Hodgkin junior’s first wife, Elizabeth Howard Hodgkin (1803-1836), was the daughter of the meteorologist and chemist Luke Howard (1772-1864), perhaps best known for his system of describing clouds.
  2. Lucy Rickman 1772-1804 married her first cousin Thomas Rickman 1776-1841, the son of her father’s twin brother, Joseph Peters Rickman.
  3. John Rickman 1774-1859 had a son also called Richard Peters Rickman (probably) and seems to have left about £120,000 when he died. RP Rickman II died in 1876 leaving £45,000. Seems to have been somewhat miserly, according to the book “The Quakers of Lewes”
  4. Sarah Rickman 1776-1837
  5. Ann Rickman 1780-1830
  6. Samuel Rickman 1782-1836 
  7. Jane Rickman 1785-1846
  8. Susanna Rickman 1787-1859
  9. George Rickman 1791-1835

Samuel Rickman 1782-1836 removed to Liverpool from Lewes in 1809. He married Hannah Cooke 1790 – 1873, in Liverpool, on September 1, 1816, in a joint wedding with his brother-in-law, Isaac Cooke, who married Sarah Robson. Sam and Hannah had two children. Sam was buried in the Friends Burial Ground, in Hunter Street, Liverpool, and Hannah, thirty seven years later in the Friends Burial Ground, in Liscard, Cheshire.

  1. Mary 1814 -1849
  2. Samuel (1815 – 1885)

Samuel Rickman (1815 – 1885) m. Catherine Throp (1820 – 1903) 4th February 1845. They had  8 children

  1. Samuel Rickman 1846 – 1917 m. Emily Rachel Binns 1849 – 1935
  2. Mary  1847 –   Unknown but after 1901
  3. Charles William 1849 –  Unknown
  4. Reginald John 1850 –  Unknown
  5. Frances Amy 1852 –  in 1901 she seems to be either domestic staff or teaching at Eton
  6. Wilfred 1854 –   Unknown .
  7. Kate 1856 –   Unknown, but after 1911 
  8. Josephine 1858 – 1930

There seems to be a curiously small amount of information on what happened to most of the children. Only Sam, and Josephine seem to have married. The 1871 census helps a little in telling us what the children were doing at the time. Both Mary and Frances are teachers, Charles and Reg are both book-keepers, 16 year-old Wilfred is an apprentice to a ship broker and 25 year-old Sam’s a cotton broker. There doesn’t seem to be any further records of the three younger sons.

In 1881, Kate is a nurse at Westminster Hospital aged 24, and then rather curiously staying in St Helens with the Morris family in 1911 Max Morris is 32, and born in Kiev. Mary his wife is 28. Kate is 52. Mary Morris’s retired parents are also living there, so she may well still be nursing

In 1891, Mary is 43 and living with her widowed mother at 14 Slatey Road (1 Cambridge Terrace), Claughton cum Grange, Birkenhead. By 1901 they have moved to Arnside in Westmorland in the Lake District. Catherine Rickman is now 81.

Samuel Rickman 1846 – 1917 m. Emily Rachel Binns 1849 – 1935. They have 3 children

  1. Reginald Binns Rickman (1882 -1940)
  2. Florence  who marries Theo Kimber and has a daughter Nancy
  3. Rachel unm.

Liverpool and the Irish Famine 1847

This is largely taken from Chapter IV. of Tom Burke’s ” Catholic History of Liverpool “, 1910. He is not a disinterested party. He was Liverpool born and bred, with Irish parents. He was for many years, a magistrate, councillor, and Alderman on Liverpool City Council where he represented Vauxhall ward as a member of the Irish Nationalist Party. Liverpool Scotland constituency, which Vauxhall was part of, returned T.P. O’Connor as an Irish Party M.P. for 44 years between 1885 and 1929, the only constituency outside Ireland ever to return an Irish Nationalist Party MP. None of this really detracts from the power of Tom Burke’s writing. The rest of the post of his with the original footnotes from the book bracketed, and in italics, along with a couple of additional explanations of mine also in bracketed italics.

Over to Alderman Burke:

A dark cloud fell upon Liverpool in the last months of the year [1846], and when it passed away, a new Catholic Liverpool arose, with new problems and fresh difficulties, many of which are not yet solved. No man can understand aright the Liverpool of the second half of the nineteenth century, who does not seriously study the dread incidents which the November and December portended.

From the point of view of public health, Liverpool had degenerated into one of the worst towns in the Kingdom. Narrow streets, narrower courts, overcrowded alleys, and bad drainage, were exacting a heavy toll of disease and death. Streets were left unswept for as long a period as three weeks, in working class quarters, the Town Council being much too busy with the interests of party to occupy itself with such mundane affairs. The Tories were blind to all warnings; in capturing the Council Schools they had exhausted their mandate. To promote sanitary reform, a Health of Towns Association had been formed in the Metropolis, and the first Liverpool branch was founded in St. Patrick’s schoolroom.

Just as, half-a-century later, it was reserved for Liverpool Catholic public men to fight the battle of housing reform, so in the early forties it was left for the Catholic leaders to speak out against the criminal neglect, by the Corporation, of the important question of public health. Sir Arnold Knight, M.D., father of a future Bishop of Shrewsbury, and of a distinguished Jesuit, delivered the address at this gathering, presided over by Mr. R. Sheil. His speech is painful reading, descriptive of the conditions under which the labouring classes were compelled to live, conditions which made moral or physical health well-nigh impossible. Sir Arnold stated, that in London one out of every thirty-seven of the population died annually; Liverpool’s proportion being one in twenty- eight. In the Metropolis, 32 out of every 100 children died before reaching the age of nine ; Liverpool had the unenviable record of 49. Nor was this all. In the densely populated streets and courts of Vauxhall Ward, this number went up to 64, an appalling rate of mortality. Physical deterioration had set in, or, as the Catholic Knight put it, Liverpool men “were unfit to be shot at “, an allusion to the rejection of 75 per cent of the recruits for the army.

This speech gives the answer to much of the superficial criticism of the result of Irish ” habits “ on the general health of towns. The death roll gives the needed and only reply to the puzzle which has worried Catholic statisticians as to the causes which have operated to prevent the prolific Irish from being one-half, at least, of the population of Liverpool. Sixty- four out of every hundred Irish children dead before nine years of age, from preventible causes ! !

The Irish poor did not build the narrow streets nor the dirty courts, they did not leave the streets unswept, and had no responsibility for stinking middens, left unemptied at their very doors, nor did they create the economic conditions which drove them across the channel, and in turn made life in Liverpool the burden it really was. Drink ! Yes, they drank ! No wonder ! where drink alone could bring forgetfulness of present misery. But for the small band of priests who laboured amongst them, and the faith they brought from Ireland, Irish Liverpool had become heathendom. The demoralisation of child life caused by exclusion from the schools, in 1841, had sown its seeds, and a deadly harvest was to be reaped a generation later, which, even to the twentieth century, has made Liverpool a bye-word to every stranger entering its gates.

It was too late for any body of men to cure the evil, when the famine years sent hundreds of thousands of Irishmen and women into the very streets and alleys, where over-crowding and disease had become every-day features, and excited no surprise. The closing months of 1846 ended in ” an inpouring of wretchedness from Ireland; streets swarming with hungry and almost naked wretches.”   Written by a friendly hand, these words fail to convey an adequate picture of the scenes witnessed every day during November and December, 1846.

