In 1296, Cistercian monks moved from Stanlow Abbey and founded Whalley Abbey, with the first stone being laid by Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln, Baron of Pontefract, 10th Baron of Halton, Lord of Denbigh and 7th Lord of Bowland (Born 1251 – Died February 1311). Following the dissolution of the monasteries, Whalley Abbey was closed in 1537 and now stands in ruins. Ruins which have a reputation of being haunted.
John Paslew was elected on 7 August 1507 and was the last Abbot Whalley Abbey. He was executed at Whalley on 10 March 1537 on the charge of high treason for his part in the Pilgrimage of Grace and he is thought to haunt the area. In ‘Lancashire Magic & Mystery: Secrets of the Red Rose County’ (1998), Kenneth Fields mentions that Abbot Paslew has haunted for centuries and was seen on Pendle Road in 1966 by a girl. Ghostly footsteps also said to have been heard in the conference centre built in the grounds of the Abbey.
The following story of John Paslew was published in Traditions of Lancashire (1872) by John Roby and entitled ‘The Abbot Of Whalley’. ‘The Cistercian Abbey of Whalley was founded by Henry Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, who, having given the advowson of the parish to the abbey of Stanlaw in Cheshire, the monks procured an appropriation, and removed hither in 1296, increasing their number to sixty. The parish church is nearly coeval with the introduction of Christianity into the north of England. This foundation now became the nucleus of a flourishing establishment, “continuing,” as Dr Whitaker informs us, “for two centuries and a half, to exercise unbounded charity and hospitality; to adorn the site thus chosen with a succession of magnificent buildings; to protect the tenants of its ample domains in the enjoyment of independence and plenty; to educate and provide for their children; to employ, clothe, feed, and pay many labourers, herdsmen, and shepherds; to exercise the arts and cultivate the learning of the times; yet unfortunately at the expense of the secular incumbents, whose endowments they had swallowed up, and whose functions they had degraded into those of pensionary vicars or mendicant chaplains.”
The ruins of Whalley Abbey are situated in a beautifully-sequestered spot on the banks of the Calder, presenting some of the most extensive and picturesque remains of antiquity in the county; and the site sufficiently exemplifies that peculiar instinct, if it may be so called, which guided the monks in their choice of situations. “Though the Cistercians affected to plant themselves in the solitude of woods, which were to be gradually essarted by the labour of their own hands, and though they obtained an exemption from the payment of tithes on that specific plea, yet they were excellent judges of the quality of land, however concealed, and never set about their laborious task without the assurance of an ample recompense.”
The following minute account of these ruins is from the pen of the historian of Whalley:—”A copious stream to the south, a moderate expanse of rich meadow and pasture around, and an amphitheatre of sheltering hills, clad in the verdant covering of their native woods, beyond; these were features in the face of Nature which the earlier Cistercians courted with instinctive fondness. Where these combined, it does not appear that they ever abandoned a situation which they had once chosen; and where these were wanting, it is certain they never long or willingly remained.”
“We now proceed to a particular survey of the remains of Whalley Abbey as they exist at present. First, then, the whole area of the close, containing thirty-six acres, three roods, fourteen poles, is still defined by the remains of a broad and deep trench, which surrounded it; over this were two approaches to the house, through two strong and stately gateways yet remaining. They are constructed in that plain and substantial style which characterised the Cistercian houses; a style which approximates to that of fortification, and shows that the monks did not obtain a licence to kernel and embattle without an end in view. Within this area, and on the verge of the Calder, which formed the south-west boundary of the close, was the house itself, consisting of three quadrangles, besides stables and offices. The first and most westerly of these was the cloister-court, of which the nave of the conventual church formed the north side; the chapter-house and vestry, yet remaining, the east; the dormitory, also remaining, the west; and the refectory and kitchens the south. The cloister was of wood, supported, as usual, upon corbels, still remaining: the area within was the monks’ cemetery, and some of the ancient gravestones here are still remembered. Against the wall, on the south side of this quadrangle, is a wide surbased arch, apparently of Henry the Seventh’s time, which has evidently contained the lavatory. The groove of the lead pipe which conveyed the water is still conspicuous, as is also another for the reception of a wooden rail, on which the towels hung. Beyond this court, to the east, is another quadrangle area, formed by the choir of the church, on one side, the opposite side of the chapter-house, &c., on another, a line of ruinous buildings on the third, and a large distinct building, itself surrounding a small quadrangle, on the fourth. This appears evidently to have been the abbot’s lodgings; for which reason, as being best adapted to the habits of an ordinary family, it immediately became the residence of the Asshetons, and after many alterations, and a demolition of its best apartments, particularly a gallery nearly one hundred and fifty feet in length, has still several good and habitable rooms, and is now preserved with due care by its owner. The ancient kitchen, the coquina abbatis of the compotus, whence such hecatombs were served up, remains, though roofless, with two huge fire-places. On the southern side of this building is a small but very picturesque and beautiful rain mantled with ivy, which appears to have been a chapel, and was probably the abbot’s private oratory. But the conventual church itself, which exceeded many cathedrals in extent, has been levelled nearly to the foundation. This work of havoc was probably an effect of that general panic which seized the lay-owners of abbeys, on the attempt made by Queen Mary to restore the monks to their cloisters.—’For now,’ says Fuller, ‘the edifices of abbeys, which were still entire, looked lovingly again on their ancient owners; in prevention whereof, such as possessed them for the present plucked out their eyes by levelling them to the ground and shaving from them, as much as they could, all abbey characters.’
“However, in the month of August 1798, permission having been obtained from the guardian of the present owner to investigate the foundation by digging, a very successful attempt was made to retrieve the whole ichnography of the church, of which there were no remains above the surface to assist conjecture, or to guide research, but one jamb of the west window against the wall of the dormitory, a small portion of the south wall of the nave, a fragment of the south transept, and another jamb of one of the side chapels eastward from the last. An inequality in the ground, eastward from the transept, in an adjoining orchard, showed the half-pace into the choir, of which the outline to the north and east was also defined in the same manner. Upon these slender data we proceeded, first, to investigate the foundations of the columns towards the west end; and having ascertained the distance of one from the south wall, the width of the south aisle, and consequently of the north, followed of course; another digging immediately to the north ascertained the width of the middle aisle, and a third, from east to west, gave one intercolumnation; the length of the nave being already given by the remains of the transept, the number of columns was now proved. A right line drawn along the remnant of the south wall, and continued to the intersection of the nave and transept, proved the length of the latter on the south side, and, consequently, also on the north. The choir evidently appeared to have consisted of a presbytery, with two side aisles, and four other chapels; two to the north, and as many to the south.
