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Cistercian Abbeys: CALDER

Name: CALDER Location: Calder Bridge County: Cumbria
Foundation: 1135 Mother house: Furness
Relocation: (resettlement) 1143 Founder: Ranulf II (de Gernon), earl of Chester
Dissolution: 1536 Prominent members:
Access: Private property – no access

Calder Abbey presbytery and south transept
© Stuart Harrison
<click to enlarge>
Calder Abbey presbytery and south transept

Calder was established in 1135 by Ranulf de Gernon, earl of Chester, and is the third house in the county which owes its origin to this famous family.(1) The house was colonised by monks from the Savigniac house of Furness but was the victim of the Scottish military campaigns in the north of England, following the death of Henry I in 1135. The desolate monks sought refuge at Furness but were refused entry. Eventually the monks of Calder, under the protection of Thurstan, archbishop of York, were settled at Byland.
A second colony of monks was sent to Calder from Furness in or about 1143, under the leadership of Abbot Hardred. This time the settlement was successful, although the community remained poor.(2) Calder, along with all the other Savigniac houses, was transferred to the Cistercian Order in 1147. The number of monks probably never increased above the original thirteen, and by 1381 there were only four monks and three lay-brothers.(3)

The house was suppressed along with all the lesser monasteries in 1536, with a clear annual income just over £50, and a community of nine monks.(4) At the time of the Dissolution, the house was acquired by the royal commissioner, Thomas Leigh, and parts of the house were adapted for occupation.(5) The remains include part of the tower, now some 64 ft high, and the west doorway, with some of the chancel and transept; they are, however, unsafe and have to be viewed from the road or footpath.
The ruins stand in the grounds of an eighteenth-century private house, and may be visited by prior arrangement with the owner.