'THE MOLINEUX CHALICE.'
   

by R D RADCLIFFE

   

taken from Transactions of the Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire  Volume 41 (1899)

 

 

 
AMONG the "Forfeited Estates" papers in the Public Record Office, is an account of the Chalices, Patens, and other Altar Plate that Richard Hitchmough, of Garston, co. Lanc., clerk, formerly a Secular Priest of the Roman Communion, used with his own hands when officiating at the Altar in the houses hereinafter mentioned, situate in the counties of Lancaster and Stafford, viz.: at Croxteth, in the hundred of Derby, co. Lanc., the seat of the Right Hon William Lord Viscount Molineux:
One large silver chalice, double gilt within with gold; one large paten of pure gold:
Two silver crucibles, alias cruets, for wine and water: one silver plate, upon which the said crucibles used to stand; six tall silver candlesticks; and a large silver crucifix; the whole solid silver, and which the Lord Molineux, first wife to his present lordship, told this deponent cost his lordship £500 in London. All the above plate this deponent says he saw often in the year 1709, at which time he officiated there as chaplain to his lordship.
Where this fine altar plate may be now I do not know. From Croxteth it was probably removed soon after 1769, in which year Charles William, 9th Viscount Molineux, afterwards first Earl of Sefton, conformed to the Established Church.
Seeking information, however, on this head from the Reverend Edward Powell, priest of Our Lady's church, Lydiate, he told me that in the year 1875 he had bought a chalice, engraved with the name of Molineux, from a dealer in old silver, who had thought of melting it down. At the time of the purchase he was in charge of St.  Alexander's mission, at Bootle, and to the church there he had given the chalice.
Through his kind introduction, and by the favour of its custodian, the Very Reverend Dean Beggan, the chalice was exhibited at a meeting of the society, on the 20th of February, 1890, about which time it was also photographed and drawn. The result appears in the woodcut which I am happy to present to the Society.
The chalice is of silver, though it bears no hallmark, and is probably of English manufacture. It stands 7½ inches high, and weighs 13 ounces, av.
"It is one," says Mr. St. John Hope, Assistant Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London, "of a great many of similar style and design existing in this country, modelled after an ancient example, but slightly altered in accordance with the prevailing taste in the first half of the 16th century, to which period most of those seem to belong, but a few may be earlier."
The bowl and underside of the foot shew hammer marks very distinctly. On each of the seven faces of the knop of the stem is engraved a quatrefoil ornament, and on the upper side of the foot a Calvary Cross. On the underside of the foot is engraved in Roman capital lettering of the time:-
EX DONO D.C. MOLINEUX DNO RICHARD HOLME
ANGLO=BENEDEDO 1697.
The giver of the chalice was Caryll, 3rd Viscount Molineux, who, with his brother Richard, 2nd viscount, raised two regiments for the King in the great civil war, was outlawed by the Parliament, and afterwards married Mary, daughter of Sir Alexander Barlow of Barlow Hall, co. Lanc., knight. He died at Croxteth, February 2nd, 1698-9, and six days later was laid in Sefton Church by the side of his wife, who had died in 1691.
Their son was the purchaser of the altar plate described by the renegade Hitchmough.
The recipient of the gift was the Reverend Richard Holme, or Helme (sprung from an ancient family seated in Goodnargh, co. Lancaster), of the Order of Saint Benedict, professed at Douay, 1676, sent on the Mission in Lancashire, and in 1697 appointed Chaplain to Lord Molineux, at Sefton and Croxteth, where he remained until shortly before his death, when he removed to Woolton Hall, the seat of the Hon Richard Molineux, in consequence of the troubles which ensued on the Stuart rising of 1715, and there he died December 18, 1717. (from information supplied by Joseph Gillow, Esq.)
In June, 1535, the Molineux Chantry, within the parish church of Sefton, was founded by Edward Molineux, B.D., and Rector of the parish. He was the second son of Sir Thomas Molineux of Sefton, knight, by his wife, Ann, daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Dutton of Dutton, in the county of Chester, knight, and was rector of Sefton from October, 1509, until his death in September, 1535. No doubt the Chantry was furnished with everything necessary for celebrating Mass, yet when the Royal Commissioners came to Sefton, in or about 1548, they reported that in this Chantry there was of plate "none." - (Raines's Lanc. Chantries, xxvii, and 113)
Is it not possible that before the coming of the Commissioners the plate so lately given had been removed to the ancestral home of the pious founder's family, hard by? And, if so, may we not see in the chalice given by Caryll Lord Molineux to his chaplain, Father Holme, that dedicated to God's service by his collateral ancestor one hundred and sixty-two years before? Anyway, it is an interesting relic of an ancient and illustrious Lancashire house, and of that great religious Order, the learned, pious, and genial Benedictine .
The chalice is now carefully preserved at St.Alexander's Church, Bootle, in an oak casket, bearing on the lid a brass plate, with the following apt and scholarly inscription, from the pen of him to whose care we owe the preservation of the chalice, and its appearance at a meeting of our Society, the Reverend Edward Powell:-
DIRA IN ANGLIA SÆVIENTE PERSECUTIONE FABRICATUM,
A MONACHIS STI BENEDICTI ÆVO LÆTIORE VENDITUM,
A FORNACE EREPTUM, NUNC ME PIE TENET TENEATQUE
SEMPER ECCLESIA STI ALEXANDRI.
   
   

The Molineux Chalice survived the Blitz and is now housed at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.