Grid Ref: SD 380 787
Date: 28 June and 24 July 2011


Cartmel Priory
Cartmel Priory

The small town of Cartmel lies NW of Grange over Sands in Cumbria. Prior to 1974 it was in the Furness District of Lancashire, also known as Lancashire across the Sands. The Furness peninsula forms the north side of Morecambe Bay. The village was formerly known as Kirkby in Cartmel. Dominating the town is 11th century Cartmel Priory, which proves hard to photograph. One cannot get far enough away to have a good view of the whole structure without the line of sight being obstructed by trees as shown above. The best shots are taken from the air!

The grade I listed priory was founded in 1190 by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke. He was a man of relatively humble background who rose to prominence through military prowess both in war and in tournaments which in those days were not just jousting but battles in which men captured and ransomed opponents, their horses and armour. William Marshall's prowess was such that he beat 500 knights durimg his career. Her served Henry II, Richard I, King John and Henry III and rose to be regent of England for the latter. The priory was dedicated to St. Mary and St. Michael and built for Augustinian Canons who came initially from Bradenstoke Priory in Wiltshire. William Marshal provided financial support by granting the priory the district of Cartmel.

In the early 14th century a chapel was provided by Lord Harrington in the south choir aisle. There is a gatehouse built between 1330 and 1340 which is the only surviving structure apart from the church itself. There are 25 misericord seats in the choir dating from 1440. An unusual feature of the church is that the upper section of the tower is not set on the usual alignment of the nave and chancel but at 45 degrees to it. The priory was dissolved in 1536. There followed in the north of England the so called Pilgrimage of Grace or rebellion against Henry VIII, which led to four of the monks and ten villagers at Cartmel being hanged. The villagers were allowed to keep the church as it was their only place of worship but the domestic building were dismantled. However, in the 17th century the lead was stripped from the roof and it fell into decay. The roof was repaired in 1618 by George Preston of Holker Hall. During the Civil War, Parliamentary troop stabled their horses in the church. Between 1624 and 1790 it housed the grammar school. Commonly grammar schools at this time had only a handful of pupils who were taught by a single master, who was the vicar. They often met in a side chapel or loft above the porch.

Restoration work was carrield out in 1830 and again in 1867, this time by the celebrated church architect, E. G. Paley. He removed the galleries, added a font, pulpit and organ.The priory now receives about 60,000 visitors a year. From 1923 the original gatehouse to the monastic complex became a museum and it was given to the National Trust in 1946 where it operates as the Cartmel Priory Gatehouse.

Cartmel Priory   East End
South Side   The East End
window   window
East Window in morning light   Interior shot of east window
Choir   misericord
Choir stalls   Misericord with rose
Church door   Village
Church Door   Georgian townhouse
Village Scene   Village Scene
Village Scene   Old Barn Cottage and market cross

Cartmel is known for its horse racing on Spring and Summer Bank Holiday Weekends. Racing began in more modern times in 1856 but may have had medieval origins. What at one time was a working village is now a gentrified tourist destination with arisan shops, smart cafés and restaurants. Its speciality is sticky toffee pudding. Cartmel Racecourse park is used for other equestrian events during the year and there is an agricultural show on the first Wednesday of August.


Wikipedia article on Cartmel, Cartmel Priory and William Marshall
Cartmel Village Site

index button

Celebrating England

© Craig Thornber, England, United Kingdom    Main Site Address:

W3C XHTML 1.0 1.0 Strict W3C CSS