The City of

Historic Buildings

Visitor Attractions
Villages and

Prehistoric Sites

Map & satellite


OS Grid ref:- SD776465

Sawley, situated on the River Ribble, lies to the north-east of Clitheroe. The name means the place where the willow grows.

Sawley Abbey, or Salley Abbey, was founded in 1147 by the Abbot Benedict, twelve monks and ten Cistercian lay brothers from Newminster Abbey in Northumberland and dedicated to St Mary and St Andrew. Initially the abbey was housed in a timber building provided by William de Percy, the son of Alan Percy, in 1147-8, which was replaced in stone in the 1150s.


Sawley Abbey was disolved in 1536, at the suppression there were 21 monks and 37 servants living at the abbey. Thomas Bolton was abbot of Sawley in 1536 when the Abbey was suppressed and he was succeeded by Abbot William Trafford, the son of an old Lancashire family, under whom several of the monks returned and took part in the ill fated Pilgrimage of Grace, which evoked a furious response from the implacable Henry VIII.

Much of the what remains of the buildings to the present day are little more than foundations, with only some of the abbey church walls standing to any height. The remains demonstrate the usual layout with a church running east-west, forming the north range of the cloister. A well preserved part of the monk's night stairs to their dormitory can be seen in a corner of the south transept of the church.

The cellars of the local pub, the Spread Eagle Hotel, are monastic in origin. The building boasts oak beamed ceilings and flagged floors and was once an old coaching inn. The pub serves food and offers accommodation.

The Peel family once owned a small mill at Sawley, the fortune they amassed helped Robert Peel to a political career, he became Prime Minister early in the reign of Queen Victoria. His grandfather’s mill lay close to the river and a few remains of the building can still be seen today.

The Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is a ten minute drive from Sawley. Geographically it is part of the Pennine range and its gritstone fells and sweeping heather moorland are perfect for walks.

Nearby Places of Interest

Pendle Heritage Centre set in a range of tastefully restored Grade II Listed farm buildings and .consists of a museum, art gallery, gift shop, tea-room, an eighteenth century walled garden, cruck barn with farmyard animals and tourist information.

Whalley Abbey- founded by Henry de Lacy, third Earl of Lincoln on the 4th April 1296.

Lancaster Castle founded in the tenth century

Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park, Lancaster was commissioned by James Williamson, Baron Ashton as a tribute to his second wife, Jenny and was built between 1907 and 1909.

Butterfly House, Lancaster

Clitheroe Castle-Norman castle keep and museum, said to be one of the oldest buildings in Lancashire, and one of the smallest keeps in England,

Back to Villages