Undercroft (now called Day Room)
This is an exceptionally long building at Furness. A vaulted room, it was located below a more important building (the quire monks' dormitory) in the east wing. It may have been used as a day room by novices or the quire monks may have used it as a common room. It was also used for manual trades. The lay brothers' Undercroft was sited in the west wing.
(owned by Savigniac and later Cistercian monks). “Note here that we have the patronage of the churches of Dalton and Urswick before we were of the Cistercian Order, when that is, as I suppose when we were founded at Tulketh” (A History of the Congregation of Savigny).
According to Professor W. G. Collingwood, 19th century academic and authoritative historian, Urswick Church is the earliest Christian foundation in Furness. The 1000th anniversary of its foundation was celebrated in 1973. The sandstone carving of the Mater Dolorosa, (Mother of Sorrows), on the tower is thought to have been erected in memory of those who lost their lives in the Great Raid. The lancet window contains fragments of glass made into the Arms of Furness Abbey and may have come from the ruined abbey. Urswick Church is four point two miles north east of Furness Abbey. The presence of a hagioscope indicates there was a chantry chapel here.
"Between 1536 and 1553 there was destruction and plunder in England of beautiful, sacred and irreplaceable things, probably not witnessed before or since . . .” J. J. Scarrisbrick is writing about the vandalising of monasteries.
An arched stone roof.
Vestry See Sacristy.
The abbey museum building opened in 1982 with a splendid set of illuminated display panels and reception area. Since that time an area exhibiting artefacts and an Education room have been added.
The whole complex is referred to as a Visitor Centre.
Furness Abbey English Heritage book on sale at the centre
Click on this link to take you to the English Heritage Website, where you can find information about opening times and admission prices
From the 12th to the 16th century the abbey was visited by pilgrims, peasants, beggars, Norman knights, and members of the clergy, Henry VIII's commissioners and at least one king, namely, Robert the Bruce.
From the late 18th to the early 19th centuries there was a great interest in the romantic and picturesque qualities of ruins. There are a number of important drawings, prints and descriptions of Furness Abbey belonging to this period e.g. the earliest known plan of the abbey by Father Thomas West published in his "Antiquities of Furness" in 1774, pencil sketch of the church crossing and others of the infirmary chapel by JMW Turner in 1797, and two engravings of the church and east range by William Close, published in 1805 as additional illustrations in his revised edition of West's "Antiquities of Furness".
Following William Wordsworth's visit to the abbey the poet immortalised his visit in his "Prelude" (1805). He rode his horse through the abbey's nave after first clearing the west tower window which entrance then would have resembled a doorway on account of the pile of rubble resulting from excavations. Wordsworth "flew" by the Chauntry, the altar of the dead, (the chantry chapel), the remains of which are still to be seen, and passed the stone abbot and the crossed legged knight, both of which are now preserved in the Visitor Centre.
For a full coverage of this period see p 32 - 33 "Furness Abbey” by Jason Wood, English Heritage, 1998.
19th century Archaeologists and historians were also visitors: Father Thomas West, Thomas Alcock Beck, and St. John Hope
1848 Queen Victoria with her lady in waiting Lady Augustus Bruce, who writes “ We started in an open carriage with the dear Queen and had a charming drive to the Abbey, which far surpassed anything I had anticipated, so beautiful it was, and so extensive”.
Royals and celebrities
1869 Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, the future 26th President of the USA visited Furness Abbey with his parents and family in June of this year. He was eleven years old at the time. The visit is described in great detail by D. McCullough in his book “Mornings on Horseback- the Grand Tour.”
1935 the Duke and Duchess of York (the late Queen Mother), visited Barrow to free Walney Bridge from toll and rename it Jubilee Bridge (it was the silver jubilee year of King George V and Queen Mary), and to launch TSS Strathmore. The duke and duchess stayed with Commander Craven at his home, Abbey House. During their stay in Barrow they visited the abbey.
1984 three Cistercian monks from Mount St. Bernard’s toured the ruins
1987 The late Princess Margaret made an unofficial visit to the abbey
1988 Melvyn Bragg and his family attended a performance of the Mystery Plays at the abbey.
Prince Edward attended the opening night of the Mystery Plays.
1989 Hunter Davies was one of the jocular journalists who had at one time pilloried Barrow. He accepted an invitation from Barrow in Furness Civic and Local History Society to visit the town and he was taken on a tour of Barrow that included Furness Abbey.
TV personalities: Annabel Croft, Hugh Scully, Russell Grant, astrologer, Fred, the weatherman and film star Alan Rickman.
Fred Dibnah, the demolisher of chimneys, Mary O' Hara, singer, and Lord Montague, the then Chairman of English Heritage and Lord and Lady Cavendish are on the visitors' list.
(Blessed, later Saint)
Vitalis was born in Tierceville, near Bayeux about 1050. He was then a priest, and he had travelled abroad, preaching in many places; he had met Anselm , the Archbishop of Canterbury.Vitalis founded the Order of Savigny in 1112 at Savigny, near Avranches, the charter being confirmed by Henry I King of England to whom the district belonged. They were given the forest of Savigny and the remains of an old castle; the place was remote and isolated, far away from the noise of towns or cities. The monks followed the Benedictine Rule. They included the little office of Our Lady in their monastic Time Table which was also recited at Citeaux. Between thirty and thirty-three Savigniac monasteries were founded in France.
Monks took the following solemn vows: - obedience, conversion of manners, (poverty and chastity), and stability i.e. to remain in the abbey of their choice for the rest of their lives.