Cartmel Priory

photo by Andy Hawkins

Dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin and Saint Michael and built for the Augustinian Canons by William Marshall, later to be known as the first Earl of Pembroke, Cartmel Priory, in Cartmel, Cumbria dates back to 1190.

In the twenty years starting 1327 a chapel was provided by Lord Harrington, whose tomb is still located in the building and the gatehouse, which aside from the church itself, is the only remaining structure of the priory, was built between 1330 and 40.

During the fifteenth century extensive refurbishment was carried out due to damage, caused by natural events, to the north part of the church. Massive stained glass windows replaced lancet windows at the easterly end of the church, misericords were put in place in the choir and an extension was added to the tower, which is a feature judged to be unique in England, in that it sits at a forty five degree to the base. The choir screen was built in the sixteeenth century.

Also in the sixteenth century the priory was dissolved under the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 with four monks hanged together with ten supporters from the village. It would have been standard practice at this time to level the church as well as other buildings connected to the priory, but the intervention of the founder, William Marshall saved it. He had provided an alter within the church to the village and a priest to go with it. As the villagers rightly said it was their only place of worship they were allowed to keep it.

That said, they were not able to keep the lead from being stripped from the nave and it wasn’t until 1618 that George Preston of nearby Holker Hall donated extensive finance allowing the roof to be reinstated, and in turn enabling the villagers to worship in the nave again rather than the choir. Later in the century Roundhead troops stayed in the village using the church for stabling their horses.

Following the dissolution the building has served both as a prison and later as a grammar school.
Further restoration was undertaken to the church in eighteen thirty and in the early nineteen hundreds the gatehouse became a museum before being donated to the Natural Trust who continue to run it as the Cartmel Priory Gatehouse.

Source: Wikipedia – under the GNU Free Doc Licence