« PreviousContinue »
THE TOWNELEYS OF TOWNELEY.
BY GEO. C. YATES, F.S.A.
OR some time previous to his death, Mr. John Eglington Bailey, in conjunction with Mr. Wm. Waddington, of Burnley, was engaged with a paper on "Christopher Towneley of Towneley, the well-known antiquary." Mr. Waddington had supplied him with much interesting information on the subject, in fact, had furnished him with his portion of the article, but I regret to say that I cannot find any trace of it, although I have carefully gone through all Mr. Bailey's MSS. in connection with the Towneleys. Mr. Bailey got permission from the Earl of Abingdon to copy the portrait of Christopher Towneley, then hanging in the gallery at Towneley Hall (a portrait that was unknown to Dr. Whitaker, or to the editors of the last edition of the History of Whalley); and Mr. Waddington copied this portrait by photography, and also took a photograph of Christopher Towneley's residence-Moorhills, Filley Close, Pendle Forest—which shows the inscription over a walled doorway, "C.T. 1668,” six years before Christopher's death. This paper was intended for the Palatine Note-book, and a woodcut of
the portrait was made by Mr. Langton to illustrate the paper. This engraving, which is here given, has since been purchased by the Society.
The Towneleys, of Towneley Hall, near Burnley, are among the oldest of Lancashire families. One Towneley pedigree takes us back to the time of King Alfred, and finds the founder of the family in a certain Spartlingus, a contemporary of that monarch, and said to be the first
of those singular personages, half lay, half clerical, the hereditary deans of Whalley and lords of the manor thereof, transmitting from father to son both a spiritual and temporal jurisdiction. One of these deans, "Geoffrey the elder," received "the vill of Tunlea" from his fatherin-law, Roger de Lacy, "between the years 1193 and 1211." A female descendant of Geoffrey, "Cecilia de Thonley," married, "about 4 Edward III.," a Legh,
and their posterity took her name, with lands of which she had come to be their heiress. From this Dame Cecilia have sprung all the Towneleys. The seat of the main branch of the family, Towneley Hall, is still in the domain which Roger de Lacy gave to Geoffrey the elder in the days of King John.
The first Towneley mentioned in local history is Sir Richard, said to have been knighted by the Lord Stanley on Hutton Field at a great review of the army returning from the campaign in Scotland, 22nd August, 1482. His son, Sir John, was sheriff of Lancashire from 23 to 32 Henry VIII. He increased the family estates by purchase and otherwise. Sir John lived to see his grandson and heir, Sir Richard Towneley (knighted at the siege of Leith), wed the heiress of the Lincolnshire Wimbishes, one of the many marriages by which the Towneleys added to their possessions. He himself, after having had two wives, took in his declining years a mistress, a certain Jennet Ingham, the sister, it is presumed, of the John Ingham whom he had presented to his chantry in Burnley Church as early as 15 Henry VII.; "so that," says Dr. Whitaker, "he seems, by a very unhappy and preposterous arrangement, to have chosen out of the same house the chaplain of his youth and the mistress of his old age."* Verging on seventy, Sir John died, about 1541, some years after the suppression of the pilgrimage of grace, participation in which he had skilfully avoided, thus escaping the ruin in which that insurrectionary protest against the suppression of monasteries involved several of his friends.
The Reformation had come or was coming. The Towneleys, like many other old Lancashire families, clung to the ancient creed, and have remained Roman
* See Rent Roll of Sir J. Towneley, Chetham Miscellanies.
Catholics to this day. As a natural consequence, they adhered more or less conspicuously to the House of Stuart. When simple recusancy was penal, the Towneleys did not flinch from the consequences or abandon their faith. The John who was Towneley of Towneley fifty years had to suffer severely for the assertion of his belief in the efficacy of masses.
There is still hanging in the gallery of Towneley Hall a portrait of this persevering and persecuted Papist and his family, to which is affixed a contemporary inscription, containing a brief and pointed biography of the original, as follows: "This John about the 6th or 7th year of her Majesty that now is, for professing the Apostolic Catholic Roman faith, was imprisoned first in Chester Castle, then sent to Marshalsea, then to York Castle, then to the Blockhouses in Hull, then to the Gatehouse in Westminster, then to Manchester, then to Broughton in Oxfordshire, then twice to Ely in Cambridgeshire, and so now of 73 years old and blind, is bound to appear and keep within 5 miles of Towneley his house, who hath since the statute of '23 paid into the Exchequer £20 the month, and doth still; (so) that there is paid already above £5,000. 1601."* The persecuted John found a good and influential friend in his uterine brother—a son by her first marriage of his father's second wife and his own mother. This was Alexander Nowell, a notable Lancashire worthy of the family of that name seated at Read Hall, near Burnley, who, after having been persecuted in Mary's reign, became Dean of St. Paul's in Elizabeth's time, and was not only the author of the first form of our Church Catechism, but discoursed the merits of bottled ale to boot.
* Chet. Soc., vol. xcviii., p. 45.
In sundry letters from the Lords of the Council to the Earl of Derby and the Bishop of Chester of his day, Nowell figures as interceding on behalf of his "brother Towneley." On one occasion the object of his intercession is that John Towneley, then imprisoned at Manchester for recusancy, should be allowed to proceed to London, “he having fallen into certain diseases, whereof he is desired to be cured here, where it is supposed that best advice and help may be had. We have been contented to yield some favour unto him in that behalf, and therefore pray your lordships to give order that he may be sent up hither in the company of some trusty person whom you shall appoint, to the intent, on the understanding he be not suffered to go out of the way to any other house besides the ordinary inns but come directly hitherto in such sort as the state of his body may conveniently bear. And at his coming we mind to take further order what shall be done with him." Which letter the Bishop of Chester (Chadderton), smelling a rat, docketed thus: "For Mr. Towneley to be sent by reason of a feigned information given by the Dean of St. Paul's of his sickness."
On another occasion, my Lords direct the Earl of Derby and the Bishop to allow John Towneley to leave prison for a time "upon his own bond in a good sum of money" on his plea that he has in hand "great causes and suits for land, a marriage to be made in Lincolnshire for his daughter." They are more inclined to grant him this favour because they are "informed that the said Towneley (his religion excepted) doth carry himself dutifully and quietly." Finally (5th July, 1584), they order his release because he has paid the money appointed and limited by statute, "and as justice ought to be done even to recusants, it is not fair to inflict a double punishment."