The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Whalley Abbey

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Whalley.
In the historic county of Lancashire.
Modern Authority of Lancashire.
1974 county of Lancashire.
Medieval County of Lancashire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SD73013610
Latitude 53.82043° Longitude -2.41047°

Whalley Abbey has been described as a probable Fortified Ecclesiastical site.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


The site of Whalley Abbey, a Cistercian abbey founded in 1296 and dissolved in 1536. It was constructed in response to the monks at the abbey of Stanlow in Cheshire, who were suffering flooding from the River Mersey during the latter part of the 13th century. The upstanding remains include the north-east gateway, the north wall with round bastions, the ruins of the east and south ranges of the cloister, the abbot's lodging, the late 13th century Peter of Chester's Chapel, the north-west gateway and the foundations of the nave. The church was partly excavated and along with the octagonal chapter house, the plan shows through the turf. The 14th century gatehouse is now in the care of English Heritage. The remains demonstrate the usual layout of a Cistercian abbey but not the standard orientation. Traditionally monastic buildings were laid out so that the church ran east-west and formed the north range. At Whalley however, to enable the best use of the water supply it was necessary to align the church on a north-north-west/south-south-east alignment. The oldest part of the abbey is the north-west gateway built from 1320. Building of the church began ten years later and was completed in 1380. The cloister, abbot's lodgings and infirmary were completed by the 1440s. There are also the remains of the abbot's lodgings, built by Abbot Paslew in the 16th century. The ruined walls overlying the eastern end of the abbot's lodgings and the abbey's infirmary are the remains of the long gallery. This was built after the Dissolution by the Assheton family as part of their new manor house. Other sections of this manor house are now used as a conference centre. The porter's lodge is now a ticket office, and to the east, in the location of the 17th century buildings associated with the Assheton mansion would have been the abbey stables. From the 18th century the abbey passed through various families until 1923 when the house and grounds were bought by the church. (PastScape)

The two-storey gatehouse is the oldest of the abbey buildings, constructed between 1296 and 1310 when the new monastery was being established. It has a vaulted ceiling, and halfway along is a cross-wall, with two doorways, one for wheeled vehicles and horses, the other, smaller, one for pedestrians. 
The upper floor comprised a large and airy room, with three three-light traceried windows on each side (best viewed from the grassed enclosure on the north side), which was probably used as a chapel for guests and visitors to the abbey. On the south side of the building was a guesthouse (now demolished) for visitors – in 1536 it had nine bedrooms, with fourteen feather beds – and on the north side were lodgings for the vicar of Whalley. (English Heritage Portico page)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1348 July 10 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).


It is difficult to associate any part of the Abbey with the licence to crenellate of 1348. However, the arrival of the Black Death the following year may have disrupted building work and, regardless, the value of the licence was the message of royal support and blessing.
Monasteries, as major land owners, could become the focus for popular discontent and were sometimes attacked but their large precincts could never have been defended in normal circumstances and the elaborate gatehouses served more as a symbolic representation of a conflicting needs to be cut off from the wider secular world and their duties and dues from that world. As such the Gatehouse was often the office of the Almoner, who gave alms to the poor, and sometime the manorial court where rents and tithes were paid. However at Whalley it may be the Gatehouse was used for another charitable function, that of giving shelter, although in this case the shelter given was to wealthy visitors rather than the poor. The licence to crenellate gave royal support and acknowledgement of these secular issues.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:28

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact