[From Draper The House of Stanley]


To omit all notice of the final resting places of the mortal remains of the illustrious race of the Stanleys, Earls of Derby, would leave the present sketch of the House of Stanley shorn of one of its not least interesting associations; therefore, it is proposed to notice, somewhat briefly, those two hallowed spots in which the Earls of Derby and their ancestors have been sepulchred during the last seven hundred years—these being Burscough Priory, previously to the death of Edward, the third Earl, and Ormskirk Parish Church, up to the present time.


Burscough Priory

I do love these ancient ruynes;
We never tread upon them but we set
Our foote upon some reverend history;
And questionless have in this open court
(Which now lies naked to the injuries
Of stormy weather) some men lie interred,
Loved the Church as well, and gave as largely to’t.
They thought it should have canopied their bones
Till Domesday ; but all things have their end;
Churches and cities (which have diseases like to men)
Must have like Death that we have.—Webster’s Duchess of Malfi.

Burscough Priory, or as it is sometimes called "Burscough Abbey," was situate in the beautiful and fertile vale of the township of Burscough, being about two miles east of Ormskirk, and one mile and a half north-east of Lathom House and the ruins of it, as they now stand, cannot fail to arrest the attention of travellers on the East Lancashire section of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, from which they are only about 100 yards distant on the south side of the line of rails, and about a quarter of a mile from the Burscough Toll-gate on the Liverpool and Preston Turnpike road.*

The Priory of Burscough was founded for the order of Black Canons, in the reign of Richard I., its founder being Robert Fitz-Henry, Lord of Lathom, son of Henry de Torbock and Lathom, supposed to be a descendant from Orm ; and Britton, in his Beauties of Lancashire, observes that its noble founder "endowed it with considerable property, emoluments, and alms ; and, according to the weak superstition of the age, thought thereby to obtain pardon and rest for the souls of Henry the Second, John, Earl of Moreton, hirnself, his wife, and those of his ancestors ; at the same time wishing the kingdom of Heaven to all persons who would increase the gift ; and giving to the Devil and his Angels all who should impiously infringe on his bequests."

The priory claimed the patronage of St. Nicholas as its tutelar saint ; and an effigy of that saint is said to have been carved over the south porch of the priory church with two or three naked children at his feet.+ Impressions of the common seal of this religious house are still in existence. The area of the seal had two compartments, the upper one bearing the figure of a canon, in a square cap, instructing a child; and the lower, that of St. Nicholas, and round the area this inscription, " Sigill. sci. Nicholai. de. Bvriskov. .f "~According to Britton, whose description seems borne out by what still remains of its venerable ruins, the edifice was not large, but its architecture was chaste and beautiful, and was a noble specimen of the early Gothic, which had then superseded the heavy specimens of the Anglo-Norman era. Its form appears to have been that of a cross, exhibiting a beautiful tower over the points of intersection, peculiar to that form of ecclesiastical edifice ; its arches sharply pointed ; and its windows deeply recessed, narrow and lancet-shaped ; and the slender shafts of the columns carried in clusters to a great height, and surmounted by pinnacles of rich and elegant tracery.

The priory is said to have flourished 350 years previously to 1536, about which date it shared the fate of the other monastic institutions of the country, thus carrying its foundation back to about the year 1186. At the time of its dissolution, the house maintained a prior, and five canons of the Augustine order, and forty servants, and was endowed, according to Speed, with an annual revenue of £9129 1s. 10s.,* the value of which may be estimated when it is stated that in those days a moderate salary for a clergyman was £6 13s. 4d., and an ample salary, .£8 a year.