At the meeting of the Select Vestry,[the official title of the Liverpool Board of Poor Law Guardians] December 15th, 1846, the captains of the coasting vessels were censured for carrying over such large numbers of immigrants, and it was seriously suggested that Liverpool should follow the example of the Isle of Man authorities, by refusing permission to land. It is pleasant to record that the first meeting held to raise funds for the relief of the famine stricken, was organised by the Irish navvies, then constructing the railway to Bury. The meeting was held in the schoolroom underneath St. Joseph’s chapel, Grosvenor Street, on November 30th, every navvy putting down one day’s wages on the table as his tribute to the unfortunate people of his own country. In the church, the first sermon for the same object was preached by Father McEvoy, parish priest of Kells, in the fertile plains of Meath, who received fifty-two pounds from the poor labourers of St. Joseph’s parish. The new year, 1847, opened inauspiciously. During the six days, January 4th to 9th, the Select Vestry relieved 7,146 Irish families, consisting of 29,417 persons, of whom 18,376 were children.

From the 13th to the 25th of the same month, 10,724 deck passengers arrived from Irish ports, and during the month of February they came pouring in at the average rate of nine hundred per day. So dreadful was their poverty that we have the authority of the Rector of Liverpool, speaking on the 26th of February, that nine thousand Irish families were being relieved, a number which increased to eleven thousand by the end of March. The Stipendiary Magistrate had given an instruction to the police to keep a record of the number of immigrants, and, at a meeting of the justices summoned by him to consider suitable measures to cope with this serious menace to health and peace, he stated that, from the first day of November, 1846, to the twelfth day of May, 1847, the total number of Irish immigrants into Liverpool amounted to 196,338. Deducting the numbers actually recorded as sailing to America, no less than 137,519 persons had been added to the population of Liverpool. When the year ended, the total number of immigrants, excluding those who were bound for America, reached the immense total of 296,231, all ” apparently paupers.” [Head Constable Dowling’s Report to the Watch Committee.]

The already overcrowded Irish quarters gave some kind of shelter to the new comers ;  its character makes the heart sick, even when read in cold print. No less than 35,000 were housed in cellars, [ Liverpool Mercury, 1847.] below the level of the street, without light or ventilation; 5841 cellars [Gore’s Annals of Liverpool.]  were ” wells of stagnant water “ or, as an official report to the Corporation puts it, 5,869 were found, on examination, to be ” damp, wet, or filthy.” In the district now known as Holy Cross parish, not then formed, and in St. Vincent’s, an appalling state of affairs prevailed. In Lace Street, Marybone, in a cellar 14 feet long, ten wide, and six in height, twelve persons were found endeavouring to breathe, and, ” in more than one instance, upwards of forty people were found sleeping “ in a similar underground dungeon. [Medical Officer s Report for 1847. W. H. Duncan, M.D. ] The Stipendiary shocked the town by his narrative of a woman being confined of twins, in a Lace Street cellar, crowded with human beings. In Crosby Street, Park Lane, now occupied by the Wapping Goods Station, of the L. & N. W. Railway Company, 37 people were found in one cellar, and in another eight lay dead from typhus.

The unfortunates ” occupied every nook and corner of the already over-crowded lodging houses, and forced their way into the cellars (about 3,000 in number), which had been closed under the Health Act of 1842. In different parts of Liverpool, fifty or sixty of these destitute people were found in a house containing three or four small rooms, about twelve feet by ten.” [Head Constable Dowling’s Report to the Watch Committee.] By February, the mortality from fever was eighteen per cent, above the average, and four months later was 2,000 per cent. above the average of previous years.[ W. H. Duncan, M.D. Report to the Health Committee, 1847.]

Smallpox broke out and carried off 381 children, and an epidemic of measles added 378 to the total. In Lace Street, already mentioned, one-third of the inhabitants, that is to say 472 persons, died from fever during the year. In the Parish of Liverpool, the weekly mortality by the month of August reached 537, as against the usual average of 160 ; while in the extra parochial districts of Toxteth and Everton, it was 111 against 50. The curse of mis-rule in Ireland, and mis-government in Liverpool, had come home to roost, and he who would pass judgment on Irish poverty or “crime “ of later years, let him read the story which every stone of the charnel houses in Vauxhall, Exchange, Scotland, Great George and Pitt Street Wards, told and still tell. Here were sown the dragon’s teeth, and they have sprung up, not in armed men, but workhouses, reformatories, and gaols.

Regulations of all kinds were brought into force to put a much-needed check on this enormous influx, but without avail for at least a year. The Poor Law authorities returned 24,529 to their native parishes during the years 1847 and 1848 ; [See Dr. Mackay’s article on Liverpool in Morning Chronicle.]  it was only a drop in the ocean, for vessels were arriving daily with fresh contingents. Deck passages from Dublin cost as small a sum as sixpence, which probably tempted thousands to try their fortune in our midst. It stands to the infinite credit of the citizens that distinctions of race, religion, and party were obliterated in presence of this awful visitation, and that they united to succour the sick and hungry, both in the town and the country from whence they came. There were two exceptions, which only served to bring out this noble generosity in strong relief.

Vestryman Mellor gleefully exclaimed, at a meeting of the Select Vestry, ” when they are all gone, we will people Ireland with a better set,” and Dr. Hugh McNeill [ vicar of St Jude’s, and later St Paul’s, Princes Park, Liverpool (1834-1848), and a virulently anti-Catholic preacher,] characteristically accused the Irish clergy of refusing to dispense the English Relief Funds, unless the recipients paid them a consideration. These men were the sole exceptions to the truly Christian spirit which prevailed in all classes. Bishop Sharples acted with commendable promptitude. Summoning a meeting of Catholics in the Concert Hall, Lord Nelson Street, he had the pleasure of receiving two thousand pounds from his flock in the course of a few minutes. This sum was subscribed by less than fifty persons, and was dispatched next day by the treasurer, Mr. C. J. Corbally, in equal shares to the Archbishops of Cashel and Tuam. Church collections were immediately taken, and one thousand pounds came from this source; St. Patrick s heading the list with £ 118 16s. 7d., a few shillings more than the amount subscribed by St. Nicholas .

A name never to be forgotten in the annals of Liverpool Catholicism appeared for the first time in print, in connection with the famine fund, that of a young priest, Father James Nugent, who preached at St. Alban’s, Blackburn, and handed £ 72 12s. 8d. to the Liverpool treasurer. It was related by the journals of the day, that the Post Office was besieged by Irish labourers, sending small sums of money home to their afflicted kinsfolk. The condition of Ireland was bad, but it may well be doubted whether that of Liverpool was not worse. Where were the mass of new-comers to be housed? Where was employment to be found? Whence could be drawn clergy to come to attend to their spiritual needs? If church and school accommodation was deficient before 1847, it was surely deficient now.

In January, 1847, the Rector of Liverpool informed the Government that dysentery had assumed alarming proportions, due to the cabbages and turnips which formed the only food of the first immigrants. February saw eight hundred cases of typhoid ; the reading of the death-roll each Sunday morning in the churches sending a cold shiver through the immense congregations. Hurriedly the parish authorities set up fever sheds, in Great Homer Street on the North, and Mount Pleasant on the South, and fitted up a hospital ship in the Mersey, to cope with the new terror. Then came the awful visitation of typhus. Liverpool Protestantism bowed its head in reverence at the heroism of the handful of Catholic Priests.

Undaunted, they went from room to room in crowded houses ; from cellar to garret, ministering to the sick. They were never absent from hourly attendance in the hospital wards. Here at least there was some privacy, but in the crowded rooms and cellars it was next to impossible to hear the last confession, unless the priest lay down beside the sick man to receive the seeds of disease from poisoned breaths in return for spiritual consolations. In very truth they were braver men than ever faced the lions in a Roman amphitheatre.

If life must be sacrificed, it were fitting that St. Patrick’s should provide the first victim. Father Parker, rector for seventeen years, succumbed to typhus on April 28th, aged 43, [Buried in the vaults of the church. Dr. Youens sang the Requiem; the sub-deacon was Father Nugent] and was followed on May 26th by the scholarly Benedictine, Dr. Appleton, of St. Peter’s, who exchanged the Presidency of Douai College for a martyr s crown, won in the pestilential cellars of Crosby Street. The fine sanctuary of the church recalls his last work for the oldest ecclesiastical building in Liverpool, and the tablet on the walls of the church reminds succeeding generations of his great charity. St. Patrick’s again rendered two more victims, Father Grayston succumbing on the 16th June, aged 33, and his colleague, Father Haggar, [ Died at the house of Mr. Denis Madden, 116, Islington.] aged 29, following him seven days later. A third priest who had left the plains of Westmeath to work among his people in England, the Rev. Bernard O Reilly, was also stricken down. The rector of Old Swan, Father, afterwards Canon, Haddocks, took him from the presbytery at Saint Patrick’s to his own house, in the country, where he recovered in a most miraculous manner, and lived to become the third Bishop of Liverpool. St. Mary’s then took up the beadroll of death ; Father Gilbert, O.S.B., aged 27, and Father William Dale, O.S.B., aged 43, succumbing to typhus on the 31st May and 28th June respectively.

On the 22nd August, Father Richard Gillow, [He founded the St, Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Nicholas.] a member of a most devoted Catholic family, yielded up his young life he was but 36 years of age at St. Nicholas , and on the 28th September, the death of Father Whitaker, at St. Joseph’s, completed the death-roll for the year. Father Whitaker’s career was unique. He entered Douai with the intention of becoming a Benedictine, and after some years abandoned his undoubted vocation for the study of medicine. On the eve of qualifying he changed his mind and resumed his ecclesiastical studies at St. Sulpice, Paris. From thence he proceeded to Ushaw, where he was ordained, and after serving on the mission at Bolton, York, and Manchester, found an early grave in the slums of Liverpool. The deaths of these priests; [ To these should be added Father Nightingale, who died March 2nd, and Father Thomas Kelly, D.D,, who died May 1st.]  made a profound impression on a town which had witnessed 15,000 deaths from famine and fever, and exalted in the estimation of the Protestant citizens the character and dignity of the priesthood. The strain on the surviving clergy, most of whom suffered severely, was intense. They lay at night on chairs and sofas in their clothes, awaiting the sick calls which never failed to come, fearful lest the time spent in dressing might mean the loss of the Sacraments to some poor wretch lying in his dismal hovel. [ See Ushaw Magazine, June, 1895.] To the townspeople such heroism conveyed the reason why Catholics reverenced the office of the priest ; for Catholics it knit fresh bonds between them and the clergy.

In the midst of these scenes of desolation the sad news arrived from Genoa that the great defender of the poor Irish, the brilliant advocate of Catholic claims, had given up his soul to God. The death of O”Connell added to the grief and suffering of the poor immigrants, whose confidence in his powers knew no bounds. It was announced in the ” Tablet “ that his body would pass through Liverpool on its way to mother earth, but the authorities, fearing an outbreak, induced his unintelligent son to alter the arrangements. Instead of coming to Liverpool from Southampton, the coffin passed through Chester, where it rested one night before the altar in the city of St. Werburgh, and on the 26th July, 1847, arrived in Birkenhead. The steamer ” Duchess of Kent ” lay in the Mersey, en route for Dublin. Its quarter-deck was covered with an immense black canopy, under which the coffin was placed, surrounded by lighted tapers, and covered with a pall still in the possession of the Benedictines at St. Mary’s. To relieve the poignant feelings of the Irish multitudes they were allowed in relays to board the steamer and kneel for a few moments before the remains of the ” Liberator.” The evening before, the body of the O’Conor Don, M.P., lay in similar state ere it passed down the swiftly flowing waters of the Mersey to the land from whence he sprang. By November the tide of immigration began to slacken, and the black cloud of death and disease became less heavy and sombre. As the months rolled on, every quarter of the town had suffered, and, excluding those who had succumbed, sixty thousand of the inhabitants had suffered from fever and forty thousand from diarrhoea or dysentery. [Dr. Duncan s Report, page 18.]

The year 1848 opened with a great improvement in the death-rate from ” Irish fever,” but scarlatina and influenza now began to play havoc with the juvenile population. The deaths from fever during 1848 had fallen to 989; scarlatina claimed 1,516, and other zymotic diseases accounted for 4,350. [Dr. Duncan s Report, page 18.] From January, 1848, to April, 1849, 1,786 fatal cases of scarlatina occurred with children under 15 years of age, and when, in 1849, the horrors of Asiatic cholera were superadded, out of 5,245 deaths 1,510 cases were those of the  same tender years, not including the 1,059 carried off by dysentery. [Dr. Duncan s Report, page 18.] The importance of these figures from the point of view of Catholic Liverpool is that seven-eighths of the dead were Irish; [Dr. Duncan s Report, page 18.] famine at home being exchanged for death abroad.

There were then in Vauxhall Ward, to take only one part of the typical Irish quarters, 27 streets, 226 courts, and 153 cellars. In the street houses 6,888 persons found a shelter, and in the courts, exclusive of the cellars, 6,148; or, as the Rev. Dr. Cahill put it, they crowded the desolate garret, the putrid cellar, and the filthy lane. In normal days in this district and Scotland Ward the deaths were in the ratio of one to fourteen of the residents as compared with one to thirty-eight in Rodney and Abercromby wards. According to a census taken by a well-known Anglican clergyman, Canon Hume, who made a house-to-house visit, there were 3,128 children between the ages of three and a half and twelve without the slightest school accommodation, and if we include those up to fourteen years of age, at least one thousand more must be added to the number. ” Crime,” as the word was then used, had begun to increase. In 1845 there were 3,889 cases; in 1846, 4,740; in 1847, 6,510, in 1848, 7,714; and in 1849, 6,702. The cause we have already indicated. Mr. W. Rathbone, at a meeting to raise funds, declared that it was the Irish landlords and not the people who ought to have been forcibly immigrated. Mr. Rushton, in his report to the Home Secretary, dated April 21, 1849, gives his view of the increase in ” crime.”

” I saw from day to day the poor Irish population forced upon us in a state of wretchedness which cannot be described. Within twelve hours after they landed they would be found among one of three classes, paupers, vagrants, or thieves. Few became claimants for parochial relief, for in that case they would be discovered and might be sent back to Ireland. The truth is that gaols, such as the gaol of the borough of Liverpool, afford the wretched and unfortunate Irish better food, shelter, and raiment, and more cleanliness than, it is to be feared, many of them ever experienced elsewhere ; hence, it constantly happens that Irish vagrants who have offered them the choice of being sent back to Ireland or to gaol in a great many cases desire to go to prison.”  This awful picture was confirmed by the Prison Commissioners in the same year, who speak of ” the intensity of the distress, and the vast immigration of Irish paupers who commit petty offences in order to be sent to prison. At the time of our visit to the gaol more than one-third of the males were of this description, and more than half of the females.” Here are two official statements as to the origin of ” Irish crime,” to be aggravated as the succeeding years rolled on by the same causes, poverty, overcrowding, casual employment, and the natural consequence of all three, excess in drink. Compare these figures with the annual report furnished to the justices by the Anglican Chaplain of the gaol.

In the year 1841 there were 201 prisoners committed to the Assizes for serious crime, 35 being Catholics; committed to the Sessions for less serious crimes 317, 66 being Catholics. The Courts of Summary Jurisdiction or Police Courts committed 1,541, the Catholics numbering 486. From a population numbering a third of the whole these figures show no sign of ” Catholic crime “ being in undue proportion; [See Mr. Edward Bretherton’s reply to Lord Sandon, who, in a speech in the House of Commons said Catholics were one-fourth. 1843.] decidedly the reverse, especially in the Assize and Sessions cases.

For the year 1842, 41 Catholics were sent from the Assizes out of a total of 185 ; from the Sessions 100 out of 472, and from the Police Courts 513 out of 1,536. During the year 1843, 1,410 prisoners were sent to Kirkdale Gaol; 78 Dissenters, 280 Catholics, and 1,036  Protestants. Crime began with the poverty of the victims of the great famine, and was due to causes over which they had little control.

Their children were the greatest sufferers, the inheritors of a sad past. The want of schools was the main cause, for, as Father Nugent wrote sixteen years later in his first report to the justices, “education is not an absolute preservative against crime, yet it must always be an incalculable advantage towards gaining an honest livelihood, and making a position in a town like Liverpool.” [Annual Police Report, October 26th, 1864.] The children’s story has yet to be told.

The Corporation now plunged headlong into the work of sanitary reform, and blundered badly. The solution of the whole question lay, according to their notion of things, in closing insanitary cellars. From 1847 to 1849 they ejected 25,015 persons who dwelt in cellars, a desirable course to pursue provided they offered better surroundings or knew that private enterprise would supply them. One result did accrue, which was to overcrowd still more the houses already too fully occupied. [See Dr. Duncan’s report. He appealed to his committee to proceed cautiously in the evictions.]  Tenement houses have been Liverpool’s second greatest curse, the fruitful cause of intemperance amongst women and even worse evils. Local authorities had not then the powers obtained thirty years later, and on that score the Liverpool Town Council was not entirely blameworthy. It was, however, unsympathetic, short-sighted, indifferent.

Jonathan Binns, Assistant Agricultural Commissioner on the late Irish Poor Enquiry. 1835

In 1835 the Government established a Royal Commission whose brief was ” to inquire into the condition of the poorer classes of our subjects in Ireland and into the various institutions at present established by law for their relief; and also, whether any, and what further measures appear to be requisite to ameliorate the condition of the Irish poor, or any portion of them.”

Jonathan Binns travels in Ireland. The route in 1835 is in red, and the route in 1836 in green.

The reports which were published as a result of the Commission’s investigations give a most detailed account of social conditions in the country in the 1830’s. One of the topics which the Commission had to look at was agriculture and the conditions of the agricultural workers.  The assistant commissioner who had responsibility for this part of the inquiry was  Jonathan Binns. He paid two visits to Ireland, and in the course of these he travelled through nearly every county in the country.

His decision to write an account of his travels was motivated, he says, by ” a desire to promote, on the part of the inhabitants of this country (England) a more familiar acquaintance with the real situation and dispositions of the Irish people, and to encourage a more practical sympathy for their sufferings.”

The work was published in 1837, in two volumes, and its title was ” The Miseries and Beauties of Ireland.”

From  The Storeys of Old.   Mr. Jonathan Binns was a native of Liverpool, and then later Lancaster. His mother was one, Mary Albright of Lancaster. He was a skilled agriculturist and became Secretary of the Lancaster Agricultural Society in 1812, succeeding the Rev. James Stainbank, Rector of Halton and Vicar of Kellet.

Mr. Binns was the first person to have gas introduced into his house at Lancaster. His office was on Castle Hill, and his residence was in West Place. In 1824 he published a map of Lancaster made from his own survey; this map represents the character of Lancaster in 1821, and has all the old paddocks and wells marked upon it. In 1837 be published his book, ” The Miseries and Beauties of Ireland.” He was one of the original members of the Lancaster Literary, Scientific and Historic Society. He was an Assistant Commissioner engaged in an Agricultural Inquiry in Ireland. Mr. Binns married Rachel, daughter of William Streknay, a member of a well-known Yorkshire Quaker family. The marriage took place at the Friends’ Meeting House, Oustwick, near Hull. Mr. Binns died at Edenbreck, Lancaster, on the 10th March, 1871, aged 85 years. It may be added that Mr. Binns was appointed High Constable of Lonsdale South of the Sands on the 23rd April, 1842.  The Storeys of Old. There is no listed author, and the book is not dated but the forward is dated 1st March 1911  Carlisle, Cumberland, . 

He’s also a great, great, great, great grandfather.

 

The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the African Slave trade, Liverpool 1788

The Wedgwood Medallion. Josiah Wedgwood created this design which became popular in the campaign against slavery and featured on brooches, tea caddies, and plates.

In May, 1787, the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the African Slave trade was instituted in London. The Committee consisted of Granville Sharp (chairman, and father of the cause in England), William Dillwyn (an American Quaker), Samuel Hoare, George Harrison, John Lloyd, Joseph Woods, Thomas Clarkson, Richard Phillips, John Barton, Joseph Hooper, James Phillips, and Philip  Sansom. With the exception of Sharp, Clarkson, and Sansom, all the members were of the Society of Friends……………

In January 1788, the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the African Slave trade made its first appearance before the public of Liverpool with a well-written address, designed  to prove that the traffic, which was then said to bring about £ 300,000 a year into the Port of Liverpool, was immoral and unjust, and one which ought to be abolished, as unworthy of a Christian people. A list of members of the society was published in the same year, from which it appears that there were eight riteous persons still left in Liverpool, who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Their names, and the amount of their subscriptions were as follows:-

                                                                       £    s.    d.

Anonymous, Liverpool                               2.   2.    0.

Dr Jonathan Binns, Liverpool                    1.   1.    0.

Mr Daniel Daulby, Liverpool                     1.    1.    0.

Mr William Rathbone, Liverpool              2.    12.  6.

Mr William Rathbone Junr, Liverpool      2.    2.    0.

Mr William Roscoe, Liverpool                  1.     1 .   0.

Mr William Wallace, Liverpool                 2.     2.    0.

Mr John Yates,Liverpool                           2.     2.    0.

There are two footnotes

1. Baines, Picton, and others state only two Liverpool names – those of William Rathbone and Dr Binns – figured in the list of original members. In the printed list at the Picton Reference Library, we find eight subscribers, as above. “Anonymous” was probably Dr. Currie.

2.  Jonathan Binns, M.D. was for many years senior physician to the Liverpool Dispensary. He published, at Edinburgh, in 1762, Dissertatio Medica in Auguralis de Exercitatione. He superintented, for some time, the school belonging to the Society of Friends, in Yorkshire,[Ackworth School]  and whilst there, published an English Grammar, and also a Vocabulary. He removed to Lamcaster, where he practised as a physician untilthe time of his death, in 1812, aged 65 years. – “Smithers’ History,” p. 433.

From “ History of the Liverpool Privateers, and Letters of Marque, with an account of the Liverpool Slave trade.. “ Gomer Williams  1897

Sources for the footnotes

“ History, directory and gazetteer of the county palatine of Lancaster vol 1”:  Edward Baines  1824

Liverpool, its commerce, statistics, and institutions; with a history of the cotton trade” :  Henry Smithers:  1825

Lancashire and Cheshire, past and present: “  Thomas Baines:   1867

Memorials of Liverpool : historical and topographical, including a history of the Dock Estate vol 1 & 2” :  Sir James Allanson Picton  1875

Education, Politics, Religion, and Bigotry in Liverpool in the 1830’s and 1840’s

This post is a combination of extracts from  The Life Of Sir Joshua Walmsley, By His Son, Hugh Mulleneux Walmsley. Chapman And Hall, 193, Piccadilly.  1879. and Thomas Burke’s ” Catholic History of Liverpool,”  Liverpool : C. Tinling & Co., Ltd., Printers, 53, Victoria Street. 1910.  Both are slightly partisan sources. Uncle Hugh’s biography of his father is uncritical to put it mildly, but it does quote his father apparently verbatim, which is nice. Tom Burke takes a pro-Catholic, and Irish Nationalist position, but that doesn’t detract from the power and polemic in his writing.

Education, as with so many other things, was a hornet’s nest of politics, religion, bigotry, racism, and class. The Municipal Reform Bill of 1835 had resulted in a huge landslide vote for the Reformers or Whigs giving them a total of 44 councillors and 15 aldermen, against only 4 Tory councillors, and a single alderman.  Until the Reform Act Liverpool had always been a Tory corporation. So it was a radical change.

The first extract is Chapter IX of Hugh Walmsley’s book.

On the eve of the termination of the reform council’s first year in office, [November 1836]  when, according to a clause of the Municipal Reform Bill, sixteen of its members were to go out, Mr. Walmsley read a paper, entitled, ” What has the new council done ?” In it he passed in review the abuses that had been found prevalent, and the Acts that had been framed. Notwithstanding the difficulties with which it had to contend, the Council had effected a saving to the borough fund of ten thousand pounds per annum. In this paper he also expounded the system by which the Educational Committee had opened the Corporation schools to all sects and denominations.

Let us glance at this act of the council, one that raised a storm in Liverpool, the like of which had not been known. Mr. William Rathbone and Mr. Blackburn took the lead in the movement. Mr. Walmsley devoted to it what time he could spare from the arduous task of reforming the police.

The feeling that impelled the Educational Committee to advocate the adoption in the Corporation schools of the Irish system of education, was awakened by the spectacle of the multitude of children in Liverpool debarred from every chance of instruction. The report drawn up by the committee showed that besides numerous Dissenters, there were sixty thousand poor Irish Catholics in the town. The old corporation had quietly ignored this alien population, but threw open the doors of the Corporation schools to children of all sects, provided they attended the services of the Established Church, used the authorised edition of the Bible, and the Church Catechism. This virtually closed these schools against the Irish. The new council maintained that the State had the same responsibility as regards these children as it had towards others ; and the Educational Committee drew out a plan from that of the Honourable Mr. Stanley, Secretary for Ireland in 1831, [later Prime Minister three times as the Earl of Derby] Dr. Whately, and others, for the education of the Irish poor. Early in July, the committee laid its scheme before the council. The schools were to open at 9 A.M, with the singing of a hymn. The books of the Irish Commission were to be used. Clergymen of every denomination were invited to attend at the hour set apart for the religious instruction of the children of the various sects. The town council unanimously adopted the plan and made it public.

The storm now burst over Liverpool, and crowded meetings were held at the amphitheatre and elsewhere, to protest against the Act, and to promote the erection and endowment of other schools, where the un-mutilated Bible would form a compulsory part of every child’s education. In vain the council invited its accusers to come and see for themselves, the un- mutilated Bible forming part of the daily education. The cry continued to be raised by the clergy, and to be loudly echoed by their agitated flocks.

” Dissenting and Roman Catholic clergymen came,” said Mr. Walmsley, ” eagerly, to teach the children of their respective flocks during the hour appointed for religious instruction ; but with the exception of the Rev. James Aspinall, the English clergy stood obstinately aloof. Soon, in addition to the meetings, the walls were placarded with great posters, signed by clergymen. These exhorted parents not to send their children to the Corporation schools, promising them the speedy opening of others, where the un-mutilated Word of God should be taught Some of the lower classes maltreated children on their way to the schools, pelted and hooted members of the committee as they passed. The characters of Mr. Blackburn, Mr. Rathbone, and my own were daily assailed in pulpits and social gatherings. Still we persevered, answering at public meetings the charges brought against us, and inviting our detractors to come and visit the schools. So particular was the Educational Committee that each child should be taught according to the creed of its parents, that every sect seemed represented. I remember one child, on being asked the invariable question on entering the schools, to what persuasion her parents belonged, answered, to the ‘ New Church.’ We were puzzled to know what the ‘ New Church ‘ was ; it proved to be Swedenborgian. She was the single lamb belonging to this fold, yet a teacher of her creed was found ready to undertake her education.”

To illustrate to what degree fanaticism blunts the moral sense of those who blindly surrender themselves to its influence, we quote the following fact :  ” One day, when the hour of religious instruction had come, a clergyman of preponderating influence entered the schoolroom of the North School. The large room was divided into two compartments by a curtain drawn across it ; on one side were the Roman Catholics, on the other were the Protestants. The latter, divided into several groups, were gathered round different teachers. My wife, who seconded with all her heart this scheme of liberal education, was a daily visitor in the North School. She taught a class there — the Church Catechism and lessons from the authorised version of the Scriptures.”

“The clergyman made the circuit of the room, passing near each group. He at last approached my wife’s class and lingered near it. The lesson was taken from the Scriptures. It was no class-book of Biblical extracts she was using, but the Bible as it is used in the Protestant Church. The reverend visitor listened to the questions put and answers given, and to the children reciting their verses. The following Sunday my wife and I went to church. The preacher that day proved to be the clergyman who had a few days before visited the school. The sermon was eloquent, and, as usual, was directed against the spread of Liberalism and the ‘ Radical council.’ In the midst of the torrent of denunciation the preacher emphatically asserted that, some days before, he had visited the Corporation schools in the hour of religious instruction, and that no Bible was in use during that time.”

As the period drew nigh for the November election to replace the retiring third of the council, the religious zeal of the town burned higher. To the imagination of frightened Protestants, theConservatives presented themselves in the reassuring role of ” Defenders of the Faith.” They played the part so well that seven Tories replaced seven of the sixteen Liberal councillors who had retired.

Matters had now reached such a pitch that, at the next meeting of the board, Mr. Birch moved that the schools be discontinued, the property sold, and the Corporation trouble itself no more with the question of education. The proposition was so unexpected that the debate upon the motion was adjourned for a fortnight.

