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Furness Abbey, Cumbria, England

Furness Abbey lies near the southernmost tip of a peninsula which is cradled by the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and Morecambe Bay on the other. Founded in 1127 as a house of the Savignac Order, the monks who lived here were commanded to merge with the Cistercian Order twenty years later.

Under the Cistercian Order, the abbey steadily expanded, increasing in wealth and prosperity. The abbey possessed most of the Furness peninsula, a total of 55,000 acres of forest and rich agricultural lands. Surrounded by Morecambe Bay and the Lakeland mountains, the abbey remained isolated until the early 14th century.

In 1322 Furness experienced a raid led by Robert the Bruce. The Abbot offered accommodation and bribes in return for immunity for the Abbey lands and dependents. The Scots accepted the hospitality and ransom money, but still sacked and pillaged the surrounding countryside and villages. An effect of this raid was the building of Piel Castle nearby and the crenellation of a number of buildings.

The development of the castle near the harbor at Piel Island improved access and trade, with the castle itself used as a fortified warehouse by the monks as a storage place for grain and wool. It was also used by the Order as a smuggling den in order to evade the high trade tariffs imposed by the King.

At the Dissolution in 1536 a faction of monks encouraged the local people to rise up in protest, but by 1537 the remaining brethren were forced to give up their monastery and its possessions to the Crown.

Next page: Inchmahome Priory.

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