Transcribed by Peter Moulding
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OUR CHURCHES AND CHAPELS
THEIR PARSONS, PRIESTS, & CONGREGATIONS; BEING A CRITICAL AND HISTORICAL ACCOUNT
OF EVERY PLACE OF WORSHIP IN PRESTON.
BY “ATTICUS” (A. HEWITSON).
‘T is pleasant through the loopholes of retreat to peep at such a world.–Cowper.
Reprinted from the Preston Chronicle.
PRINTED AT THE “CHRONICLE” OFFICE, FISHERGATE, PRESTON. 1869.
TO THE READER.
The general satisfaction given by the following sketches when originally printed in the Preston Chronicle, combined with a desire, largely expressed, to see them republished, in book form, is the principal excuse offered for the appearance of this volume. Into the various descriptions of churches, chapels, priests, parsons, congregations, &c., which it contains, a lively spirit, which may be objectionable to the phlegmatic, the sad-faced, and the puritanical, has been thrown. But the author, who can see no reason why a “man whose blood is warm within” should “sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster,” on any occasion, has a large respect for cheerfulness, and has endeavoured to make palatable, by a little genial humour, what would otherwise have been a heavy enumeration of dry facts. Those who don’t care for the gay will find in these sketches the grave; those who prefer vivacity to seriousness will meet with what they want; those who appreciate all will discover each. The solemn are supplied with facts; the facetious with humour; the analytical with criticism. The work embodies a general history of each place of worship in Preston–fuller and more reliable than any yet published; and for reference it will be found valuable, whilst for general reading it will be instructive. The author has done his best to be candid and impartial. If he has failed in the attempt, he can’t help it; if he has succeeded, he is thankful. No writer can suit everybody; and if an angel had compiled these sketches some men would have croaked. To the generality of the Church of England, Catholic, and Dissenting clergymen, &c., in the town, the author tenders his warmest thanks for the generous manner they have assisted him, and the kindly way in which they have supplied him with information essential to the completion of the work.
Preston, Dec. 24th, 1869.
7 Parish Church
13 St. Wilfrid’s Catholic Church
18 Cannon-street Independent Chapel 23 Lune-street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel 28 Fishergate Baptist Chapel
34 St. George’s Church
39 St. Augustine’s Catholic Church 45 Quakers’ Meeting House
51 St. Peter’s Church
55 New Jerusalem Church
60 Trinity Church
66 Lancaster-road Congregational Chapel 70 Saul-street Primitive Methodist Chapel 75 St. Ignatius’s Catholic Church
82 Vauxhall-road Particular Baptist Chapel 88 Christ Church
94 Wesley and Moor Park Methodist Chapels 99 Presbyterian and Free Gospel Chapels 104 St. James’s Church
110 The Mormons
116 St. Walburge’s Catholic Church 122 Unitarian Chapel
127 All Saints Church
132 United-Methodist Free Church and Pole-street Baptist Chapel 137 Church of the English Martyrs
142 St. Saviour’s Church
148 Christian Brethren and Brook-street Primitive Methodists 153 St. Thomas’s Church
158 Croft-street Wesleyans & Parker-street United Methodists 164 Grimshaw-street Independent Chapel
169 St. Paul’s Church
175 St. Mary’s-street and Marsh End Wesleyan Chapels, and the Tabernacle of the Revivalists
181 St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Catholic Chapels 187 St. Mark’s Church
192 Zoar Particular Baptist Chapel 196 St. Luke’s Church
201 Emmanuel Church and Bairstow Memorial Chapel 207 St. Mary’s Church
OUR CHURCHES AND CHAPELS: THEIR PARSONS, PRIESTS, AND CONGREGATIONS.
It is important that something should be known about our churches and chapels; it is more important that we should be acquainted with their parsons and priests; it is most important that we should have a correct idea of their congregations, for they show the consequences of each, and reflect the character and influence of all. We have a wide field before us. The domain we enter upon is unexplored. Our streets, with their mid-day bustle and midnight sin; our public buildings, with their outside elaboration and inside mysteries; our places of amusement, with their gilded fascinations and shallow delusions; our clubs, bar parlours, prisons, cellars, and workhouses, with their amenities, frivolities, and severities, have all been commented upon; but the most important of our institutions, the best, the queerest, the solemnest, the oddest–the churches and chapels of the town–have been left out in the cold entirely. All our public functionaries have been viewed round, examined closely, caressed mildly, and sometimes genteely maltreated; our parochial divinities, who preside over the fate of the poor; our municipal Gogs and Magogs who exhibit the extreme points of reticence and garrulity in the council chamber; our brandy drinkers, chronic carousers, lackered swells, pushing shopkeepers, otiose policemen, and dim-looking cab-drivers have all been photographed, framed, and hung up to dry long ago; our workshops and manufactories, our operatives and artisans, have likewise been duly pictured and exhibited; the Ribble has had its praises sung in polite literary strains; the parks have had their beauties depicted in rhyme and blank verse; nay–but this is hardly necessary–the old railway station, that walhallah of the gods and paragon of the five orders of architecture, has had its delightful peculiarities set forth; all our public places and public bodies have been thrown upon the canvas, except those of the more serious type–except places of worship and those belonging them. These have been neglected; nobody has thought it worth while to give them either a special blessing or a particular anathema.
There are about 45 churches and chapels and probably 60 parsons and priests in Preston; but unto this hour they have been treated, so far as they are individually concerned, with complete silence. We purpose remedying the defect, supplying the necessary criticism, and filling up the hiatus. The whole lot must have either something or nothing in them, must be either useful or useless; parsons must be either sharp or stupid, sensible or foolish; priests must be either learned or illiterate, either good, bad, or indifferent; in all, from the rector in his silken gown to the back street psalm-singer in his fustian, there must be something worth praising or condemning. And the churches and chapels, with their congregations, must likewise present some points of beauty or ugliness, some traits of grace or godlessness, some features of excellence, dignity, piety, or sham. There must be either a good deal of gilded gingerbread or a great let of the genuine article, at our places of worship. But whether there is or there is not, we have decided to say something about the church and the chapel, the parson and the priest, of each district in the town. This is a mere prologue, and we shall but hint at the general theme “on this occasion.”
Churches and chapels are great institutions in the land. Nobody knows the exact time when the first was thought of; and it has not yet transpired when the last will be run up. But this is certain, we are not improving much in the make of them. The Sunday sanctums and Sabbath conventicles of today may be mere ornate, may be more flashy, and show more symptoms of polished bedizenment in their construction; but three-fourths of them sink into dwarflings and mediocrities when compared with the rare old buildings of the past. In strength and beauty, in vastness of design and skill of workmanship, in nobility of outline and richness of detail, the religious fabrics of these times fall into insignificance beside their grand old predecessors; and the manner in which they are cut up into patrician and plebeian quarters, into fashionable coteries for the perfumed portion of humanity, and into half-starved benches with the brand of poverty upon them for the poor, is nothing to the credit of anybody.
All the churches and chapels of the land may profess Christianity; but the game of the bulk has a powerful reference to money. Those who have got the most of the current coin of the realm receive the blandest smile from the parson, the politest nod from the beadle, the promptest attention from that strange mixture of piety and pay called “the chapel-keeper;” those who have not got it must take what they can get, and accept it with Christian resignation, as St. Paul tells them. This may be all right; we have not said yet that it is wrong; but it looks suspicious, doesn’t it?–shows that in the arena of conventional Christianity, as in the seething maelstrom of ordinary life, money is the winner. Our parsons and priests, like our ecclesiastical architecture and general church management, do not seem to have improved upon their ancestors. Priests are not as jolly as they once were. In olden days “holy fathers” could wear horse-hair shirts and scarify their epidermis with a finer cruelty than their modern successors, and they could, after all that, make the blithest songs, sing the merriest melodies, and quaff the oldest port with an air of jocund conscientiousness, making one slyly like them, however much inclined to dispute the correctness of their theology. And the parsons of the past were also a blithesome set of individuals. They were perhaps rougher than those mild and refined gentlemen who preach now-a-days; but they were straightforward, thorough, absolutely English, well educated, and stronger in the brain than many of them. In each Episcopalian, Catholic, and Dissenting community there are new some most erudite, most useful men; but if we take the great multitude of them, and compare their circumstances–their facilities for education, the varied channels of usefulness they have–with those of their predecessors, it will be found that the latter were the cleverer, often the wiser, and always the merrier men. Plainness, erudition, blithesomeness, were their characteristics. Aye, look at our modern men given up largely to threnody-chiming and to polishing off tea and muffin with elderly females, and compare them, say, for instance, with–
The poet Praed’s immortal Vicar,
Who wisely wore the cleric gown,
Sound in theology and liquor;
Quite human, though a true divine,
His fellow-men he would not libel;
He gave his friends good honest wine, And drew his doctrine from the Bible.
Institute a comparison, and then you will say that whilst modern men may be very aesthetic and neatly dressed, the ancient apostolic successors, though less refined, had much more metal in them, were more kindly, genial; and told their followers to live well, to eat well, and to mind none of the hair-splitting neological folly which is now cracking up Christendom. In old times the Lord did not “call” so many parsons from one church to another as it is said He does now; in the days which have passed the bulk of subordinate parsons did not feel a sort of conscientious hankering every three years for an “enlarged sphere of usefulness,” where the salary was proportionately increased. We have known multitudes of parsons, in our time, who have been “called” to places where their salaries were increased; we know of but few who have gravitated to a church where the salary was less than the one left. “Business” enters largely into the conceptions of clergymen. As a rule, no teachers of religion, except Catholic priests and Methodist ministers, leave one place for another where less of this world’s goods and chattels predominate; and THEY are COMPELLED to do so, else the result might be different. When a priest gets his mittimus he has to budge; it is not a question of “he said or she said,” but of–go; and when a Wesleyan is triennially told to either look after the interests of a fresh circuit or retire into space, he has to do so. It would be wrong to say that lucre is at the bottom of every parsonic change; but it is at the foundation of the great majority–eh? If it isn’t, just make an inquiry, as we have done. This may sound like a deviation from our text–perhaps it is; but the question it refers to is so closely associated with the subject of parsons and priests, that we should have scarcely been doing justice to the matter if we had not had a quiet “fling” at the money part of it. In the letters which will follow this, we shall deal disinterestedly with all– shall give Churchmen, Catholics, Quakers, Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, Ranters, and Calathumpians, fair play. Our object will be to present a picture of things as they are, and to avoid all meddling with creeds. People may believe what they like, so far as we are concerned, if they behave themselves, and pay their debts. It is utterly impossible to get all to be of the same opinion; creeds, like faces, must differ, have differed, always will differ; and the best plan is to let people have their own way so long as it is consistent with the general welfare of social and civil life. It being understood that “the milk of human kindness is within the PALE of the Church,” we shall begin there. The Parish Church of Preston will constitute our first theme.
PRESTON PARISH CHURCH.
