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The best preserved standing remains of Thornton Abbey are of its gatehouse and somewhat later barbican. The gatehouse is a three storey structure built largely of brick with magnesian limestone and more local ironstone ashlar dressings and decorative details. It was probably begun in 1377, replacing an earlier gatehouse on approximately the same site; the licence to crenellate granted in 1382 probably marks its completion. It appears originally to have had an administrative function, perhaps contained the Abbot's exchequer and courthouse. Its survival despite the demolition suffered by the rest of the abbey probably reflects its later use as a gatehouse for post-dissolution residences, including Sir Vincent Skinner's short-lived house built in about 1607 (record 1501692). Three floors were built above a central gate-passage. The first housed a great hall. The second and third contained a complex of pasages and rooms. The gatehouse underneath is vaulted at the rear to two oak gates, probably original. The front of the gatehouse is richly ornamented but has lost most of its battlements on which originally stood statues of men-at-arms and artisans. Approaching the gatehouse from the front is a barbican consisting of two parallel brick walls 38 metres long and ending in round turrets, flanked by projecting arms of the moat. This was added to the gatehouse, probably not long after its completion (although there has been prolonged debate on this point), and is not perpendicular to the main building, being aligned on the approach from Thornton village. Wing-walls, added by 1389, flank the gatehouse to the north and south. The building's roof and floors were replaced by Lord Yarborough in the 1830s; it is now in the care of English Heritage.

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