2 October 2017

Thornton

The remains of The Chapter House, Thornton Abbey
Thornton Abbey was constructed in the middle of the twelfth century, under the instructions of William de Gros, The Earl of Yorkshire. It is situated four miles south of the River Humber on the Lincolnshire side of that great waterway.

Incredibly, the stone used  in the abbey's construction was hewn sixty miles away near Tadcaster. It is believed that the thousands of tons of stone required were transported to the site on wooden barges. First along The River Wharfe into the Ouse, then along the Humber before turning into a narrow stream called Skitter Brook. Just getting all that stone to the abbey site was a phenomenal achievement.
Carving of an unnmaed apostle
A view of the medieval gatehouse
It was an Augustinian monastic settlement exercising enormous political, economic and spiritual sway over the north Lincolnshire region. Its influence lasted for four hundred years until Henry the Eighth began The Dissolution of the Monasteries.

In the late fourteenth century, a magnificent gatehouse had been constructed at Thornton. It was the first major brick building to be built in England. Somehow it survived The Dissolution and remains largely intact to this day. After the 1540's, Thornton Abbey fell into a state of neglect. Most of its walls were knocked down and local people effectively used it as a quarry for building stone.
A window in the medieval gatehouse
Only the foundations and part of the chapter house remain. The abbey had clearly been a vast and ambitious complex in which the craftsmanship of skilled stone masons was fully exercised. It must have towered over the landscape like something from another world.

It's off the beaten track but I was there on Saturday morning before travelling on to Hull City's KCom Stadium for the Birmingham City match. Thornton Abbey is a place where if you close your eyes you can imagine the march of history, echoing through the years. The yelling of the stone masons. The chanting of monks. The ominous thunder of Henry VIII's horses.

21 comments:

  1. The gatehouse is impressive. Detailed work and massive size. I'm assuming the interior window outlook is inside the gatehouse - the depth of the walls must have used tons of material.

    Alphie

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    1. I think it was the use of brick that saved this amazing building. The pillagers were after stone - not brick. You can wander around inside - right up to the roof. The walls are very thick.

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  2. It's good to stop and imagine how people lived hundreds of years ago. We understand more about ourselves.

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    1. Naturally, I agree with you Red.

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  3. It's beautiful. Incredible to think that craftsmanship and technology was so advanced so long ago

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    1. With modern equipment, techniques and power, I very much doubt that we would be capable of building an exact replica of Thornton Abbey.

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  4. So much incredible craftsmanship must have been destroyed during the Dissolution. I like the photo of the window, clever of you to catch the light.

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    1. It is hard to imagine the work of those stone masons - without modern machinery or electricity.

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  5. If it is not too difficult to get to from Ripon, I will try and visit this amazing place which shared the fate of so many abbeys and monasteries in England. The brick building is one I'd love to explore, too.
    Have you ever been to Byland Abbey?

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    1. No. I have never been to Byland Abbey Meike. A little research tells me that compared with Thornton, much more of Byland Abbey remains.

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  6. That looks like an amazing place to visit! I'll add it to my list!

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    1. It's a pretty awkward place to get to. See English Heritage details:-
      http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/thornton-abbey-and-gatehouse/

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  7. ive frequently sat and ate my sandwiches in the car park when im out that way , as a kid we used to take trowels and dig for treasure not that we found any

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    1. Co-incidentally, on Saturday I ate my cheese and pickle sandwich and my apple sitting at one of the new picnic tables by the little pond next to the car park. I wonder what treasure you were hoping to find.

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  8. Wouldn't it have been amazing to see the original building? Although this has its own beauty with the emerald grass growing all around.

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    1. I would love to jump in a time machine and travel back to the twelfth century. You can come too Jenny if you make some sandwiches and a flask of coffee.

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  9. I've been missing-in-action for a few days...busy with other things...mostly unintentionally!

    Interesting pieces of history.

    Up in the Daintree Rainforest...between The Daintree and Cape Tribulation - in tropical Far North Queensland - is a mountain called "Thornton Peak"....it's the fourth highest mountain in Queensland - situated in an awesome area of this wonderful state.

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    1. I note that Thornton Peak was not climbed until 1938. Have you climbed it yourself Lee?

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    2. No, Yorkie. I have personally seen it, though, when visiting The Daintree and Cape Tribulation; but mountain climbing never was an interest of mine. I enjoy admiring them from afar....and these days with my hips the way they are doing a "Sound of Music" is not on my agenda....not literally, anyway! :)

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  10. An unnamed apostle? Somebody must have known him.

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