Grid Ref: SD 304 758
Dates: 11 Nov 2018

Conishead Priory has had a very chequered history. The following account is condensed from a Wikipedia article. An Augustinian Priory was founded in the 12th century as a "hospital". At that time this did not have the same meaning as today; the word is related to our word "hospitality" and means a lodging. It is thought to have been founded about 1167 by Gamel de Pennington. In the period from 1145 to 1189 it became a priory until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was then leased to Thomas Stanley, 2nd Baron Monteagle and was later bought by William Sandys. He was killed in a dispute in 1559; his son, Francis, died without issue, leaving as co-heiresses two married half-sisters. They were Margaret Dodding and Barbara Philipson. Margaret's grandson, George Dodding bought the Philipsons share of the estate. His son, Miles, died without male issue in 1683 leaving two daughters. While one died childless but the other sister, Sarah, married John Braddyll and had a son Dodding Bradyll who became an M.P. for Lancaster from 1715-1722. Their son, Thomas Braddyll, died unmarried, leaving the estate to a cousin, Wilson Gale, who in the manner of that time changed his name to Wilson Gale-Braddyll to indicate his connection to the original family.

Wilson Gale-Braddyll was succeeded in 1818 by his only son Lt-Col Thomas Braddyll (1776–1862), who further altered the family name the following year by becoming Thomas Richmond-Gale-Braddyll. In 1821 he served as High Sheriff of Lancashire. In the same year, Conishead was demolished to make way for a new house, designed by Philip William Wyatt one of the family of famous architects. However, Wyatt became bankrupt in 1833, was imprisoned for debt and died two years later. George Webster of Kendal took over as architect to produce a Gothic Revival style house. It took 20 years to build and cost £140,000. However, Thomas Richmond-Gale-Braddyll himself became bankrupt and sold to Henry William Askew of Minard Castle, Inverary in 1850.

In 1874, Askew sold to John Poole of Ulverston who then sold off parts of the estate for development. The house itself with 150 acres went to a Scottish syndicate in 1878 who converted it into a Spa Hotel. It was a success for a time and even had its own railway station on the so-called Bardsea Loop of the Furness Railway companies lines. In 1925, the Priory and grounds changed hands again, this time to the Conishead Company which sold the property four years later to the Durham Miners Welfare Committe for £35,000 who changed it into a convalescent home which opened in August 1930. It took up to 150 miners every two weeks to convalesce after mining injuries. During the World War II the Priory was an hospital for wounded servicemen and about 8,000 were treated. After the war, the Priory was reopened as a convalescent home and was used until 1970, when the Welfare Committe put it on the market. It was sold in 1972 and there were plans put forward for a hotel and caravan park in the grounds but this failed to secure planning permission.

The property was empty for four years and gradually going into decline until in 1976 it was acquired by Buddhist group known as Kadampa. The house has been gradually restored, mainly be volunteers who stay with free board and lodging in return for their work. The priory runs courses there and in the house there is a shop and cafe open to the public from 11am. The movement has built the Kadampa Buddhist Temple in the grounds and it attracts visitors from around the globe. Each day at 12:30 pm and 2 pm there is a fifteen minute meditation practice in the temple which anyone can attend. You can walk through the gardens to the shore of the Levens Estuary.

Given its turbulent history, it is amazing that the current Conishead Priory, built in the mid-19th century has survived into the 21st century and is such a peaceful spot devoted to World Peace.

The Priory buildings in Nov 2018
The Buddhist Temple in the grounds of Conishead Priory
ceiling spacer Buddha
Part of the plasterwork ceiling in the house   Statue of the Buddha in the House

Details of the architecture are shown on the Historic England site


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