Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Pleasington Priory.

This post is mainly about Pleasington Priory, a building I have not been inside but have seen from the outside on numerous occasions. The picture above is the only one I have not taken, which I point out because whoever took it may wish for credit to be attributed, but I can find no information as to the identity of the photographer. I would be interested in seeing pictures of how it used to look before the reordering of the sanctuary. The perpendicular gothic influence is clearly visible, particularly in the light of the exceptionally tall, high clerestory windows which give a feeling of space in an otherwise fairly stubby building. I would hazard a guess that the building is not much longer than it is tall. John Palmer, the Manchester based architect who designed the Priory also designed what is now Blackburn Cathedral not far away from Pleasington.

I can find no information as to the Priory status of the building, whether it is an old title (I see no Priory) or whether it relates to an order of honorary Canons I do not know, but the Parish Priest is listed as a 'Very Rev.' and many of the graves of old PP's also bear the same title. There are also three plots for nuns, whether they were at any time resident here, again, I do not know. This plot is for the Franciscan Missionaries of Saint Joseph, begun in 1878 by Alice Ingham, who was 41, her stepmother and two friends. They began a community life in Rochdale, devoted to the poor and needy of that area, supporting themselves by running a sweet shop. They were third order Franciscans and in 1883, Alice, now Mother Frances and the community, now numbering eleven professed women, made vows formally and went to live in Mill Hill near London, to look after the community of men there. They split, and most moved to Blackburn. The community now serve in Kenya and Equador, this plot marks the end of their involvement in the North West of England.

This plot contains the remains of the Servite Sisters of Our Lady of Compassion, awaiting the general resurrection. They seemed to begin in New Zealand but the twenty or so in England became affiliated to the Servites (previously being Sisters of Our Lady of Compassion) in 1967. The order of Servite Sisters and Servants of Mary has its origins in Langres as a loose grouping of women under the Bishop, who later went to London to take vows and be formally recognised as an order in their own right. I can find no record of their work in this area, sadly.

This, finally, is the bodily resting place of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth of these parts. The Poor Sisters were formally approved in Hammersmith, London, in 1888 but were active for some time before that, as these graves tell. There is a Nazareth House around the corner from here, which offers care for elderly priests and laypeople. Father Gordon Dowden, whom I had the privilege of taking the Blessed Sacrament to and visiting, stayed there until his recent death in North Manchester general Hospital where he passed away in great serenity.

These pictures have not come in the order I might have liked, so I will use this picture of your scribe enjoying a pint near Pleasington to make you aware of a minor housekeeping issue which you have probably already noticed. Haloscan, our comments box provider, is migrating to a new home, which is causing some difficulties. Comments may not be visible, they may even vanish or move altogether. I can do nothing about this, so bear with them.

Talking of comments, I had one of my 'corrective' emails yesterday. Many of you email me with news, stories and good wishes, for which I am grateful. Now and again, though, someone (I think it is the same person) sends me an email telling me to begin, or cease, doing something. This person clearly has some connection with the Anglo Catholic wing, as is evident from their messages and has some passing knowledge of myself as well. It is impossible to reply to the messages as the email account is clearly deleted after the message is delivered. There is nothing awful in these messages, but come on, allow me some right to reply!

This is interesting, I wonder if it commemorates a local event? It shows the Papal arms, presumably of Pius IX, who was pope at the time, with a Bishop's crest. Can anyone throw any light onto this?

Three fine graves at the East end of the Church. As there is little else to say about them, THIS may interest you, from Damien Thompson's blog, it is a further letter from Mons. Fellay of the SSPX explaining that he has disciplined his fellow Bishop, Williamson, for his recent actions. Why this did not come before I do not know, but it seems an excellent way for the SSPX to jettison the Vichyite rump of its membership, the only problem is, how many will be left?

The South side of the Church reflects five internal bays, separated by buttresses and shows the clerestory windows seeming lower than the internal view would suggest, this relates to the comment I made earlier about the dimensions of the building.

The two gargoyles above and the 'green man' below this statue are interesting and show the lack of commitment to medieval accuracy prevalent before the influence of Pugin was felt, from such great designs as Saint Giles' Cheadle.

The Church is dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint John the Baptist, who can be seen here to the left and in the central statue which is supported by a portrait of John Francis Butler, the donor of the Church, wearing military uniform. Butler was a prominent Roman Catholic and a Freemason, indeed there are a number of freemasonic graves in the Churchyard, with the expected symbols carved into the stone. The 'all seeing eye', despite its Christian usage, is also heavily used in Masonry and can be seen, in whatever context you wish to see it, as the keystone of the arch above.

Finally, a view from the Northwest showing the Priory basking in the afternoon sun in a cold January day.