With the troubles of the other monastic institutions of the country came those also of the Priory of Burscough. In 1510, being the second year of the reign of Henry VIII., an inventory (preserved in the office of the Duchy of Lancaster) was taken " of the plate, furniture, bedding, and household stuff cattle, provender, or vestments belonging to the house of Burscough ;" and twenty-five years after this, in 27th Henry VIII., the Priory of Burscough had a more serious visitation, on which occasion " the Royal Commissioners, in their report to the King, returned that the priory was founded by the Earl of Derby, and that Hugh Woodhewer, the Prior, was living with a woman in a state of incontinency." How long the church and convent of Burscough were allowed to remain after this is not precisely known ; but subsequently to this date appear the names of two other priors of Burscough, one being Hugh Huckesley, whose funeral is recorded in the Burial Register of Ormskirk Parish Church thus, " 1558. May 2. Ser Hugh Huckesley Prior of Burscough, in this chutch." This Hugh Huckesley appears to have resigned his cure, and to have been succeeded as prior by John Barton,* who surrendered the Convent at the dissolution and subscribed to the King’s supremacy, and was living in 1553, and obtained a pension out of the revenues of the house, after its dissolution, of £13 6s. 8d. per annum,~ besides other payments; and Hugh Huckesley also received an annual pension of £13 6s. 8d. from the same source.

As already noticed, from its foundation to its dissolution, the church of Burscough Priory was the burial place of the Lathoms and their successors, the Stanleys of Lathom, Earls of Derby, but the reader must not expect to find at Burscough any trace of such sepulchre. We are not, however, left in doubt as to where the vault was in which rested the ashes of the members of this illustrious family, for Thomas, the first Earl of Derby, in his will, bequeathed his "body to be buryed in the middest of the chapell in the North Ile of the Church of the Priory of Burscough ;" and in his will he also names the position to be occupied by the effigies of the personages which he "caused to be made."* After the dissolution of Burscough Priory many of the bodies were removed from the vault at Burscough to the vault in the Derby Chapel at Ormskirk Church, built by Edward, the third Earl of Derby ; and two pairs of the effigies and three family armorial mural panels, which latter, no doubt, were inserted in the walls of the family chapel in Burscough Priory Church, were also removed to the Ormskirk Parish Church, which we shall have to notice further presently.

Of the once-famous Priory of Burscough there are now standing only two clustered pillars or piers of the central north arch of the church, which, with the corresponding arches, long since ruthlessly swept away, supported the tower, from which, it is interesting to reflect, have often sounded, on souls leaving their earthly tabernacles the rich, deep tones of the great tenor bell, now at Ormskirk Church. The east one of the two piers now standing has, on the east of it, a portion of the north wall of the chancel remaining, and on the north of it, one side of the east window of the north transept, and, at the bottom, on the north-west of this pier is a canopied recess, in an excellent state of preservation, in which originally stood the piscina, through which the water was poured away with which the chalice had been rinsed out after the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. These, with the large octagonal christening font, which lies under the pantry window of the adjoining farm house, and now used as a mash vessel for pigs’ food, and a few modern gravestones,~ and here and there a piece of carved stone in the wall enclosing the hallowed precincts, are the only memoriads remaining at Burscough of its once-famous priory, where many members of its noble founder’s family had found a final resting place, and where numerous guests at Lathpm, of princely and knightly rank — many of whom had fought and hazarded their lives at Agincourt, Cressy, and Flodden, and in the Wars of the Roses — had joined in the religious devotion of prayer and praise ; and where, no doubt, that saintly Princess, Margaret of Lancaster, the first Countess of Derby and mother of Henry VII., had joined in public worship and the hymn of praise to the Beneficent First Cause and Disposer of all things.

1 Leland, the famous topographer, thus alludes to Burscough Priory :—" Buiscow, a Priory of Blake chanons of the fundation of the Erles of Darby, a mile from Lathom. It standeth not very far from Duggils. Many of the Line of the Erles of Darby lyith here."

2 The head of the effigy of the saint formerly ~ occupied a position on the wall at the front of the abbey farm house, near to the gate, but was afterwards displaced, and lay about for many years, and often used as a " scotch " for cart wheels.

