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200805-29. © NRT, 2005
Cartmel Priory, Cumbria, UK, 20 August, 2005

The Priory was founded by William Marshall (later Earl of Pembroke and Regent of England) in 1188 for Augustinian canons, who completed the building by ~1220.
The Early English (12th Century) lower part of the tower is conventional, supported by the walls and pillars of the main building, but the Perpendicular (15th/16th Century) upper section is turned 45° and carried on arches within the lower section – potentially dangerous, though it seems to have held for half a millennium. Evidently, the daring architect chose a unique (in the UK, anyway) design rather than a taller, more straightforward tower.

The Priory was dissolved in 1536, as part of Henry VIII's nationwide Dissolution of the monasteries. Four monks, and ten villagers who supported them, were hanged. Ordinarily, the entire Priory complex would have been demolished, but William Marshall had dedicated an altar in the church to the village, so the parishioners successfully petitioned to retain their sole place of worship. Apart from the Gatehouse, the domestic and associated parts of the Priory were destroyed, but the church itself was retained. However, the lead was removed from the roof, and only part of the building was usable until the roof was repaired in 1618.

From this image, one might think the building is a patchwork of individual projects over 800 years, but I suspect some of the apparent discrepancies are more the result of 'enthusiastic' renovation in the 1830s.

The Priory Church of St Mary & St Michael remains the parish church, and also hosts concerts.

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Day in the life... © NRT, 2005