My Favourite History Place: Sawley Abbey

Historian feature

By Steve Illingworth, published 24th November 2022

Sawley Abbey

Steve Illingworth highlights the importance of a remote Lancashire ruin which might have changed the course of history.

Sawley Abbey in east Lancashire can appear to be an unassuming and insignificant place at first sight. Its main attraction appears to be aesthetic, with the Cistercian abbey being surrounded by fields and hills in a quiet spot in the picturesque Ribble Valley. People with an interest in history are more likely to visit the larger and better-preserved Whalley Abbey seven miles away or to explore the popular castles at Skipton, 15 miles to the east, or Clitheroe, five miles to the west.

Sawley Abbey sits in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where the execution of nine local people for witchcraft in 1612 has attracted lots of attention from both historians and novelists for several centuries. In Sawley itself though, it is unusual to see more than a handful of visitors when visiting the site, despite it being located less than a mile from the main A59 road...

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