Fernyhalgh, said by the locals “Ferny-huff”, holds many sacred treasures. Once in a backwater place, surrounded by miles of hills and fields the Church of St. Mary’s now is close to the motorway to Preston. Sadly, the noise of the motorway interferes with the secluded beauty of the church and the shrine.
St. Mary’s was built on land purchased by a holy and scholarly priest, Father Anthony Lund, the missioner at Ladye Well.
He had been born locally but ordained at the English College in Douai. He purchased six acres about a half-mille from the shrine in order to accommodate the needs of the local faithful. The church was made to look more like a fancy house and barn than a church. This was because Catholicism was still outlawed in Great Britain. The Bishop of Acanthus and Vicar-Apostolic of the Northern District of England consecrated it on August 12th 1795, 35 years before Catholic Emancipation.
Fr. Lund was a walking saint. He consulted with Bishop Gibson and for a while, with eleven priests in on the plan, two hundred acres at Ushaw were purchased to start a secret seminary for English boys to become priests. Fr. Lund was one of the benefactors and power behind this bold move on the part of recusant Catholics. The Hermitage, a church house, was given finally to the Sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, who used it for several years. The old Ladyewell House, his presbytery, was turned into a school for Catholic boys and girls. Even at this late date, one Protestant local landlord tried to shut down and ruin the old chapel of the shrine. The new Rev. Blake, missioner priest from 1811 to 1823, was able to withstand this horrible move.
The faithful grew more bold and installed glorious windows, a centrepiece, and other paintings, some of which I photographed and are included in this blog. Our Lady of Fernyhalgh is seated in majesty with the Child Christ about the altar, surrounded by nine Seraphim. One thing which caught my attention was ancient baptismal font at the front of the church, very unusual for those times.
Please enjoy the photos I took of this venerable church, still used as a parish church today.
One last note, the grave of the last English Carthusian is at St. Mary’s. Dom Bruno Finch died in 1821 at 72 years of age. He came to England under the monastic persecutions of Austrian Emperor Joseph II.
Enjoy the photos.
JMJ, pray for us!
God is good,