On this day … 4 April 1715

The vicar of Preston, Samuel Peploe, wrote to the bishop of Chester pleading for a church at Grimsargh where the community had been ‘exposed to temptations and Popery’:

I beg leave to acquaint yr Lrp yt there are three townships and part of another in this parish wch lie three, four, and five miles from the church and have no other convenient place of publick worship. That by this unhappy situation they have still been exposed to temptations and Popery (which is too prevalent in these parts of your Lordship’s Diocese) and are thereby an easier Prey to the Priests of that Communion: we having no less than six of these men in ye one parish. From my first coming to this place I have wished for some hopeful remedy agt this growing evil: and I hope we are now in a way for it if yr L’d please to give approbation.

Peploe had already persuaded Sir Henry Hoghton, patron of Preston’s parish church, to donate the land needed for the Grimsargh chapel. His letter to the bishop must have met with the bishop’s approval for the new church was soon built ‘severed from all common uses and dedicated to God by the name of St. Michael’s Chapel’.

(see Fishwick’s History of Preston)

unknown artist; Samuel Peploe (1667-1752), Bishop of Chester (1726-1752); Cheshire Archives and Local Studies; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/samuel-peploe-16671752-bishop-of-chester-17261752-103118

The vicar clearly had it in for the Catholics in his parish, for the previous year he was writing to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, which monitored Catholic activity in the provinces. In his letter Peploe describes Catholic activity in Preston:

We have 5. or 6. Houses in this Town where Papists meet, sometimes at one sometimes at another, and pretty often in 2. or 3. at once: In these Houses they have Chappels deck’d with all Popish Trinkets. They go Publickly to their Meetings as we go to Church, and on Sabbath Days they go by our Bells. One Knight is the only Priest that lives in the Town, who sometime agoe came from Ireland. There are others who come to officiate every Sunday and Holy Day. In the Country part of this parish, which is made up of 12. large Townships, there are several Preists who live among them: Their Names as far as I can discover are Tootel, Melling, Kendal, Richardson, Smyth, Vavasor, who is now Sr. Walter, as some say. Tootel and Melling live together, and have a publick chapel [at Fernyhalgh].

The knight Peploe mentions was Sir Walter Vavasour. He was a Jesuit priest, the second to serve the Catholic congregation in the town, and a member of a prominent Yorkshire Catholic family. He died in Preston on 10 April, 1740. His mail was addressed to ‘Mr. Walter Vavasour, to be left at the White Bull in Preston Lancashire’. The White Bull was the name of the Bull and Royal at that period.

Peploe is usually remembered as the vicar who defied Jacobite rebels from his pulpit in 1715. He was later appointed bishop of Chester, his place as vicar of Preston being taken by his son, Samuel junior.

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