Cockersand Abbey, Lancashire Genealogy

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Parish History

Cockersand Abbey is a former abbey near Cockerham in the City of Lancaster district of Lancashire, England. It was founded before 1184 as the Hospital of St Mary on the marsh belonging to Leicester Abbey. It was refounded as a Premonstratensian priory and subsequently elevated to an abbey in 1192. It also continued as a hospital.

The abbey was dissolved in 1539 and acquired by a John Kitchen. The site is now adjacent to a farm house and the only significant relic is the still intact, vaulted chapter house which was built in 1230 and used as a family mausoleum by the Daltons of Thurnham Hall during the 18th and 19th centuries. There are some fragmentaryy remains of the church adjacent.

The chapter house is a Grade I listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument. In 2007 English Heritage made an £80,000 grant to the owner to help preserve the building. There is no public access to the chapter house.

Two Roman silver statuettes were discovered on Cockersand Moss near the abbey site in 1718, possibly indicating the presence of a Romano-British shrine nearby.

Since Cokersand Abbey is an extra parochial place it is necessary to search Cockerham,_Lancashire Overton,_Lancashire records for events.

COCKERSAND-ABBEY, an extra-parochial liberty, in the union of Lancaster, hundred of Lonsdale south of the Sands, N. division of the county of Lancaster, 7 miles (S. W. by S.) from Lancaster. The earliest notice connected with the celebrated abbey of Cockersand, appears to be in the charter of William de Lancaster, who granted to Hugh, a hermit, certain lands and his fishery upon the Lune, to maintain an hospital. This was followed by other grants; and Theobald Walter, among other donors, gave to the hospital the moss of Pilling. A grant was subsequently obtained from the abbey at Leicester, and in 1190 Pope Clement III. elevated the house into a monastery, as the abbey of St. Mary, of the Præmonstratensian order, of Cockersand. The numerous grants which followed extended its possessions very widely, and in point of revenue it ranked the third among the religious houses of Lancashire; yet in a petition, 2nd Richard II., for a confirmation of their charters, the monks style themselves "the king's poor chaplains," and "pray for a consideration of their poverty, and that they are daily exposed to the perils of drowning and destruction by the sea." On the Dissolution the site was leased by the crown, and afterwards became possessed by various families, among whom, in the reign of Philip and Mary, were the Daltons, to which family it continues to belong. The ruins of the abbey stand on a neck of land which projects into the sea on the sands of Cocker. Originally the buildings covered nearly an acre of land, but the octagonal chapter-house, 30 feet in diameter, used for the burial-place of the Daltons, alone remains; and the windows of even this small portion no longer retain their glass: a finely clustered column in the centre of the interior supports moulded arches resting upon smaller columns of the angles. The area of the ruins is strewed with parts of walls, massive stones, and obliterated ornaments. The site is a rock of red friable freestone, which might once have fortified it against the encroachments of the sea, but which is now often beaten against by the fury of the tides, and the bones of the cemetery washed away.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis (1848), pp. 647-654. URL: Date accessed: 29 June 2010.


Civil Registration

Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.

Online index of Lancashire Births, Marriages and Deaths Lancashire_BMD

Lancashire Online Parish Clerks

An extremely useful resource for research in Lancashire Parishes

Church records

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Census records

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Poor Law Unions


Probate records

Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Lancashire Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.

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  • Anthony New. A Guide to the Abbeys of England And Wales, pp. 116–117. Constable.
  • Houses of Premonstratensian canons: The abbey of Cockersand, A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 2 (1908), pp. 154–59.

Web sites

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