Our next stop after the ruins of Blenkinsopp Castle was the old priory in the village of Lanercost, just outside Brampton in Cumbria…
Status: City of Carlisle District, Cumbria (historically Cumberland), Village, England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Lanercost Priory etc
It is generally accepted that the Priory was founded by Robert de Vaux (1145 – 1190) in 1169. It is one of a number of priories in the area, including an impressive structure in the Northumbrian town of Hexham.
The main Church building is visible in the centre of the picture, a stunning building visible from miles around. To the right is the Vicarage, completed in the 13th century out of red sandstone, and part of the original Priory buildings. The building now in use as the Vicarage also has the Guest House of the old courtyard, and sits alongside a much newer building housing a cafe and visitor centre, and a Bed & Breakfast.
We had already visited a number of Castles prior to arriving in Lanercost, and they all had an important role to play in the defense of their occupants due to the volatile situation that existed between England and Scotland for centuries, from the Scottish Wars of Independence, through to the Union of the Crowns in the 16th Century.
Lanercost Priory was no exception, and its official website notes that it was damaged in 1296 by a Scottish Army who had marched South of the border, also attacking Hexham. This was followed by another attack in 1311 by none other than Robert the Bruce (1274 – 1329, the famous Scottish King who fought for independence).
The area was home to a number friars for many centuries, until Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) instigated the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, and the surrounding buildings were closed, and stripped of the lead on the roofs. The main Priory Church itself was left untouched as it was also being used as a Parish Church at the time.
Since then the building has passed through various hands, and the Church was almost out of use. A lot of the building was in a bad condition, and the congregation moved out of the main area of the Church into the North Aisle. It wasn’t until 1747 that the main Nave was reroofed and usable again, although it was separated from the far end of the building. This sadly only lasted until 1847 when the roof collapsed in again. It was eventually restored in the latter half of the 19th century and the Church was completely remodelled. The rest of the building was restored in the 20th century, and today the building has been secured. The rear of the building is still a ruin after it was segregated in 1747, however the central Nave is still in use…
Walking into the Nave, which is still used as the local Church, is absolutely stunning. You can see out of the far window, through the 1747 divide into the ruins of the rear transept crossing. You could be forgiven for thinking that nothing had ever touched this area of the Priory, as it has been brilliantly restored.
The stonework is immaculate, and the pews were altered in the 1870’s by Charles Ferguson, an architect from Carlisle.
There are a few outer buildings located next to the main Priory building, some of which still survive reasonably intact, including this area which I assume was some sort of parlour, as its partially below ground, which would be the ideal place to keep food cool.
Lanercost is an incredible place to visit, and if you are in the area exploring Hadrians Wall then it should certainly be on your list as you pass through. It was only our penultimate stop of the day, and we moved on to the small village of Banks just outside Lanercost, to join Hadrians Wall…