Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Lanercost Priory

Lanercost Priory, Cumberland. West Front, from Priory Gateway

Postcard produced by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works.  The handwritten note on the back gives a date of 7 July 1973.  A year later than this there was a local government reorganisation which swept away the name and county of Cumberland, it, together with Westmorland, the Furness area of Lancashire and part of eastern Yorkshire became the county of Cumbria. Of course this is only a government designation and those individual parts of Cumbria still retain their different identities. The Ministry of Public Buildings also no longer exists

I have visited this priory a quite few times, it lies 2 miles NE of Brampton near Carlisle. It is a little gem which never seems to be visited in any numbers so on a sunny day it is a peaceful haven to wander around. The postcard writer tells us that he "called here on our way home from Alnmouth, the sun came out after a heavy shower".  This is a natural mid journey stopping off point if you are travelling from the north east coast over to the north west.

This Augustinian priory has had a turbulent history for it is located in an area that the Scots and the English fought over for centuries.  The Priory of St Mary Magdalene at Lancercost was founded in about 1166 by Robert de Vaux.  Its position 400 yards from Hadrian's Wall meant that during the Scottish wars of the 13th and 14th centuries Lanercost was raided many times. The first raid came in 1280, shortly after Edward I and Queen Eleanor had been staying there, this was followed by another in 1296 when the cloisters were burnt down.  In 1306 Edward I had returned and laid six months mortally ill (which put the priory under great financial strain) and moved to Burgh on Sands on the Solway to die. The worst attack was to come in 1346 when an armed force under King David II of Scotland  wasted the monastery's lands, ransacked the buildings and damaged the church.  These must have been some tough monks for after each raid the priory was re-occupied and rebuilt and the community even produced its own chronicle history of England.

Lanercost's troubles were not over with the passing of time for when Henry VIII broke with the church of Rome and started the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 and suppressed the smaller houses (including this priory) it seems that the canons became involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace (a protest about the dissolution).  Henry sent the Duke of Norfolk north to Lanercost "without pitie or circumstance to cause all the canons that be in anywise faultie to be hanged without further delaye". Nothing is know of the fate of the canons but the priory was finally dissolved in 1537.

The church is well preserved, for although after the dissolution it stood empty for two centuries, in 1740 the nave was sealed off from the rest of the church, re-roofed and once more used.  Last weekend they held their annual music festival.

No comments: