Great times ahead for Furness Abbey

As a new year begins new fortunes and a bright future breaks like the dawn for Furness Abbey.

For a number of years local people have been concerned for the future of this amazing medieval edifice. The abbey, built in 1127 by monks from Savigny in France became one of the richest and most powerful abbeys in the country. It was second only in wealth to Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire and in its heyday it was prominent and well known. Indeed, its prominence was one of the reasons that it became the first large abbey to fall to Henry Vlll’s minister Thomas Cromwell. The Deed of Surrender was signed in the Chapter House at Furness on 9th April 1537.

The abbey suffered greatly, its destruction was thorough, lead stripped from the roof and windows, contents ransacked and sold, land sold off or given as reward to the King’s supporters and the building torn down and desecrated to prevent any further use as a house of worship. It became a romantic ruin, part of the estate of the Preston family who used some of its stones to build a grand manor house roughly where the visitor centre is now.

It was remarked upon by the Romantic poets and immortalised by Wordsworth in his Prelude. Turner sketched it and it became part of the Victorian tourist trail, gracing all the important guide books. It even had its own railway station and was promoted by Furness Railway with the incredible hotel they built to accommodate visitors.

In recent years its sandstone magnificence has been under major threat from subsidence. English Heritage acted swiftly to correct this and have spent vast amounts of money on a special structure and supports for the presbytery. Their reward was the discovery of the abbot and his crosier in 2010. This remarkable find was phenomenal for the abbey and its future. It immediately increased visitor numbers which demonstrated that people would travel to visit Furness Abbey given the correct circumstances. At the same time Furness Abbey Fellowship was beginning to form as an embryonic support group.

The local support for the abbey is very solid and is constantly growing. Furness Abbey Fellowship (FAF) is fully established and has a twelve strong committee, as well as a membership of over one hundred. We work in partnership with English Heritage to help to improve and promote the abbey. We hold a range of events through the year and provide tours and talks, our signature event is the Medieval Fair which will be our fifth this year. This event raises visitor numbers and reaches beyond the local area. We continue to develop and grow and we try to raise awareness particularly among children-to whom the abbey must look as custodians of its future.

Anyone can join us and we will be holding our Annual General Meeting on Thursday 26th January at 7pm, at Barrow Cricket Club.

To attend you need to email us at furnessabbeyfellowship@gmail.com  www.furnessabbeyfellowship.org  We will be revealing our itinerary for the following year and discussing some of our new projects.

This year is an important one as the structure will hopefully be removed in the near future once its established that the stabilisation is complete, but no date has been confirmed. Additionally, they are working to put together a project to enhance the visitor experience at Furness Abbey and will be consulting with Furness Abbey Fellowship and other local groups. This will be a significant year and an exciting one. Will you be part of it? 
 
Images: © Mapio.net


 

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