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Holmcultrum Abbey

Abbeytown, Cumbria

Quick Guide

Founded by Cistercian monks from Melrose in 1150 and dissolved in 1538.

In 1157 it came under English rule. The monks were given land and money and began draining the marshes and raising sheep on them as well as crops. With more than 6000 sheep under their ownership, they were able to export wool to Europe as early as the 14th century. They also mined the salt from the sea. The Abbey had the rights to 21 salt pans, used for heating and extracting salt from the brine. Their medieval saltpans are still visible at Saltcotes and Crosscanonby. The monks lived by the adage that "to work was to pray", and the abbey grew to become the second most important Cistercian place in Cumbria. It gradually came under attack from various quarters including Robert the Bruce in 1319 sacking the abbey causing it to loose 80% of its value. When another raid took place in 1332 the abbey was left financially desperate, eventually falling into the hands of Henry VIII.

When the abbey was dissolved in 1538 the church of Holme Cultram Abbey was spared so that it could become the parish church, because the previous one at Newton Arlosh was too far from most of the parish. Unfortunately the church was very large and the maintenance cost more than the parish could afford, so the size of the church was drastically reduced.

Holme Cultram was Cumbria's leading Cistercian abbey and is today the only Cistercian abbey in England whose nave still serves as a place of worship.

Church was in parochial use until destroyed in an arson attack 9 June 2006. The fabric in the vestry was the first to go, then it spread very quickly to the roof timbers, and in about an hour the whole roof had collapsed into the aisle and pews. The organ, which was quite large was totally destroyed as well as irreplaceable records dating back to medieval times. However most of the stained glass survived.

See Larger Image Click on image to see larger version

Humphrey Bolton (this picture taken in 2003)

See this link www.visitcumbria.com/wc/abbeytown-fire.htm for pictures of the church after the fire but also pictures of the restoration that started in February 2008 and a new roof being added, with an aerial picture in April 2008 showing the new roof  installed but with scaffolding still around.

Location: Holmcultrum Abbey, nr Abbey Town, Cumbria

Grid Reference: NY177508 Ceremonial County: Cumberland

Map Link: StreetMap 

Aerial photo:  Google Aerial Photo

Getting there: From Carlisle come off the A596 onto the B5302 towards Abbey Town. At the junction of B5307 turn right through the village and Abbey/Church is on the right handside

Access: off the B5307 in Abbey Town village
Other Useful Websites:
Address: Holme Cultram Abbey PCC, Holme Cultram Vicarage, Abbeytown, Wigton, Cumbria
Postcode: CA7 4SP Telephone:
Opening Times: Any reasonable time - however may be restricted because of restoration work

Charges: None

Nearby Locations:
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By: Keith Park Section: Abbey and Religious Buildings Key:
Page Ref: holmcultrum Topic: Abbeys Last Updated: 02/2011

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