A Rediscovered Treasure?

The importance of Dieulacresse abbey in the past cannot be disputed, it was established by Ranulph Earl of Chester at Poulton in Cheshire and moved to where its ruins can still be seen to this day on the outskirts of Leek in the county of Staffordshire in 1214. The abbey was relocated here because of Welsh raiding parties which had taken place at its previous site.

There are many stories connected with this once important abbey, it was believed that blind monks would travel to this place to have their sight miraculously restored another story proposes that Sir Gawain stopped overnight here in his quest to find the Green Chapel which is said to be located at nearby Ludchurch.(http://www.whitedragon.org.uk/articles/gawain.htm)

The abbey was surrendered in 1538 due to the Dissolution of the Monastries, most of the abbey’s contents were sold off within days of its closure and the site then came into the ownership of Sir Ralph Bagenall.

It has been speculated that the monks hid many of the valuables which belonged to the abbey before it was seized, and I tend to believe that much of it may be buried on Abbey Green farm where Dieulacresse once stood. In fact it may be concealed in the Hermit’s cave at the end of the road leading to the farm as the rear of the cave appears to be unnatural as if it has been created to conceal something.

However little did I realise that I would come across the whereabouts of part of the treasure while doing research in the local library! The treasure comes in the form of two chalice’s, one is solid silver and has a historical pedigree, the other is solid gold studded with rare jewels and must be worth a fortune. I came across a reference to these priceless artifacts in a newspaper cutting more than 60 years old and also a rare grainy photograph which I have included on this web page.

The account which I came across in this newspaper is as follows: If at any time Westminster Abbey returned to what it was originally, the abbey church of a monastic order, the Abbot of Westminster would have every right to claim an ancient communion chalice which is in the care of St Edward’s Parish church, Leek. The abbot would have the right to claim it but first proof would have to be furnished that the chalice is, in fact, what it is thought to be – the chalice which was used for many years at the altar of Dieulacresse abbey, Leek.

Little is really known about the history of this chalice. More however is known about the Dieulacresse chalice and the circumstancial evidence suggests that they are one and the same. The last abbot of Dieulacresse, there at the time of its dissolution in 1538, made an interesting and historic will, a valuable document which still exists and which has been shown publicly several times.

Among the provisions of this will was one leaving the chalice to Westminster Abbey on condition that it was restored as a monastry. The restoration never, of course, took place so the chalice never went to the abbey. It is presumed that the chalice went into the keeping of a man named in the Abbot’s will. On the dissolution of Dieulacresse cartain of its properties passed into the patronage of St Edward’s church and through the years this patronage has been held by quite a lot of different people and holders of different office. The chalice was probably passed from one to another of these patrons for 300 years. A century ago the patron of the church was the Earl of Macclesfield but it was then surrendered to the Bishop of Lichfield.The conjecture is that in giving up the patronage the Earl handed over the chalice which was then placed in the keeping of the church.

It is an established fact that the chalice now at the church has been in the church safe for as long as anyone can remember. It has never been on the inventory of the church property, so it is likely that it has merely been put into the keeping of the church and not actually given to the church.

The chalice not of any great size, is described as silver gilt and has been identified as being Early English, that is 12th or 13th century. The passing of the centuries is apparent by the condition of the chalice, which has a number of small holes in it. It could not be used. A chalice very similar in appearance to this one was recently sold in London. But if this Leek chalice is the genuine one from the ancient Abbey, its value cannot be expressed in terms of money.

Another communion chalice amongst the church’s treasures is larger and made of solid gold. It was a gift made to the church about 90 years ago and it is studded with jewels of all kinds, it has, in fact, examples of every precious stone mentioned in the bible. This chalice was used only a few years ago, but now the stem is not safe and in need of repair.

The above article as I stated before appeared over 60 years ago, however in the past couple of weeks I have contacted the Reverend in charge of St Edwards and asked him for permission to photograph these priceless relics, and yes you’ve guessed it he had never heard about them! So he said that he would check on the church inventory for them, and as they don’t appear on the church inventory they will probably remain gathering dust for another 60 years. You could’nt make it up could you!

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