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Hirst Priory is an attractive early to mid 18th Century country house in the parish of Belton on the Isle of Axholme. It is set within its own grounds in the North Lincolnshire countryside. It was built upon the site of a 12th-century Augustinian priory, (Hyrst Priory) from which it takes its name.
Up until the early 1990s, Hirst Priory had been a family residence, firstly built for the Stovin family, and extended by their relatives, the Listers, in the 19th Century. In 1903, the property was sold and occupied by D. Stubley, who bought it in 1903 for the princely sum of £18,000. In the early 1990s, Hirst Priory was bought by a development group with a view to developing the site in to a hotel and leisure complex; these plans did not bear fruit and the house was left for the most part empty.
In 2014, Hirst Priory was converted to a wedding and events venue with renovation work carried out to ensure the preservation of the Grade II listed building.
Hirst Priory Structure
Hirst Priory is a red brick built structure consisting of a part subterranean basement, ground floor, first floor and second floor loft space which served as servants quarters. The house was built in two stages, with the older of the two parts containing a partially subterranean brick vaulted basement. The extension added in the 19th Century also has a basement area of more standard box shaped dimensions but equally fascinating with a hand wheel water pump still in place and an end room with barred windows and reinforced door, reputed to have served as a temporary holding cell for the local magistrates pleasure.
All the rooms including loft and the later basement extension have open hearths. The north west first floor corner room includes a bread oven alongside the fireplace. Under the courtyard at the West side of the building is a large vaulted and vented brick storage area, most likely used for keeping fuel stores dry.
The building is only accessible via stepped entrances to ensure the ground floor is well above any potential flood level.
Transformation of Hirst Priory to a Wedding and Events Venue
Alterations in 2014 were largely carried out to the ground floor with two main rooms being knocked through to create an approx. 220m2 function space and alteration to a washing room, cupboard and existing toilet in order to create suitable guest toilet facilities. A second wall was also knocked through and a floating floor added to create level access to a new bar area. The use of a floating ensured no damage was done to the existing wood panelling, doorframe and windows. Great care had to be taken to protect theI intricate grade II listed coving around the ceilings during the building works.
Owners & Occupiers of Hirst Priory
- Nigel d Albini (Son was Roger de Mowbray) Granted by William the Conqueror
- Canons of St Oswald at Nostel Priory 1540 - At dissolution Hirst Priory granted to:
- John Earl of Warren
- William Breton of London Breton
- Alexander Bannister of Epworth
- Sir Peter Ewer.
- Thomas Brewer
- Settled it upon his daughter and her heirs male, Upon her marriage with John Taylor of Newland in Yorkshire near Rawcliffe; - Passed through family
- Richard Taylor
- Jonathan Stovin of Tetley (b. Abt 1705, d. 1759)
- 1759 - Cornelius Stovin, died 1814 (b. 1738, d 1814) - son
- 1814 - Cornelius Hartshorn Stovin, (b. 1798, d 1845) - son
- 1845 - Anna Maria Stovin (born 1772, d 1847) – sister
- 1847 - James Lister (born 1777, d. 1866) – cousin
- 1866 - George Spofforth Lister (born 1811, d. 1903) - son
- 1903 – D. Stubley (died 1934)
- 1847 – 1866, George Spofforth Lister
- 1869(?) – 1886, Thomas Harsley Carnochan – a solicitor in Crowle.
- 1903 – 1934, D. Stubley – existing tenant at time of purchase.
Hirst Priory Heritage
"Hirst or Hyrst Priory, site of Augustinian Priory cell dependant on Nostell, founded by Nigel d'Albini early 12th cent. Not conventual, probably for 1 or 2 canons supervising estate of Nostell, dissolved c. 1540. (VCH Lincs,163; Knowles and Hadcock 1971, 141,160; Owen 1971,149). Rectangular moat and buildings shown on "ancient map" (Stonehouse 1839, 353) and OS 1in. 1st Ed. 1824. "The moat is still perfect on the NE and W, and inclosed about half an acre of ground, an old barbary tree marks the place where the chapel stood; and at a short distance is the holy pond, which seems to have been a well dug to some small spring, which was descended by a few steps, of these there are some remains"(Stonehouse, 1839, 352-3).
Present building is Georgian-Victorian, part of the moat survives, 1975, - possibly altered by later landscaping. 
Hirst Augustinian cell. Founded before 1135, dissolved 1539. Dependent on Nostell. The priory or cell of St Mary was built as a dependency of Nostell by Nigel D'Albini, apparently in the reign of Henry I (Dugdale's Monasticon). The canon in charge may have had 2 companions at first, to comply with the regulations; but from the 14th century there was probably only one canon with 1 - 2 servants, supervising the estate of Nostell. 
North Lincolnshire Heritage Environment Record
'The little cell of Hyrst in Axholme was built on lands granted by Nigel d'Albini to the prior and convent of St. Oswald's, Nostell, probably early in the twelfth century. Roger de
Mowbray confirmed the gifts of his father. It seems probable that there never was but one canon living there, to take charge of the lands; the charter of Nigel speaks of 'Ralf the
Canon' being resident there, and the charter of Roger names 'Osbert Silvanus the Canon.'
The property consisted only of the grove and marsh of Hyrst, with certain tithes of corn, malt, and fish from the neighbourhood. In 1534 it still belonged to St. Oswald's
Priory, and was worth £7 11s. 8d. a year; in the Ministers' Accounts the value is said to be £9 8s.
There is a seal of the twelfth or early thirteenth century. The obverse is pointed oval representing the Virgin seated on a throne, with nimbus, in the right hand the Child, in the left hand a sceptre fleur-de-lys. The reverse is a small oval signet or counter seal representing Athena Nikephoros, to the rightfrom an oval Greek gem.' 
Two arms of a potential moat were shown as earthworks on the Ordnance Survey 25" first edition map of 1887. They were located to the north and east of Hirst Priory house, and
had garden pathways within the ditches. 
'Hirst' was shown on Armstrong's map of Lincolnshire, published in 1778. A house was depicted within a rectangular moat, with entrances to the south and west. 
- Loughlin, N and Miller, KR, 1979, A Survey of Archaeological Sites in Humberside, 152 (BOOK). SLS523.
- D Knowles and R N Hadcock, 1971, Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales, 141, 160 (BOOK). SLS2918.
- CUAC, 1969, Untitled Source (AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH). SLS593.
- CUAC, 1969, Untitled Source (AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH). SLS592.
- Page, William (Ed), 1906, Victoria County History, (VCH) Lincolnshire Volume II, 163 (BOOK). SLS3042.
- Ordnance Survey, 1886-88, OS 25 inch series 1st edition Lincolnshire, 17/07 (OS MAP). SLS1439.
- Andrew Armstrong, 1778, Map of Lincolnshire (MAP DISTRIBUTION). SLS7037.
Hirst Priory Listing
Briefly the listing designation describes the property as a small country house, built early-mid C18 for Richard Taylor or Jonathan Stovin, with later C18 alterations for Cornelius Stovin; substantial alterations and additions of mid C19 for George Lister, including new west wing, remodelling north and south fronts, new balcony to south.
The house stands in a partly moated enclosure, on or near the site of an Augustinian cell of Nostell Priory, founded in the early C12 and dissolved c1540.
- N Pevsner and J Harris, The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire, 1978, p 224;
- W Read, History of the Isle of Axholme, 1858, pp 360-2;
- N Loughlin and K Miller, A Survey of Archaeological Sites in Humberside, 1979, p 152.