It doesn’t particularly matter when the building we call our Parish Church was first erected; and, if it did, the world would have to die of literary inanition before it got the exact date. None of the larger sort of antiquaries agree absolutely upon the subject, and the smaller fry go in for all sorts of figures, varying as to time from about two years to one hundred and fifty. This may be taken as a homoeopathic dose in respect to its history:- built about 900 years since by Catholics, and dedicated to St. Wilfrid; handed over to Protestants by somebody, who was perhaps acting on the very generous principle of giving other folk’s property, in the 16th century; rebuilt in 1581, and dedicated to St. John; rebuilt in 1770; enlarged, elaborated, and rejuvenised in 1853; plagued with dry rot for a considerable time afterwards; in a pretty good state of architectural health now; and likely to last out both this generation and the next. It looks rather genteel and stately outside; it has a good steeple, kept duly alive by a congregation of traditional jackdaws; it has a capital set of bells which have put in a good deal of overtime during the past five months, through a pressure of election business; and in its entirety, as Baines once remarked, the building looks like “a good ordinary Parish Church.” There is nothing either snobbish or sublime about it; and, speaking after Josh Billings, “it’s a fair even-going critter,” capable of being either pulled down or made bigger. That is about the length and breadth of the matter, and if we had to appeal to the commonwealth as to the correctness of our position it would be found that the “ayes have it.” We don’t believe in the Parish Church; but a good deal of people do, and why shouldn’t they have their way in a small fight as well as the rest of folk? All, except Mormons and Fenians, who honestly believe in anything, are entitled to respect.
Our Parish Church has a good contour, and many of its exterior architectural details are well conceived and arranged; but, like other buildings of the same order, it has got a multiplicity of strange hobgoblin figure-heads about it which serve no purpose either earthly or heavenly, and which are understood by hardly one out of five million. We could never yet make it out why those grotesque pieces of masonry–gargoyles, we believe, they are called- -were fixed to any place of worship. Around our Parish Church and half-way up the steeple, there are, at almost every angle and prominence, rudely carved monstrosities, conspicuous for nothing but their ineffable and heathenish ugliness. Huge eyes, great mouths, immense tooth, savage faces and distorted bodies are their prime characteristics. The man who invented this species of ecclesiastical decoration must have been either mad or in “the horrors.” An evenly balanced mind could never have thought of them, and why they should he specially tacked to churches is a mystery in accordance with neither King Solomon nor Cocker. The graveyard of our Parish Church is, we dare say, something which very few people think of. We have seen many such places in our time; but that in connection with our Parish Church is about the grimmest specimen in the lot. It has a barren, cold, dingy, unconsecrated look with it; and why it should have we can’t tell. Either ruffianism or neglect must at some time have done a good stroke of business in it; for many of the gravestones are cracked in two; some are nearly broken to pieces; and a considerable number of those in the principal parts of the yard are being gradually worn out. We see no fun, for instance, in “paving” the entrances to the church with gravestones. Somebody must, at some time, have paid a considerable amount of money in getting the gravestones of their relatives smoothed and lettered; and it could never have been intended that they should be flattened down, close as tile work, for a promiscuous multitude of people to walk over and efface. The back of the churchyard is in a very weary, delapidated and melancholy state. Why can’t a few shrubs and flowers be planted in it? Why is not the ground trimmed up and made decent? From the time when the Egyptians worshipped cats and onions down to the present hour, religious folk have paid some special attention to their grave spaces, and we want to see the custom kept up. Our Parish Church yard has a sad, forsaken appearance; if it had run to seed and ended in nothing, or had been neglected and closed up by an army of hypochondriacs, it could not have been more gloomy, barren, or disheartening. The ground should be looked after, and the stones preserved as much as possible. It is a question of shoes v. gravestones at present, and, if there is not some change of position, the shoes will in the end win.
About the interior of our Parish Church there is nothing particularly wonderful; it has a respectable, substantial, reverential appearance, and that is quite as much as any church should have. There is no emblematic ritualistic moonshine in any part of it; we hope there never may be; we are sure there never will be so long as the men now at the helm are in office. But let us start at the beginning. The principal entrance is through a massive and somewhat dimly-lighted porch, which, in its time, has necessarily, like all church porches, been the scene of much pious gossip, superstition, and sanctimonious scandal. It is rather a snug place to halt in. If you stand on one side of the large octagonal font, which is placed in the centre of the inner perch, and patronised by about 20 of the rising race every Sunday afternoon, you will be able to see everybody, whilst nobody can distinctly see you. As a rule, many people are too fired, or too ill, or too idle, to go to a place of worship on a Sunday morning, and at our Parish Church one may plainly notice this. A certain number always put in a regular appearance. If they did not attend the Parish Church twice a day they would become apprehensive as to both their temporal respectability awl spiritual welfare. They are descendants of the old long-horned stock, and have a mighty notion of the importance of church-going. Probably they don’t care very profoundly for the sermons; but they have got into a safe-sided, orthodox groove, and some of them have an idea that they will be saved as much by church- going as by faith. The members of this class have a large notion of the respectability of their individual pews and seats. If they belonged to a family of five hundred each, and if every one of them had to go to Church every Sunday, they would want their respective seats, Prayer Books, footstools, and all that sort of thing. They don’t like to see strangers rambling about, in search of a resting place; they are particularly solemn-looking, and give symptoms of being on the border of some catastrophe, if an unknown being shows any disposition to enter their pews. And some of them would see a person a good deal beyond the ether side of Jordan before they would think of handing him a Prayer Book. We don’t suppose any of them are so precise as the old gentleman who once, when a stranger entered his pew, doubled up the cushion, sat upon it in a two-fold state, and intimated that ordinary beards were good enough for interlopers; but after all there is much of the “number one” principle in the devotion of these goodly followers of the saints, and they have been so long at the game that a cure is impossible.
Taking the congregation of our Parish Church in the agregate it is a fair sample of every class of human life. You have the old maid in her unspotted, demurely-coloured moire antique, carrying a Prayer Book belonging to a past generation; you have the ancient bachelor with plenty of money and possessing a thorough knowledge as to the safest way of keeping it, his great idea being that the best way of getting to heaven is to stick to his coins, attend church every Sunday, and take the sacrament regularly; you have the magistrate, whose manner, if not his beard, is of formal cut; the retired tradesman, with his domestic looking wife, and smartly-dressed daughters, ten times finer than ever their mother was; the manufacturer absorbed in cotton and wondering when he will be able to do a good stroke of business on ‘change again; the lawyer, who has carried on a decent business amongst fees during the week, and has perhaps turned up to join in the general confession; the doctor, ready to give emphasis to that part of it which says:- “And there is no health in us;” the pushing tradesman, who has to live by going to church, as well as by counter work; the speculating shopkeeper, who has a connection to make; the young finely-feathered lady, got up in silk and velvet and carrying a chignon sufficient to pull her cerebellum out of joint; the dandy buttoned up to show his figure, and heavily dosed with scent; the less developed young swell, who is always “talking about his pa and his ma,” and has only just begun to have his hair parted down the middle; the broken down middle-aged man who was once in a good position, but who years since went all in a piece to pot; the snuff-loving old woman who curtsies before fine folk, who has always a long tale to tell about her sorrows, and who is periodically consoled by a “trifle;” the working man who is rather a scarce article, except upon special occasions; and the representative of the poorest class, living somewhere in that venal slum of slime and misery behind the church. A considerable number of those floating beings called “strags” attend the Parish Church. They go to no place regularly; they gravitate at intervals to the church, mainly on the ground that their fathers and mothers used to go there, and because they were christened there; but they belong a cunning race; they can scent the battle from afar, and they generally keep about three-quarters of a mile from the Parish Church when a collection has to be made. To the ordinary attendants, collections do not operate as deterrents; but to the “strags” they are frighteners. “What’s the reason there are so few people here?” we said one day to the beadle, and that most potent, grave, and reverend seignior replied, with a Rogersonian sparkle in his rolling eye, “There’s a collection and the ‘strags’ won’t take the bait.” It is the same more or less at every place of worship; and to tell the truth, there’s a sort of instinctive dislike of collections in everybody’s composition.
The congregation of our Parish Church is tolerably numerous, and embraces many fine human specimens. Money and fashion are well represented at it; and as Zadkiel and the author of Pogmoor Almanac say those powers have to rule for a long time, we may take it for granted that the Parish Church will yet outlive many of the minor raving academies in which they are absent. There is touch more generalisation than there used to be as to the sittings in our Parish Church; but “birds of a feather flock together” still. The rich know their quarters; exquisite gentlemen and smart young ladies with morrocco-bound gilt-edged Prayer Books still cluster in special sections; and although it is said that the poor have the best part of the church allotted to them, the conspicuousness of its position gives a brand to it neither healthy nor pleasant. They are seated down the centre aisle; but the place is too demonstrative of their poverty. If half the seats were empty, situated excellently though they may be, you wouldn’t catch any respectable weasle asleep on them. If some doctor, or magistrate, or private bib-and-tucker lady had to anchor here, supposing there were any spare place in any other part of the house, there would be a good deal of quizzing and wonderment afloat. If you don’t believe it put on a highly refined dress and try the experiment; and if you are not very specially spotted we wild give a fifty dollar greenback on behalf of the society for converting missionary eaters in Chillingowullabadorie. We shall say nothing with regard to the ordinary service of the Parish Church, except this, that it would look better of three fourths of the congregation if they would not leave the responses to a paid choir. “Lor, bless yer,” as Betsy Jane Ward would say, a choir will sing, anything put before them if it is set to music; and they think no more of getting through all that sad business about personal sinfulness, agonising repentance, and a general craving for forgiveness, than the odd woman did when she used to kiss her cow and say it was delicious. There was once a period when all Parish Church goers made open confession joined audibly in the prayers, and said “Amen” as if they meant it; although we are doubtful about even that. Now, the choir does all the work, and the congregation are left behind the distance post to think about the matter. But if it suits the people it’s quite right.
There are three parsons at our Parish Church–Canon Parr, who is the seventeenth vicar in a regular line of succession since the Reformation and two curates. As to the curates we shall say nothing beyond this, that one has got a better situation and is going to it, and that the other would like one if he could get it–not that the present is at all bad, only that there are others better. We don’t know how many curates there have been at the Parish Church since the Reformation; but it, may be safely said that in their turn they have, as a rule, accepted with calm and Christian resignation better paid places when they had a fair opportunity of getting them. We are not going to say very much about Cannon Parr, and let nobody suppose that we shall make an effort to tear a passion to tatters regarding any of his peculiarities. Canon Parr is an easy-going, genial, educated man kindly disposed towards good living, not blessed with over much money, fond of wearing a billycock, and strongly in love with a cloak. He has seen much of the world, is shrewd, has a long head, has both studied and travelled for his learning, and is the smartest man Preston Protestants could have to defend their cause. But he has a certain amount of narrowness in his mental vision, and, like the bulk of parsons, can see his own way best. He has a strong temper within him, and he can redden up beautifully all over when his equanimity is disturbed. If you tread upon his ecclesiastical bunions he will give you either a dark mooner or an eye opener–we use these classical terms in a figurative sense. He will keep quiet so long as you do; but if you make an antagonistic move be will punish you if possible. He can wield a clever pen; his style is cogent, scholarly, and, unless overburdened with temper, dignified. He can fling the shafts of satire or distil the balm of pathos; can be bitter, saucy, and aggravating; can say a hard thing in a cutting style; and if he does not go to the bone it’s no fault of his. He can also tone down his language to a point of elegance and tenderness; can express a good thing excellently, and utter a fine sentiment well. His speaking is modelled after a good style; but it is inferior to his writing. In the pulpit he expresses himself easily, often fervently, never rantingly. The pulpit of the Parish Church will stand for ever before he upsets it, and he will never approach that altitude of polemical phrenitis which will induce him to smash any part of it. His pulpit language is invariably well chosen; some of his subjects may be rather commonplace or inappropriate, but the words thrown into their exposition are up to the mark. He seldom falters; he has never above one, “and now, finally, brethren,” in his concluding remarks; he invariably gives over when he has done–a plan which John Wesley once said many parsons neglected to observe; and his congregation, whether they have been awake or fast asleep, generally go away satisfied. Canon Parr has been at our Parish Church nine and twenty years, and although we don’t subscribe to his ecclesiastical creed, we believe he has done good in his time. He is largely respected; he would have been more respected if he had been less exacting towards Dissenters, and less violent in his hatred of Catholics. Neither his Church-rate nor Easter Due escapade improved his position; and some of his fierce anti-Popery denunciations did not increase his circle of friends. But these things have gone by, and let them be forgotten. In private life Canon Parr is essentially social: he can tell a good tale, is full of humour; he knows a few things as well as the rest of men, and is charitably disposed–indeed he is too sympathetic and this causes hint to be pestered with rubbishy tales from all sorts of individuals, and sometimes to act upon them as if they were true. As a Protestant vicar–and, remembering that no angels have yet been born in this country, that everybody is somewhat imperfect, and that folk will differ–we look upon Canon Parr as above the average. He has said extravagant and unreasonable things in his time; but he has rare properties, qualities of sense and erudition, which are strangers to many pretentious men in his line of business; and, on the whole, he may be legitimately set down, in the language of the “gods,” as “O.K.”