When the day for the debate arrived, the Educational Committee were ready to meet their opponents. In long and able speeches, Mr. Rathbone and Mr. Blackburn met and refuted every objection. They sketched the history of the mixed system of education, showed its essential fitness to the requirements of Liverpool, where the number of Catholics and Dissenters rendered the question of education as knotty to solve as the Government had found it to be in Ireland. They described the difficulties they had already surmounted, and earnestly pleaded that no change should be introduced into the committee’s plans until fair time for trial had been allowed it. Mr. Walmsley also spoke. He made no attempt to refute the quibbling assertions advanced against the system, but he went straight to the heart of the subject, to the humanity and justice that were the very core of it. This was no political or party question, but one in the decision of which the moral training and future welfare of a number of children were involved. He showed that one thousand three hundred children were daily taught in the schools; if the majority were Catholics, it proved only their greater need of schools. ” The result of giving them up,” he said, “would be to give up to vice and ignorance children whose hopes we have raised towards better things. It has truly been said that ‘ he who retards the progress of intellect countenances crime, and is to the State the greatest criminal.’ ”

By a large majority of votes, the council decreed that the mixed system should be continued in the schools.

In the month of August, 1837, Mr. Wilderspin, to whom the committee had entrusted their arrangement and organisation, announced that his work was finished. Before retiring, he wished an examination to take place of all the scholars. Clergymen attended to put the little Protestants through a sifting and trying ordeal. The result of this trial will be best expressed in an extract from a letter of the Rev. J. Carruthers. ” The examination proves that the teaching given is not of a secular kind, but on the contrary embraces an amount of instruction far exceeding what is usual in either public or private seminaries. The Bible is not excluded, is not a sealed book. The amount and accuracy of Biblical knowledge possessed is astonishing.”

Thus the children silenced by their answers the cry raised against the mutilation of the Scriptures. The innocent replies proved better than could the ablest defence, in what spirit the Educational Committee had worked, and in what spirit their enemies had judged their efforts.

Before separating, the audience who had been present, and who for the most part had come to criticise, united in passing a vote of thanks and congratulation to the Educational Committee for the work they had done, and for the excellent state of the schools.

We have dwelt at some length on this attempt of the council to establish a free and religious scheme of education in Liverpool, for it was destined to prove the rock ahead on which Liberalism was to split.

The following is from Tom Burke. The wording in brackets is from footnotes in the original; and he is calling the Reformers, or Whigs, Liberals, not a term they themselves would have used at the time.

Tom Burke tells us of ” the delicate relations between the English and Irish Catholics of the town, and the ease with which the susceptibilities of the latter could be touched in a tender spot. “

The differences were momentarily forgotten over the memorable fight for the schools at the November election of 1841. Somewhat prematurely the Liberal party announced that if returned to power they would build schools in every district of the town to be conducted on the same lines as the two schools already in existence. McNeill and his Tory followers paraded the streets with open [Life of William Rathbone, by Miss Eleanor Rathbone. ] Bibles attached to long poles, and strenuously appealed to the electors not to allow the erection of any schools unless Catholics and Dissenters would accept instruction from the authorised  version of the Scripture. ” Converted priests “ harangued frenzied Protestant audiences, and were described by John Rosson, quoting Edmund Burke, ” as only qualified to read the English language,” and went on to say that as scholars they were ” despicable “ and as divines ” grossly ignorant men “ These Orange zealots forgot in their blind fury that the outcome of a Tory Protestant victory would be to force the Catholics to build schools for themselves, else they had never undertaken the campaign which aroused the worst passions of one section of the community and effectually destroyed for many years peace and harmony among the diverse sections which made up the Liverpool of the early forties.

Wild stories were put in circulation of the ” murder “ of seven Protestant clergymen in Ireland, which so inflamed the Orange population of Toxteth that they smashed up an anti-Corn Law meeting in Great George Place, confusing, in their frenzy, economics with ” Popery.” They then marched to St. Patrick s Chapel, and shattered the windows of both schools and church. The wife of a policeman was saying her prayers quietly in the church when the infuriated mob made the attack, and, as the consequence, lost her life from fright, an incident which increased animosity on both sides. The Conservative party, emboldened by the strife, demanded that no prayers should be recited in the Council schools save those to be found in the Anglican liturgy, and that no teachers should be appointed outside those who professed the Protestant faith as defined by Dr. McNeill. A lady had been appointed a teacher at the North Corporation School, on the  recommendation of the Protestant Bishop of Ferns. Coming from Ireland, her orthodoxy was suspected and the Conservatives in the Council refused to ratify the decision of the Education Committee. The Liberals declared that they declined to make religious belief a test, but had no objection to informing their opponents that the lady in question professed the Protestant faith. On this assurance, and for ” the maintenance of truth,” the Conservatives withdrew their opposition. They had, however, secured their object, the ” maintenance “ of religious controversy, and had so well succeeded that they fought the elections with an air of confidence, which was abundantly justified by the results.

The Liberals were swept out of the Council by this whirlwind of passion ; only three being returned at the poll. Every retiring Liberal Alderman was ousted, and until 1892 the Liberal party remained in a hopeless minority. The Catholic Aldermen Sheil and Roskell, fell with their Liberal colleagues, and William Rathbone suffered his third defeat in Great George Ward. Flushed with victory, the Tories resolved upon a policv of making it impossible for any Catholic child attending further the Corporation schools. The educational treaty of peace was rudely torn up, never to be restored, as the Nonconformists very naturally were driven into bitter hostility against the party which had practically resolved to teach at the expense of the ratepayers, the authority of the Church of England. The elections were fought on the first of November, and by the first day of the following month the Catholics learned with dismay the intentions of the dominant party. They took up a firm but dignified attitude and presented the following remonstrance to the new Corporation :

” It being generally understood that it is in contemplation to discard the Douai Version of the Bible entirely from the Council schools, and to require that all the children shall use the Authorised Version of the Established Church, and shall, moreover, join in a common form of prayer at the beginning and end of school, the Catholic clergy of Liverpool beg most respectfully to state to the Council that they cannot conscientiously concur in such an arrangement, whereby the religious principles of the children attending the schools will be compromised ; and pray that the contemplated changes may not be adopted.”

Then follow the signatures of the Rev. Dr. Youens (St. Nicholas ), Fathers Wilcock (St. Anthony’s), Thos. Fisher, O.S.B. (St. Mary’s), and Dale, O.S.B. (St. Peter’s).

Councillor Smith proposed that separate schools should be provided for the Catholics in poor districts. The debate which ensued was characterised by truculency and tolerance. Unitarianism and ” Popery “ were regarded as convertible terms by the Conservative leaders, and in insulting and contemptuous language the Catholic claim to be regarded as citizens was flouted and rejected. Why the Unitarian body should have been singled out for reproach was probably due to the fact that the leading Liberals, with few exceptions, belonged to that community, and distinguished themselves not only by their entire sympathy with the cause of religious toleration, but gave many practical tokens of sympathy with the Catholics of the town.

The Catholic children had no option but to withdraw from the Council schools, an action which gave intense satisfaction to the Tories, especially with regard to the North Corporation School. True to the course which had been mapped out beforehand, the Council schools were now turned into adjuncts of the Established Church, and all children in the Bevington Bush School were compelled to attend on Sundays and marched to the church service in St. Bartholomew’s, Naylor Street, unless the parents objected.” To mark his ” abhorrence “ of this policy, the Earl of Sefton sent a donation of twenty-five pounds to St. Anthony’s Schools, Scotland Road,[” Another kind of Town Councillor arose, who, with great pretension to religion, most irreligiously and unjustly, expelled from the public schools Catholic children by the hundreds.” St. Anthony’s Report, 1842.] and many other Liberals, including Sir Joshua Walmsley [ Mayor of Liverpool, 1839-40 ; afterwards M.P.] followed his example. The Catholic mind was finally made up. ” Schools of our own ! “ was the cry which resounded from every home as well as every pulpit. Thus the Tories of Liverpool may be styled the promoters of that magnificent series of Catholic schools which have sprung up in every quarter of Liverpool, to which came the teaching orders who lifted elementary education to the highest pinnacle of perfection. The bigoted Evangelicals did not anticipate such a result. Had they been far-seeing, instead of being blinded by rancour and partisanship, they would have seen that their policy would eventually bring about this result.

What would have happened had McNeill not driven the Liberals from power is now an interesting speculation. Every ward in Liverpool would have had its Council school, and under the disinterested management of a Liberal Education Committee most Catholic children would have been in attendance. Mixed schools are not looked upon with friendly eyes by Catholics, but the success of a six years experiment, and the poverty of the labouring classes, would, in all human probability, have prevented the erection of purely Catholic schools for a generation.

Where were the teachers to come from ? was the anxious query heard on all sides. The Government had made no provision for training teachers. Ireland came to the rescue, so far as the boys were concerned, and with the advent of the Irish Christian Brothers [The same work has been undertaken in Rome by the Irish Christian Brothers, at the express request of Pope Pius the Tenth. ] to St. Patrick s a new era of usefulness and charity was begun for that fine body of teachers. Later on they came to St. Anthony’s, St. Nicholas , St. Mary’s, and St. Vincent’s. Without payment or reward, save the voluntary offerings of the parents, these cultured men did a noble work for the poor children of their own race. To make them practical, earnest Catholics was their first aim ; to equip them for the battle of life was an easy matter for a body which had long distinguished itself by practical aims which have since disappeared from curriculums framed by more ambitious but less successful educationalists. For forty years they laboured in the town, and their departure under the pressure of the Act of 1870 caused widespread dissatisfaction.

To them belongs the distinction of founding the first evening continuation schools, in St. Patrick’s, during the year 1842, which were attended by one hundred and twenty Irish adults, anxious as most Irishmen have ever been for education. Such an impression was created by this experiment that Dr. Ullathorne, O.S.B., paid a special visit to St. Patrick’s to preach a sermon in its support. The Benedictines at St. Mary’s summoned a special meeting on December 16th, 1842, in the Grecian Hotel, to consider the sad plight of the great numbers of poor children in that district. They adopted a resolution regretting the decision of the Town Council, and resolved to issue an appeal to friends of education ” of all ” denominations to provide means of dealing with these “unfortunate children.” [Liverpool Albion.] Fathers Fisher, Wilkinson and Dale addressed a letter to the senior churchwarden of the Parish of Liverpool, Mr. W. Birkett, pointing out the condition of the poor children of St. Mary’s, and expressing the hope that the community would provide means for their instruction. The impertinent reply which followed illustrates the unfortunate tone and temper of the official Anglicans towards the Catholics of that day. Mr. Birkett began and ended by denying the right of the three Benedictines to claim the title of priests or be called “reverend,” as they had not been ordained in conformity with the laws of the Church of England. It became necessary to give this gentleman an elementary lesson in the doctrine of the Church whose self- appointed spokesman he had become, and Father Wilkinson was selected by his brethren to perform that duty. How well he performed the task may be gleaned from this crushing reply :

“With regard to my Orders, though I have not entered the ministry by making the declaration required by the rubrics of the Established Church, permit me, sir, to inform you, that the rubrics of that Church recognise the validity of my Orders ; and, if from a desire to have less labour and more pay, or any other equally creditable motive, I were to apostatize from the faith of my fathers, and embrace a creed in conformity with the laws of this realm, a Bishop of your Church would readily admit the validity of my Orders, and at once appoint me to a curacy. And now, as to my designating myself a Catholic clergyman, I am a humble member of the ancient faith, Catholic in every attribute, and in every sense, Catholic in all ages and in every nation ; Catholic by the received and admitted consent of mankind ; properly designated Catholic in history, geography, in the works of travellers, in the Senate, at the bar, in the public journals, in the drawing- room, and in every other department and locality, unless an exception be found in the vestry of Our Lady and St. Nicholas.”

Quoting the full title of the old parish church was the unkindest cut of all; devotion to Our Lady or St. Nicholas not being a prominent feature of the principles of the unfortunate recipient of this well-merited castigation.

The better educated members of the English Church heartily enjoyed Father Wilkinson s ready and apt reply. Church warden Birkett was snuffed out, and did not venture again into the fields of religious controversy.

 

St Patrick’s, Park Place, Toxteth

Liverpool had expanded hugely over the course of the eighteenth century, from a small fishing town with a population of 5,714 in 1700, to a 1,400% increase of population to 77,708 in 1801. The population more than doubled again by 1831 to 165,221. The vast majority was immigration from Ireland.  The pressures this created on the need for housing, schools, and churches form a rather murky undertone to almost everything that happens in Liverpool, and particularly the politics. There are other strands as well, the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the Corn Laws in 1815, a succession of poor Irish harvests in the 1820’s and 1830’s, the fight for Catholic emancipation leading to the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, and the fight for Parliamentary Reform.

The following is largely extracted from Thomas Burke’s ” Catholic History of Liverpool,”  Liverpool : C. Tinling & Co., Ltd., Printers, 53, Victoria Street. 1910.  The wording in brackets is from footnotes in the original.

” The opening year of the nineteenth century witnessed a large influx of poor Irish people into Liverpool. One writer attributed the immigration to the passage into law of the Act of Union [Brook’s History of Liverpool.] which abolished the Irish Houses of Parliament, and provided for the future government of Ireland from Westminster. It is difficult to see how such an Act was directly responsible for sending the Irish of 1801 in large numbers to Liverpool, though it is certain that the result which ensued therefrom created the Irish Liverpool of a later date.

In the year 1821, the Catholic population, estimated by the numbers attending Mass on the Sunday mornings, was 12,000, as compared with a total seating accommodation of 56,200 in all the Anglican and Dissenting places of worship in the town. From a census taken in this same year we learn that the total number of houses occupied were 19,007, the average number of dwellers therein amounting to 5.84.

A distinguished Liverpool Irishman, [Henry Smithers, in  Liverpool, Its Commerce, Statistics, and InstitutionsWith a History of the Cotton Trade, T. Kaye, 1825]  calculated that ten years earlier (1811) there were 21,359 Catholics living inside the town boundaries. As corroborating this opinion, a priest attached to St. Nicholas speaking at a public meeting in the schools in 1830, declared that the Catholics numbered not less than one-third or one-fourth of the entire population, [165,221 in 1831]  and called special attention to the definitely ascertained fact that in the course of twenty-three years the number of Catholic baptisms had increased 340 per cent. [Liverpool Mercury, 21st May, 1830.]

More churches were needed.  The next extension of church accommodation took place at St. Peter’s, Seel Street, the extended church being opened on November 27, 1817.

In 1822, another influx of Irish immigrants arrived in the town, due to the severity of Irish landowners, who demanded their pound of flesh notwithstanding the generally depressed condition of Irish agriculture.

