BY ANNA ARCO
A COLLECTION of relics belonging Reformation martyrs have survived a fire at the Marian shrine of Ladyewell in Lancashire, which left the chapel burned out.
The Burgess altar at which St Edmund Campion, St Edmund Arrowsmith and Blessed John Woodcock celebrated Mass, and other relics of the Reformation, were rescued from the flames of a small fire which broke out at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fernyhalgh, near Preston, last week.
Fr Tom Hoole, the director of the Ladyewell Shrine and parish priest of St Mary’s Fernyhalgh, discovered the fire in the chapel in the morning at Ladyewell House and called the fire brigade.
The rescue team was able to save the Blessed Sacrament at the priest’s instructions, as well as the relics and other religious artefacts. These have suffered from smoke damage. The fire remained contained in the chapel and the shop below it thanks to closed doors. The rest of the house is intact although it has been heavily smoke damaged. The shop and the chapel are almost completely destroyed.
The fire service has said that it is currently discounting arson as the cause for the fire, but is investigating the cause.
Fr Robert Billing, the Bishop of Lancaster’s secretary, said that Fr Hoole and the volunteers at the Shrine were determined to continue as normally as possible and that they would hold Masses at the larger St Mary’s Fernyhalgh, “just down the lane” from the damaged shrine. He said the shrine was not just a popular destination for Roman Rite pilgrims but was also visited by members of the Syro-Malabar Rite and Hindus.
Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster went to inspect the damage on the afternoon of the fire.
He said: “Obviously, at this time, our support and prayers are with Fr Tom Hoole and his dedicated team. Ladyewell Shrine, along with the local area, has suffered from much turbulence over the centuries and survived and flourished. It will do so again.” The Ladyewell Shrine has been the site of devotion since the 11th century, which became a devotion to Our Lady Queen of the Martyrs’ after the Reformation. The reliquary holds relics and memorabilia belonging to the English Martyrs. The shrine was kept open during penal times, with only a short five year gap, and was the site for pilgrimages despite not having had an apparition. St Mary’s Fernyhalgh was built much later than the shrine in the 18th century.