Furness Abbey was once home to one of the richest and most powerful monastic houses in northern England. The Cistercian monks who occupied it from the middle of the twelfth century controlled huge tracts of land in Cumbria, including that of Piel Island. Among the striking red sandstone ruins that stand today are parts of the church’s east end and west tower, the cloister buildings and the chapter house.
In 2012, during work to stop the ruins from sinking, a medieval crozier was discovered in an abbot’s grave – the first such item to be excavated in Britain in more than 50 years. Archaeologists regard the find, now on display in the abbey museum along with other grave items, as particularly unusual because it had eluded the detection of thieves and antiquarians since Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.