Thornton Abbey

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Things to do


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Travelled with

Family including children under 16

Reasons for trip

This is set in the depths of the North Lincolnshire countryside and is a great place for all ages. We set off with daughter and two grandchildren, aged two and a half and seven months. Toby was in a carrier and took it all in. Jacob loved being able to explore, climb on the walls and run around.

There is a small car park next to a picnic area with small pond with a bridge over it and a massive weeping willow tree.

The massive gatehouse was one of the first to be built from brick and is all that is left of one of the Augustinian orders richest abbeys. After the Dissolution of the monasteries, the site was plundered for building stone and very little is left of the abbey buildings.

The gatehouse is reached along a driveway lined with tall brick walls. At the end are small guard rooms. Along the sides of the walls are small niches, great for hiding in and jumping out shouting ‘boo’. Daughter did this 30 years ago and Jacob discovered the fun of it today. It took us 20minutes to reach the gateway.

The gatehouse is a splendid brick and stone building with carvings of the Virgin Mary, Christ, an angel and two saints above the archway. This has a rib arched ceiling with carved bosses. At the far end are the remains of the heavy wooden doors.

The inside has a beautiful Oriel window at first floor level. One of the ground floor rooms is now the ticket office which has a small shop selling a guide book (there are information boards around the site) and a few gifts. Cold drinks, tea or coffee and ice creams are sold.

A massive new wooden staircase leads up the outside wall of the gatehouse into the narrow wall passages. These are dimly lit with slit windows and there are several sets of steps. They lead into a massive room on the first floor with huge fireplace (no you can’t see daylight at the top) and smaller rooms off with latrines tucked away in corners.

This is now set up as an exhibition hall with information about the abbey and examples of small carvings from the site. There is a set of monks clothes for children to dress up and then admire themselves in a mirror. There are paper, pencils and crayons for brass rubbing. There are models of the different monks which can be built up as well as a jigsaw of the tracery from the ruined chapter house. (This one defeated me).

A spiral staircase leads up to another room above or back down to the ground floor. We decided not to tackle this and came back down the wooden staircase.

The ruins of the abbey are a short walk across a field. There is a farm next to the site and cows may graze in the field. Fortunately there were none today. Apart from a few low walls, all that is left of the abbey are three walls from the chapter house with the remains of beautiful carved tracery on the walls. There is the remains of the stone bench around the walls which makes a nice spot for a secluded picnic.

The outline of the walls, nave pillars and cloisters are marked by foundations in the grass. The church was big. At the entrance are the remains of some stone paving slabs and tombstones. In the south transept is a stone walled coffin embedded in the ground. There are the remains of some floor tiles in the cloisters near the chapter house. There are a few low walls, great for scrambling on by the grandchildren.

On a sunny day this is delightful place to visit.

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