Whalley Abbey-Part 2-Overview Of The Abbey

The former Abbey Of Whalley was one of the last Cistercian abbeys to be built in England, and had more decorative features than was usual in earlier Cistercian buildings. It is situationed in the County of Lancashire at Whalley, some 7 miles to the north of Blackburn, in whose Diocese it is today.

In the 1170s Stanlaw Abbey was built in the Wirral in the present day Cheshire, over the River Mersey from Liverpool. By the late 1200s, the Cistercian monks wanted to move. In 1283, they found a new site at Whalley, on the lands of Roger de Lacy, son of the founder of Stanlaw Abbey. Shortages of money and manpower due to the Plague meant that the Abbey Church was not ready for worship until 1380. The buildings where the monks lived and worked were not finished until 1440. In 1480 the North-East Gate was built. It seems that there were never more than 30 Choir Monks at Whalley, but there was a staff of about 90 servants, as the Abbey had to look after up to 24 sick people as well as pensioners and many guests. in the 1530s, Henry VIII began to close monasteries and abbeys. There was opposition in the North of England, and the last Abbot, John Paslew, was tried for treason. Henry’s soldiers came to the Abbey and led him away to his execution. After the Abbey closed, it was sold and the buildings were bought by Richard Assheton. Over the next 100 years his descendants converted the Abbot’s lodging into a private house. The church and cloister buildings were finally demolished in the mid 1600s. The House passed through several owners before, in 1923, Bishop William Temple of the Diocese of Manchester bought it back for the Church. The House, now owned by the Diocese of Blackburn is used as a centre for courses, conferences and retreats. Next post will be about The Abbey Buildings and The Life Of A Monk..

Towneley Hall-Part 9-The Whalley Abbey Vestments

The Whalley Abbey Vestments on display outside the chapel are traditionally said to have been brought to Towneley Hall for safe keeping by Sir John Towneley at the dissolution of Whalley Abbey in 1536. They were removed in 1902 but returned in 1922 after being bought at auction by Burnley Corporation. There is a chasuble and maniple and one dalmatic. A second matching dalmatic from the same source is in the Burrell Collection, Glasgow and together they form the only surviving complete set of medieval English High Mass vestments. The Whalley Abbey Vestments date from 1390-1420. They are of Italian cloth-of gold with a pattern of strawberries. The broad bands, known as orphreys, contain the finest English embroidery and display the Life of the Virgin. Look closely and you will see different techniques: couch stitch, knots to represent beards and raised fluffy areas for fur. The dalmatics, worn by the deacons, display the early part of the story whilst the scenes of Christ’s infancy are reserved for the priest’s chasuble. The climax of this sequence, the scene of the Virgin and Child enthroned flanked by the Shepherds and the Three Wise Men, occupies the most prominent position on the arms of the orphrey cross on the rear of the chasuble. They would form a focus during the high point of the Mass when the priest stood at the altar with his back to the congregation. Next stop..The Chapel..