Wednesday 3 March 2010

Nearly a Saint

Fr Hunwicke has been digging up some of his predecessors, so I am encouraged to do the same. A Vicar of Hessle a few years before me (just over four hundred, indeed) was one James Cockerell. He was a Canon Regular of the Priory of Lilleshall. That Priory had the living of Hessle in its gift, and generally seems to have supplied Vicars from its own community. Despite major Victorian alterations, there are still traces of an upper room above the present Lady Chapel (and former Sacristy) where the visiting Canons would have stayed while in residence. After his time in Hessle, James Cockerell returned to Lilleshall as Prior; and it was from there that he joined the ill-fated Pilgrimage of Grace in 1537.

He was among the many who were hanged, drawn and quartered for taking part in the uprising. A year later Lilleshall was sold to one of Henry VIII's friends, the buildings began to be demolished and the materials sold, the lead and stone carted away. James Cockerell might have been canonised, but because his motives were thought to have been mixed - after all, saving his Priory was a financial as well as a spiritual matter - he is not named among the martyrs. For all that, I hope he is getting some satisfaction in Purgatory or indeed Heaven, from seeing that some of the depradations of those days might be reversed through the provisions of the Ordinariate!

The Vicarage of Hessle is in the gift of the Lord Chancellor. At the Reformation, those churches in monastic hands above a certain value (I think it was £300 p.a.) were taken into the care of the Crown, those of lesser value fell to the Lord Chancellor. Today both offices work together from 10 Downing Street. The C of E plc stripped all its livings of their endowments in the last Century. Hessle had become a plum living by then; and the Incumbent in office a little after the second world war still employed six living-in servants, besides gardeners and other outdoor workers. It was not like that by the time I went there.

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