We may now think of staff at heritage sites being managers, but in the days of the Ministry they were clearly seen as Custodians (see also Sweetheart Abbey). Three signs at Dumbarton Castle on the north side of the Clyde retain the old terminology. Notice the omission of the apostrophe in one of the signs, as well as the different styles of arrow directing visitors to where they can obtain tickets. There is also the inclusion of the polite, ‘Please obtain …’.
Outside the present ticket office is a slightly more recent sign, reflecting the way that the custodian’s office is not only where tickets can be obtained, but where other items can now be purchased.
The original custodian’s hut at Furness Abbey was located on the side of the road to the north of the abbey church. The present English Heritage guidebook by Stuart Harrison and Jason Wood (1998 [rev. reprint 2015]) notes: ‘The wooden shed just inside the northern perimeter fence was the custodian’s hut in Victorian times. Though small, it has its own fireplace and chimney.’
Guidebooks to the site were produced from 1845, reflecting the growing interest in the abbey as a tourist attraction. The abbey was cleared of vegetation in the 1880s making it more accessible to the public.
Furness Abbey was placed in State Guardianship in 1923.
The abbey itself was founded at the present site in 1127 by the Savignac Order. The original location was at Tulketh near Preston that was established in 1123. This order merged with the Cistercians in 1147, and Furness adopted the change shortly afterwards.
The Custodian’s Office at Sweetheart Abbey is still designated by the Ministry sign (and there are traces of an earlier sign beneath the Historic Scotland prices sign). It provides good visibility over the abbey precinct. The present custodian provides a warm and friendly welcome.