How Monks and Lay Brothers Lived
The Restoration in the 1920s  and 1930s
This set of pictures was loaned to Bill Myers for copying by Joe Taylor of Market Street, Dalton, and were found during a house clearance in Market Street many years ago. They feature major reconstruction work on Furness Abbey in the period 1927 to 1930 and look to have been professionally taken by someone linked to the work – sadly we have no idea who that was. The scanned pictures are in the order they were presented to Bill Myers, picture first, and followed by the reverse inked details (where there were any).

“It seems from the pictures that the walls of the North Transept were most in need of concrete reinforcement. In some cases the walls had major cracks in the centuries old stone blocks. Joe Taylor said Furness Abbey was built on a raft of bog oak which over centuries sets hard and black like coal. He could recall working for a Dalton teacher who had a few little black terrier dogs carved from sections of oak from the abbey footings. The reconstruction work on the abbey’s foundations, column bases and stone tracery made use of scaffolding which was very different to that seen today.

Joe Taylor, an ex- Norweb worker, said the abbey workmen would stand on a scaffold of wood tied together with ropes - nails and screws were avoided as it would weaken timbers which would be taken down after the job was completed and used elsewhere. The main weight-bearing upright timbers of the scaffolding were square-section larch posts of huge size which were placed in large barrels filled with sand to provide stability. Everything was done with wheels, pulleys and timber. The scaffolding was all roped together, not nailed. It would all be used again and again.”

Bill Myers writing on “Saving our abbey from falling down” Love Memories 16th January 2010.

The author has been given permission from Joe Taylor and Bill Myers to allow the photographs to be included in this eBook..
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The Restoration of the Abbey

When Mrs Anne Bowyer saw some of these photographs in the Evening Mail, she was prompted to send the following pictures to Bill Myers. Both her father and grandfather were stone masons working at Furness Abbey during the restoration work mentioned above. Over the years the two sets of photographs belonging to the same collection were separated.

Mrs. Bowyer’s grandfather, Robert Caine, of Rawlinson Street, Dalton, was stone mason foreman at the abbey, employed by the Ministry of Works. His son, John lived in Market Street, and worked at the abbey until he retired.

Both John and Robert met the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) when the Duchess came with the Duke to launch T.S.S.Strathmore in 1935.

By Courtesy of Mrs. Anne Bowyer.

In pictures 5 and 5b Robert Caine is in the centre of the group.
In picture 5c John is second from the left and Robert is 4th from the left.
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Preparatory work to underpin the north transept 1931
In this picture John is second from left and Robert is 4th from left
Lay brothers’ night stairs (through arch) leading to remains of lay brothers’ dormitories.  (The Belfry Tower is on the right.)
Lay brothers’ night stairs leading to remains of lay brothers’ dormitories.