ST. WILFRID’S CATHOLIC CHURCH.
It was at one time of the day a rather dangerous sort of thing for a man, or a woman, or a medium-sized infant, living in this highly- favoured land of ours, to show any special liking for Roman Catholicism. But the days of religious bruising have perished; and Catholics are now, in the main, considered to be human as well as other people, and to have a right to live, and put their Sunday clothes on, and go to their own places of worship like the rest of mortals. No doubt there are a few distempered adherents of the “immortal William” school who would like to see Catholics driven into a corner, banished, or squeezed into nothing; probably there are some of the highly sublimated “no surrender” gentlemen who would be considerably pleased if they could galvanise the old penal code and put a barrel able to play the air of “Boyne Water” into every street organ; but the great mass of men have learned to be tolerant, and have come to the conclusion that Catholics, civilly and religiously, are entitled to all the liberty which a free and enlightened constitution can confer–to all the privileges which fair-play and even-handed justice call give; and if these are not fully granted now, the day is coming when they will be possessed. Lancashire seems to be the great centre of Catholicism in England, and Preston appears to be its centre in Lancashire. This benign town of Preston, with its fervent galaxy of lecturing curates, and its noble army of high falutin’ incumbents, is the very fulcrum and lever of northern Romanism. If Catholics are wrong and on the way to perdition and blisters there are 33,000 of them here moving in that very awkward direction at the present. A number so large, whether right or wrong cannot he despised; a body so great, whether good or evil, will, by its sheer inherent force, persist in living, moving, and having, a fair share of being. You can’t evaporate 33,000 of anything in a hurry; and you could no more put a nightcap upon the Catholics of Preston than you could blacken up the eye of the sun. That stout old Vatican gentleman who storms this fast world of ours periodically with his encyclicals, and who is known by the name of Pius IX., must, if he knows anything of England, know something of Preston; and if he knows anything of it he will have long since learned that wherever the faith over which he presides may be going down the hill, it is at least in Preston “as well as can be expected,” and likely, for a period longer than be will live, to bloom and flourish.
Our text is–St. Wilfrid’s Catholic Church, Preston. This place of worship is situated in a somewhat sanctified place–Chapel-street; but as about half of that locality is taken up with lawyers’ offices, and the centre of it by a police station, we fancy that this world, rather than the next, will occupy the bulk of its attention. It is to be hoped that St. Wilfrid’s, which stands on the opposite side, will act as a healthy counterpoise–will, at any rate, maintain its own against such formidable odds. The building in Chapel-street, dedicated to the old Angle-Saxon bishop–St. Wilfrid- -who was a combative sort of soul, fond of argumentatively knocking down obstreperous kings and ecclesiastics and breaking up the strongholds of paganism–was opened seventy-six years ago. It signifies little how it looked then. Today it has a large appearance. There is nothing worth either laughing or crying about so far as its exterior goes. It doesn’t look like a church; it resembles not a chapel; and it seems too big for a house. There is no effort at architectural elaboration in its outer arrangements. It is plain, strong, large; and like big feet or leathern shirts has evidently been made more for use than ornament. But this style of phraseology only refers to the extrinsic part. Inside, the church has a vast, ornate, and magnificent appearance. No place of worship in Preston is so finely decorated, so skilfully painted, so artistically got up. In the world of business there is nothing like leather; in the arena of religion there seems to be nothing like paint. Every church in the country makes an effort to get deeply into the region of paint; they will have it upon either windows, walls, or ceilings. It is true that Dissenters do not dive profoundly into the coloured abyss; but weakness of funds combined with defective aesthetic cultivation may have something to do with their deficiency in this respect. Those who have had the management and support of St. Wilfrid’s in their hands, have studied the theory of colour to perfection, and whilst we may not theologically agree with some of its uses, one cannot but admire its general effect. Saints, angels, rings, squares, floriations, spiralizations, and everything which the brain or the brush of the most devoted painter could fairly devise are depicted in this church, and there is such an array of them that one wonders how anybody could ever have had the time or patience to finish the work.
The high altar which occupies the southern end is, in its way, something very fine. A magnificent picture of the crucifixion occupies the back ground; flowers and candles, in numbers sufficient to appal the stoutest Evangelical and turn to blue ruin such men as the editor of the “Bulwark” are elevated in front; over all, as well as collaterally, there are inscriptions in Latin; designs in gold and azure and vermilion fill up the details; and on each side there is a confessional wherein all members, whether large or diminutive, whether dressed in corduroy or smoothest, blackest broad cloth, in silk or Surat cotton, must unravel the sins they have committed. This confession must be a hard sort of job, we know, for some people; but we are not going to enter upon a discussion of its merits or demerits. Only this may be said, that if there was full confession at every place of worship in Preston the parsons would never get through their work. Every day, from an early hour in the morning until a late period of the evening, St. Wilfrid’s is open to worshippers; and you may see them, some with smiling faces, and some with very elongated ones, going to or coming from it constantly. Like Tennyson’s stream, they evince symptoms of constant movement and the only conclusion we can fairly come to is that the mass of them are singularly in earnest. There are not many Protestants– neither Church people, nor Dissenters, neither quiescent Quakers nor Revivalist dervishes–who would be inclined to go to their religious exercises before breakfast, and if they did, some of them, like the old woman who partook of Sacrament in Minnesota, would want to know what they were going to “get” for it. On Sundays, as on week days, the same business–laborious as it looks to outsiders–goes on. There are several services, and they are arranged for every class– for those who must attend early, for those who can’t, for those who won’t, and for those who stir when the afflatus is upon them. There are many, however, who are regular attendants, soon and late, and if precision and continuity will assist them in getting to heaven, they possess those auxiliaries in abundance.
The congregation attending on a Sunday is a mixed one–rags and satins, moleskins and patent kids, are all duly represented; and it is quite a study to see their wearers put in an appearance. Directly after entrance reverential genuflections and holy-water dipping are indulged in. Some of the congregation do the business gracefully; others get through it like the very grandfather of awkwardness. The Irish, who often come first and sit last, are solemnly whimsical in their movements. The women dip fast and curtsy briskly; the men turn their hands in and out as if prehensile mysticism was a saving thing, and bow less rapidly but more angularly than the females; then you have the slender young lady who knows what deportment and reverence mean; who dips quietly, and makes a partial descent gracefully; the servant girl who goes through the preliminary somewhat roughly but very earnestly; the smart young fellow, who dips with his gloves on–a “rather lazy kind of thing,” as the cobbler remarked when he said his prayers in bed–and gives a sort of half and half nod, as if the whole bend were below his dignity; the business man, who goes into the water and the bowing in a matter-of-fact style, who gets through the ceremony soon but well, and moves on for the next comer; the youth, who touches the water in a come-and-go style, and makes a bow on a similar principle; the aged worshipper, who takes kindly but slowly to the hallowed liquid, and goes nearly upon his knees in the fulness of his reverence; and towards the last you have about six Sisters of Mercy, belonging St. Wilfrid’s convent, who pass through the formality in a calm, easy, finished manner, and then hurry along, some with veils down and others with veils up, to a side sitting they have. There is no religious shoddy amongst these persons. They may look solemn, yet some of them have finely moulded features; they may dress strangely and gloomily, yet, if you converse with them, they will always give indications of serener spirits. Whether their profession be right or wrong, this is certain: they keep one of the best schools in the town, and they teach children manners–a thing which many parents can’t manage. They also make themselves useful in visiting; they have a certain respect for faith, but more for good works; and if other folk in Christendom held similar views on this point the good done would in the end be greater. All these Sisters of Mercy are accomplished–they are clever in the head, know how to play music, to paint, and to sew; can cook well if they like; and it’s a pity they are not married. But they are doing more good single than lots of women are accomplishing in the married state, and we had better let them alone. Its dangerous to either command or advise the gentler sex, and as everything finds its own level by having its own way they will, we suppose, in the end.
One of the most noticeable features in connection with the services at St. Wilfrid’s is the music. It is proverbial that Catholics have good music. You won’t find any of the drawling, face-pulling, rubbishy melodies worked up to a point of agony in some places of worship countenanced in the Catholic Church. All is classical–all from the best masters. There is an enchantment in the music which binds you–makes you like it whether you will or not. At St. Wilfrid’s there is a choir which can’t be excelled by any provincial body of singers in the kingdom. The learned individual who blows the organ may say that the comparative perfection attained in the orchestra is through the very consummate manner in which he “raises the wind”; the gentleman who manipulates upon its keys may think he is the primum mobile in the matter; the soprano may fancy she is the life of the whole concern; the heavy bass or the chief tenor may respectively lay claim to the honour; but the fact is, its amongst the lot, so that there may be a general rubbing on the question of service, and a reciprocal scratching on the point of ability.
There are several priests at St. Wilfrid’s; they are all Jesuits to the marrow; and the chief of them is the Rev. Father Cobb. Each of them is clever–far cleverer than many of the half-feathered curates and full-fledged incumbents who are constantly bringing railing accusations against them; and they work harder–get up sooner, go to bed later–than the whole of them. They jump at midnight if their services are required by either a wild Irishman in Canal-street or a gentleman of the first water in any of our mansions. It is not a question of cloth but of souls with them. They are afraid of neither plague, pestilence, nor famine; they administer spiritual consolation under silken hangings, as well as upon straw lairs; in the fever stricken garret as well as in the gilded chamber. Neither the nature of a man’s position nor the character of his disease enters into their considerations. Duty is the star of their programme; action the object of their lives. They receive no salaries; their simple necessaries are alone provided for. Some of them perhaps get half-a-crown a month as pocket money; but that will neither kill nor cure a man. Sevenpence halfpenny per week is a big sum–isn’t it?–big enough for a Jesuit priest, but calculated to disturb the Christian balance of any other class of clergymen. If it isn’t, try them.
