Whalley and its abbey

Begin at the railway station. Pass the cricket ground on the left and then look for a right turn into a narrow road. This descends steeply and turns left to reach a monastic gatehouse which straddles the road.

You are now on the ancient road leading to the abbey.

Approach Whalley Abbey, which is full of haunting ruins. Part of the complex is a conference centre and a fascinating interpretive area.

A tour of the ruins will reveal gardens, what was left of a once splendid church and a toilet block. The monks diverted a small tributary of the Calder and built the toilet over it.

In terms of abbeys the cistercian house is of a late date and was not securely set up until 1306.

Its original location was on the river Mersey at Stanlow in Cheshire in 1172, but it kept flooding and the monks left to go to Whalley in 1196.

Whalley was situated close to another Cistercian monastery at Sawley and they operated all through the 13th century and the Whalley brethren were only finally confirmed in office in 1306.

The only time that the two abbeys were in full agreement was when they joined the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, a move against Henry VIII to stop him closing down the abbeys.

They failed. The abbeys were dissolved, both abbots were executed and their monasteries knocked down by 1538.

To discover some of the abbey furnishings a visit should be paid to the nearby parish church of St Mary and All Saints.

Most of the structure dates back to around 1200 but there is evidence of a much earlier religious foundation.

These date from the 9th to 11th centuries and are described as Celtic-Scandinavian.

The interior of Whalley church, should not be rushed and particular attention is to be paid to the choir stallsor miserichords which come from the abbey and show a wicked sense of humour.

One shows a blacksmith trying to shoe a goose and another a man is shown being beaten up by a woman armed with a frying pan.

From the church follow a narrow footpath keeping the churchyard on the left.

Pass through a residential complex containing the water wheel which once drove the monastic corn mill.

Approach the road to the right of which is Whalley Bridge.

From the bridge on the right is a private house once a school, but with associations with Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882) who wrote The Lancashire Witches. Continue through the village.

At the junction turn left to Mitton and see the old grammar school on the left. Continue along the Mitton Road.

Pass a set of alms houses on the right and return to the starting point at the railway station.

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