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The Northern Antiquarian Forum

Archaeology, folklore & myth of Britain's pre-christian sites & heritage: stone circles, holy wells, maypoles, tombs, archaic cosmologies and human consciousness. Everyone welcome - even Southerners!

    Cockersand Abbey, Thurnham, Lancashire.


    Join date : 2011-02-10
    Age : 66
    Location : Nelson - the one in Lancashire sorry to say!

    Cockersand Abbey, Thurnham, Lancashire. Empty Cockersand Abbey, Thurnham, Lancashire.

    Post  Sunbright57 Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:11 pm

    Os grid reference SD.427 537. To reach the site of Cockersand Abbey (sometimes referred to as a priory) head west out of Upper Thurnham village for a coupla miles passing Haresnape Farm, keeping the coast in view. At a junction of two lanes go southwards along Moss Lane. After half a mile turn west onto a footpath to Cockersand Abbey Farm. In front of you is a round-shaped building known as the chapter-house as well as some earthworks and scant stone walling - beyond that the sea. You can also follow the coastal path from Bank End Farm to the south for about one and half miles until you reach the abbey site.

    In about 1180 Hugh Garth the Hermit founded an infirmary (hospice) for lepers on the windswept headland of north-west Lancashire, some 8 or 9 miles south-west of Lancaster as the crow flies, on what was then a small island surrounded by salt marshes. The hospice grew in size and was given the name 'the hospice of St Mary of the marsh' with monies coming from the Abbey of Croxton, near Leicester. Hugh Garth was a well-liked personage in the area and many charitable gifts were given to the hospice by local people. After the death of Hugh in 1188 or 1189 Premonstratensian canons from Croxton Abbey arrived in the area and in 1190 they built an abbey onto the hospice as a cell of their mother house at Croxton. In 1230 they added a chapter house to this. The abbey is said to have covered an area of 1 acre and over the next few centuries to have become one of three of the richest abbeys in Lancashire. In the 15th century the canons built what must have been the first ever lighthouse in the area to guide sea vessels away from the dangerous mud and sand banks - this would have been a stone tower with a beacon burning every night. We also know that the fishing rights between Thurnham and Glasson were owned by the canons too. The Premonstratensian order, itself, was founded in 1120 at Premontre near Laon, France, by St Norbert who became archbishop of Magdeburg. He died in 1133.

    However, the abbey's good fortune was not to last for in 1539 the building was destroyed by king Henry VIII's soldiers though the chapter-house was left intact because it was being used as a family mausoleum by the Dalton family of Thurnham Hall who were good friends of king Henry; the last Dalton to be buried there being Elizabeth Dalton in 1861. Following the dissolution the land was sold off to a local gentleman, John Kitchen. The 14th century choir stalls and a beautiful Renassance chest were allegedly taken to Lancaster priory. Stonework from the abbey was used in the building of nearby Crook Farm and there may be some in the adjacent Cockersand Abbey Farm too. There is apparently robbed-away stonework in the sea-wall defenses while some pieces of carved stonework have also been found down on the shoreline. The canons cemetary has long gone having been partly lost to the sea due to constant ersosion; there is no real evidence to suggest that human bones from this cemetary have been found down on the seashore.

    Today, there is not a great deal to see here apart from some scant remains of the foundations of the abbey church and some low walling, but if you explore the site a bit further then the earthworks become more apparent. The chapter house, a small round-shaped building, has some very nice carved stonework both inside and out, but the little building is quite often locked and not accessable to the general public. In 2007 English Heritage gave the landowner a grant of £80.000 to help preserve the chapter house and the site in general; the following year they carried out an extensive excavation and survey of the site which proved very successful - a number of photographs were taken of the foundations below ground level and plans made showing what the abbey would have once looked like.

    Back in 1718 two Roman statues were excavated from Cockersand Moss which could mean that some sort of Romano-British shrine existed close by in the 5th century AD.


    Taylor, Francis Edward; - Folk Speak of South-West Lancashire, Heywood, 1901.

    Peace, Richard; - Lancashire Curiosities, The Dovecote Press, Stanbridge, Wimborne, Dorset, 1997.

    Marshall, Brian; - Cockersand Abbey, Landy Publishing, 2001.

    Cockersand Abbey, Thurnham, Lancashire. The_ch10

    The Chapter house of Cockersand Abbey - Wikipedia.

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