In reference to the priests of St. Wilfrid’s, we shall only specially mention, and that briefly, the Rev. Father Cobb. No man in Preston cares less for fine clothes than he does. We once did see him with a new suit on; but neither before nor since that ever- memorable day, have we noticed him in anything more ethereal than a plain well-worn coat, waistcoat, and pair of trousers. He might have a finer exterior; but he cares not for this kind of bauble. He knows that trappings make neither the man nor the Christian, and that elaborate suits are often the synonym of elaborate foolery. He takes a pleasure in work; is happy inaction; and hates both clerical and secular indifference. Priests, he thinks, ought to do their duty, and men of the world ought to discharge theirs. In education, Father Cobb is far above the ordinary run of men. He has a great natural capacity, which has been well regulated by study; he is shrewd; has a strong intuitive sense; can’t be got over; won’t be beaten out of the field if you once get him into it; and is sure to either win or make you believe that he has. Like all strong Catholics he has much veneration–that “organ,” speaking in the vernacular of phrenology, is at the top of the head, and you never yet saw a thorough Catholic who did not manifest a good development of it; he is strong in ideality; has also a fine, vein of humour in him; can laugh, say jolly as well as serious things; and is a positively earnest and practical preacher. He speaks right out to his hearers; hits them hard in reference to both this world and the next; tells them “what to eat, drink, and avoid;” says that if they get drunk they must drop it off, that if they stuff and gormandise they will be a long while before reaching the kingdom of heaven; that they must avoid dishonesty, falsehood, impurity, and other delinquencies; and, furthermore, intimates that they won’t get to any of the saints they have a particular liking for by a round of simple religious formality–that they must be good, do good, and behave themselves decently, individually and collectively. We have never heard a more practical preacher: he will tell young women what sort of husbands to get, young men what kind of wives to choose, married folk how to conduct themselves, and old maids and bachelors how to reconcile themselves virtuously to their fate. There is no half-and-half ring in the metal he moulds: it comes out clear, sounds well, and goes right home. In delivery he is eloquent; in action rather brisk; and he weighs–one may as well come down from the sublime to the ridiculous–about thirteen stones. He is a jolly, hearty, earnest, devoted priest; is cogent in argument; homely in illustration; tireless in work; determined to do his duty; and, if we were a Catholic, we should be inclined to fight for him if any one stepped upon his toes, or said a foul word about him. Here endeth our “epistle to the Romans.”
CANNON-STREET INDEPENDENT CHAPEL.
Forty-four years ago the Ebenezer of a few believers in the “Bird- of-Freedom” school, with a spice of breezy religious courage in their composition, was raised at the bottom of Cannon-street, in Preston; and to this day it abideth there. Why it was elevated at that particular period of the world’s history we cannot say. Neither does it signify. It may have been that the spirit of an irrepressible Brown, older than the Harper’s Ferry gentleman, was “marching on” at an extra speed just then; for let it be known to all and singular that it was one of the universal Brown family who founded the general sect. Or it may have been that certain Prestonians, with a lingering touch of the “Scot’s wha ha’e” material in their blood, gave a solemn twist to the line in Burns’s epistle, and decided to go in
–for the glorious privilege
Of being Independent.
Be that as it may, it is clear that in 1825 the Independents planted a chapel in Cannon-street. Places of worship like everything else, good or evil, grow in these latter days, and so has Cannon-street chapel. In 1852 its supporters set at naught the laws of Banting, and made the place bigger. It was approaching a state of solemn tightness, and for the consolation of the saints, the ease of the fidgety, and the general blissfulness of the neighbourhood it was expanded. Cannon-street Chapel has neither a bell, nor a steeple, nor an outside clock, and it has never yet said that it was any worse off for their absence. But it may do, for chapels like churches are getting proud things now-a-days, and they believe in both lacker and gilt. There is something substantial and respectable about the building. It is neither gaudy nor paltry; neither too good nor too bad looking. Nobody will ever die in a state of architectural ecstacy through gazing upon it; and not one out of a battalion of cynics will say that it is too ornamental. It is one of those well-finished, middle-class looking establishments, about which you can’t say much any way; and if you could, nobody would be either madder or wiser for the exposition. Usually the only noticeable feature about the front of it–and that is generally the place where one looks for the virtues or vices of a thing–is a series of caged-up boards, announcing homilies, and tea parties, and collections all over the north Lancashire portion of Congregational Christendom. It is to be hoped that the sermons are not too dry, that the tea saturnalias are neither too hot nor too wet, and that the collections have more sixpenny than threepenny pieces in them.
The interior of Cannon-street Chapel has a spacious and somewhat genteel appearance. A practical business air pervades it. There is no “storied window,” scarcely any “dim religious light,” and not a morsel of extra colouring in the whole establishment. At this place, the worshippers have an idea that they are going to get to heaven in a plain way, and if they succeed, all the better–we were going to say that they would be so much the more into pocket by it. Freedom of thought, sincerity of heart, and going as straight to the point as possible, is what they aim at. There are many seats in Cannon- street Chapel, and, as it is said that hardly any of them are to let, the reverend gentleman who makes a stipulated descent upon the pew rents ought to be happy. It is but seldom the pews are well filled: they are not even crammed on collection Sundays; but they are paid for, and if a congenial wrinkle does not lurk in that fact- -for the minister–he will find neither the balm of Gilead nor a doctor anywhere. The clerical notion is, that pew rents, as well as texts; must be stuck to; and if those who pay and listen quietly acquiesce, then it becomes a simple question of “so mote it be” for outsiders.
The congregation at Cannon-street Chapel is made up of tolerably respectable materials. It is no common Dissenting rendezvous for ill-clad screamers and roaring enthusiasts. Neither fanatics nor ejaculators find an abiding place in it. Not many poor people join the charmed circle. A middle-class, shopkeeping halo largely environs the assemblage. There is a good deal of pride, vanity, scent, and silk-rustling astir in it every Sunday, just as there is in every sacred throng; and the oriental, theory of caste is not altogether ignored. The ordinary elements of every Christian congregation are necessarily visible here–backsliders and newly- caught communicants; ancient women duly converted and moderately fond of tea, snuff, and charity; people who cough continually, and will do so in their graves if not closely watched; parties, with the Fates against them, who fly off periodically into fainting fits; contented individuals, whose gastric juice flows evenly, who can sleep through the most impassioned sermon with the utmost serenity; weather-beaten orthodox souls who have been recipients of ever so much daily grace for half a life time, and fancy they are particularly near paradise; lofty and isolated beings who have a fixed notion that they are quite as respectable if not as pious as other people; easy-going well-dressed creatures “whose life glides away in a mild and amiable conflict between the claims of piety and good breeding.”
But the bulk are of a substantial, medium-going description– practical, sharp, respectable, and naturally inclined towards a free, well got up, reasonable theology. There is nothing inflamed in them–nothing indicative of either a very thick or very thin skin. Any of them will lend you a hymn book, and whilst none of them may be inclined to pay your regular pew rent, the bulk will have no objection to find you an occasional seat, and take care of you if there would be any swooning in your programme. Clear-headed and full of business, they believe with Binney in making the best of both worlds. They will never give up this for the next, nor the next for this. Into their curriculum there enters, as the American preacher hath it, a sensible regard for piety and pickles, flour and affection, the means of grace and good profits, crackers and faith, sincerity and onions, benevolence, cheese, integrity, potatoes, and wisdom–all remarkably good in their way, and calculated, when well shaken up and applied, to Christianise anybody. The genteel portion of the congregation principally locate themselves in the side seats running from one end of the chapel to the other; the every day mortals find a resting place in the centre and the galleries; the poorer portion are pushed frontwards below, where they have an excellent opportunity of inspecting the pulpit, of singing like nightingales, of listening to every articulation of the preacher, and of falling into a state of coma if they are that way disposed.
The music at this place of worship has been considerably improved during recent times; but it is nothing very amazing yet. There is a curtain amount of cadence, along with a fair share of power, in the orchestral outbursts; the pieces the choir have off go well; those they are new at rather hang fire; but we shall not parry with either the conductor or the members on this point. They all manifest a fairly-defined devotional feeling in their melody; turn their visual faculties in harmony with the words: expand and contract their pulmonary processes with precision and if they mean what they sing, they deserve better salaries than they usually get. They are aided by an organ which is played well, and, we hope, paid for.
The minister of Cannon-street chapel is the Rev. H. J. Martyn, who has had a good stay with “the brethren,” considering that their fighting weight is pretty heavy, and that some of them were made to “have their way.” Frequently Independents are in hot water concerning their pastors. In Preston they are very exemplary in this respect. The Grimshaw street folk have had a storm in a tea pot with one of their ministers; so have the Lancaster-road Christians; and so have the Cannon-street believers; and the beauty of it is, they generally win. Born to have their own way in sacred matters, they can turn off a parson, if they can’t defeat him in argument. And that is a great thing. They hold the purse strings; and no parson can live unless he has a “call” to some other “vineyard,” if they are closed against him. On the whole, the present minister of Cannon-street Chapel has got on pretty evenly with his flock. He has had odd skirmishes in his spiritual fold; and will have if he stays in it for ever; but the sheep have a very fair respect for the shepherd, and can “paint the lily” gracefully. A while since they gave him leave of absence–paying his salary, of course, whilst away–and on his return some of them got up a tea party on his behalf and made him a presentation. There might be party spirit or there might be absolute generosity in such a move; but the parson was no loser–he enjoyed the out, and accepted with Christian fortitude the gift. The Rev. H. J. Martyn is a small gentleman– considerably below the average of parsons in physical proportion; but he consoles himself with the thought that he is all right in quality, if not in quantity. Diminutive men have generally very fair notions of themselves; small men as a rule are smarter than those of the bulky and adipose school; and, harmonising with this regulation, Mr. Martyn is both sharp and kindly disposed towards himself. He is not of opinion, like one of his predecessors, that he assisted at the creation of the world, and that the endurance of Christianity depends upon his clerical pivot; but he believes that he has a “mission,” and that on the whole he is quite as good as the majority of Congregational divines. There is nothing pretentious in his appearance; nothing ecclesiastical in his general framework; and in the street he looks almost as much like anybody else as like a parson. The education of Mr. Martyn is equal to that of the average of Dissenting ministers, and better than that of several. He is, however, more of a reader than a thinker, and more of a speaker than either. On the platform he can make as big a stir as men twice his size. His delivery is moderately even; his words clear; and he can throw a good dash of imagination into his language. In the pulpit, to the foot of which place he is led every Sunday, by certain sacred diaconal lamas, who previously “rub him down” and saddle him for action, in a contiguous apartment–in the pulpit, we say, he operates in a superior style, and he looks better there–more like a parson–than anywhere else. He is here above the ordinary level of his hearers; if it were not for the galleries, minute as may be his physiology, he would be the loftiest being present; and if he wishes to “keep up appearances,” we would advise him to remain in the pulpit and have his meals there. Casting joking overboard–out of the pulpit if you like–it may be said that Mr. Martyn as a preacher has many fair qualities. It is true he has defects; but who has not?–unless it be a deacon;–still there is something in his style which indicates earnestness, something in his language, demonstrative of culture and eloquence. His main pulpit fault is that he “goes off” too soon and too frequently. In the course of a sermon he will give you three or four perorations, and sometimes wind up without treating you to one. There is nothing very metaphysical in his subjects; sometimes he wanders slightly into space; occasionally he exhausts himself in fighting out the mysteries of faith, and grace, and justification; but in the ordinary run of his talk you can get good pictures of practical matters. He is a lover of nature, is fond of talking about the sublime and the beautiful, conjointly with other things freely named in Burke’s essay, can pile up the agony with a good deal of ability, and split the ears of the groundlings as the occasion requires. He can get into a white heat quickly, or blow his solemn anger gradually–wind it up by degrees, and make it burst at a given point of feeling. He is a better declaimer than reasoner–has a stronger flow of imagination than logic. There is nothing bitter or mocking in his tone. He seldom flings the shafts of ridicule or irony. He constructs calmly, and then sends up the rocket: he draws you slowly to a certain point, and then tells you to look out for “it’s coming.” His apparatus is well fixed; he can give you any kind of dissolving view. His ecstacies are rapid and, therefore, soon over. The level places in his sermons are rather heavy, and, at times, uninteresting. It is only when the thermometer is rising that you enjoy him, and only when he reaches the climax and explodes, that you fall back and ask for water and a fan. Taking him in the aggregate we are of opinion that he is a good preacher; that he goes through his ordinary duties easily and complacently. He gets well paid for what be does–last year his salary exceeded 340 pounds; and our advice to him is–keep on good terms with the bulk of “the brethren,” hammer as much piety into them as possible, tickle the deacons into a genial humour, and look regularly after the pew- rents.
