Thornton Abbey


Thornton Abbey is only a few minutes drive away from Barton upon Humber. It was founded in 1139 by Sir William le Gros (who is buried here), Count of Aumale and Earl of Yorkshire, becoming an abbey in 1148 and eventually a mitred abbey in 1518. In 1264 the earlier wooden structure of the abbey was rebuilt in stone. In 1382 the Abbot of Thornton was given a licence to build a gatehouse, which still stands today. This is thought to be the earliest use of brick to survive in the county. A massive brick barbican was added to the front of the gatehouse in the 16th century. This would have once had a drawbridge at the outer end and a portcullis in the gatehouse. Henry VIII stayed at the Abbey in October 1541 with Katherin Howard to hold a meeting of the Privy Council. Thornton Abbey was dissolved on 12th December1539 by King Henry VIII and then re-founded by King Henry VIII as a college of secular cannons. Six years later the site was granted to the Bishop of Lincoln by Edward VI. During the 17th Century a stately home and farmhouse was built from stone taken from the abbey church.

 

The Chapter House ruins Thornton Abbey Gatehouse
Part of the Chapter House The Gatehouse seen from the front.
Visible foundations leading to the Chapter House The Gatehouse seen from the rear.
Visible foundations leading to the Chapter House The Gatehouse seen from the rear.

 

Presently, apart from the impressive gatehouse and barbican, only foundations and a section of the 13th century octagonal chapter house are visible. Nevertheless it is still impressive and worth a visit. The gatehouse is opened by English Heritage on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month, also the Abbey ruins and farm walks are always open with free admission.

The Abbey gatehouse is reputedly haunted by Sir Thomas de Grethem who was put on trial for lax living and found guilty. As a punishment they walled him up alive in a secret chamber in the abbey. He remained here until sometime during the 1830's when workmen found the skeleton sitting at a desk with a book, pen and ink. He may be seen wandering around the abbey ruins at night.

 

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