Coastline and distant chapter house at CockersandGoogle map
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Cockersand Abbey was founded as a hermitage before 1184, on a rocky outcrop on moss land near the seashore between the mouths of the River Cocker and River Lune in north Lancashire. The abbey was under the rule of the Premonstratensian order, known as the the White Canons, an order of priests living in communities modelled on the Cistercian values of austerity and seclusion. All the order’s monasteries were founded in isolated, rural locations.[1]

The abbey remains are a scheduled monument, and its Chapter House is a Grade I listed building.[1][2]


A hermit “of great perfection”, Hugh Garthe was granted marshy land at Cockersand by Hugh de Lancaster where he founded a hermitage before 1184. In 1192 it was described as a hospital[a]Medieval hospitals served different functions from modern hospitals, they were places where the sick could rest and recuperate, housed the elderly and poor in almshouses, or provided hospitality for pilgrims and travellers in lodging houses.[3] and it was dedicated to St Mary as a daughter house of Croxton Abbey, a monastery of the Premonstratensian Order.[4] in Leicestershire. In 1194 Abbot Thomas was leader of the community which was then known as “St Mary of the Marsh on the Cockersand”. A dispute over land ownership arose with the canons of Leicester that was not settled until 1204.[5]

Most of the abbey buildings were built in the early 13th century, when the abbey received gifts of land from donors in Cumberland, Westmorland and South Lancashire.[4][5] A sea wall may have been built that needed repair in 1372, when “the walls built for the preservation of its buildings were being worn away and destroyed by the waves”.[6]

At the Dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII, the abbey survived until 1539, by which time it was the third richest in Lancashire. It was occupied by 22 canons, 57 servants and five old men.[6] The abbey was sold to John Kitchen for £700 8s 6d in 1543. Kitchen’s daughter, Anne, married into the Dalton family of nearby Thurnham Hall and the abbey remained in Dalton ownership.[5][7]

Chapter house

Chapter house
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Grade I listed chapter house was converted into burial chamber for Dalton family in the mid-18th century. It is built of red sandstone rubble and has a slate roof. It was built with an octagonal plan that was squared off on the west side and now appears to be rectangle with a three-sided projection at the east. The west wall has a partially-blocked doorway with a round arch, entered via a smaller door. The three sides visible from the east have an embattled parapet and buttresses. Each has a blocked window with a pointed arch.[2]