LUNE-STREET WESLEYAN METHODIST CHAPEL.
Wesleyan Methodism first breathed and opened its eyes in or about the year 1729. It was nursed in its infancy at Oxford by two rare brothers and a few students; was christened at the same place by a keenly-observing, slightly-satirical collegian; developed itself gradually through the country; took charge of the neglected masses and gave them a new life; and today it is one of the great religious forces of the world. The first Wesleyan chapel in Preston was built in the year 1787, and its situation was in that consecrated and highly aromatic region of the town called Back-lane. There was nothing very prepossessing or polished, nothing particularly fashionable or attractive about the profession of Methodism in those days. It was rather an indication of honest fanaticism than of deliberate reasoning–rather a sign of being solemnly “on the rampage” than of giving way to careful conviction–and more symptomatic of a sharp virtuous rant, got up in a crack and to be played out in five minutes, than of a judicious move in the direction of permanent good. The orthodox looked down with a genteel contempt upon the preachers whose religion had converted Kingswood colliers, and turned Cornwall wreckers into honest men; and the formally pious spoke of the worshippers at this new shrine of faith with a serene sneer, and classed them as a parcel of fiercely ejaculating, hymn-singing nonentities. But there was vitality at the core of their creed, and its fuller triumphs were but a question of time. In 1817, Methodism became dissatisfied with its Back-lane quarters, and migrated into a lighter, healthier, and cleaner portion of the town–Lune-street–where a building was erected for its special convenience and edification. It was not a very elegant structure: it was, in fact, a plain, phlegmatic aggregation of brick and mortar, calculated to charm no body externally, and evidently patronised for absolute internal rapture.
In 1861 the chapel was rebuilt–enlarged, beautified, and made fine, so as to harmonise with the laws of modern fashion, and afford easy sitting room for the large and increasing congregation attending it. The frontispiece is of a costly character; but it has really been “born to blush unseen.” It is so tightly wedged in between other buildings, is so evenly crammed into companionship with the ordinary masonry of the street, that the general effect of the tall arch and spacious porch is lost. Nothing can be distinctly seen at even a moderate distance. You have to get to the place before you become clearly aware of its existence; and if you wish to know anything of its appearance, you have either to turn the head violently off its regular axis, or cross the street and ask somebody for a step ladder. The facade of the building is not very prepossessing; the large arch, which has given way at some of the joints considerably, and has been doing its best to fall for about six years, does not look well–it is too high and too big for the place; the stonework within is also hid; and the whitewashed ceiling above ought to be either cleaned or made properly black. At present it is neither light nor dark, and is rather awkwardly relieved at intervals with cobwebs. There is something humorous and incongruous in the physical associations of this chapel. It is flanked with a doctor’s shop and a money-lending establishment; with a savings bank and a solicitor’s office. The bank nestles very complacently under its lower wing, and in the ratio of its size is a much better looking building. The text regarding the deposit of treasure in that place where neither moth nor rust operate may be well worked in the chapel; but it is rather at a discount in the immediate neighbourhood.
A great work in the business of spreading Wesleyan Methodism has been done by the people and parsons of Lune-street chapel. We know of no place in the town whose religious influence has been more actively radiated. Its power, a few years ago, spread into the northern part of the town, and the result was a new chapel with excellent schools there; it then moved eastward, and the consequence was a school chapel in St. Mary-street. In Croft-street, Canal- street, and on the Marsh, it has also outposts, whose officers are fighting the good fight with lung, and head, and heart, in a sprightly and vigorous fashion. Originally, what is termed the “circuit” of Lune-street embraced places 18 or 20 miles from Preston; but the area of the sacred circumbendibus was subsequently reduced; and its servants now find that they have as much on hand as they can fairly get through by looking after half of the town and a few of the contiguous villages. There are none of those solemn milkmen called deacons in connection with Wesleyanism; still, there are plenty of medicine men, up; up the ears in grace and business, belonging it. At Lune-street Chapel, as at all similar places, there are class-leaders, circuit stewards, chapel stewards, and smaller divinities, who find a niche in the general pantheon of duty. The cynosure of the inner circle is personal piety, combined with a “penny a week and a shilling a quarter.” All members who can pay this have to do so.
Beneath the chapel there is a Sunday school, which operates as a feeder. When the scholars–there are 500 or 600 of them altogether– show certain symptoms of inherent rectitude and facial exactness, when they answer particular questions correctly and pass through the crucial stages of probation consistently, they are drafted into “the church,” and presented with licences of perennial happiness if they choose to exercise them. The school is well supervised, and if some of the teachers are as useful and consoling at home as they are in their classes their general relatives will be blissful.
The congregation of Lune-street Chapel is moderately numerous; but it has been materially thinned at intervals by the establishment of other Wesleyan chapels. In its circuit there are now between 800 and 900 persons known as members, who are going on their way rejoicing; at the chapel itself there are between 300 and 400 individuals similarly situated. Viewed in the aggregate, the congregation is of a middle class character both in regard to the colour of the hair and the clothes worn. There are some exceedingly poor people at the place, but the mass appear to be individuals not particularly hampered in making provision for their general meals. Lune-street chapel is the fashionable Wesleyan tabernacle of Preston; the better end of those whose minds have been touched, through either tradition or actual conviction, with the beauties of Methodism, frequent it. There is more silk than winsey, more cloth than hodden grey, and a good deal more false hair and artificial teeth in the building on a Sunday than can be found by fair searching at any other Wesleyan chapel in the town. A sincere desire to “flee from the wrath to come and be saved from their sins”–the only condition which John Wesley insisted upon for admission into his societies–does not prevent some of the members from attending determinedly to the bedizenments, conceits, and spangles of this very wicked speck in the planetary system.
In the congregation there are many most excellent, hardworking, thoroughly sincere men and women, who would be both useful and ornamental to any body of Christians under the sun; but there are in addition, as there are in every building set apart for the purposes of piety, several who have “more frill than shirt,” and much “more cry than wool” about them–rectified, beautifully self-righteous, children who would “sugar over” a very ugly personage ten hours out of the twelve every day, and then at night thank the Lord for all his mercies. In Lune-street Chapel faction used to run high and wilfulness was a gem which many of the members wore very near their hearts; but much of the old feudal spirit of party fighting has died out, and there are signs of pious resignation and loving kindness in the flock, which would at one time have been rare jewels. A somewhat lofty isolation is still manifested here and there; a few regular attenders appear heavily oppressed with the idea that they are not only as good as anybody else but much better. Still this is only human nature and no process of convertibility to the most celestial of substances can in this world entirely subdue it. The bruising deacon who said that grace was a good thing, but that that knocking down an impertinent member was a better didn’t miss the bull’s eye of natural philosophy very far. The observation was not redolent of much Christian spirit; but it evinced that which many of the saints are troubled with–human nature.
Lune-street chapel contains standing, sitting, and sleeping room, for about 1,400 people. The bulk who attend it take fair advantage of the accomodation afforded for the first and second positions; a moderate number avail themselves of the privileges held out for the whole three postures. The chapel is not often crowded; it is moderately filled as a rule; and there is no particular numeric difference in the attendance at either morning or evening service on a Sunday. The singing is neither loftily classic nor contemptibly common-place. It is good, medium, well modulated melody, heartily got up; and thoroughly congregational. In some places of worship it is considered somewhat vulgar for members of the congregation to give specimens of their vocalisation; and you can only find in out- of-the-way side and back pews odd persons warbling a mild falsetto, or piping an eccentric tenor, or doing a heavy bass on their own responsibility; but at Lune-street Chapel the general members of the congregation go into the work with a distinct determination to either sing or make a righteous noise worthy of the occasion. They are neither afraid nor ashamed of the job; and we hope they draw consolation from it. The more genteel worshippers take up their quarters mainly on the ground floor–at the back of the central seats and at the sides. The poor have resting places found for them immediately in front of the pulpit and at the rear of the galleries. Very little of that unctuous spasmodic shouting, which used to characterise Wesleyanism, is heard in Lune-street Chapel. It has become unfashionable to bellow; it is not considered “the thing” to ride the high horse of vehement approval and burst into luminous showers of “Amens” and “Halleleujahs.” Now and then a few worshippers of the ancient type drop in from some country place, and explode at intervals during the course of some impulsive prayer, or gleeful hymn, or highly enamelled sermon. You may occasionally at such a time, hear two or three in distant pews having a delightful time of it. At first they only stir gently, as if some on were mildly pinching or tickling them. Gradually they become more audible, and as the fire of their zeal warms up, and the eloquence of the minister enflames, they get keener, fiercer, more rapturous; the intervals of repose are shorter, the moments of ecstacy are more rapid and fervent; and this goes on with gathering desperation, until the speaker reaches his–climax, and stops to either breathe or use his handkerchief. But hardy a scintilla of this is perceived on ordinary occasions; indeed it has become so unpopular that an exhibition of it seems to quietly amuse–to evoke mild smiles and dubious glances–rather than meet with reciprocity of approval. It must be some great man in the region of Wesleyanism; some grand, tearing, pathetic, eloquent preacher who can stir to a point of moderate audibility the voices of the multitude of worshippers. In Lune-street Chapel, the Ten Commandments occupy a prominent position, and that is a good thing. It would be well if they were fastened up in every place of worship, and better still if the parsons referred to them more frequently.
Respecting the ministers of the chapel in question, we way say that there are three. None of them can stay less than one, nor more than three, years. It is a question of “Hey, presto–quick change,” every third year. The names of the triumvirate at Lune-street are, the Rev. W. Mearns, M.A., who is the superintendent; the Rev. W. H. Tindall, second in command; and the Rev. F. B. Swift, the general clerical servant of all work. Mr. Mearns is a calm, rather bilious- looking, elderly man. There is nothing bewitching in his appearance; he looks like what he is–a quietly-disposed, evenly-tempered, Methodist minister. He is neither fussy, nor conceited, nor fond of brandishing the sword of superiority. He goes about his work steadily, and is as patient in harness as out of it. He has northern blood in his veins which checks impulsiveness and everything approaching that solemn ferocity sometimes displayed in Methodist pulpits. There is nothing oratorical in his style of delivery; it is calm, slow, and has a rather soporific influence upon his hearers. There is more practical than argumentative matter in his sermons; but, in the aggregate, they are hard and dry–lack lustre and passion; and this, combined with his stoical manner of delivery, has a chilling, rather than an attractive, influence. He always speaks in harmony with the rules of grammar. His sentences, although uttered extemporaneously, are invariably well finished and scholarly. His words are well chosen; they are fit in with cultivated exactitude and polished precision. They will stand reading; nay, they will read excellently–infinitely better than the burning rhapsody of more phrensied and eloquent men; but they fall with a long-drawn dulness upon the ear when first uttered, and don’t, as Sam Slick would say, “get up one’s steam anyhow.” Mr. Mearns has a clear head and a good heart, but his spoken words want power and immediate brightness, and his style is deadened for the want of a little enthusiasm.
