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Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

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Apr 2007

 
 

Sun 29 Apr 2007

Shap Abbey and Keld Chapel.

We had a sunny coach drive to the village of Shap, Cumbria and stopped briefly for a comfort break. Our tour of Keld Chapel and Shap Abbey was to start here with a walk across fields to cross the line a major avenue of ancient stones. Our guide for the day was Harry Hawkins of Penrith and he has made a particular study of the Chapel and Abbey and is probably the main authority on both. Harry met us in Shap then drove to the Abbey to walk back and meet us at the Chapel. Standing by the main A6 road through the village it is difficult to remember how busy it used to be in the days before the nearby M6 was competed. Hardly a car was to be seen but in the days before the motorway it could take a long time to cross the road while waiting for a gap in the traffic.

We left the road and followed a nice grassy path across the fields to the Goggleby Stone, a huge 12 ton monolith. Centuries ago there were many more forming an avenue of stones for over a mile. Unfortunately most of the original stones have been removed for building materials. The Goggleby stone fell over in 1969 and was re-erected by Lancaster University, hence the concrete around the base.

 


First stop, the Goggleby Stone.


Keld Chapel

We soon reached the narrow lane and continued our walk to Keld Chapel. Harry met us again here and described the chequered and enigmatic history of the building. The first record of it being used as a chapel was 1675. There does not appear to be any evidence that there was a connection with the nearby Shap Abbey and it probably never was a Chantry Chapel of the Abbey. The building is simple with a large 16th window in the NE end wall. The external window construction does not match the inner, indication later modifications. It is now maintained by the National Trust and is used for one service a year at Easter. When the railway was being constucted in the mid 1800ís it was used as accommodation for the navvies.

Our tour continued with a half mile walk across fields to the Premonstrotensian Abbey. The isolation if the area is still as it was in the 12th century when the abbey was built. We were high above the valley bottom and below could see the river Lowther and soon Harry pointed out a pile of stones that indicated the position of one of the two corn mills that were associated with the Abbey. Above the ruin was the end of the mill-race which drove an overshot water wheel which was still in use in the mid 19th century. The tower of the Abbey soon appeared through the trees and we had a wonderful view down on to the ruins.


First view of the tower

   


Harry Hawkins explains life at the Abbey.


Society members at Shap Abbey

We walked along the medieval wall which marked the boundary of the Abbey Precinct. The main Church was built around 1200 and only the stabilised ruins of this part remain. However, the magnificent west tower built in around 1500 still remains. We had our lunch while sitting inside the ruins and then Harry described the chronology of the Abbey and the life of the canons that lived there. We were lucky with the weather and had sunshine most of the time.
After the tour the bus was waiting by the Abbey car park and we drove north along the A6 to Brougham Castle to see the ruins from the road and the huge earth embankments of the earlier Roman Fort of Brocavum.


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