“The site of the choir being determined, it remained to investigate its contents beneath the surface: accordingly, under the high altar, nothing appeared but a bed of undisturbed and native sand; but beneath the second half-pace, immediately leading up to it, were turned up many broken remains of a painted pavement, consisting of small glazed floor-tiles, adorned with various devices, and of different forms and dimensions. At the foot of the stalls, a narrow rectilinear filleting of the same material had bounded the whole. On some was inscribed the word MARIE, in Longobardic characters.
“This pavement had been deeply bedded in mortar, but was altogether displaced, and turned down from one to three feet beneath the surface, where several skeletons were found very entire, and in their original position, but without any remains of coffins, vestments, or other ornaments, as appeared upon a most minute investigation. These, however, were, beyond a doubt, the Abbots of Whalley. From the confused state of the original pavement, the whole floor of the presbytery, from the foot of the stalls, appeared to have been successively covered with grave-stones, all of which, however, had been removed, excepting fragments of two: one of these had a groove, once inlaid with a filleting of brass, and the other, beneath which lay the skeleton of a tall and robust man, had deeply cut upon it the stump of a tree reguled. This I conjecture to have been a thorn, intended as a rebus upon the name of Christopher Thornber, the fifteenth abbot, who died in 1486. In this search we narrowly missed the fragments of the grave-stone of Abbot Lindley, which were casually turned up on this very spot, A.D. 1813. On one, in the Longobardic character of Edward the Third’s time, were the letters IOP, and on the other AJ PVIV.
“From these data, slender as they may seem, I arrive at my conclusion, thus:—First, None but abbots were interred in the high choir; secondly, The characters cannot be later than the latter end of Edward the Third, when the old English black letter was substituted in its place. From the foundation to this time three Johns had been Abbots of Whalley; Belfield, Topeliffe, and Lindley. The termination of the surname must have immediately preceded the word hujus, but the letters AJ can only have formed the termination of Lindelai, the old orthography of the word.
“The remains of the Lacies, wherever deposited, after their removal from Stanlaw, had undoubtedly been preserved with religious reverence, and enclosed in magnificent tombs. But in these researches there were no appearances which justified even a conjecture that we had discovered them.”
John Paslew, the last Abbot of Whalley, appears, by a reference to his arms, to have been of the Paslews of Wiswall. The first twenty years after his election were passed, like those of his predecessors, in the duties of his choir, in the exercise of hospitality, in attention to the extensive possessions of his house, or in the improvement of his buildings; but a storm was approaching, before which either his conscience or his bigotry prevented him from bending, and which precipitated his ruin and that of the abbey. The religious houses in general were now greatly relaxed in discipline, and many of them dreadfully corrupted in morals. What was the state of Whalley must now be left to conjecture, though charity should incline us to think no evil to those against whom no specific evidence appears. The Pilgrimage of Grace was now commenced, and Paslew seems to have been pushed into the foremost ranks of the rebellion; when this expedition ended in the discomfiture and disgrace of its promoters, every art of submission and corruption was vainly employed to ward off the blow. Paslew was arraigned for high treason, tried, and condemned, and is supposed to have been interred in the north aisle of the parish church, under a stone yet remaining; the ignominious part of his sentence being remitted, out of respect to his order.
“The attainder of an abbot was understood, however rightly, by the crown lawyers of that time, to infer a forfeiture of the house; and accordingly, without the form of a surrender, the abbey of Whalley, with all its appurtenances, was instantly seized into the king’s hands; and thus fell this ancient foundation.
“Fr. Thomas Holden, younger son of Gilbert Holden, of Holden, gent., was, in all probability, the last surviving monk. On the Dissolution he appears to have returned to his native place. In 1550 we meet with his name as Sir Thomas Holden, curate of Haslingden; and in 1574 he was licensed to the same cure at the metropolitical visitation of Archbishop Grindall, held at Preston, by the style of Thomas Holden, clerk, of sober life and competent learning. Strange as it may seem, we find the last surviving monk of Whalley a Protestant minister, thirty-seven years after its dissolution!”
It was in the dark month of November, when the brown leaves are fluttering on the ground, when the wind comes mournfully through the bare woods, and the hollow nooks and quiet caves respond with their mystic voice, that two travellers were seen loitering up the grand avenue that swept nobly through the western embattled gateway of Whalley Abbey. The foremost of them wore a low-crowned cap, simply decorated with a heron’s plume, and a doublet of mulberry-coloured velvet, puffed out capaciously at the shoulders. Trunk-hose of a goodly diameter, and wide-flapped boots, decorated the lower extremity of his person. On his left hand he bore a hooded falcon. The jesses were of crimson and yellow silk, its legs fancifully adorned with little bells fastened by rings of leather. These made a jingling and dissonant music as it flew, being generally tuned one semitone below another, that they might be the more sonorous considering their small size. The bearer wore a pair of stout leathern mittens, and he carried a long pole to aid him, as it might seem, in the chase. His manner bespoke him above the ordinary rank; and his garb, from the minute regulations then existing in regard to dress, showed at any rate his pretensions to nobility. This proud cavalier was followed by one servant only, who carried a capacious wallet, not over-well replenished with provision, as was apparent from its long lank shape and attenuated proportions. His master’s cloak was slung on the other shoulder; and his belt displayed some implements that appeared alike formidable as means of offence or defence.
Eventide was then drawing on, but it did not appear that the falcon had been loosed to the game; the usual tokens of success were wanting—the torn and bloody carcases that marked an abundant sport. Two or three of the brethren were sitting on a bench in the gateway. In passing by, the foremost of the strangers hastily addressed his follower.
“Ralph Newcome, plague on thee! hast thou had a call again at the wallet? Thou guzzling tinder-throat, thy drouth is never slaked!”
Now Ralph, having felt sore oppressed with the weight of sundry leathern bottles, loaves, and wedges of cold meat, had taken especial care to lighten his back and load his stomach whenever the occasion was urgent. His endeavours had not been without success, for the wallet, as we have seen, hung from his shoulders, long, narrow, and unfurnished, save with the scraps and relics of many a savoury junket.
“Coming, master,” was the reply, sufficiently audible for his master’s ear; the remainder escaped in a sort of grumble, the dregs of his ill humour at the interruption.
The sportsman, if such he was, gained a ready admittance into the abbey enclosure. Passing round the north transept of the church, he made the best of his way to the abbot’s house, where Paslew dwelt in great state, keeping a separate establishment and a numerous train of domestics and officials.
Paslew was in some respects a man of parsimonious habits; and though his bounty might now be the better excused, yet in the more prosperous days of his dominion he had the character of a selfish and greedy priest, whose charity was less than that of his predecessor, and his personal expenses double.
