District: Ribble Valley
Name: Sawley Abbey
Description: Remains of Cistercian Abbey founded 1147, suppressed 1536.Outlying earthworks of the monastic fields can also be seen.
Sawley Abbey was founded by William Percy II, the son of Alan Percy "the Great" on 6th Jan 1147-8. The first Abbot, Benedict, with twelve monks and 10 conversi came from Newminster, Northumberland, a daughter house of Fountains. The site was not the most favourable for the foundation of a monastery, being described as "terra nebulosa et pluviosa" and in the reign of Edward II as "for the most part barren and unfruitful". By the 1180's it was thought that the site might have to be abandoned, because the climate was so bad that crops continually failed and food was short. The Abbey buildings were still under construction when Maud de Percy, Countess of Warwick, daughter of the founder gave them St Mary's, Tadcaster, a chapel and pension in order to save them. Sawley, unlike most Cistercian foundations, was not in a secluded situation. It was sited by an important north-south road and had to provide more accommodation for travellers thus incurring greater expense. It was consequently more exposed to the inroads of the Scots, suffering severely from "the cruel and inhuman spoliation of all their moveables and the horrible burning of some of their places".
In 1296 when Stanlaw Abbey moved to Whalley, it was seen as a threat to the financial survival of Sawley, being too close, and the Monks of Sawley claimed that the price of building materials and food was pushed up unfairly by the wealthy incomer. They consequently complained but the dispute was settled by 1305.
In 1306 several monks, including the Abbot, were excommunicated, the reason for this is not known.
In 1381 the Abbey receipts amounted to L347 14s 7d and their expenditure was L355 13s 10d. At this time there was an Abbot and 16 monks, at the suppression there were 21 monks and 37 servants. Thomas Bolton was abbot in 1536 when the Abbey was suppressed and he was succeeded by Abbot William Trafford who joined the Pilgrimage of Grace, and was hanged on 10th March 1537 in Lancaster Castle. At the Dissolution the income stood at L159 16s 7d . and the inventories make mention of "Belles, lead, vestyments and copes" and also "Corne in the garners, and in the ffeldes" worth L62 15s 4d. At the Dissolution the Abbey was granted to Sir Arthur Darcy de Gray (who also owned Fountains). The lower walls of the church and conventual buildings survive extensively.