FURNESS ABBEY’S POISONED CHALICE
Furness Abbey’s poisoned chalice.
In the year 1351 a certain abbot lived at Furness Abbey in the Vale of the Deadly Nightshade. He was the head of the monastery and was called Abbot Lawrence. Most of the monks under his charge were holy and kept their vows and the rule to pray and work. However there were three monks who were jealous of the abbot’s great power. They each wanted to be abbot and decided the only way to fulfil this ambition was to remove him from his great office and dispatch him into eternity -
The plan was as follows: -
This is what actually happened. Abbot Lawrence on that fateful day, clothed himself in his priestly vestments ready to celebrate Mass. He was assisted by Brother Andrew who placed poison in the chalice and mixed it with communion wine. The abbot drank of the poisoned chalice and became extremely ill. In incredible pain he left the church and made his way to his own room. Brother John then brought him some poisoned porridge and more poisoned wine.
The poor abbot was a saintly man and was of course not expecting to be poisoned by any of his own monks, and he innocently ate the food and drank the wine. In the throes of horrendous agony he suffered a terrible death.
Following this crime the three murderers fled never to be seen or heard of again. Their ambition for one of them to become abbot was never going to happen and their abbot was dead.
The body of the abbot was discovered and an inquest was held at Furness Abbey. Twelve jurors declared under oath that Abbot Lawrence had been murdered by poison and that his three murderers were Brother Andrew, Brother Wilfred and Brother John – monks who had lived at the abbey in the Vale of the Deadly Nightshade.
Based on the account from the Furness Abbey Coucher Book Volume 2 part 3
A longer version of the story by Alice Leach is stored in Cumbria Record Office.