Encouraged by the “Pilgrimage of Grace,” as it was then called, headed by one Aske, a gentleman of but mean pretensions, who yet possessed the art of making himself popular with the vulgar, Paslew, though apparently taking no open part in the rebellion, had with his monks repossessed their ancient seat, from which they had been driven by the decrees of Henry VIII.
The rebel army had their camp at Doncaster, where the Archbishop of York and the Lord D’Arcy openly espoused their cause, receiving in great state a herald from the king’s army, who came to negotiate with these dangerous malcontents. They had formed high notions of their own power and importance, and entertained sanguine hopes of success, especially since the Duke of Norfolk, a supporter of the ancient religion, was appointed to the command of the royal forces along with the Earl of Shrewsbury. The monks made themselves certain that the result would be a complete purification of heresy from the land, or at least that measures would be adopted for the purpose of forcing Henry to a restitution of their rights. So fully established were they in this opinion, that, as we have just seen, some of them took possession of their ancient inheritances without the tedious formality of awaiting a fresh grant from the king.
The rebel army, being allured by Norfolk with vain promises of satisfaction, were now dispersed, though with the understanding that another assemblage should take place at a given notice, for which purpose beacons were erected at convenient distances throughout the north. By these means their forces could again be mustered with the greatest security and despatch.
Within this interval our narrative begins. Paslew had received some communication from the leaders of the pilgrimage; but he seemed wishful to procrastinate, hoping, perhaps, he should be spared the necessity of any more direct treasonable demonstrations, by the timely submission of the king; yet his aid was of too much importance to be neglected.
The stranger, on his introduction, was received with some ostentation, and not a little ceremony. They were evidently unknown to each other; but the keen glance of the abbot instantly detected the signal for some secret message. Paslew was habited in the Cistercian gown, and scapulary of white cloth. His eye was dark, but restless; his lips, drawn in, were narrow and compressed, showing the curbed impetuosity of his spirit. Either as a churchman or a warrior, he seemed fitted for daring enterprise; yet was he of a wary and cautious bearing, a characteristic which his monkish education had in all probability thrown over his natural temperament. The attendants having departed, the stranger drew an unsealed letter from his bosom.’
“A written message, my lord abbot, from the Abbot of Kirkstall. ‘Tis now for your reverence’s private regard, afterwards at your discretion.” The abbot hastily glanced over this piece of quaint and formal latinity, occasionally darting a rapid and penetrating look at his visitor.
“He says not aught regarding so goodly a messenger,” said Paslew, carelessly.
“I should have marvelled if he had,” returned the other, with a contemptuous smile.
“He knew not of so important a personage when that epistle was elaborated from his pen.”
“How?” said the abbot, his features gathering into a portentous scowl.
“Nay, I beseech your reverence’s grace, that you throw off all such disturbed apprehensions; for in troth a messenger of my bearing and capacity were worth a knight’s ransom in these evil days, when the monks may not abroad with safety.”
“Speak out. Remember I have yet the power to punish both insolence and treachery.”
The abbot’s lip curled upwards, pale and quivering with rage, not unmixed with apprehension.
“Grammercy,” said the stranger, with a provokingly careless expression of cool and contemptuous defiance—”I cry you none—I am at present nameless. To work, to work, lord abbot. Thou hast holden back too long; and there is a shrewd suspicion abroad of thine integrity in the good cause. Hold!” said he, rising, as the reverend prelate was on the point of summoning his attendants; “I am not thy prisoner! Impotent, I would crook my finger thus, and thou shouldest crouch at my bidding.
Nay, these be evil days, I say again; and more strange things may come to pass than bearding a lordly abbot in his den!”
Great was the astonishment of Paslew. The stranger stood proudly erect; his arms were folded, and a withering glance shot from beneath his brows. Even John Paslew, unused to a sense of inferiority before his fellow-men, felt cowed before him. For the first time, in all likelihood, he knew not how or what to answer. The stranger interrupted this painful silence.
“Since the monks are forbidden to be out a-gadding, the cowl and scapulary might have found some hindrance over the moors from Kirkstall. With my hawk and bearing-pole, I can follow on to the sport without let or question.” The latter part of this speech seemed to throw some light on the purpose for which this messenger had been selected. Paslew was preparing for a further inquiry, when he was again interrupted.
“I tell thee, a courier of my condition may go free, though nameless. But to business—Norfolk is tampering with our credulity. He thinks to gain our time to his advantage: but the work must again be urged forward. Yet lack we thy aid. May we depend on its being faithfully rendered? We must have no lukewarm allies in the rear of our camp.”
The stranger drew from beneath his inner vest a crucifix, with the representation of a chalice and of the five wounds of Christ.
Paslew kissed the token, and his suspicions were at rest. But still, there was a dubiety and hesitation in his manner displeasing to the stranger. He would bind himself to no distinct pledge respecting the time of his appearance at the rebel camp; and altogether seemed to display either cowardice or a want of cordiality. His guest refusing to stay the night, on a pretext of urgent business farther north, departed soon after the termination of their interview.
The night was fast closing when the strangers left the abbey. One by one the pale stars seemed to start out, as if just lighted up in the blue vault. The dark woods threw their giant arms around the sacred domain, as though to guard it against unhallowed intrusion. The travellers had gained the steep ascent towards the south-east, from whence the river, winding down the narrow valley, seemed as if here and there a spark was floating on its quiet surface—the lights, gliding on the opposite brink, fell distinct and unbroken upon the stream. The soft voice of the current grew strangely audible, in contrast with the deep silence; the wind rolling it round to the ear at intervals startling and abrupt.
Preceded by a guide, they had taken the rough mountain road, leading from the abbey into the forest of Pendle, the stranger and his servant still walking, or rather climbing, for their journey could only be accomplished on foot. Having proceeded about two miles on this rugged path, they diverged to the left, where the only indication to assist their guide was the turf-cutters’ track and a few heaps of stones, scarcely distinguishable from the common mass, but by an eye accustomed to these land-marks. Carefully were they sought for at times, the blazing torch carried by their leader being often requisite for the search.
