The Gascoigne Family and the Catholic Church in the 17th. and 18th Centuries PART 2. MONKS, PRIESTS AND THE NUNS OF THE BAR CONVENT Back to the Main Historical Society page

The Gascoigne Family and the Catholic Church in the 17th. and 18th Centuries


from Barwicker No. 74
June 2004

The involvement of the daughters of the Gascoigne family in the Catholic church in the 17th. and 18th. century is described in Part 1 of this article (see 'The Barwicker' No.69) but the sons too played their part and some attained high office in the church. They were particularly active in the monasteries and colleges in France and Germany which were set up in the 17th. century to train English monks and priests.

Sir Thomas Gascoigne (2), the second baronet, continued his father's recusancy (see 'The Barwicker' No.52) and he too had to lease some of his land to avoid confiscation. In 1680, he was tried in London "for High Treason, the subversion of the Government and the alteration of religion" for his alleged part in the so-called 'Barnbow Plot' (see 'The Barwicker' No.61) but was acquitted. He retired to the Abbey of Lamspringe in Germany, where his brother John(3) was abbot, dying there in 1686.

Sir Thomas's brother John (3) was born 31 October 1598 and became a Benedictine monk, taking the name 'Placid' or 'Placidus'. He became the Secretary of the General Chapter of the English Benedictine Congregation in 1633. In 1634 he was sent on the English Mission to the Northern Province and he is said to have 'laboured' in Yorkshire for 16 years. He was elected President of the English Benedictine Congregation, an important and influential office, from 1649 to 1653, and Abbott of the Benedictine abbey at Lamspringe in Germany from 1651 to his death in 1681.

A second brother Michael (4) was born 31 January 1604 and became a Benedictine monk at Douai in France. He was sent on the English Mission in the Northern Province in 1631 and was stationed in Lancashire. He became Secretary of the General Chapter in 1641 and was Procurator of the Province for many years. He died at Witton, Northumberland, on 17 October 1657.

A third brother Francis (5), born 10 December 1605, was a secular priest who adopted the alias 'Johnson' (John's son). He was sent to the English Benedictine College at Douai in France and later left for the English mission. He probably lived for much of the time at Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire, at the house of his niece Helen, daughter of Sir Thomas Gascoigne, 2nd Bart (2), and wife of Thomas Appleby Esq. During the civil war he endured many sufferings, but eventually escaped to the continent and sought refuge at Douai College. In 1648 was made general-prefect of the college. In this office he continued until his return to the mission in Yorkshire in 1653 where he passed the remainder of his career.

Sir Thomas Gascoigne (9), the 3rd. baronet, was born about 1623, the eldest surviving son of Sir Thomas Gascoigne, the 2nd baronet. He became lord of the manor of Barwick-in-Elmet in May 1662. He was a benefactor of Cambrai Abbey and in 1692 he founded a studentship at the monastery of Lamspringe at cost of £400 as a perpetual foundation on the nomination of himself and his heirs. He died in 1698 leaving no children. He was succeeded to the title by Thomas, the son of his brother Edward.

Rt. Rev Doctor Gregory Stapleton (15), born about 1623, became a very senior and influential figure in the church. He was the son of Gilbert Stapleton and Helen, daughter of Sir John Gascoigne (1). He became a Benedictine monk and took the name Benedict. He professed at Douai on 28 October 1643 and was ordained in 1647. He was professor of philosophy and theology for 16 years at Douai University and became a Doctor of Divinity there. He was Prior of St. Gregory's, Douai, from 1657 to 1662. At the Restoration, a group of Benedictines acted as chaplains to Queen Henrietta Maria, and later Queen Catherine of Braganza, at Somerset House. Stapleton was the Superior of this community and the Cathedral Prior at Canterbury in 1666. He was three times elected President of the English Benedictine Congregation, from the year 1669 to his death in 1680.

Thomas Thweng (Thwenge or Thwing) (16) was the son of George Thweng of Kilton Castle, Cleveland and Heworth Hall, Yorkshire, and Anne, the daughter of Sir John Gascoigne (1), the first baronet. Thomas was born in 1625 and was ordained at Douai, coming to the mission in England in 1665. He kept what he called a 'boarding school' for training children in Catholic principles at the Stapleton family home at Quorke Hall. He was implicated in the 'Barnbow Plot' and was apprehended in the temporary residence of the nuns of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in York and charged with treason. He was brought to the bar at the Summer assizes on July 29, tried and found guilty. He was hanged and quartered at York on 23 October 1680, when he publicly thanked God that for fifteen years he had been able to discharge his priestly functions. He was the last martyred priest in England.

In 1677, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was founded by Mary Ward and which operated on the continent at that time, attempted to establish a nunnery at Dolebank near Ripley. Of the original five members, three were Thomas Thwenge's sisters and therefore nieces of Sir Thomas Gascoigne (2), who provided much financial support. The establishment was closed in the following year and some of the nuns were imprisoned following the 'Titus Oates' plot. The remainder of the nuns moved to Heworth Manor and then to Castlegate in York. In 1686, they established the Bar Convent in Blossom Street, York. Sir Thomas Gascoigne (2) is regarded as the founder of the convent and his portrait occupies pride of place in the house to this day.

The three nieces were Helen Thwenge, Catherine Lascelles (neé Thwenge) and Anne Beckwith (neé Thwenge). Helen (17) was the daughter of George Thwenge of Kilton Castle. Cleveland and Heworth Hall, Yorkshire, and Ann Gascoigne, daughter of Sir John Gascoigne (1). Helen was born in Heworth and was a pupil at the Institute of Mary's school in Paris. In 1653, she went to Munich, doubless to enter her novitiate. She was one of the five nuns sent from Germany and to found the settlement at Dolebank near Ripley on 29 September 1677. On the arrest of her sister Catherine, Mrs Lascelles, (18), she seems to have been in charge of the house of Heworth Manor, which her uncle Sir Thomas Gascoigne (2) tried to have settled on her.

Catherine Lascelles (neé Thwenge) (18) came from Germany as Superior of the foundation at Dolebank in 1677. She was arrested in connection with the Barnbow plot and was not released until 1685. She died 15 April 1695 and is buried in St Mary's Castlegate, York.

Anne Beckwith (19) was sent from Germany as assistant to found the house at Dolebank. She was the widow of Leonard Beckwith of Handale Hall, Loftus or Lofthouse, Cleveland. It is said that two of his sisters were in the house in Castlegate, when the Ven. Thomas Thwenge (16) was drawn past on a hurdle on his way to his martyrdom. It seems likely that Helen and Anne were the sisters, not Helen and Catherine as previously believed, the latter being imprisoned at the time.

Sir Edward Gascoigne (24), married Mary, daughter and heiress of Sir Francis Hungate, Bart. of Huddleston Hall, Yorkshire. He kept a diary carefully noting events and expenses involved in supervising his Parlington estate. Rev.Colman, in his History of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet, tells us that these writings illustrate how the penal laws against Catholics were enforced at that time. In 1722, arms and horses were seized by the Chief Constable, followed by two coach horses three days later. He also gives details of fines paid. However such entries are rare and Colman states that "during Sir Edward's residence at Parlington, he was allowed to worship with the ceremonies of the Catholic church, and in his private chapel the sacraments were regularly administered". Colman notes that "Parlington was a recognised and safe gathering place for Catholics of the neighbourhood".

Archbishop Blackburn's Returns of 1735 list the 'papists' over the age of 13 residing in Parlington at the time. These are headed by Sir Edward and his wife, followed by four men servants and the son of one of them, and six female servants presumably living at Parlington Hall. Also resident in Parlington are "Rogers, supposed chaplain to Sir Edward" (Dom Edward Dunstan Rogers, sent to Parlington in 1731 and died there in 1746) and "Paul Gilmore, a reputed priest" (Dom Robert Paul Gilmore, professed 1685 and died 1748). Other catholic recusants resident in Parlington include two married couples, plus one man and five women. In answers to specific questions asked, the entry in the 'Returns' states that:

"Mass is said to be performed in the house of Sir Ed. Gascoigne by Rogers, his chaplain, and in the same town by Mr Paul Gilmore, a reputed priest, at his own lodging.... It does not appear that any Popish School is taught in the parish but there are grounds for suspicion that Paul Gilmore above mentioned is guilty of such practice.... No visitation or Confirmation is understood to have been held by any popish Bishop within the parish.... I can hear of none perverted to the popish Religion for several years past, but one or two at the point of death about four years ago."

Colman records that in June 1743, in the time when his sisters Catherine (Josepha) (29) and Helen (30) were in the convent there, Sir Edward Gascoigne (24), the 6th. baronet, then aged 47, with his wife, family and servants, moved to Cambrai where he lived for the rest of his life. He regularly visited his sisters there. His son Thomas (33) was born there. His eldest son, John Francis (31) and two of his daughters, Elizabeth Bridget (35) and Catherine Mary (36) were born at Parlington but died at Cambrai. Sir Edward also died there on 24 May, 1750, and is buried with his three children in the cemetery of the Abbey, leaving a prominent memorial stone.

The 6th. baronet was succeeded by his elder son Sir Edward Gascoigne, the 7th. baronet (30). He was born in 1742 at Parlington but when three months old was taken with his family to live at Cambrai. He spent much time abroad and never married. He died of smallpox in Paris in 1762, aged 20. He was succeeded by his brother Sir Thomas Gascoigne (33), the 8th baronet. He was born at Cambrai 7 March 1745. He was educated in France and spent much time abroad until he settled at Parlington in 1779. On 9 January 1780 he left the Church of Rome, read his recantation before Archbishop Cornwallis of Canterbury and was received into the Church of England. To provide a place of worship for Catholics in the area he built St.Wilfred's Church in Aberford (see 'The Barwicker' No. 52) close to his home in Parlington. During the 1780s and 1790s he was returned as Member of Parliament for the constituencies of Thirsk, Malton and Arundel.

On 4 November 1784, he married as her second husband, Mary Turner (neé Shuttleworth). Their only child, Thomas Charles, born 7 January 1786, was killed on the hunting field 29 October 1809. Sir Thomas died 17 February 1810. With no direct heir, the baronetcy lapsed and the Gascoigne estates were left to his step-daughter Mary (neé Turner) and her husband Richard Oliver, who adopted the surname of Gascoigne.


Further reading on the Cambrai Benedictines
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