The newspapers record the sequel in these words. ” Crowds of indigent poor sought relief at the workhouse in Cumberland Street, and at the parish church of St. Peter’s, Church Street.” It would be an interesting item of historical value could we calculate the heavy cost to Liverpool ratepayers of Irish misgovernment, and a no less interesting speculation would be the progress of Catholicism in Liverpool had Pitt failed in carrying into law the ill-fated Act of Union. This second exodus from Ireland to Liverpool must have been very considerable, as a local historian* tells us that around the Exchange not fifteen in a hundred were natives of the town owing to the numbers of poor Irish  arriving daily. This immense mass of Catholics around the Tithebarn Street and Vauxhall Road area, entailed serious consequences social and economic to the town which have not wholly disappeared to this hour (1910), and brought about the erection of further chapels and schools, but for which the citizens of Liverpool had been brought face to face with insoluble problems of crime and lawlessness. Liverpool has failed entirely to realise its debt to the devoted Catholic clergy and the energetic Catholic laymen who saved the situation to some extent both in the twenties and the terrible years which were soon to follow.

This Irish congestion had a curious sequel if we are to credit the statement that when the “cabbage patches “ which lined ” the road to Ormskirk,” had to give way to much needed sites for dwelling houses, the new street was called Marie-la-bonne, modified to Marybone, at the request of the Catholics ” who began to occupy the houses erected.”! Agricultural land now assumed a high value as ” eligible “ building sites, and brought in its train as a logical result the awful problem of housing the poor which perplexes local and imperial statesmen ignorant of the one method of solving the difficulty.

St Patrick’s, Park Place, Toxteth

St. Mary’s Chapel, just sixty-six feet long and forty-eight broad was sorely taxed to find room for the thousands who sought to hear Mass therein…… A similar state of affairs existed at the South end of the town. Seel Street Chapel was utterly unable to cope with the congested Irish population living in the streets off Park Lane and St. James Street, and a lay committee took in hand the erection of a new church to supply the spiritual needs of this Irish colony.

The dedication of the church leaves no doubt as to the nationality of the poor for whom it was founded and quite a thrill of enthusiasm swept over the Irish population at the announcement that the Park Place Church was to be placed under the protection of the Apostle of Ireland. [Strong opposition was offered by the Protestant body to the erection, on the ground that there was plenty of accommodation already.]  Touched by the needs of the Irish poor many of the leading Liberals gave substantial assistance towards the undertaking, and the poor contributed their mite generously and whole heartedly. The English Catholics of the town were generous to a degree and on the 17th of March, 1821, not many months after the project had been conceived, the foundation stone was laid amidst scenes of jubilation, probably never equalled since that memorable day.

St. Patrick’s feast occurred on a Saturday that year, not the most suitable day for public rejoicings or processions, but the day mattered not, the heart of Catholic and Irish Liverpool was touched in its tenderest part, and a great procession was the result. Those were the days of great faith. Consequently the day was opened by the Irish Society attending Mass at St. Mary’s, a compliment to the parent church as well as a thanksgiving to God, and then reforming, the procession wended its way to St. Anthony’s, where the second half of the procession had also heard Mass at an early hour. Led by several carriages in which were seated the rector of St. Nicholas, Father Penswick, Father Dennet, of Aughton, and the preacher at the ceremony, Father Kirwan, St. Michan’s, Dublin, the monstre procession moved off on its long march to Park Place. Then followed the Irish Societies, wearing their regalia, bearing banners and flags, and accompanied by numerous brass and fife bands, including the Hibernian Society, Benevolent Hibernian Society, Hibernian Mechanical Society, Benevolent Society of St. Patrick, Amicable Society of St. Patrick, Free and Independent Brothers, Industrious Universal Society and the Society of St. Patrick. The last named organisation was founded specially to raise funds for the new church. Behind these organisations which comprised fifteen thousand men, marched the school children from the schools of Copperas Hill and the Hibernian School in Pleasant Street.

That year the famous Irish regiment [Connaught Rangers.] whose exploits under Wellington in the Peninsular War were still remembered, was stationed in the town. On hearing of the proposed procession they expressed a keen desire to take part in it, and the Officer in command appealed to the War Office for the necessary permission, which was readily given. Their appearance in the procession, many of them bearing signs of their services to the King, aroused the sympathies of the liberal minded non-Catholic population and kindled the enthusiasm of their countrymen to fever heat. In the absence of the Vicar Apostolic who sent his blessing, Father Penswick well and truly laid the foundation stone, and amidst the jubilation ” of the thousands of English Catholics in the town ” and the plaudits of the immense crowd of native born Irishmen, the new mission was launched on its notable career. The festivities concluded by four public banquets held in Crosshall Street, Sir Thomas Buildings, Ranelagh Street and Paradise Street.

St Patrick’s, Toxteth – interior

Two years later the unfinished building began to be used and quite a surprise was felt by the average citizen at the strange and unique spectacle of hundreds of men and women kneeling outside the walls of the church on Sunday mornings, unable to obtain admission to the sacred edifice which was crowded to its utmost capacity as far as its condition permitted. Father Penswick, who was the head and front of the scheme for founding the church, made a herculean effort to finish the building. To this end he founded in his own parish an auxiliary branch of the Society of St. Patrick and raised a considerable sum of money. Many distinguished Irish ecclesiastics crossed over to Liverpool and preached in the still unfinished building; the Professor of Rhetoric at Maynooth one Sunday morning collecting two hundred pounds. Irish and English Catholics worked harmoniously until a foolish murmur was spread abroad that Father Penswick intended to put an English priest in charge of the mission and that he intended to frustrate the idea of the lay Trustees to make the ground floor of the church free for ever.

This latter proposal, afterwards carried out, is a striking light on the poverty of the masses of the people at that time. An angry correspondence sprang up in the newspapers and retarded the collection of the needed funds, but eventually the rumours were dispelled by the appointment of Father Murphy.

On the 22nd August, 1827, the church was opened by ceremonies of such splendour and solemnity as had never before been witnessed by Liverpool Catholics of any preceding age. Over forty priests were seated in the chancel, coming from all parts of Lancashire and Cheshire. As a compliment to the founder of the church, Father Penswick was invited to sing the High Mass, an eloquent sermon being preached by Father Walker (later on one of the resident clergy), who had a high reputation as a pulpit orator. The amount collected inside the church on that day reached the large sum of three hundred pounds. The papers of the day paid special attention as usual to the musical portion of the service which was of a very high character, and specifically mentioned a  young priest named White whose singing attracted much public attention. He had but recently returned from his studies in Rome and was asked by Pope Leo the Twelfth to join the choir in the Sistine chapel. This flattering offer was declined; the young Levite preferring the hard work of a mission in his native Lancashire to musical fame in the Eternal City. On the Sunday following the ceremony the church was opened free to the public as had been arranged by the Trustees; a stone laid in the outer west wall inscribed with this condition stands to this hour to perpetuate this curious condition. Mr. John Brancker, one of the noblest spirited public men of a generation remarkable for the high character and unselfishness of so many of its leading citizens on the Liberal side, had given generously to the funds for the church. He gave one special gift which against his own wishes told succeeding generations of his great charity. The fine statue of St. Patrick which stands outside the church was ordered by him from a Dublin firm of sculptors and placed in position in November, 1827. It has the distinction of being the first Catholic emblem displayed to public gaze in Liverpool since St. Patrick s Cross in Marybone had been destroyed.

Thirty four years later in 1861, the future Mgr. Henry O’Bryen was the 3rd curate at the church.