They now descended by a narrow and steep ravine, the termination of which brought them to a small brook. This they crossed, and again commenced a sharp and troublesome ascent. The mighty Pendle rose up before them, huge and dark, engrossing half the hemisphere. To this point, it seemed, their path was directed. The guide now trimmed his torch, the smoke from which had for some time been rather an accompaniment than an assistance to their toil, as it caused them to loiter at an inconvenient distance, thereby enhancing the difficulties they had to encounter. Slow and toilsome was their progress, yet a patient continuance in any path will sooner or later lead to the end. The brow of the hill seemed rapidly diminishing; the abrupt steep was at length gained, when the whole glorious garniture of the heavens, uninterrupted, from that majestic height, was suddenly revealed. True, it was a November night, but unusually clear and vivid; the stars seemed to burn rather than shine, so piercing was their effulgence. The vast track of the milky way appeared to span the dark and level platform, like the bow of some triumphal arch. They seemed to stand on a huge circle, black, bare,—its verge unapproachable, contrasting deeply with the encompassing splendour. Proceeding onwards, a dark speck was visible, springing out abruptly from the verge of the horizon. Its bulk rapidly increased, their path evidently tending in that direction. A shrill whistle from the guide was now answered by a corresponding signal.
Presently they were challenged by a sentinel.
“Vale” growled out the rough voice of their conductor.
“Is it thou, Will?” said the guard. “And what neck art thou fitting for the noose; breeding occupation for the hangsman, I trow.”
“Not half so ripe as thine own, gossip. Here be two gentles that have commission, I guess, to look at the beacons, to see they are in trim and properly watched. ‘Tis well the guard is set. Holloa, Nicholas Dewhurst, bring the flagon. I am wheezing like an old wife’s bellows, nigh disinherited of my birthright, the free quaffing o’ the air. I shall die and be canonised.”
Will, in his eagerness to attain this glorious end, left his companions with the sentinel, who speedily conducted them into a rude hut, erected as a temporary shelter to those on the look-out for signals. In this narrow shed a lamp was burning. Two of the abbot’s servants, stretched before a smouldering heap of turf, were scarcely roused by the vociferations of Will, as he strode over them in his way to the provender. A long pull, and a loud smack, announced the satisfactory relish that ensued.
“Hoa, ye lozel knaves!—who sleeps when Will’s awake?” This reflection was accompanied by a smart blow on that part of the recumbent’s person where it was most conveniently administered.
“Begone, sot!” was the abrupt reply, not over-abundantly expressive of good humour at this disturbance. Will looked again towards the flagon; but great was his dismay on beholding it in the very act of disemboguing its precious contents into another gulf as insatiable as his own. Ralph Newcome, incited thereto by his own discrimination, together with the resistless relish of their guide, as soon as the latter had partially concluded, took up the subject, and long, powerful, and undeviating were the requisitions that he made.
“Plague on thy civility!—A fly will drink from anybody’s cup, and so will a Yorkshireman,” growled the uncourteous churl.
Ralph had, however, braced himself tightly to the task, and stood with an air of dogged defiance, stoutly confronting his accuser,—though, being a man of few words, the principal weight of the argument rested upon Will, whose eloquence was with difficulty interrupted on any subject.
“Peace,” said one of the sleepers, raising himself half-way,—”I think we be like to bide here till our bones rot. There’s nought but the same dun sky,—black, black, and unchanging. I should like to see a stiff blaze from some quarter. Our bundle, here, would soon be in a low.”
“Hark!” said the other, “’tis something creaking amongst the faggots.”
The sentinel rushed out, but the beacon was undisturbed.
“St Mary protect us!—’Tis the same noise I heard last night, and about the same hour.”
The stranger here entered the hut. Enveloped in a huge cloak, he sate silent, and apparently inattentive; but the conversation was now abrupt, and broken down into short and interrupted whispers.
“I wish old Hal and his wives were here, with all my heart,” said one: “we’d have a rare bonfire. How his fat paunch would swell! But for him and his unlucky women, we had been snug in the chimney-corner, snoring out psalmody, or helping old Barn’by off with the tit-bits in the kitchen.”
“Hush!” said his neighbour: “there be the faggots talking again. I think they are bewitched.—Dan, look to them.”
“Nay,” said Dan, “they may bide awhile for me.”
The words were scarcely uttered when the building seemed in a blaze. Crash upon crash followed. The inmates, stupified with terror, were well nigh suffocated ere their astonishment left them the power to escape. In the full conviction that the foul fiend had taken him at his word, Dan was dragged from the hut, wan, speechless, and gasping with affright. Nothing less, too, than a visit from his Satanic majesty in person was expected by the terrified rustics.
On gaining the outside, the whole burning mass was before them, one vast pyramid of flame. Flakes of blazing matter were hurled into the sky, with short and rapid explosions. The roar of the wind through the glowing furnace was awful and appalling. Huge and ignited fragments were borne away with frightful rapidity. They rode on the rolling volumes of smoke like fire-fiends armed with destruction; but the vast reservoir of flame still glowed on, apparently undiminished. The curtain of night seemed to be suddenly undrawn. Objects the most minute were visible as in the broad view of day. The brown heath, the grey and the mossy stone, were each distinguishable, but clad alike in one bright and unvarying colour, red as the roaring furnace. Soon the great magazine of inflammable matter in the interior caught fire, and rolled out in a wide mass of light, like the first burst of a volcano.
The stranger stood with apparent unconcern, his back to the flames, looking from the brink of the mountain northward, as if on the watch for corresponding signals. Soon a bright star hung on the heights above Sawley. Increasing in splendour, another broke out on the verge of the horizon, marking the site of the camp near Romald’s Moor.
Turning towards the south-west, and looking to the right, beyond the chain of successive heights that form the vale of Todmorden, he beheld a dim spark in the distance, from the summit of Hades Hill, scarcely penetrating the mist which hung like a dense cloud in that direction; this place and Thieveley Pike forming the connecting-links between Pendle Hill and Buckton Castle.
The terrified attendants knew too well the results which would follow this unaccountable and irreparable mistake. The whole country would be in commotion. Hordes of zealous and fanatic idlers and malcontents would repair to the appointed rendezvous, and this premature, and perhaps fatal movement, would be attributed to their carelessness. Paslew, not over-nice in discriminating their several deserts, would doubtless subject them to immediate and condign punishment.
These were thoughts common to each, unquestionable and conclusive; but what answer to give, or what excuse to make, was far from being decided upon with the same degree of certainty.
“We shall be hanged without mercy,” was the dread sum of these uncomfortable reflections.
“I know not what you may be,” said Will; “but I intend to run for it. I’ve an old dame would make a sore disturbance at my death, more especially if dangling from the gallows-tree, which of all the trees in the wood hath been my aversion ever since I saw Long Tom of the Nab make so uncomfortable a shriving from thence.”
“Run, then,” said Nicholas, rather stoutly, and in a tone of more confidence than heretofore. “I’ll stay my ground this bout; and, further, I do propose to commit yon knaves into the holy keeping of our four-cornered crib, where they may be indulged in recreations of another sort than setting the whole country by the ears. ‘Twill save our necks to slip theirs into the noose.”
This happy suggestion, the whole of these honest and conscientious servants of the church were prepared to obey. They might with safety accuse the strangers; indeed, it was more than probable they had hit out the right source of the mischief; so, marching up boldly to the execution of this Christian purpose, they were proceeding to lay hands on the foremost of the culprits. At this critical moment he turned suddenly round. Perhaps from a prior suspicion of their intentions, or from the knavish cast of their countenances, he saw that hostilities were in contemplation: at any rate, he seemed to be prepared for the event. Will, being the mouthpiece of the party, and accustomed, moreover, at times to a precise and methodical manner of delivery, was the chief speaker.
“Sir, we arrest you for high treason. You are charged with firing off beacons without our privity or consent, thereby endangering the safety of the lord abbot, and the peaceable governing of this realm.” He paused, quaking even at his own eloquence; but the stranger made no reply, till, throwing aside his cloak, he drew out a hagbut or demi-hague as it was sometimes called, being a sort of small harquebuss, with its match ready kindled.
“Tell the Abbot of Whalley that neither ye nor the whole horde of drones and drivellers about his hive, shall take me against my own liberty and consent. Hold back! Your first step, is your last, save to your grave! I will see the abbot shortly, but not by your grace or assistance.” Saying this, he bounded down the steep like the roused deer, in its first pride of flight, scorning the chase. The light flashing from his weapons marked his form rapidly receding from their grasp.
But Ralph, who, as we may suppose, was minded to imitate the evolutions of his master, being it seemed of a more heavy and considerate demeanour, paused for a space ere he leapt.
This deliberation was fatal to his enterprise. The enemy, recovering from their confusion, seized him in default of his master, and without further ado bore him away as a visible acquittance of themselves to the abbot. There could be no great harm in throwing the blame of this unlucky affair on the companion of the escaped incendiary: besides, it would be an effective lesson to him on the danger of keeping bad company.
Through bog and brake, over moor and mountain, they hurried on with their prisoner, who, dooming them all to “clootie” and his imps, and commending himself to Michael, Mary, and a number of his especial patrons in the Romish calendar, was urged forward with more than their usual speed.
The blaze had ceased to be visible when they came to the last descent towards the village. Far and wide the alarm had spread; consternation and inquiry were on every countenance. The guards were besieged with anxious faces, supplicating intelligence, and much impeded thereby in their progress to the abbey.
Outside the gates they found a dense crowd waiting for the news. The abbot and his brethren were in close council, expecting every moment the arrival of warders from the beacon.
They were hurried into the chapter-house, together with their prisoner, who had now taken to the sulks, refusing any reply to the numerous inquiries made by the servants who followed, eager for the final disclosure.
The room was lighted by a single lamp. Little of the interior was visible, save the grim and ascetic faces of the monks who sat nearest to the centre of illumination. Their features, in deep masses of alternate light and shadow, looked as if carved out, hard and immovable, from the oak wainscot. Occasionally, a dull roll of the eye relieved the oppressive stillness, and the gazer would look out from the mystic world he inhabited, through these loop-holes of sense, into the world of sympathies and affections, with which he had long ceased to hold communion.
Paslew was standing when they entered. His bushy grey eyebrows threw a strange and almost unnatural shade over the deep recesses beneath, across which, at times, like the foam swept over the dark billows of the spirit, a light and glowing track was visible, marking the powerful conflict within.
“Nicholas Dewhurst and Daniel Haydock.”
He shaded his eyes from the light, as he thus addressed the foremost of the party who had just entered.
“From what quarter was the signal first visible?”
“My lord,” said Dan, “we are but unworthy of your highness’ grace, did we not answer truly.”
“Quick!—Thou art slower to thine answers than thy words. Why tarriest thou?”
“If your highness will pardon”—
“What?” said Paslew, in a voice that made the culprits quake. “I pardon nothing. What means this silence?”
“Please your reverence,” said Will, now advancing from the rear, his rhetorical flourishes somewhat curtailed, and his confidence thereby wonderfully abated, “the first signal was our own, lighted by an incendiary, to wit, and here we bring him to your highness’ reverence for judgment. We ordered the rope and the broad beam to be ready by daybreak.”
It were idle to paint the astonishment and dismay which this short narrative produced. Paslew immediately saw the dangers by which he was involved. He was, by this desperate and unfortunate act, at once committed to the measures from which he had hitherto kept aloof, and he must now stand foremost in the cause, or tamely submit to the infuriate vengeance which this overt act of rebellion would inevitably hasten. He had hoped that, sheltered in this quiet nook, he should escape without being made a party in the contest, and rest secure until hotter heads and lighter brains had fought the battles that would leave him in possession of the spoil. If the king’s party were triumphant, he fancied that, by seeming to take little or no part in the hostilities then abroad, his house might be spared in the general wreck that would ensue; but all these schemes of deep-laid policy and ambition were in a moment dissipated. No time was to be lost. The whole country would instantly be in array, and the beacon-light of Pendle proclaim Paslew as the source and instigator of this second rebellion. It would be in vain to stay the rising. Some enemy of his house, or some desperate adventurer, wishful to further his own schemes at another’s expense, was doubtless the author of this mischief. The whole was but the discovery of a moment. Almost before the dark thought was visible on the brow he cried out—
“Bring forward the traitor!”
But Ralph, on the first hearing of this accusation, strode forward, even to the table, where sat the awful conclave astonished at his temerity. He stood calmly erect, surveying his judges with a countenance scarcely moved from its usually hard and stolid expression.
“If it be true,” cried he, “as these idlers do aver, I am here to answer. If it be false, they must look to it.”
The abbot frowned at this presumptuous speech.
“Who art thou?”
“Marry, an ass ridden by fools.”
“Knave, see thou be discreet and respectful in thine answers. There be whipping-posts for knaves, and stocks for the correction of fools.”
“Why, if it be for the matter of my name, I trow, ’tis of an honest Christian-like and well-conditioned flavour; comes out of the mouth sharp as a beer-spigot. Men call me Ralph.”
“And from whence?” said the abbot, impatiently.
“These knaves of thy breeding can tell best. ‘Tis a road I never before travelled; and, by your grace’s favour, I do not mean to jog on it again.”
“He is servant to the stranger yeoman whom your worship entertained a few hours back, on some private errand,” said one of the auditors.
A sharp guess at the truth raised a slight quiver on the abbot’s lip. The conversation of the stranger, the anxiety he displayed, with that of his brother of Kirkstall, seemed to point out the source and cause of his disaster.
“Now, varlet, answer truly, or thou diest,” said Paslew, with a significant shake of the finger. “At whose instigation hast thou committed this foul treason against our house, and the good prospering of this realm?”
“The deed was not mine.”
“Believe him not, my lord,—we are upon our testimony,” said the accusers.
Ralph, turning aside, met them face to face. He commenced a short but shrewd examination, as follows:—
“You were a-watching, I suppose?” said he, carelessly.
“Ay, were we,” sharply replied three or four ready tongues.
“Then, how could I fire the beacon without your leave?” A short pause evinced their dislike to this question; but Will, more ready than discreet, soon summoned assurance to meet the inquiry, thus—
“My lord, we had just taken them into the hut, thinking to show them a courtesy; but that knave’s throat holds more liquor than his mother’s kneading-trough, or”—
“If in the hut, how could I set the beacon in a low?”
“But thou hadst a companion,” hastily shouted Nicholas, finding their first position untenable.
“And how comes it to pass that ye be taking or guiding thither any person, and more particularly wayfarers, whom we know not? How comes it, I say, that ye suffer this without my permission?” said the abbot, sternly.
“Will was their guide; and we cared not to refuse your reverence’s messenger.”
“My messenger!” returned Paslew, with a glance that almost bent them to the ground.
“Please your highness,” said Will, falling on his knees, “the stranger was a-visiting of the beacons, so said he, to know if they were carefully watched. He came to me, as with an authority from your reverence, and I mounted them up to the guard-house, unwillingly enough. ‘Tis a sore pull for a pair of shanks like mine.”
The abbot now saw plainly into the machinations by which he had been betrayed, and reprimanding his men for their negligence, and so careless an observance of his commands, ordered them off severally to the stocks. Their lamentations were loud but unavailing, especially when they found that Ralph was simply dismissed, for a space, to solitary confinement.
Yet was Paslew still at a loss to determine whence this subtle device originated, unless from his brother of Kirkstall, and he resolved to question Ralph secretly. It was owing to this purpose probably that the usual summary process of executive justice was not more speedily administered.
A great marvel and gossip, as may readily be supposed, now arose throughout the whole country. Rumour, with her hundred tongues, flew fast, and her wide wings overspread the land. From all quarters, conformably to the signal, the levies marched with great rapidity to Doncaster, where they found Lord D’Arcy, who seemed to feel, or to feign, astonishment at this sudden rising without his orders.
One and all proclaimed that the appointed signal was from the Abbot of Whalley, at whose war-inciting torch the whole line of beacons had been kindled. A messenger, however, was soon forwarded to the camp, from Paslew, with an explanation of the affair, while at the same time he demanded their aid for the discovery and punishment of the offenders. But D’Arcy and Aske were too well pleased to see Paslew’s crafty and selfish plans frustrated, whilst he was irretrievably committed to their cause. Tired of waiting the tardy result of negotiations with their sovereign, these ambitious spirits were glad to behold their army once more menacing the royalist position, hoping it would either quicken or terminate these dilatory proceedings. But the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Shrewsbury, at the news of this unexpected rising, were mightily amazed. Their plans were at once terminated. Their emissaries had failed to bring intelligence previously of the intended gathering. In the midst of their dilemma word was brought that the Abbot of Whalley had first lighted up the blaze of insurrection. Secretly resolving that this meddling priest should sorely rue his mischievous exploit, they again found themselves unwillingly obliged to enter into fresh stipulations with their adversaries, though determining on delay, if possible, in the hope of dividing their leaders, and of extinguishing the rebellion in detail.
But we would crave the reader’s return to the abbey, where Ralph was left in strict durance, and possibly in some danger from the vindictive purposes of the abbot.
Early on the following morning he was aroused from a deeptoned and laborious stertoration, by a figure that shook him as he lay, in a somewhat unceremonious fashion. The intruder was wrapped in a thick cloak or tunic, and he stood gruffly erect by the straw couch, whereon the prisoner’s night-dreams had nestled in their first existence.
“I marvel thou sleepest so soundly! Thou art the first knave, I trow, that hast welcomed these walls with so loud a clarion.”
“And what should ail the well-earned slumbers of Ralph Newcome? His sleep may be as sound as some of those, mayhap, that have softer beds and gayer clothing.”
“But the gallows, man!—Hast had no glimpse of the noose in thy night visions?”
“Peradventure the hemp is not sown that shall make my collar. When the hangsman comes, ’tis time enough to wake; so, I pray thee, bereave not a poor man of the only solace the rich cannot purchase from him.”
“Thou art a plain-spoken varlet, and I would but ask thy master’s name and condition. Answer me straight—no equivocation, no shuffling or evasion shall serve thee; ’tis a stale device now, and will not avail.”
“And who art thou, friend, that hast such a greedy appetite for men’s names, thou canst not rest a-bed for the craving of thy stomach?”
“I am the abbot, and thou a prisoner in this good house. Fearful odds, methinks, for the strife.”
“Now hark thee, most reverend abbot, my name thou knowest at a peradventure: but for the name of my master, as thou callest him, seeing it be a notable secret, thou mightest as well go ask his goshawk yonder, who, I guess, continues an unworthy prisoner as well as myself.”
“I’ll have the truth wrung from thy tongue. Thumbscrews and iron mittens will not be denied so easily.”
“Humph!” said Ralph; “these be rare things for cracking the shell; but, for all that, I wot they’ll not get at the kernel.”
“What! defiest thou my power?—in my own custody too?” Paslew grew pale with anger; but the impolicy of this proceeding soon suggested itself to his wary, though at times impetuous, temper. Yet the stubborn disposition of his prisoner resisted alike his cajolements and his threats.
In vain were offers of reward multiplied; nor bribe nor entreaty could avail. Paslew then left him, threatening to extract by force what milder measures had failed to elicit. He had that morning despatched a messenger to the rebel chiefs at Doncaster with an explanation of the accident, likewise with an assurance of his good wishes to the cause; but still he delayed to go in person, or to send his quota of levies.
True, however, to his threats, if not to his promises, towards the close of the day he again visited the dungeon. He was accompanied by two grim attendants, whom he ordered to wait outside until their services should be required.
Ralph was striding lustily, and with evident impatience, over the damp floor; yet he scarcely seemed to notice the entrance of the abbot.
“How now!—Hast had aught, by way of special discovery, touching the name thou hadst forgotten this morning?”
“Yes, I have had a notable discovery therein,” said Ralph, still holding on his pace diagonally, as heretofore.
“And may we graciously participate in the result? Doubtless ’tis a comfortable and happy revelation,” said the abbot.
“‘Tis to beware of three most unlucky things, persons, or properties, I trow,—to wit, a parson’s maid, a prior’s sow, and an abbot’s dinner.”
“And what lack they in thy honest esteem?”
“A parson’s maid lacks honesty,—a prior’s sow a litter,—and an abbot’s dinner lacks me!”
“Or, rather, thou lackest it.”
“Why, troth, I am not over-nice in the disposition of vain words; nor should I be over-nice in the disposal of some light scraps from your reverence’s buttery.”
“Thou hast not dined?”
“Peradventure not at thy cost.”
“Perchance an empty stomach may be the more apt to yield. A full belly makes a stout heart.”
“I know not. But hasten, I beseech thee. Thy questions over, we may make merry together. Nothing less than a full flagon and a prime haunch will suffice.”
Ralph rubbed his hands at the bare idea of these prospective dainties.
“Wilt thou now disclose the name of thy master?”
“No,” said Ralph; “and now for dinner.”
“Prythee, in what haste?” returned Paslew, with a grin of cruel and malicious irony. “There be some slight preliminaries to adjust,—something to season thy haunch and whet thine appetite.” He stamped with his foot, and the two attendants entered, bearing instruments of uncouth and horrid appearance.
“Thou mayest spare my bones and thy gimcracks. With all thy screwing, thou canst not yet squeeze raindrops from the rock.”
“I cry thee favour. Thou hast dared the stroke,—thou hast courted the vengeance thou wouldest withstand, but thou shalt yield or break. Seize him.”
“Stand back, caitiffs!” said Ralph, with a look of deep and unutterable scorn. “But to thee!—words would fail to express my contempt, my derision, my defiance of thy puny power! Read, and skulk back to thy cell!”
He drew from his doublet a small roll of parchment, which Paslew, with unfeigned astonishment and vexation, recognised as a safe warranty from the Archbishop of York, wherein the bearer, under whatever manner or distinction he might choose to adopt, was charged with a secret mission from the leaders of the “Pilgrimage” touching the success and wellbeing of the Catholic faith, and the prosperity of the Holy Church. All abbots, priests, and others, being true sons of the Church, were called on to aid and comfort him in the due exercise of his mission, to furnish him with a safe passage, and to obey his bidding without let or question.
“Herein fail not at your peril!” said Ralph, eyeing the abbot with a glance of cool and deliberate scorn.
“Why was not this protection from his grace given to me before?” inquired Paslew, beseechingly.
“That thy deceit and double-dealing-might be the more manifest. Yesternight thou didst refuse thine aid until the beacon of insurrection should be kindled. When kindled, and upon thine own ground, too, still thou holdest back! But think not to escape!—Think not to watch in safety whilst others work. Whoever wins in this perilous game, thou wilt lose. Marked out for destruction, thine own policy will betray thee. Choose thee one party, and thou hast yet one chance of safety. But double-dealers, such as thou, do ever tumble into the trap baited by their own cunning.”
“Will his Grace of York expect my presence at the camp?”
“It is needful thou make thy peace either with him or with the king,” said Ralph: “yet am I bold to tell thee, that with Harry thine hope of reconciliation is past. The news, ere this, hath reached Norfolk’s ear, and the beacon-light of Pendle, the first blaze and signal of the insurrection, denounces the Abbot of Whalley as a ringleader, and as having first kindled the torch of rebellion.”
With a malicious smile, cruel as the triumph of the fiend at the torments of his victim, did this mysterious foe exhibit to him the toils that had been, during his unsuspecting security, wound about him.
“Thine only hope is from his grace; go with me, and thou mayest yet dwell in safety, and thine house be established.”
Paslew saw with dismay the dark gulf which yawned on either hand, and the net so craftily prepared to entangle him. His only hope of security, however, was a prompt acquiescence in the plan pointed out by the stranger, who accordingly engaged to conduct him without delay to the appointed rendezvous.
Passing over the difficulties of the journey, the accidents by the way, the slips and damages of sumpter-horses, and their often trackless march over the hills, let us behold Paslew, after some narrow escapes from the royalist forces, taking up his quarters at an obscure lodging hard by the town of Doncaster, and nigh to the cantonments of the rebel chiefs, whose forces were once more in formidable array, occupying a conspicuous position on the left bank of the river Don.
The left wing of the royalist troops was flanked by a deep morass, called Potterie Car; and their right protected by the walls of the town.
The morning that followed Paslew’s arrival was the time appointed for a general attack by the rebels, who considerably outnumbered the more disciplined but less zealous army of their sovereign, D’Arcy and his associates intending to cross the river by daybreak, with the utmost secrecy, hoping to take the royalist forces by surprise.
Paslew arrived alone, just as the consultation of the chiefs was breaking up. His companion, Ralph, had left him some hours before, and galloped on at full speed, first giving directions as to the course he should take, and the measures he was to adopt on his arrival. Conducted in due form to the archbishop’s presence, Paslew found his grace at supper. The repast was sumptuous, and served up in great state.
This high dignitary seldom stirred but with his kitchen-furniture and service for the table, which last was of massy silver, beautifully wrought and embellished. His servants were apparelled in all the pomp and insignia of office; but he affected great plainness and simplicity, both of dress and demeanour. At his right hand sat a stout, muscular figure, whom Paslew immediately recognised, with unequivocal demonstrations of surprise, to be his umquhile prisoner Ralph Newcome, now habited in a plain suit of velvet, and looking like a country gentleman of some rank and importance. His manner was, however, coarse and abrupt; and he still seemed nothing loth to sustain his full complement of liquor. On the left of the archbishop sat his nameless visitor at the abbey, whose personal accomplishments he had good cause to remember. Below them sat several chiefs of the confederacy, apparently of an inferior rank.
“Abbot Paslew,” said his grace, “thou art a tardy, and it may be undutiful son. Thine homage to the Church has not been either freely or faithfully rendered; yet does she now welcome thee to her embrace, with the promise of a free and unconditional forgiveness.”
“Ay,” said he of his grace’s right hand, “Abbot Paslew was of too great weight in the scale of events to be left to choose his own side of the balance. I am right fain of his company, and in troth he can use the persuasions well,—the thumbscrews and tight boots upon occasion.”
“Master Aske,” replied the archbishop, “if the sons that our mother hath suckled and nourished from her own grace and bounty were every of them as true as thou art, who yet receivest not of her temporal favours, then would her kingdom be enlarged, and her arms should outstretch to the utmost verge and compass of all visible things. But there be evil men and seducers abroad, traitors to their altar and their faith.” Here he paused, but presently continued, “My friends, though our religion be meek and lowly, yet does it not deny to us the comforts but sparingly scattered through this vain and perishing world.”
His grace here filled a cup of spiced sack, inviting Paslew to partake of their humble entertainment. Bewildered and intimidated, he yet obeyed with all due reverence and courtesy.
“Confusion to the heretic king!” cried he on the left of the archbishop, filling his glass, and at the same time taking especial note that the guests should repeat this bold and startling treason.
“Lord D’Arcy,” said one of the guests, “thou hast imbibed that wish so oft in thy drink, that should the king catch thee he may find it branded in thy four quarters, when they are cut up to ornament his majesty’s posterns.”
“And what might he find on thine, Norton?” said the fiery leader.
“A cook’s rolling-pin and a mutton pasty.” A loud laugh here announced the hit, of which this sally was the bearer, it being levelled directly at the well-known propensities of the personage to whom it was addressed.
“Come, friends all,” said the archbishop; “let not the gibe and jest go round; there be matters of graver import that should occupy us this night. To-morrow, let the elements be propitious, and the day is won.”
“Od’s life,” said Aske; “surely the rain will not again prevent us from passing the river, as it did in our last campaign.”
“If it do,” cried a deep and melancholy voice from the lower end of the table, “then will I say this Pilgrimage of Grace is the device of man, and not of God, and the work will not prosper.”
This ominous anticipation seemed to strike terror into the most stout-hearted. “Foul fa’ the croaking raven!” said Aske. “No good comes on’t, when the Lord of Ravenswood breaks from his usual silence. Mischief follows, safe as the bolt after the flash.”
“Hush! my son,” said the archbishop to this bird of ill-omen; “thou speakest unwisely. ‘Tis not for us to adjudge the displeasure of Heaven upon slight testimonies. He trieth our faith, when the dark cloud overshadoweth His mercy. But let us not dishonour this good cause, and weaken our hands by indulging in such gloomy anticipations. The night showeth little token of a change, and when I was last abroad, the river passed on, shallow and murmuring, over the ford.”
The guests were fully occupied to a late hour in discussing the plan of attack, the occupation of the town, together with subsequent arrangements; after which, with mutual anticipations of success, the company departed.
Paslew, on retiring to his chamber, though much fatigued, found himself unable to sleep. The dark chaos of events brooded heavily upon his brain. Feverish and excited, the dread to-morrow seemed already pressing on the past, mingling its deep and unseen flood with the full tide of existence. The whirl and eddy, created by the conflict, lashed his thoughts almost to madness. He grew appalled. The billows blackened as they rose. He seemed sinking, overwhelmed in the struggle, and the spirit quivered as they passed. He arose, darting an anxious glance through the low casement. The moon was riding on the top of a huge mountain of clouds towards the north-west. As he gazed they came rapidly athwart the heavens, like the wings of some terrible demon visibly unfolding. On a sudden the door of his chamber flew open. He started forward to meet the intruder, but there was no footstep—no sound save the hurrying gusts that foreran the approaching tempest. Soon like a mighty deluge it burst on at once in its full vigour, as though it would overwhelm creation once more in immediate ruin. The roll of the river answered swiftly to the tempest’s voice, now swollen to a huge and foaming torrent, rising rapidly over its level banks, and threatening devastation on every side. Paslew quaked. Gloomy forebodings crept upon him. He beheld in this strange visitation another and a manifest interposition of Heaven, fighting against the cause he had unhappily espoused. Rest was out of the question, his whole thoughts being occupied in the contrivance of measures for his own immediate safety.
In the morning consternation had seized the whole camp. They beheld the muddy and turbulent waters before them, again frustrating their hopes, levelling their proud schemes, and fighting visibly and irresistibly against them, in front of their adversaries. So intimidated were the troops, and so convinced that their cause was now hopeless, that not all the persuasions and threatenings of their leaders, nor the archbishop’s promises of an eternal reward, could prevent the breaking up of this vast multitude, and the hasty dispersion of the rebel host.
Ere morning Paslew was gone. He liked not the dust from a falling house. Weary and alone he came back to his dwelling on the tenth day after his departure.
From this time danger and misfortune crowded fast upon that devoted house. The dark course of events unfolded with frightful rapidity, and Paslew, by many a vain contrivance, sought to avert the king’s displeasure and his own doom. A relaxation of some measures more than ordinarily severe was attempted; and we find, from existing records, that a pension of ten marks per annum was granted to Thomas Cromwell, the king’s secretary and principal visitor,—whether in the way of bribe or fee is not certain.
It shows, however, the humiliating and submissive circumstances to which the monks were now reduced. They were indeed fallen from that high estate, when kings were their tributaries, and empires too narrow for the wide grasp of their ambition. The following is a copy of Thomas Cromwell’s indulgence, taken from the Townley MSS.:—
“To all estates due honour and reverence, and to all other commendacioun in our Lord everlastyng. Know ye that we John, abbot of ye monasterie of our blessed Ladie of Whalley, in Com. Lanc., by ye assente and consente of ye convente, have freely granted untoe ye right honourable Mr Tho. Cromwell, secretarie, general visitor, and principal official to our most sovereign Lord Kyng Hen. VIII., an annual rent or fee of vi: xiii: iv: yerele, to be paide at ye nativitie of St John Baptist unto ye saide Maister Thomas Cromwell. Wee, ye saide abbot and convent have put to ye same our handes and common seale. Yeven at Whalley 1st Jan. 28 Hen. VIII.”
But every act of submission, every stratagem and advice, had failed to ward off the blow. Within ten weeks from the date of this document there was neither abbot nor abbey of Whalley.
After the dispersion, imprisonment, and execution of the principal leaders of the rebellion, the day of reckoning and retribution was at hand. Shrewsbury, by the king’s orders, sent a herald with a troop of horse, who, taking Paslew, Eastgate, Haydock, and some others of the monks prisoners, they were arraigned at Lancaster, and convicted of high treason. On the 12th March 1537, Paslew was conveyed back to Whalley for execution, where, in a field called the Holehouses, immediately facing the house of his birth, a gallows was erected, on which Paslew and Eastgate suffered punishment or martyrdom, for the story varies according to the bias of the party by whom it is told. Haydock was carried to Padiham, and died there the same ignominious death on the day following. The monks, driven from their asylum, escaped into France, with the exception of a few, who lingered near the scenes of their former enjoyments, hovering like departed hopes round the ruin to which they clung.’
Following the acquisition of Whalley’s monastic buildings by Richard Assheton of Lever near Bolton in 1553, a curse befell the Assheton family. If one of them is to stand upon the grave of Abbot Paslew they are bound to die that very year.