Blanchland Abbey

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Ecclesiastical site, and also as a Certain Pele Tower

There are uncertain remains

NameBlanchland Abbey
Alternative NamesLord Crewe Arms Hotel
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishBlanchland

Blanchland Abbey was one of approximately thirty-one abbeys of the Premonstratensian Order in Medieval England. Of these the remains of only about a dozen survive to any extent and the remains at Blanchland form one of the most complete examples. The site at Blanchland has several features which distinguish it from other monasteries of this order. In particular it has the only surviving example of a roofed Premonstratensian church and is one of only a handful where the west and south claustral ranges survive to any extent. The greatest importance of the site, however, for which it is justly famous, is the completeness with which the whole precinct plan survives and can be seen in the modern village-scape. The monastic buildings were taken over in the years after the Dissolution to make a complete village. The monastic church became the parish church, the cloisters became the manor house and the outer court became the village square surrounded by the villagers' cottages. Even today the village consists of few buildings beyond this remarkable core. The area of the of the scheduling itself contains some of the least disturbed features and deposits relating to the monastery, notably part of the church, cloisters and burial ground, which are of great importance for any analysis of the archaeology and history of this monastery and for the monastic life in the border country of northern England.

The monument comprises the site of the nave, south transept, cloister garth, east claustral range and part of the monastic graveyard of Blanchland Abbey. Remains of all these features survive beneath the modern ground surface. The later 12th/early 13th century standing cross west of the church tower is also included. The Abbey was founded for the Canons of the Order of Premontre (the Premonstratensians) by Walter de Bolbeck in 1165. Although never a very large house, it was visited by Edward III in 1327 following its burning by Scots raiders

The monastery was initially dissolved in 1536 only to be reformed by the King in 1537 before being finally dissolved in 1539. The site passed through secular hands and was acquired by the Forster family in the early 17th century. By this time or soon after, the cloister had become the core of the mansion, parts of which survive today as the Lord Crewe Arms Hotel (Listed Building Grade 2star). The northern and western walls of the former parish burial ground are included in this scheduling as they are considered to incorporate areas of medieval fabric. Other walls demarcating the edge of the area of the monument are not included in the scheduling. A row of buildings to the rear of the Hotel adjacent to the south boundary of the monument are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath them is included. The area of the scheduling comprises only part of the former monastic precinct. It should be noted that the following features of the abbey are not included: 1) the parish church which comprises the north transept and choir of the monastic church. 2) the present parochial graveyard east of the parish church; 3) the remains of the west and south ranges of the cloister and of buildings which originally formed four sides of the monastic outer court (including the precinct gatehouse) which have been converted in various ways into dwellings etc. 4) the village square and adjacent roads. These are all considered at present to be adequately covered by other forms of statutory protection, notably listed building legislation and conservation controls. (Scheduling Report)

Abbey Gatehouse. C15, incorporating earlier fabric, remodelled c.1753. Rubble with dressings; flat lead roof. South elevation: 2 storeys, 2 wide bays. Right bay has segmental-arched gateway, left bay has vertical-panelled door with overlight in hollow-chamfered surround with hoodmould (jambs incised T /M ) 17/24 flanked by small-paned shop windows under ogee arcbes with hoodmoulds; right window has integral V.R. letterbox. 1st floor has 6-light window with king mullion and 2-light window to right, both with hoodmoulds. Chamfered string below moulded embattled parapet. Right return shows C19 external stair to boarded door in chamfered elliptical-arched surround (1753 incised on jamb); garderobe projection on right with chamfered loop. Rear (external) elevation shows similar gateway arch with hollow chamfer; small sash windows above with hollow-chamfered surrounds and hoodmoulds. Interior: Gate passage and adjacent chamber (Post Office) both barrel-vaulted. 1st floor room in west bay is now part of adjacent house. 1st floor of gatehouse, formerly a single large chamber, may have been a court-room; chamfered doorway to garderobe. (Listed Building Report for Gatehouse)