The Rev. Mr. Tindall comes up in a more polished, energetic, and fashionable garb. He is eloquent, argumentative, polemical. His literary capacity is good, and it has been well trained. He has read much and studied keenly. His sermons are well thought out; he has copious notes of them; and when he enters the pulpit they are made complete for action–are fully equipped in their Sunday clothes and ready for duty. His delivery is good; but physical weakness deprives it of potency; and his contempt of the clock before him renders people now and then uneasy. His manner is refined; his matter is select; but there is something in both at times which you don’t altogether believe in digesting. A rather haughty, dictatorial ring is sometimes noticed in them. A large notion of the importance of the preacher occasionally peeps up. He has a perfect right to venerate Mr. Tindall, and if he is a little fashionable, what of that?–isn’t it fashionable to be fashionable? Only this may be carried a little too far, even in men for whom pulpits are made and circuits formed, and it is not always safe to let organ “15” in phrenological charts get the upper hand. After all we admire Mr. Tindall’s erudition and eloquence. He is free from vulgarity, and in general style miles ahead of many preachers in the same body, whose great mission is to maltreat pulpits and turn religion into a rhapsody of words.
The well-meaning and plodding Mr. Smith succeeds. He is a hard worker; but there does not appear to be over much in him at present. More thinking, and a greater experience of life, may cause him to germinate agreeably in a few years. His style is stereotyped and copied; there is a lack of original force in him; when he talks you know what’s coming next–you can tell five minutes off what he is going to say, and that rather spoils the sensation of newness and surprise which one likes to experience when parsons are either pleasing or terrifying sinners. But Mr. Swift does his best, and, according to Ebenezer Elliot, he does well who does that. It would be wrong to deal harshly with a new beginner, and therefore we have decided to check our criticism–to be brief–with Mr. Swift and express a hope that in time he will be president of the Conference.
FISHERGATE BAPTIST CHAPEL.
The “right thing” in regard to baptism is a recondite point; but we are not going to enter into any controversy about it. We shall say nothing as to the defects or merits of aspersion or sprinkling, immersion or dipping, affusion or pouring. Opinions vary respecting each system; and one may fairly say that the words uttered in explanation of the general theme come literally to us in the “voice of many waters.”, Jacob the patriarch was the first Baptist; the Jews kept up the rite moderately, but had more faith in its abstergent than spiritual influence; John turned it into an institution of Christianity; the Primitive Church carried on the business slowly, Turtullian kicking against and Cyprian lauding it; in the fifth century baptism became fully established amongst all Christian communities; then the Eastern and Western Churches quarrelled as to whether sprinkling or immersion constituted the proper ceremony; other small disputes concerning the modus operandi followed; and from that time to this the adherents of each scheme have spilled a great deal of water in piously working out their notions. There was once a time when nobody could undergo the ordinary process of baptism except at Easter or Whitsuntide; but children and upgrown people can now be put through the ceremony whenever it is considered necessary. In Preston, as elsewhere, the majority of people think well of water when it is required by children for engulphing or baptismal purposes; but they care little for its use when the teens have been trotted through. It may be right enough for the physical and religious comfort of babes and sucklings; but its virtues recede in the ratio of development. There are, however, some sections of men and women in the town who, symbolically at least, have a high regard for water at any time after the years of sense and reason have been reached.
These are the Baptists. There are four or five chapels set apart for their improvement in Preston, and the smartest of these is in Fishergate. In Leeming-street it was in the chrysalis state; in Fishergate the butterfly epoch has been reached. A dull, forlorn looking edifice, afterwards taken advantage of by the Episcopalian party, and now cleared off to make way for St. Saviour’s church, once formed the sacred asylum of a portion of the Baptists; but a desire for better accomodation, combined with a wish for more fashionable quarters, induced a change. The dove was repeatedly sent out, and dry land was finally found for the Baptists in Fishergate. In 1858 a chapel was erected upon the spot, and thus far it has steadfastly maintained its position. It is a handsome building, creditable to both the architect and the congregation, and if its tower were less top heavy, it would, in its way, be quite superb. We never look at that solemn tower head without being reminded of some immense quadrangular pepper castor, fit for a place in the kitchen of the Titans. In every other respect the building is arranged smartly; if anything it is too ornamental, and in making a general survey one is nearly afraid of meeting with Panathenaic frieze work. On the principle that you can’t have the services of a good piper without paying proportionately dear for them, so you can’t obtain a handsome chapel except by confronting a long bill. The elysium of antipedobaptism in Fishergate cost the modest sum of 5,000 pounds, and of that amount about 800 pounds remains to be paid. Considering the greatness of the original sum, the debt is not very large; but if it were less the congregation would be none the worse; and if it didn’t exist at all they would be somewhat nearer bliss in this general vale of tears. Fishergate Baptist Chapel is the only Dissenting place of worship in the town possessing an exterior clock; and it is one of the most orderly articles in the town, for it never strikes and has not for many months shown itself after dark. It used to exhibit signs of activity after sunset; but it was, considered a “burning shame” by some economists to light it up with gas when the Town Hall clock was got into working order, and ever since then it has been nightly kept in the dark.
Fishergate Baptist Chapel has an excellent interior, and it will accommodate about twice as many people as patronise it. Long stately side lights, neatly embellised with stained glass and opaque filigree work, give it a mild solemnity which is relieved by fine circular windows occupying the gables. The seats are arranged in the usual three-row style, and there is a touch of neat gentility about them indicative of good construction, whatever the parties they have been made for are like. Fashionably-conceived gas-stands shoot up and spread their branches at intervals down the chapel; and at the extreme end there is a broad gallery, set apart for the singers, who need be in no fear of breaking it down through either the weight of their melodious metal or the specific gravity of their physique. A new organ is much wanted, and if a few new singers were secured, or the old ones polished up slightly, the proceedings would be more lively and agreeable. Nearly three of the members of the choir are really good singers; the remainder are what may be termed only moderate. What Lune-street is to the Wesleyans, so Fishergate seems to be to the Baptists–the centre of gravity of the more refined and fashionable worshippers. Very few poor people visit it, and it is thought that if they don’t come of their own accord they will never he seriously pressed on the subject. The free sittings are just within the door, on the left hand side, and we should fancy that not more than 25 really poor people use them. The higher order of Christians occupy the lower portion of the same range of seats, the central pews, and those on the right side thereof.
The congregation consists almost entirely of middle-class persons– people who have either saved money in business or who are making a determined effort to do so. Good clothes, quiet demeanour, and numerical smallness are the striking characteristics. Nothing approaching fervour ever takes possession of the general body. Religion with them is not a termagant, revered for her sauciness and loved for her violent evolutions. It is a reticent, even spirited, calmly orthodox affair, whose forerunner fed on locusts and wild honey, and whose principles are to be digested quietly. There may be a few very boisterous sheep in the fold, who get on fire periodically in the warmth of speaking and praying; who will express their willingness, when the pressure is up, to do any mortal thing for the good of “the cause;” but who will have to be caught there and then if anything substantial has to follow. Like buckwheat cakes and rum gruel they are best whilst hot. At a night meeting they may be generously disposed and full of universal sympathy; but they can sleep out their burning thoughts in a few hours, and waken up next morning like larks, with no recollection of their gushing promises.
There is accomodation in the chapel for about 400 persons, but the average attendance is not more than 200; and there are only about 90 “members.” Not much difference between the morning and evening attendance is noticed. The baptismal Thermophylae is generally guarded by the sacred 90, and looked at by the fuller 200. The pew rents are very high; but this evil is compensated for by the comparative absence of those solemn gad flies which come in the shape of collections. At some places of worship contribution boxes and bags are seen floating about rapidly nearly every other Sunday, for either home expenses or perishing Indians; but at Fishergate Baptist Chapel incidental requirements are blended with the pew rents; and for other purposes about two collections annually suffice. That is all, and that ought to make attendance at such a place rather agreeable.
The primal government of the chapel is in the hands of four deacons; but they are not very officious like some pillars of the church: one of them is mild and obliging, the second is wise-looking and crotchety, the third is disposed to pious rampagiousness in his lucid intervals, and the fourth is a kindly sort of being, with a moderate respect for converted dancers and hallaleujah men. Some theological writers say that there are “evangelists” as well as deacons in connection with Baptist government. There may be some of this class at the Fishergate Chapel; but we have not yet seen their sacred personages. The place is highly favoured with clocks. Not only is there a specimen of horology outside, but there is one within, and it may be called a worldly-wise creature, for it never gets beyond No. I in its striking. Tradition hath it that once when there was no clock in the chapel, the preacher used to overshoot most uncomfortably the ordinary limits of time; that the congregation, whilst fond of sermons, did not like them stretched too violently; and that they resolved unanimously to purchase a clock. Probably this story is groundless; but it is a fact nevertheless that the clock is so situated as to be only fully and easily seen by the preacher. More than three-fourths of the people sit with their backs directly to it. And it is furthermore a fact that, whilst when there was no clock the usual time of deliverance was passed, the congregation are now released with scrupulous exactitude. They got into the open air one Sunday evening when we were there about 16 seconds before eight, and the preacher had abandoned the pulpit by the time the Town Hall clock gave its opinion on the question.
In winter there is a Sunday morning prayer meeting at the place; but in summer the members can’t stand such a gathering, either because too much light is thrown upon the subject, or because the attendance is too small, or because early prayers are not required at that season of the year. A prayer meeting is, however, held all the year round, on a Wednesday night, and it is favoured, on an average, with about 20 earnest individuals, who sometimes create what might, if not properly explained, be considered a rather solemn disturbance. These parties meet in the Sunday school, which is beneath the chapel. The average attendance of scholars at this school is not very large. When buns and coffee are astir it may be computed at 200; when ordinary religious instruction is simply placed before the juvenile mind the attendance may be set down at about 100.
In the chapel and immediately before the pulpit, there is a square hole, usually covered, which in denominational phraseology goes by the name of the “baptistery.” In the first ages of Christianity such places were made outside the church, and were either hexagonal or octagonal, then they became polygonal, then circular, and now they have got quadrangular. Two of the finest baptisteries in the world are at Florence and Pisa; that at the former, place being 100 feet in diameter, made of black and white marble, and surrounded with a gallery on granite columns; that at the latter being 116 feet wide, and beautifully ornamented. The biggest baptistery ever made is supposed to have been that at St. Sophia, in Constantinople, which, we are told, was so spacious as to have once served for the residence of the Emperor Basilicus. But there is no marble about the baptistery in Fishergate Chapel, and no one would ever think of transmuting it into a residence. It is used two or three times a year, and if outsiders happen to get a whisper of an intended dipping, curiosity leads them to the chapel, and they look upon the ceremony as a piece of sacred fun, right enough to look at, but far too wet for anything else. This dipping is, indeed, a quaint, cold piece of business. None except adults or youths who have, it is thought, come to sense and reason, are permitted to pass through the ordeal, and it is recognised by them as symbolic of their entrance into “the Church.” Sometimes as many as six or seven are immersed. They put on old or special garments suitable for the occasion, and the work of baptism is then carried on by the minister, who stands in the figurative Jordan. He quietly ducks them overhead; they submit to the process without a murmur; they neither bubble, nor scream, nor squirm; and the elders look on solemnly, though impressed with thoughts that, excellent as the ceremony may be, it is a rather shivering sort of business after all. After being baptised, the new members retire into an adjoining room, strip their saturated cloths, rub themselves briskly with towels, or get the deacons to do the work for them, then re-dress, comb their hair, and receive liberty to rejoice with the general Israel of the flock. Such baptism as that we have described seems a rather curious kind of rite; but it is honestly believed in, and as those who submit to it have to undergo the greatest punishment in the case–have to be put right overhead in cold Longridge water–other persons may keep tolerably cool on the subject. People have a right to use water any way so long as they don’t throw it unfairly upon others or drown themselves; and if three-fourths of the people who now laugh at adult baptism would undergo a dipping next Sunday, and then stick to water for the remainder of their lives, they would be better citizens, whatever might become of their theology.
The Rev. J. O’Dell is the pastor of Fishergate Baptist Chapel, and he is an exemplary man in his way, for be only receives a small salary and yet contrives to keep out of debt–a thing which a good deal of parsons, and which many of the ordinary children of grace, can’t accomplish. He is well liked by his congregation, and we have heard of no fighting over either his virtues or defects. He has quite a clerical look, and, if he hadn’t, his voice would give the cue to his profession. There is an earnest unctuous modulation about it, which, as a rule, is acquired after men have flung overboard the common idioms of secular life. The salary of Mr. O’Dell is about 160 pounds a year, and although he would like more, he can make himself and Mrs. O’Dell, and the younger branches of the house of O’Dell, comfortable on that sum. Some pastors gnash their teeth if their purse strings are opened for less than 300 pounds a year; Mr. O’Dell would purchase a pair of wings, and sing “‘Tis like a little heaven below,” if his stipend was raised to that figure. There is nothing very extraordinary in the preaching style of Mr. O’Dell. It lacks the cunning of that rare old Baptist bird, who once went by the name of Birney, and it is devoid of that learned and masterly eloquence so finely worked by the last minister of the chapel, who used to read some of his sermons over to the deacons, before trying them upon the other sinners in the chapel; still it is sincere, straight- forward, and theologically sound. It never reaches a point of raving, is never loudly pretentious, or ferocious in tone. Mr. O’Dell will never be a brilliant man; but he is now what is often much better–a good working minister. He will never occupy the position of a commander, will never even be a lieutenant, but he will always be a good soldier in the ranks. He has neither a lofty imaginative capacity nor a dashing ratiocinative faculty, but he has a clear sense of the importance of his pastoral duties, he goes easily and earnestly to work, makes neither much fuss nor smoke, and if he does now and then seem to pull queer faces in his sermons– give odd twists to some of his muscles–that does not debar him from preaching fair even-sounding sermons, soothing to his general hearers and pleasing to those who have to pay him. There are a few people whom Mr. O’Dell’s sermons fail to keep awake; but as such parties are probably better asleep than in a full state of consciousness, no great harm is done. He has all sorts of folk to deal with–men who are pious, and smooth creatures quietly given to humbug; people who practice what they are taught, and a few so wonderfully good that if they called a meeting of their creditors they would begin the business by saying, “Let us pray;” individuals who follow their duties calmly, and make no show about their work; and respectable specimens of indifference, who go to chapel because it is fashionable to do so. But they seem all complacent, and the “happy family” element predominates. Mr. O’Dell suits them; they suit Mr. O’Dell; and if he had only a fuller chapel–a better salary, too, wouldn’t be despised by him–he could send up his orisons with more courage, and preach to the sinners around him with the steam hammer force of a Gadsby.
ST. GEORGE’S CHURCH.
“My respecks to St. George and the Dragoon,” wrote the gay and festive showman, at the conclusion of an epistle–penned under the very shadow of “moral wax statters”–to the Prince of Wales. And there was no evil in such a benevolent expression of feeling. George, the particular party referred to, occupies a prominent position in our national escutcheonry, ant the “Dragoon” is a unique creature always in his company, which it would be wrong to entirely forget. The name of the saint sounds essentially English, and it has been woven into the country’s history. The nation is fond of its Georges. We had four kings–not all of a saintly disposition–who rejoiced in that name; we sometimes swear by the name of George; and it plays as good a part as any other cognomen in our universal system of christening. Nobody can really tell who St. George was, and nobody will ever be able to do so. Gibbon fancies he was at one time an unscrupulous bacon dealer, and that he finally did considerable business in religious gammon. Butler, the Romish historian, thinks he was martyred by Diocletian for telling that amiable being a little of his mind; ancient fabulists make it out that be killed a dragon, saved a fair virgin’s life, and then did something better than either–married her; medieval men, with a knightly turn of mind, transmuted him into the patron of chivalry; Edward III made him the patron of the Order of the Garter; the Eastern and Western churches venerate him yet; Britains have turned him into their country’s tutelary saint; and many places of worship have been dedicated to this curiously mythologic individual. We have a church in Preston in this category; and it is of such church–St. George’s–we shall speak now.
In 1723 it was erected. Up to that time the Parish Church was the only place of worship we had in connection with what is termed “the Establishment;” St. George’s was brought into existence as a “chapel of ease” for it; and it is still one of the easiest, quietest, best behaved places in the town. It was a plain brick edifice at the beginning, but in 1843-4 the face of the church was hardened–it was turned into stone, and it continues to have a substantial petrified appearance. In 1848 a new chancel was built; and afterwards a dash of Christian patriotism resulted in a new pulpit and reading desk. The general building, which is of cruciform shape, has a subdued, solemn, half-genteel, half-quaint look. There is neither architectural maze nor ornamental flash in its construction. It is plain all round, and is characterised by a simplicity of style which could not be well reduced unless a severe plainness were adopted. Its position is not in a very imposing locality, and the roads to it are bad and irregular. Baines, the historian, says that St. George’s Church is situated between Fishergate and Friargate–rather a wide definition applicable to about 500 other places ranging from billiard rooms to foundries, from brewing yards to bedstead warehouses in the same region. That brightest of all our historical blades, “P. Whittle, F.A.S.,” states that it is located on the south-west side of Friargate–a better, but still very mystical, exposition to all not actually acquainted with the place; whilst Hardwicke comes up to the rescue in the panoply of modern exactness, and tells us that it is on the south side of Fishergate. These historians must have missed their way in trying to find the place, and in their despair guessed at its real situation. There are many ways to St. George’s–you can get to it from Fishergate, Lune- street, Friargate, or the Market place; but if each of those ways was thrown into one complete whole, the road would still be fifteenth rate. Tortuousness and dimness mark them, and a strong backyard spirit of adventure must operate largely in the minds of some who manage to reach the building.
The churchyard of St. George’s has nothing interesting to the common mind about it. The great bulk of the grave stones are put flat upon the ground–arranged so that people can walk over them with ease and comfort, whatever may become of the letters; and if it were not for a few saplings which shoot out their bright foliage periodically, and one very ancient little tree which has become quite tired of that business, the yard would look very grave and monotonous. The principal entrance can be reached by way of Lune-street or Chapel- walks; but when you have got to it, there is nothing very peculiar to be seen. It is plain, rather gloomy, and in no way interesting.
The interior of the church wears a somewhat similar complexion; but it improves by observation, and in the end you like it for its thorough simplicity. No place of worship can in its internal arrangements be much plainer than St. George’s. If it were not for three stained windows in the chancel, which you can but faintly make out at a distance, nothing which could by any possibility be termed ornamental would at first sight strike you. On reaching the centre of the place you get a moderately clear view of the pulpit which somewhat edifies the mind; and, on turning right round, you see a magnificent organ which compensates for multitudes of defects, and below it–in front of the orchestra–a rather powerful representation of the royal arms, a massive lion and unicorn, “fighting for the crown” as usual, and got up in polished wood work. We see no reason why there should not be something put up contiguously, emblematic of St. George and the dragon. It is very unfair to the saint and unjust to the dragon to ignore them altogether–The Ten Commandments are put on one side in this church- -not done away with, but erected in a lateral position, very near a corner and somewhat out of the way. One of the historians previously quoted says that St. George’s used to be “heated by what is commonly called a cockle”–some sort of a warmth radiating apparatus, which he describes minutely and with apparent pleasure. We have not inquired specially as to the fate of this cockle. It may still have an existence in the sacred edifice, or it may have given way, as all cockles must do in the end, whether in churches or private houses, to hot-water arrangements. The pews in St. George’s are of the old, fashioned, patriarchal character. They are of all sizes an irregularity quite refreshing peculiarises them; there are hardly two alike in the building; and a study of the laws of variety must have been made by those who had the management of their construction. Private interests and family requirements have probably regulated the size of them. Some of the pews are narrow and hard to get into–a struggle has to be made before you can fairly take possession; others are broader and easier to enter: a few are very capacious and might be legitimately licensed to carry a dozen inside with safety; nearly all or them are lined with green baize, much of which is now getting into the sere and yellow leaf period of life; many of them are well-cushioned–green being the favourite colour; and in about the same number Brussels carpets may be found. There is a quiet, secluded coziness about the pews; the sides are high; the fronts come up well; nobody can see much of you if care is taken; and a position favourable to either recumbent ease or horizontal sleep may be assumed in several of them with safety. The general windows, excepting those in the chancel, are very plain; and if it were not for a rim of amber-coloured glass here and there and a fair average accumulation of dust on several of the squares, there would be nothing at all to relieve their native simplicity. The pillars supporting the nave are equally plain; the walls and ceiling are almost entirely devoid of ornament: and primitive white-wash forms the most prominent colouring material. The gas stands, often very elaborate in places of worship, have been made solely for use here. Simple upright pipes, surmounted by ordinary burners constitute their sum and substance. The pulpit lights are simpler. Gas has not yet reached the place where the law and the prophets are expounded. The orthodox mould candle reigns paramount on each side of the pulpit; and its light appears to give satisfaction.
There is no Sunday school in connection with St. George’s. In some respects this may be a disadvantage to the neighbourhood; but it is a source of comfort to the congregation, for all the noise which irrepressible children create during service hours at every place where they are penned up, is obviated. Neither children nor babes are seen at St. George’s. It is considered they are best at home, and that they ought to stay there until the second teeth have been fairly cut. The congregation of St. George’s is specifically fashionable. A few poor people may be seen on low seats in the centre aisle; but the great majority of worshippers either represent, or are connected with, what are termed “good families.” Young ladies wearing on just one hair the latest of bonnets, and elaborated with costly silks and ribbons; tender gentlemen of the silver-headed cane school and the “my deah fellah” region; quiet substantial looking men of advanced years, who believe in good breeding and properly brushed clothes; elderly matrons, “awfully spiff” as Lady Wortley Montague would say; and a few well-disposed tradespeople who judiciously mingle piety with business, and never make startling noises during their devotional moments–these make up the congregational elements of St. George’s. They may be described in three words–few, serene, select. And this seems to have always been the case. Years since, the historian of Lancashire said that St. George’s “has at all times had a respectable, though not a very numerous, congregation.” The definition is as correct now as it was then. The worshippers move in high spheres; the bulk of them toil not, neither do they spin; and if they can afford it they are quite justified in making life genteel and easy, and giving instructions for other people to wait upon them. We dare say that if their piety is not as rampant, it is quite as good, as that of other people. Vehemence is not an indication of excellence, and people may be good without either giving way to solemn war-whoops or damaging the hearing faculties of their neighbours. Considering the situation of St. George’s Church–its proximity to Friargate and the unhallowed passages running therefrom–there ought to be a better congregation. Churches like beefsteaks are intended to benefit those around them. It is not healthy for a church to have a congregation too select and too fashionable. Souls are of more value than either purses or clothes. More of the people living in the immediate neighbourhood of St. George’s ought to regularly visit it; very few of them ever go near the place; but the fault may be their own, and neither the parson’s, nor the beadle’s.
The choir of St. George’s is a wonderfully good one, and whether the members sing for love or money, or both, they deserve praise. Their melody is fine; their precision good; their expression excellent. They can give you a solemn piece with true abbandonatamente; they can observe an accelerando with becoming taste; they can get into a vigorosamente humour potently and on the shortest notice. They will never be able to knock down masonry with their musical force like the Jericho trumpeters, nor build up walls with their harmony like Amphion; but they will always possess ability to sing psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, and whatever may be contained in popular music books, with taste and commendable exactitude. We recommend them to the favourable consideration of the public. In St. George’s Church there is an organ which may be placed in the “h c” category. It is a splendid instrument–can’t be equalled in this part of the country for either finery or music–and is played by a gentleman whose name ranks in St. George’s anthem book, with those of Beethoven, Handel, and Mozart. We have heard excellent music sung and played at St. George’s; but matters would be improved if the efforts of the choir were seconded. At present the singers have some time been what we must term, for want of a better phrase, musical performers. They are tremendously ahead of the congregation. Much of what they sing cannot be joined in by the people. Many a time the congregation have to look on and listen–ecstacised with what is being sung, wondering what is coming next, and delightfully bewildered as to the whole affair.
The minister at St. George’s is the Rev. C. H. Wood–a quiet, homely, well-built man, who is neither too finely dressed nor too well paid. His salary is considerably under 200 pounds a year. Mr. Wood is frank and unostentatious in manner; candid and calm in language; and of a temperament so even that he gets into hot water with nobody. You will never catch him with his virtuous blood up, theologically or politically. He has a cool head and a quiet tongue- -two excellent articles for general wear which three-fourths of the parsons in this country have not yet heard of. He is well liked by the male portion of his congregation, and is on excellent terms with the fair sex. He is a batchelor, but that is his own fault. He could be married any day, but prefers being his own master. He may have an ideal like Dante, or a love phantom like Tasso, or an Imogene like the brave Alonzo; but he has published neither poetry nor prose on the subject yet, and has made no allusion to the matter in any of his sermons. No minister in Preston, with similar means, is more charitably disposed than Mr. Wood. He behaves well to poor people, and the virtue of that is worth more than the lugubriousness or eloquence of many homilies. Charity in purse as well as in speech is one of his characteristics; and if that doth not cover a multitude of ordinary defects nothing will. In the reading desk Mr Wood gets through his work quickly and with a good voice. There is no effort at elocution in his expression: he goes right on with the business, and if people miss the force of it they will have to be responsible for the consequences. In the pulpit he drives forward in the same earnest, matter-of-fact style. There is no hand flinging, hair- wringing, or dramatic raging in his style. The matter of his sermons is orthodox and homely–systematically arranged, innocently illustrated at intervals, and offensive to nobody. His manner is calculated to genially persuade rather than fiercely arouse; and it will sooner rock you to sleep than lash you to tears. There is a slight touch of sanctity at the end of his sentences–a mild elevation of voice indicative of pious oiliness; but, altogether, we like his quiet, straightforward, simple, English style. People fond of Church of England ideas could not have a more genial place of worship than St. George’s: the seats are easy and well lined, the sermons short and placid, and the company good.
ST. AUGUSTINE’S CATHOLIC CHURCH.
St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, Preston, is of a retiring disposition; it occupies a very southern position; is neither in the town nor out of it; and unlike many sacred edifices is more than 50 yards from either a public-house or a beershop. Clean-looking dwellings immediately confront it; green fields take up the background; an air of quietude, half pastoral, half genteel, pervades it; but this ecclesiastical rose has its thorn. Only in its proximate surroundings is the place semi-rural and select. As the circle widens–townwards at any rate–you soon get into a region of murky houses, ragged children, running beer jugs, poverty; and as you move onwards, in certain directions, the plot thickens, until you get into the very lairs of ignorance, depravity, and misery. St. Augustine’s “district” is a very large one; it embraces 8,000 or 9,000 persons, and their characters, like their faces, are of every colour and size. Much honest industry, much straight-forwardness and every day kindness, much that smells of gin, and rascality, and heathenism may be seen in the district. There is plenty of room for all kinds of reformers in the locality; and if any man can do any good in it, whatever may be his creed or theory, let him do it. The priests in connection with St. Augustine’s Catholic Church are doing their share in this matter, and it is about them, their church, and their congregation that we have now a few words to say. The church we name is not a very old one. It was formally projected in 1836; the first stone of it was laid on the 13th of November, 1838; and it was opened on the 30th of July, 1840, by Dr. Briggs, afterwards first bishop of the Catholic diocese of Beverley. It has a plain yet rather stately exterior. Nothing fanciful, nor tinselled, nor masonically smart characterises it. Four large stone pillars, flanked with walls of the same material surmounted with brick, a flight of steps, a portico, a broad gable with massive coping, and a central ornament at the angle, are all which the facade presents. The doors are lateral, and are left open from morning till night three hundred and sixty-five days every year.
The interior of the church is spacious, wonderfully clean, and decorated at the high altar end in most tasteful style. We have not inquired whether charity begins at home or not in this place; perhaps it does not; but it is certain that painting does; for all the fine colouring, with its many formed classical devices, at the sanctuary was executed by one of the members of the congregation. The principal altar is a very fine one, and a fair amount of pious pleasure may be derived from looking at a tremendous pastoral candlestick which stands on one side. It is, when charged with a full-sized candle, perhaps five feet ten high, and it has a very patriarchal and decorous appearance–looks grave and authoritative, and seems to think itself a very important affair. And it has a perfect right to its opinion. We should like to see it in a procession, with Zaccheus, the sacristian, carrying it. Three fine paintings, which however seem to have lost their colour somewhat, are placed in the particular part of the church we are now at. The central one represents the “Adoration of the Magi,” and was painted and given by Mr. H. Taylor Bulmer, who formerly resided in Preston. The second picture to the left is a representation of “Christ’s agony in the Garden;” and the third on the opposite side is “Christ carrying the Cross.” In front of the altar there is the usual lamp with a crimson spirit flame, burning day and night, and reminding one of the old vestal light, watched by Roman virgins, who were whipped in the dark by a wrathful pontifex if they ever let it go out. At the northern end of the church there is a large gallery, with one of the neatest artistic designs in front of it we ever saw. The side walls are surmounted with a chaste frieze, and running towards the base are “stations” and statues of saints. A small altar within a screen, surmounted with statuary, is placed on each side of the sanctuary, and not far from one of them there is a bright painting which looks well at a distance, but nothing extra two yards off. It represents Christ preaching out of a boat to some Galileans, amongst whom may be seen the Rev. Canon Walker. If the painting is correct, the worthy canon has deteriorated none by age, for he seems to look just as like himself now as he did eighteen hundred years since, and to be not a morsel fonder of spectacles and good snuff now than he was then. His insertion, however, into this picture, was a whim of the artist, whose cosmopolitan theory led him to believe that one man is, as a rule, quite as good as another, and that paintings are always appreciated best when they refer to people whom you know.
There are three of those very terrible places called confessionals at St. Augustine’s, and one day not so long since we visited all of them. It is enough for an ordinary sinner to patronise one confessional in a week, or a month, or a quarter of a year, and then go home and try to behave himself. But we went to three in one forenoon with a priest, afterwards had the courage to get into the very centre of a neighbouring building wherein were two and twenty nuns, and then reciprocated compliments with an amiable young lady called the “Mother Superior.” Terrible places to enter, and most unworldly people to visit, we fancy some of our Protestant friends will say; but we saw nothing very agonising or dreadful–not even in the confessionals. Like other folk we had heard grim tales about, such places–about trap doors, whips, manacles, and all sorts of cruel oddities; but in the confessionals visited we beheld nothing of any of them. Number one is a very small apartment, perhaps two yards square, with a seat and a couple of sacred pictures in it. In front there is an aperture filled in with a slender grating and backed by a curtain which can be removed at pleasure by the priest who officiates behind. On one side of the grating there is a small space like a letter-box slip, and through this communications in writing, of various dimensions, are handed. Everything is plain and simple where the penitent is located; and the apartment behind, occupied by the priest who hears confession, is equally simple. There is no weird paraphernalia, no mysterious contrivances, no bolts, bars, pullies, or strings for either working miracles, or making the hair of sinners stand on end. Number two confessional is similarly arranged and equally plain. We examined this rather more minutely than the other, and whilst we could find nothing dreadful in the penitents’ apartment, we fancied, on entering the priest’s side, that, we had met with something belonging the realm of confessional torture as depicted by the Hogans, Murphys, and Maria Monk showmen, and which the officials had forgot to put by in some of their secret drawers. It was hung upon a nail, had a semi- circular, half viperish look, and was cupped at each end as if intended for some curious business of incision or absorption. We were relieved on getting nearer it and on being informed that it was merely an ear trumpet through which questions have to be put to deaf penitents who now and then turn up for general unravelment and absolution. The two confessionals described are contiguous to a passage at the rear of the church; the third we are now coming to is near one of the subsidiary altars, nod looks specifically snug. It is a particularly small confessional, and a very stout penitent would find it as difficult to get into it as to reveal all his sins afterwards. There is nothing either harrowing or cabalistic in the place; and you can see nothing but two forms, a screen, and a crucifix.
There are many services at St. Augustine’s. On Monday mornings at a quarter past seven, and again at half-past eight, mass is said; on Tuesdays and Thursdays there is benediction at half-past seven; on Fridays and Saturdays and on the eve of holidays there is confession; on Sundays there is mass at half-past seven, half-past eight, half-past nine, and at 11, when regular service takes place; on Sunday afternoons, at three, the children are instructed, and at half-past six in the evening there are vespers, a sermon, and benediction. The church has a capacity for about 1,000 persons, without crushing. The average number hearing mass on a Sunday is 3,290. On four consecutive Sundays recently–from February 14 to March 14–upwards of 13,100 heard mass within the walls of the church.
The congregation is almost entirely made up of working people. A few middle class and wealthy persons attend the place–some sitting in the gallery, and others at the higher end of the church–but the general body consists of toiling every-day folk. The poorest section, including the Irish–who, in every Catholic Church, do a great stroke of business on a Sunday with holy water, beads and crucifixes–are located in the rear. It is a source of sacred pleasure to quietly watch some of these poor yet curious beings. They are all amazingly in earnest while the fit is on them; they bow, and kneel, and make hand motions with a dexterity which nothing but long years of practice could ensure; and they drive on with their prayers in a style which, whatever may be the character of its sincerity, has certainly the merit of fastness. How to get through the greatest number of words in the shortest possible time may be a problem which they are trying, to solve. The great bulk of the congregation are calm and unostentatious, evincing a quiet demeanour in conjunction with a determined devotion. There are several very excellent sleepers in the multitude of worshippers; but they are mainly at the entrance end where they are least seen. We happened to be at the church the other Sunday morning and in ten minutes after the sermon had been commenced about 16 persons, all within a moderate space, were fast asleep. Their number increased slowly till the conclusion. Several appeared to be struggling very severely against the Morphean deity dining the whole service; a few might be seen at intervals rescuing themselves from his grasp–getting upon the very edge of a snooze, starting suddenly with a shake and waking up, dropping down their heads to a certain point of calmness and then retracing their steps to consciousness.
There are five men at St. Augustine’s called collectors–parties who show strangers, &c., their seats, and look after the pennies which attendants have to pay on taking them. Not one of these collectors has officiated less than 11 years; three of them have been at the work for 27; and what is still better they discharge their duties, as the sacristan once told us, “free gracious.” That is a philanthropic wrinkle for chapel keepers and other compounders of business and piety which we commend to special notice. The singers at St. Augustine’s are of more than ordinary merit. Two or three of them have most excellent voices; and the conjoint efforts of the body are in many respects capital. Their reading is accurate, their