3 See Dugdale’s Monasticon.

4 Dugdale states it at £80 ; and, according to another valuation, £122 5s. Pd.

5 The property and emoluments appertaining to the Priory of Burscough, as given by its founder, are thus specified in the charter of endowment :—" All that land in the head of Burscogh, by the boundaries of the land of Stephen Calvus to Egeacres, between the highway of Wirpil Mosse, Egeacresbrook [Ellerbrook], and thence by the brook to the boundary between Ormekirk and Brakenthwayte [ Bickerstaffe] ; and so to Scarth [Scarthhill] ; and from Westhed [Westhead] ; and from Westhed to the brook of Scakerdaleved [Skelmersdale] Head ; and so by the brook to the ford from Alton [Aughton] to Urleton [Hurleston]. He also gave the wood of Grytteby [Greetby Hill] and the land of Robert Carpenter and others, the whole town of Merton [new Martin-lane, in Burscough], Therlescogh [Tarlescogh], and the churches of Ormskirk, Huton, and Flixton, the mill of Lathom, the place of St. Leonards, in Knouselegh [probably Knowsley], a plenary court, with all the liberties which he himself had, besides woods, common pasture, mast of oaks, and other rural privileges, for the soul of King Henry the younger ; John, Earl of Mortune ; his own father and mother, ancestors, and posterity." This ancient document con-eludes with the following peculiar anathema and benediction, which are somewhat more comprehensive than as given by Britton :—" That whosoever shall enlarge or maintain these alms might enter into the Kingdom of Heaven ; and whosoever should attempt to violate or infringe them might be subjected to eternal torment with the devil and his angels unless he should come to amendment and satisfaction." One of the witnesses to this document is Henry de Redeclive, who was a prominent personage in the reign of Henry II. According to an " Inspeximus," contained in the charter of 17th Edward II., Burscough Priory was further enriched by Walter, Lord of Scarisbreck [Scarisbrick], who granted to it " two acres of meadow land, measured by the perce of 22 feet, lying between his cultivated land and house, and formerly belonging to his brother, Adam de Hokynhead ; also his land at Hurleton [Hurleston] with the appurtenances, and the liberties of the town ; and also his land Hanktsheved, with common of pasture, and the liberties belonging to the town of Hanktsheved. From him descended James Scaresbreke, who, by an inquisition 4th Henry VII., was found to have held the manor of Scaresbrek, and lands in Hurdelton, Burscogh, Eggergarth, Aghton, Ormeskyrk, Bretherton, and Snape." Burscough seems also to have enjoyed the favours of royalty, for we are told that Edward II. granted twenty marks per annum, (as recited in a licence 20th Edward III.), to the Prior of Burscougb to purchase from Gilbert de Haydocke a messuage and lands in Ormskirk, and which they held by lease in the 18th year of the reign of Edward III. The prior and canons had also licence to hold a market and fairs in the manor of Ormskirk, which Henry, Duke of Lancaster, confirmed in the fourth year of his Dukedom. The~thartulary of Burscough Priory is preserved in the office of the Duchy of Lancaster, and is published in Duqdale’s Monasticon Anglicanum, in Latin, the following being the title of, and the confirming charter of Edward II. respecting the fair and markets to be held at Ormskirk :—" Carla Regis Edwardi Secundi, Donatorum Concessiones recitens et confirmans.—’ Edwardus Dci gratia rex Angliæ, dominus Hiberniæ at dux Aquitaniæ, archiepiscopis, &c. Inspeximus cartam quam cclebris memoriæ dominus Edwardus, quandam rex Angliæ, pater noster, fecit dilectis nobis in Christo priori at conventul de Burscogh, in hæc verba. ‘ Edwardus Del gratia rex Angliæ, dominus Hiberniæ, et dux Aquitaniæ, archiepiscopis, &c. Sciatis nos concessisse et hac cartâ nostth confirm5sse dilectis noble in Christo priori et conventui de Burscogh, quod ipsi et successores sui in perpetuum habeant unum mercatum singulis septimanis per diem Jovis apud manerium suum do Ormeschirche in comitatu Lancastrire ; et unam feriam ibidem singulis annis per quinque dies duraturam, videlicet in vigilia et in die et in crastino decollationis Sancti Johannis Baptistæ, ci per duos dies sequentes, nisi niercatum illud et feria illa sint ad nocumentum vicinorum mercatorum, at vicinarum feriarum. Quare volumus, &c. Hiis testibus venerabilibus patribus Roberto Bathoniensi et Wellensi, Willielmo Norwycensi, Godefrido Wygornensi episcopis ; Edmundo fratre nostro, Willielmo de lTalencia avunculo nostro, &c. Data per manum nostram apud Westmonasterium vicesimo octavo die Aprilis anno regni nostri quarto decimo.’ "—In English the foregoing royal charter will read thus :—" Charter of King Edward the Second, reciting and confirming the Grants of the Donor~. ‘ Edward, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine, Archbishop, &c. We have seen the charter which our Lord Edward of famous memory, formerly King of England, our father, made to our beloved in Christ, the Prior and Convent of Burscough, in these words,—’ Edward, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and those of Aquitaine, Archbishop, &c. Know ye that we have granted, and by this our charter have confirmed to our beloved in Christ, the Prior and Convent of Burscough, that they and their successors for ever may have a market every seventh day, on Thursday, at their manor of Ormskirk, in the county of Lancaster ; and a fair at the same place every year of five days’ duration, namely, on the eve and on the day, and on the morrow of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist, and for two days following, unless that market and that fair should be to the injury of neighbouring markets and neighbouring fairs.—Whereof we will, &c. In witness these venerable fathers, Robert of Bath and Wells, William of Norwich, Godfrey of Worcester, bishops ; Edmund, our brother ; William de valencia, our uncle, &c.’—Given under our hands, at Westminster, the twenty-eighth day of April, in the fourteenth year of our reign."—In the Chetham Library, at Manchester, is a manuscript, chewing an undated claim from Hector, prior of Burscough, to have a market every week, on Thursday. in his manor of Ormskirk ; one fair of five days’ duration, and a second fair on Tuesday, in October, with an assize of bread and beer, and all kinds of victuals and measures within the town.—Thursday is still the market-day ; but the fairs at Ormskirk are now held on Whit-Monday and Tuesday and the following Thursday ; and on the 10th and 11th of September, and Thursday following.