Hotel, incorporating west cloister range of Abbey (probably abbot's lodge, guest house and kitchen). C13 and C15, remodelled mid-C18. Stone; stone slate roof. C18 parts in Gothick style. West elevation in 3 parts; to left 3-storey tower, C15 heightening in squared stone of earlier rubble fabric, with shallow garderobe projection on left; centre part is C18 stair extension, 2 storeys, 2 bays; right part, set back, 3 storeys, 2 bays. Left bay of centre part has renewed door in raised stone surround, left bay of right part an old panelled door under tall trefoiled arch of re-set medieval fragments. Tower has paired chamfered loops on ground floor, 2-light mullioned windows with hoodmoulds above, the upper with trefoiled lights; embattled C18 parapet. Centre and right parts have scattered fenestration; sash windows in tooled raised stone surrounds, 2 ogee-arched stair windows. Stepped-and-corniced ridge and right end stacks, stepped left end stack. Rear elevation similar; to left C13 moulded segmental arch of canons' lavatory, possibly re-set. Sill bands to left 3-storey part. Sash windows in stone surrounds, some ogee-arched. Tower has C13 chamfered doorway, C15 window of 3 trefoiled lights above and 2 chamfered loops (one blocked) to 2nd floor. Interior: Ground floor south room has large chamfered segmental-arched fireplace flanked by doorways with depressed arched heads, that to left re-set. Central room has similar doorway and large restored segmental-arched fireplace with smoking platform in large open stack above; late medieval moulded ceiling beams. C18 stone stair from central room up to large hall with C18 panelling and fireplaces. Tower has barrel-vaulted basement and shouldered-arched doorways. room above has chamfered doorway to garderobe (now cupboard) and old chamfered ceiling beams. After the Dissolution the range became the house of the Forster family; Thomas Forster, awaiting trial at Newgate for his part in the 1715 rebellion, escaped with the aid of his sister Dorothy and is reputed to have hidden for a time in the "priest's hole" before going into exile in France. (Listed Building Report for Lord Crewe Arms)

Blanchland Abbey (Lord Crew Hotel) NY966503 is called 'an old tower of the Forsters' (N.C.H., vi, 312, n3). It is, in fact, the W. range of the abbey buildings, and there is now no sign of any post-Dissolution fortification ( ibid., 335-6). (King 1983)

Gatehouse Comments

All monastic houses had to resolve the needs for monastic seclusion and discipline with the needs to have some links with secular society and most, therefore, had precinct walls and gates. However, as the garrison need to turn these passive defensive feature into garrisons were not present these are rarely described as fortifications. However the relatively compact circuit of Blanchland does make it a more defensible site and it certainly could have been used as a popular refuge and it such a circumstance the local population would have been able to 'garrison' the defenses. The post-Dissolution reuse of the west range of the claustral buildings as a residence is mirrored at Lanercost Priory. How defensible this house was is arguable but the third storey is certainly a post-Dissolution alteration and produces a building very similar in form and function to the usual gentry status houses of a solar chamber block and attached buildings of the C14-C15 usually called 'pele towers'.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNY964503
Latitude54.8481712341309
Longitude-2.05461001396179
Eastings396450
Northings550350
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Geldard, Ed, 2009, Northumberland Strongholds (London: Frances Lincoln) p. 95
  • Harrison, Peter, 2004, Castles of God (Woodbridge; Boydell Press) p. 67
  • Brooke, C.J., 2000, Safe Sanctuaries (Edinburgh; John Donald) p. 194-7
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 431-34
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 27
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 200 (slight)
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 89
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 356 (possible)
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 72-3
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 70
  • Knowles, D. and Hadcock, R.N. 1953, Medieval religious houses in England and Wales (London) p. 163
  • Hodgson, John Crawford (ed), 1902, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 6 p. 312-38 online copy

Journals

  • Knowles, W.H. 1902, 'The Premonstratensian Abbey of St. Nary, Blanchland, Northumberland' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 59 p. 328-41 online copy

Guide Books

  • Addleshaw, G.W.O., 1951, Blanchland A Short History (Sunderland: Vaux and Associated Breweries) online copy