Tuesday 5 April 2011

What Might Have Been - The Whalley Abbey Vestments at Towneley Hall, Burnley

Founded in 1296 and dissolved by Henry VIII in 1537, Whalley Abbey was the Locus Benedictus of around 60 Cistercian Monks, founded on the banks of the River Calder. Today, the gatehouse and ruins remain...and some fabulous, well-preserved embroideries.

Brought to Towneley Hall for safe-keeping by Sir John Towneley (1473-1541), a chasuble, maniple and dalmatic can be seen there today. A second, matching dalmatic is in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow.
These magnificent embroideries are, astonishingly, the only surviving complete set of medieval English High Mass vestments. The gaze of past glory is now a blink, but such a dazzling blink - one can only begin to imagine what might have been had the power holders of history chosen a different course. Click here for more details of Towneley Hall. It is a set in a wonderful green space close to the densely-packed, old cotton mill towns of Lancashire and only a stone's throw from Gawthorpe Hall at Paddiham, home of the Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth Textile Collection.


  1. They are beautiful. And what wonderful colour they still have. They remind me of Stained Glass Windows of the Medieval period.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. Many thanks for this - I'll be in that part of the world next month, and it will be great to have somewhere to visit along with Gawthorpe!

  3. Still more incentive for a visit to the Padiham area...