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Whalley Abbey's historic past
The first stone was laid by Henry de Lacy, tenth Baron of Halton, in June 1296
The first stone was laid by Henry de Lacy, tenth Baron of Halton, in June 1296

We visit Whalley Abbey, established in 1296 by the Cistercian monks from Stanlow Abbey.

The house is now owned by the Diocese of Blackburn and is a place of spiritual refreshment and hospitality.

The ruins of the abbey are a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Standing on the banks of the River Calder, the retreat and conference house reopened in September 2005 after a major refurbishment.

In 1296 the Cistercian monks from Stanlow Abbey moved to Whalley, establishing themselves on the banks of the river in a sheltered valley and taking advantage of the church that was already there.

Originally, the abbey itself wasn't all built at the same time, as Reverend Andrew Sage explains: "It it was established in a relatively few number of years compared to some of our cathedrals, so quite how they managed it in a short period of time, we've no real idea.

"There must have been a huge commitment to establish the monastic community here in terms of time and money. The monks were a small community to begin with but grew quite quickly."

Hustle and bustle

The first stone was laid by Henry de Lacy, tenth Baron of Halton, in June 1296 and at least part of the site was consecrated by the Bishop of Whithern in 1306. Stone for building the abbey was obtained from quarries at Read and Simonstone.

In 1537, under the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, much of the original abbey was completely destroyed, the stone being used to build local houses. The house then became a private dwelling, and Ralph Assheton adapted it to make an Elizabethan manor house.

It remained a private residence until 1923, when the Church of England acquired possession.

In the grounds you can see the ruins of many of the monastic buildings
In the grounds you can see the ruins of many of the monastic buildings

The buildings came back into what is now to Diocese of Blackburn and became its retreat and conference house and so even today is a place of spiritual refreshment and hospitality, where those who visit can still find Christian hospitality and a chance to unwind.

To one side you can still see the outline of the monastic church, but on the other side of the grounds you can see the ruins of many of the monastic buildings as they would have been for centuries.

They are places for the monks to live, work, sleep and take their recreation, and accommodation for guests and for the lay brothers who work here as part of the community.

Most of the house seen from the front as you drive on to the site, is of a much later date than the monastic buildings, dating from the time of the house being a private dwelling, so much of it is 17th and 18th century buildings, that are still very much in keeping with the style and using much of the original reclaimed stone.

The gatehouse, now used as a store, is a barrier between the hustle and bustle of the outside world and the tranquillity of the abbey.

During the summer months guided tours of the ruins are available.




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