AN HISTORICAL document has been uncovered which reveals details about the dissolution of a Barrow landmark.

Dr Michael Carter, English Heritage's senior properties historian, found the document relating to Furness Abbey in the National Archives.

He said: "The record is of real historic importance since the skills learned during the suppression of Furness Abbey, the largest and richest monastery in north west England, were to prove invaluable at other monasteries. The dissolution gathered pace in the months following the end of Furness.

“A major focus of religious, social and economic life in the Middle Ages, Furness Abbey remains a spectacular site and a source of local pride and identity. The ruins are every bit as impressive as those of more famous abbeys such as Rievaulx and Fountains, and they stand as vivid witness to the dramatic days outlined in the document and newly brought to light.”

The document was known to exist but a spokesman for Heritage England described it as 'hiding in plain sight.'

The documents were submitted to the newly established Court of Augmentations in late 1537. The detailed financial accounts contain clear evidence that, rather than fleeing for their lives, the monks held out for a better deal.

It imparts a nervousness about the area’s lack of loyalty to Henry VIII, whose religious reforms were far from popular locally, and remarkably the monks were allowed to remain at the abbey for several months before the work of destroying the buildings started. They were eventually given a generous cash handout to leave quietly.

Several speculators are listed as descending on the monastery from southern England, keen to make easy money. Nonetheless, many of the assets were sold locally: the ‘men of Kendal’, for instance, bought the abbey’s bells for the enormous sum of £80.

A suspiciously small amount of precious-metal altar plate was seized from the monastery, raising the question of whether the monks had already disposed of some of it before the arrival of the royal commissioners.

Dr Carter’s research completes the hunt for this elusive document which was long thought to have existed but had never previously been explored. It was searched for, but not found, 200 years ago by Thomas Alcock Beck, the antiquary whose research into the abbey remains an essential source for scholars to this day.