Thornton Abbey is only a 15 minute car journey away from where I live. I used to love visiting there when I was a child. It lies in ruins today, but the gatehouse is still intact. On the last Sunday of every month, the doors to the gatehouse would be opened for the public to go inside and explore.
Now for a little history.. Thornton Abbey was a medieval abbey located close to the small North Lincolnshire village of Thornton.
It was founded as a priory in 1139 by William le Gros, the Earl of Yorkshire, and raised to the status of abbey in 1148. It was a house for Augustinian or black canons, who lived a communal life under the Rule of St Augustine.
The abbey was closed in 1539 by Henry The Eighth as part of the ‘Dissolution of the monesteries’. Thornton was a wealthy and prestigious house valued at the dissolution at the considerable sum of £591 0s 2¾d. It managed to survive by becoming a secular college, until it was closed in 1547.
I always thought the abbey had to be haunted! Although I’ve been there many times and not experienced anything paranormal.
It is said that the abbey is haunted by Thomas de Greetham who was the 14th Abbot of Thornton. He was said to have been a practitioner of the black arts and a dabbler in witchcraft. His crimes against the church didn’t go unpunished.
He was taken to a dark room in the depths of the monastery where he was bricked up alive and left to die alone in the darkness.
A few years ago, his skeleton was found in a little bricked up room along with a book and a candle stick. Imagine that the lack of oxygen didn’t kill him and he had to wait to die of thirst. I bet it was upsetting when the candle burned down to the wick and he had no light left to read.
His apparition has been seen around the grounds of Thornton Abbey or standing in the shadowy corners of the towering gatehouse, where it is not difficult to imagine that dark forces are hard at work.
Ghostly monks and abbots are to be expected and there are a lot of local people who have seen parades of ghostly monks walking around the grounds of the Abbey.
Some people have seen other ghostly shapes that didn’t quite fit in with the history such as ghost children and women in white. It wasn’t until 2013 that these ghostly sightings could be explained.
Archaeological work by the University of Sheffield began in 2011. In 2013, excavations of a natural mound to the south of the inner precinct wall identified a feature that turned out to be a mass grave. In 2016, DNA was successfully extracted and it tested positive for Yersinia pestis which is the bacterium responsible for the plague.
Thornton Abbey was home to a plague pit! All those times as a kid I explored the grounds, completely unaware that beneath my feet was the remains of plague victims.
I only recently learned about the archaeological dig. It’s been years since I visited Thornton Abbey, so as soon as it opens again, I’m definitely going back!