Wetheral Priory gatehouse and length of medieval wall
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 27-Nov-2020 at 15:12:11.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Carlisle (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- NY 46811 54111, NY 46882 54182
Reasons for Designation
From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597
to the reign of Henry VIII, monasticism formed an important facet of both
religious and secular life in the British Isles. Settlements of religious
communities, including monasteries, were built to house communities of monks,
canons (priests), and sometimes lay-brothers, living a common life of
religious observance under some form of systematic discipline. It is estimated
from documentary evidence that over 700 monasteries were founded in England.
These ranged in size from major communities with several hundred members to
tiny establishments with a handful of brethren. They belonged to a wide
variety of different religious orders, each with its own philosophy. As a
result, they vary considerably in the detail of their appearance and layout,
although all possess the basic elements of church, domestic accommodation for
the community, and work buildings. Monasteries were inextricably woven into
the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship,
learning and charity, but also, because of the vast landholdings of some
orders, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. They were
established in all parts of England, some in towns and others in the remotest
of areas. Many monasteries acted as the foci of wide networks including parish
churches, almshouses, hospitals, farming estates and tenant villages.
Benedictine monasticism had its roots in the rule written about AD 530 by St
Benedict of Nursia for his own abbey at Monte Cassino. Benedict had not
intended to establish an order of monasteries and wider adoption of his rule
came only gradually. The first real attempt to form a Benedictine order came
only in 1216. The Benedictine monks, who wore dark robes, came to be known as
`black monks'. These dark robes distinguished them from Cistercian monks who
became known as `white monks' on account of their light coloured robes. Over
150 Benedictine monasteries were founded in England. As members of a highly
successful order many Benedictine houses became extremely wealthy and
influential. Their wealth can frequently be seen in the scale and flamboyance
of their buildings. Benedictine monasteries made a major contribution to many
facets of medieval life and all examples exhibiting significant surviving
archaeological remains are worthy of protection.
Despite post-medieval development on the site which has resulted in demolition of much of the priory, some upstanding medieval fabric still survives including part of the east wall of the chapter house and the 15th century gatehouse. This latter feature remains the finest medieval gatehouse in Cumbria.
The monument includes the upstanding and some buried remains of Wetheral
Benedictine Priory, located in the valley of the Eden a short distance to the
west of the river. The upstanding remains include the priory's well preserved
gatehouse and a length of medieval wall interpreted as the east wall of the
chapter house. Below ground features include the remains of two buildings
known, from visible fragments of roof lines, to have been attached to the
north and south external faces of the gatehouse. The monument is divided into
two areas. Originally the core of the priory occupied the whole of the area of
the modern farm; the extent of any survival of the archaeological features in
this area is not yet known.
The gatehouse is constructed of red sandstone and measures 12.5m by 8.9m
externally with a projection for a circular stair at the north east angle that
is entered through a doorway in the east face of the gatehouse. The main
entrance passage has a barrel-vault, runs east-west, and is situated towards
the north end of the gatehouse. In the north face of the gatehouse there is a
blocked door that originally gave access into an adjoining building known from
visible remains of roof lines to have been attached to the northern end of the
gatehouse. The south end of the gatehouse contains a room which originally
functioned as the porter's lodge. It measures 5.3m by 3m internally and is lit
by a narrow loop or window at the western end. There is a blocked window at
the eastern end of this room. The upper two floors acted as domestic chambers
for priory officials. The first floor is entered via a short passage from the
circular stair. It consists of a single room measuring 7.6m by 5.2m internally
and is lit by three windows. There is a fireplace in the east wall, a
garderobe or toilet in the south wall, and two chambers each with a small
window in the west wall. The second floor is also entered via a short passage
from the circular stair. It is similar to the one below but the entrance to
the two chambers in the west wall is blocked. The circular stair continues up
to the roof. Just outside the gatehouse, to the south, is a cellar about 1.5m
below the present ground surface. It measures 7m by 2.7m internally and has a
barrel vault. Approximately 90m to the north east of the gatehouse is a length
of free-standing red sandstone medieval wall up to 23m long and 2.4m high with
three complete window openings and traces of a fourth at the northern end,
indications of a stair at the southern end, and traces of a blocked doorway.
Wetheral Priory was dedicated to the Holy Trinity and St Constantine. It was
founded in 1106 from its motherhouse of St Mary's Abbey, York. In its present
form the gatehouse dates from the 15th century and roof lines on the
north and south faces indicate that it stood in the centre of a range of
medieval buildings. The priory was dissolved in 1538 and its lands granted to
the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle. The gatehouse was used as a vicarage during
the 16th and 17th centuries before later becoming a hayloft.
Wetheral Priory gatehouse is in the guardianship of the Secretary of State.
Both the gatehouse and the length of wall are Grade I Listed Buildings.
All modern walls, fences and fenceposts, paths, paved areas, a farm
outbuilding immediately south of the upstanding remains of the chapter house
wall, and all English Heritage fixtures and fittings are excluded from the
scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Martindale, J H, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in The Priory of Wetheral, , Vol. XXII, (1922), 239-52
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing