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Mr. Agnew's splendid publication, proved to be little more than extracts from previous histories or records of Lancashire, too many of which, under a popular form, had long been in circulation.
Under these circumstances I was at last compelled to turn author myself, and although the original information which I sought and obtained from divers sources far exceeded my most sanguine expectations, I was still aware of the great deficiency of information which still subsisted,-a deficiency which could only be supplied by access to the charters of foundation and other records deposited in the muniment chest of the Chapter House, which, during the progress of “The Great Tithe Cause of Manchester,” was not likely to be granted.
Having thus found my labour to be infinitely greater than I expected, which interfered exceedingly with other engagements, Mr. Agnew was advised by me to procure the aid of Mr. Palmer, architect, and Mr. Whatton, to each of whom distinct portions of the history were assigned.
The result was a work in three volumes quarto, with profuse embellishments, under the general title of “THE HISTORY OF THE FOUNDATIONS OF MANCHESTER,” &c.
Of this work, THE HISTORY OF THE COLLEGE AND COLLEGIATE CHURCH OF MANCHESTER, founded by Thomas, Lord la Warre, was written by myself. It occupied the whole of the first, and half of the second volume:
The remaining half of the second volume contained the valuable ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION OF THE COLLEGIATE CHURCH AND COLLEGE OF MANCHESTER, by Mr. John Palmer, architect :
While the third volume, drawn up by Mr. Whatton, was a HISTORY OF THE MANCHESTER SCHOOL AND THE CHETHAM HOSPITAL AND LIBRARY.
Such were the incidents connected with the original appearance of the work.
Of the first contributors to the “ History of the Foundations of Manchester” I am now the only survivor,-experiencing the infirmities of age, yet still trusting that I shall be enabled to further illustrate the ecclesiastical history of my native town, now advanced to the rank of an episcopal see and city, by the completion of a fourth and supplemental volume. This will comprise two great divisions, the first of which is now presented to the public under the title : THE ANCIENT PARISH CHURCH OF MANCHESTER, AND WHY IT WAS COLLEGIATED.
The second great division will contain NOTES AND ADDITIONS TO THE HISTORY OF THE WARDENS OF THE MANCHESTER COLLEGE, being intended to supply the deficiencies of the former volumes, and ending with the formation of the Bishopric. The histories also of the two other foundations of Manchester will be continued down to the present period.
Having thus stated the general design of the supplementary volume, I would, in the second place, explain the causes which have led to its production.
Between the publication of the first three volumes of the MANCHESTER FOUNDATIONS, and the appearance of a fourth, or supplementary volume, eighteen years or more have intervened. The additional volume owes its existence to the Reverend Canon Wray, without whose aid I never could have accomplished my present labour.
It was during the period when I was engaged in my former work that this gentleman was a Chaplain of the College. He had then no access to the muniment chest of the Chapter House, but he supplied all my requisitions to the utmost of his means, from such resources as were exclusively his own, or had been collected by him, considering no trouble too great in furnishing me with information.
But soon after the former publication had taken place, circumstances changed. On the fifth of October, 1830, Mr. Wray was elected fellow of the Manchester College, in the room of the Reverend C. W. Ethelston, deceased, to which office, agreeably to an act of parliament, the title of Canon was afterwards attached. By this elevation Canon Wray had access to the charters, &c., of the College, from which he obtained for me, with the concurrence of the Dean and Chapter, the loan of the great charter of foundation, which I was permitted to decipher at my house in York. About four or five
I came to reside a few miles from Manchester, when I felt anxious to be acquainted with other documents, of which I possessed a few notes and abstracts made by Canon Wray. My wishes were instantly acceded to by the liberality of the Collegiate Chapter, in the course of which I made personal acquaintance with Canon Parkinson, who even allowed me to copy his own collections which he had made from other sources of information towards a history of the College and Collegiate Church. The generous and unostentatious manner in which he facilitated my frequent references to the muniment chest, will never be effaced from my memory.
Nor ought I in gratitude to omit mention of the politeness which I received from the late Dean, the Hon. and Rev. Dr. Herbert, and the other Canons, members of the Chapter.
After having been thus possessed of such an accession of inedited documents, I became, while studying them, acquainted with the fact, that the motives which gave rise to the collegiating of the ancient Church of Manchester were two-fold : the first resulting from the increase of population which had arisen in the large parish of Manchester, while the second ensued from the abuses of patronage. A capitular body was accordingly constituted, which had in view two objects solely :-- the augmentation of Divine worship, and a more efficient cure of souls.
But the incident most worthy of remark was the remonstrance of the Founder himself against the degradation of ecclesiastical discipline, which had ensued from the rectors of Manchester having been employed in the secular offices of their patrons. expressed in as strong language as Wycliffe himself was in the habit of using. And thus, the collegiating of the ancient parish church of Manchester assimilated itself with the earliest movement of reform in England.
This was a discovery, as I conceived, of the deepest interest, yet so much did I mistrust
my own capability of appreciating its value, that I submitted some of the extracts made from the charters, to the judgment of a very old and esteemed literary friend, who happened to be then in Edinburgh, Mr. Trevelyan, now Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan, Bart., whose knowledge of the history of the English church I knew to be profound. Upon his coinciding with me in an opinion of the high historical importance which ought to be attached to the facts thus developed, I began to study with much earnest attention the era of Wycliffe, who, I soon found, had pronounced, that, in conjunction with the invasions of the rights of patrons by the Papal see, the abuses in ecclesiastical discipline introduced by patrons themselves, constituted some of the greatest grievances of this eventful period.
Such are the simple circumstances connected with the collegiating of the parish church of Manchester. A charter was conceded to the reforming spirit of the days of Lollardism, which owed a dubious allegiance to canonical authorities and precedents. Whether, therefore, it can be safely quoted in inquiries concerning the nature of appropriations in general,—at present the subject of a truly learned argument in Manchester,—I shall express no opinion whatever.
It is sufficient for me, in reference to the truth and correctness of the foregoing narrative, to offer the following explanation :
Should it be thought that the present work has been suggested by the discussion of certain ecclesiastical questions with which Manchester has for several months been agitated, -it is certain that any such motive as this has met with no response whatever in the mind of the Author. He has arrived at a period of life in which repose is far more congenial to his feelings than the field of religious controversy. Had the contention occurred earlier, it is doubtful if the present volume would ever have seen the light. But to recede was found impossible. Far too large a portion of the volume had been printed off.
Neither would the Author have felt the delicacy of his position half so much, if he had not been indebted to the College for the most valuable portion of the materials which he was printing
Yet these circumstances ought still to create no reasonable difficulty, so long as the path of duty open to every conscientious annalist remains unclouded. While the writer is forbidden to suppress any fact or incident whatever which might affect the sacred truth of history, not a single line will fall from him, inimical to the best interests of a Collegiate institution, which, notwithstanding occasional aberrations, such as may be detected in the ecclesiastical occurrences of England during every age, has diffused the greatest blessings upon the Christian community of Manchester.
Hale Barns, near Altringham,
April 21st, 1848.
THE ANCIENT PARISH CHURCH OF MANCHESTER,
§ 4. Robert Greslet comes of age, and marries.