6 Of the other priors of Burscough very little is known. In a charter of Edward II: occurs the name of a Gamellus do Pennington as prior of Burscough, which is a faimbar name in the neighbourhood of Ormskirk . and it is recorded that a Thomas de Litherland. prior of Burseough in 1348, who had committed a rape on Margerie de la Bech, and also murdered Michaeles de Poininges and Thomas le Clarke, had the King’s pardon, 21 Edward III.—See Caked. Rotulo Patents, folio 145

7 See page 42.

8 In one of the Harleian MSS., No. 604, is the certificate of the value of the lesser Religious Houses of the country, in which it is certified that the " Bells, Lede, and Goodes of Burscough were valued at £cxxx. ijs. viid." What became of the furniture, painted windows, &c., after the dissolution, or the precise site of the priory house, is not known.

9 The tolling of bells for the dead in England appears to have been in vogue before the beginning of the eighth century." The 67th canon of the Church of England, in reference to the passing bell, is as follows, which shews that the very reasonable and original custom is not now strictly observed :—" When any is passing out of this life, a bell shall be tolled, and the minister shall not then slack to do his last duty. And after the party’s death, if it so falls out, there shall be rung no more but one short peal, and one other before the burial, and one other after the burial." It was customary in former days to ring church bells when persons were about to expire, in order to warn the Church to pray for them.

10 The burial ground of Burscough Priory was used as a place of interment up to about the middle of the last century, as a headstone, now standing between the two remaining piers, and bearing the following inscription, shows :—‘ Ann Cooper Died ye 17 of April, 1752," near to which is another gravestone bearing the date of " 1715."



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