Lanercost Priory

Lanercost Priory

Dedicated To Mary Magdalene

Lanercost Priory was founded by Robert de Vaux between 1165 and 1174, the most likely date being 1169, to house Augustinian Canons. It is situated at the village of Lanercost, Cumbria, England, within sight of Naworth Castle, with which it long had close connections. It is now open to the public and in the guardianship of English Heritage.

The foundation date was traditionally 1169, but can only be dated definitely between 1165 and 1174 on the evidence of charters. The dedication is to St. Mary Magdalene; unusual in the region.

It would seem the arrangements for founding the Priory were well advanced by the time of the foundation charter, as opposed to the more gradual process at Wetheral and St. Bees. Robert de Vaux gave the land of Lanercost:

Between the ancient wall and the Irthing and between Burth and Poltros, the vill of Walton by stated bounds, the church of that vill with the chapel of ‘Treverman,’ the churches of Irthington, Brampton, Carlaton and Farlam.

The charter of foundation states that the benefaction was made for the sake of Henry II, and for the health of the souls of his father Hubert and his mother Grace. Soon after the foundation of the house, Robert de Vaux granted to the canons the right of free election, so that when the lord prior died the person on whom the choice of the canons or the greater part of them fell should be elected in his place.

The bulk of the church building dates from the late 13th century, though there is evidence of earlier work. The Priory buildings were constructed, at least in part, from stones derived from Hadrian’s Wall, including a number of Roman inscriptions that were built into its fabric.

Lanercost Priory was dissolved in 1538 by Henry VIII, and the conventual buildings were stripped of their roofs, excepting the church building which continued in use as the parish church. In the late 17th century, as the Nave deteriorated, the congregation used just the north aisle which had been re-roofed.

In 1747, the nave was re-roofed, but by 1847 the Priory was in a state of disrepair to the extent that the east end roof collapsed. However, by 1849, The church was in use again after a major restoration by Anthony Salvin. In the 1870’s, there was further restoration by the Carlisle architect C. J. Ferguson.

At the Dissolution, ownership had passed to the Dacre family, and then in the early 18th century to the Howards. In 1929, The Priory ruins were put into public ownership, and today they are managed by English Heritage.

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