Drawing 199: Furness Abbey

Direction of view: N

Notes: Furness Abbey is owned by English Heritage (at the time Wainwright wrote, it was the Ministry of Works), and there is an entrance fee for non members.  Best for sunlight noon – early afternoon. This sketch also appears as drawing 65 in A Furness Sketchbook: I believe it is another print from the same original

Comments: Somewhat bizarrely, I took this photo on my way to buy a new suitcase!  Sheelagh Hughes Hallett & I were bound for Tesco in Barrow, but made a day of it with coffee at Newby Bridge, and a leisurely exploration of Furness Abbey.  Although there was extensive engineering work going on to stabilise the presbytery, by good fortune this was entirely out of sight in the view sketched by AW; and, it being a quiet Monday out of school holidays, there were few people about, but bright sunshine on the buildings.  Ideal conditions!

AW writes that in medieval times, Furness Abbey was a very considerable landowner in the southern valleys of the Lake District; and indeed several place names originate in the Abbey’s landholdings, practices and influence.  Harriet Martineau, in her 1855 Complete Guide to the English Lakes, made Furness Abbey the objective of the first “tour” she recommended for visitors to the District.  She commented that “the masonry is so good that it remains, even now, firm and massive”.  She described the Abbey as standing in the depths of a glen with wooded sides: these impressions still ring true today.