Cartmel Priory

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Cartmel Priory
Cartmel Priory, geograph.jpg
Cartmel Priory is located in Cumbria
Cartmel Priory
Location within Cumbria
Monastery information
Full name Cartmel Priory
Other names St Mary the Virgin & St Michael
Order Augustinian
Established 1190
Disestablished 1536
Diocese Carlisle
Founder(s) William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke.
Location Cartmel,
Coordinates 54°12′4″N 2°57′8″W / 54.20111°N 2.95222°W / 54.20111; -2.95222
Visible remains Church still used as parish church, gatehouse nearby.
Public access Yes

Cartmel Priory church serves as the parish church of Cartmel, Cumbria (formerly in Lancashire). The priory was founded in 1190 by William Marshal, created 1st Earl of Pembroke, intended for the Augustinian Canons and dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin and Saint Michael. To support the new house William granted it the whole fief of the district of Cartmel.[1] It was first colonised by a prior and twelve monks from Bradenstoke Priory in Wiltshire.[2] The only other surviving monastic building is the gatehouse which faces the village square. The church is an active Anglican parish church in the deanery of Windermere, the archdeaconry of Westmorland and Furness, and the diocese of Carlisle. Its benefice is united with those of St Mary, Allithwiate, St Peter, Field Broughton, St John the Baptist, Flookburgh, St Paul, Grange-over-Sands, Grange Fell Church, Grange-Over-Sands, and St Paul, Lindale, to form the benefice of Cartmel Peninsula.[3] The church is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building.[4]

14th century[edit]

Between 1327 and 1347 a chapel with four traceried windows was provided by Lord Harrington in the south choir aisle, and in fact his tomb is still in the building. The gatehouse, which apart from the church itself is the only surviving structure of the priory, was built between 1330 and 1340.

15th and 16th centuries[edit]

In the 15th century extensive work was undertaken, in part due to damage (believed to be from natural causes) in the northern part of the church. In the east end of the church, the early lancet windows were replaced by one huge window of stained glass, misericords were installed in the choir, and the tower was extended. Unusually, the extension to the tower sits at a 45-degree angle to the base on which it sits, a feature believed to be unique in England. Work on the building continued intermittently into the 16th century, when the choir screen was constructed.


The 25 misericords date from 1440, and are of an exceptional quality, they also include a representation of the Green man which may follow the legend[citation needed] of the priory's foundation.


The priory was dissolved in 1536, and four of the monks were hanged, along with ten villagers who had supported them in connection with the Pilgrimage of Grace.

In normal circumstances, the church would have been demolished along with the rest of the buildings associated with the priory, however, the founder William Marshal had given an altar within the church to the village, and provided a priest along with it. The villagers petitioned to be allowed to keep the church as it was their only place of worship, and this was granted.

17th century[edit]

However, despite the villagers' being allowed to keep the church, the lead was stripped from the nave, and until 1618 when George Preston, a landowner at nearby Holker Hall, provided considerable finances to allow the roof to be reinstated, the villagers actually worshipped in the choir, rather than the nave of the church. In 1643 some Roundhead troops stayed in the village, stabling their horses in the church. Bullet holes from this time are still visible in the southwest door of the nave.

It was used after the dissolution as a prison and later between 1624 and 1790 as a grammar school.

19th and 20th centuries[edit]

By 1830 the church was in need of repair again, and underwent a restoration, which has been described in the Edge Guide[5] as "more enthusiastic than sympathetic". A further restoration was carried out in 1867 by [E. G. Paley]]. This included stripping the walls of plaster, removing the galleries, adding new seating, an organ, a font, a pulpit, and a reading desk.[6]

In 1923 the gatehouse became a museum, and was used for exhibitions, and meetings, before being presented in 1946 to the National Trust who continue to operate it as the "Cartmel Priory Gatehouse".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "British History Online: The Priory of Cartmel". Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "English Priories – Cartmel Priory". The Heritage Trail. Retrieved 21 March 2009. 
  3. ^ St Mary & St Michael, Cartmel, Church of England, retrieved 18 November 2011 
  4. ^ Historic England. "Priory Church of St Mary, Cartmel (1335798)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Edge Guide: "Cartmel Pruiory"
  6. ^ Brandwood, Geoff; Austin, Tim; Hughes, John; Price, James (2012), The Architecture of Sharpe, Paley and Austin, Swindon: English Heritage, p. 222, ISBN 978-1-84802-049-8 

External links[edit]

Official website