Matthew Mackerell

On this day the calendar of illustrious Premonstratensians commemorates Abbot Matthew Mackerell O.Praem, Abbot of Barlings and Titular Bishop of Chalcedon who met his death under King Henry VIII during the persecutions of the so-called ‘Reformation’. Abbot Mackerell and his fellow canons suffered in the aftermath of the persecutions that followed the popular uprising known as the Lincolnshire Rising. In 1536 as a prisoner in the Tower of London he revealed that he had placed a large amount of plate and monies from the Abbey treasury in the care of reliable persons so that he and his brethren would not be left destitute if their abbey were to be dissolved. In chapter he advised the brethren to do the same and told them ‘I promise you of my faith and conscience, ye shall have your part thereof, and of every penny that I have during my life.’ His own account of his dealings with the insurgent leaders is very similar to that given by the monks of Bardney and Kirkstead. Under threats he provided meat and lodging on Wednesday night, 4 October, for a large company. On the morrow, being bidden to join the host, he refused on the ground of his religion, but offered to go and sing the litany for them. By Friday, after news that several of the neighbouring gentry had been compelled to join the host, he took provisions to them on a large scale, and on Saturday sent six canons.  By Sunday, 15 October, he and his brethren were lodged as prisoners in Lincoln Castle.  On his way to prison he bade his servants shift for themselves, and save something for him if possible out of the wreck that was coming.  His cellarer was let out on bail later to collect rents &c.,  but he himself was sent up soon after Christmas to the Tower. He was examined there twice, on 12 January and 23 March, but neither there nor in Lincoln ever owned to having aided the rebels any more than their violence compelled him to do. He said he would have fled at the beginning of the rising, but that he feared for his house; and denied repeatedly having bidden the host to ‘ go forward.’ He had indeed promised to bring more provisions later in another place, hoping thus to make his escape.  This is his own story, and the assertion that he encouraged the rebels and bade them go forward rests only on the evidence of men who, like himself, were in danger of their lives, and strongly tempted to save themselves at the expense of others. It is only necessary to add that the canons examined told much the same story as their superior, and that finally, on 26 March, 1537, he with six others was condemned to death, and suffered the extreme penalties of the law. The attainder of the house followed; and the remaining canons were dismissed with a pittance even smaller than that accorded to their brethren already adrift upon the world.

Ioannes Le Paige in Bibliotheca Praemonstratensis Ordinis, (Paris, 1633) lists Abbot Mackerell and his fellow companions with the saints of the Order and though their names were on one of the lists of English martyrs presented to Rome, their cult has not been confirmed.

The Right Rev. Martin Geudens, established the Norbertines in Manchester was named Titular Abbot of Barlings, 7 May, 1898, and blessed 17 September, of the same year.

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Artist’s impression of the abbey

Source: ‘Houses of Premonstratensian canons: The abbey of Barlings’, A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2 (1906), pp. 202-205.

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