Cartmel Augustinian Priory medieval gatehouse and parts of the priory precinct


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Lakeland (District Authority)
Lower Allithwaite
National Grid Reference:
SD 37827 78787, SD 37918 78843, SD 37919 78928, SD 38003 78876

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. Some 225 of these religious houses belonged to the order of St Augustine. The Augustinians were not monks in the strict sense, but rather communities of canons - or priests - living under the rule of St Augustine. In England they came to be known as `black canons' because of their dark coloured robes and to distinguish them from the Cistercians who wore light clothing. From the 12th century onwards, they undertook much valuable work in the parishes, running almshouses, schools and hospitals as well as maintaining and preaching in parish churches. It was from the churches that they derived much of their revenue. The Augustinians made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life and all of their monasteries which exhibit significant surviving archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Despite alteration and adaption for a variety of uses over a period of almost 800 years, Cartmel Augustinian Priory gatehouse survives well and remains an excellent example of a medieval monastic gatehouse. Additionally a combination of aerial photographs and limited excavations in the priory's precinct have revealed the survival of well-preserved archaeological remains relating to the arrangement of medieval buildings within the precinct and the changing uses to which parts of the precinct were subjected. Further well-preserved archaeological remains are expected to survive elsewhere throughout the priory's precinct.


The monument includes Cartmel Augustinian Priory medieval gatehouse and three parts of the priory precinct. It is divided into four separate areas of protection.

The priory was founded in about 1190 by William Marshall, later to become Earl of Pembroke and Regent of England. The first monks came from Bradenstoke Priory in Wiltshire and were Canons Regular of the Order of St Augustine. Major rebuilding took place during the 14th century. This included removal of the cloisters and refectory from the south side of the priory to the north, construction of the main priory gatehouse leading into the precinct between 1330-40, and the enclosure of land surrounding the priory by a precinct wall. In 1537 the priory was dissolved. The church, however, served a parochial as well as a monastic purpose and hence it was not demolished. Much medieval fabric survives including the north and south transepts, the four piers supporting the tower at the crossing, the doorway, and parts of the chancel and nave walls. Most other buildings associated with the priory, apart from the gatehouse, subsequently disappeared, probably used as a source of building material for local houses. The gatehouse continued in use as a seat and courthouse of the manor until it was sold as a schoolhouse in 1624. In 1790 the gatehouse passed into private hands and was used for a considerable period as a storehouse. In 1920 it was bought by R O'Neill Pearson who repaired and restored the structure prior to opening it as a small museum and exhibition hall in 1923. In 1946 the gatehouse was given to the National Trust and it continues to function as a museum and exhibition hall.

The gatehouse is situated on the north side of the village square at the south end of Cavendish Street. It is built of stone rubble with ashlar dressings and a slate roof, and consists of a four-storey rectangular structure with a stair turret to the east and a vaulted passage to Cavendish Street. To the west of the arch the south face of the gatehouse has a bow window on the ground floor, a window on the first floor and a two-light mullioned window on the second floor. Above the arch there is a straight-headed niche. The north face of the gatehouse has a two-light mullioned window on the second floor to the west of the arch together with one first floor and two second floor narrow lights. Post-medieval buildings abut the ground and first floors of the gatehouse east and west of the arch. The west wall is abutted by a post-medieval building up to second floor height; immediately above the roof of this later building there is the top of a cusped single light in the gatehouse wall and above this there is a four-light mullioned window with two upper lights above. On the roof at the western end of the gatehouse there is a square chimney stack. The gatehouse east wall is also abutted by post-medieval buildings. It has a cusped single light and a narrow single light on the second floor, and above this is a 20th century reconstructed four-light mullioned window with two upper lights above. The west side of the passage has two entrances and a large window, the east side of the passage has an entrance leading to a winding stair giving access to the upper floors. Internally the gatehouse has undergone considerable modifications including removal of the upper floor while entrances have been inserted into the west wall from the adjacent property on three levels. The thick walls of the gatehouse have enabled certain features to be inserted; these include a store and a stone staircase in the north wall and an entrance and wide ledge in the east wall at third floor level. The post-medieval buildings which share the gatehouse walls are not included in the scheduling, although the shared wall is included. The gatehouse is a Listed Building Grade II*.

Much of the priory precinct lies beneath the houses and gardens of modern Cartmel to the north of the gatehouse and priory church. It would have been surrounded by a stone precinct wall, the course of which is followed by a modern wall at the precinct's north west corner. Within the precinct are three areas of undeveloped land either side of Priest Lane within which archaeological remains have either been located or are considered to exist. One of these areas is Farmery Field, centred at SD38007887, on the north side of the priory church immediately north of Priest Lane. Its name suggests that the priory infirmary was located here and an aerial photograph clearly show crop marks indicating that the buried remains of a substantial building survive within this field. Evidence that the priory's lay cemetery was located here came in 1983 when eight burials were found in Farmery Field during the excavation of a gas pipe trench. Other features associated with the priory are considered to lie within Farmary Field including parts of the cloister built in the mid-15th century. Limited excavations during the 1990s in Priory Gardens, part of the medieval precinct situated north west of the church and centred at approximately SD38927883, revealed well-preserved multi-phased medieval structures associated with a relatively deep stratigraphy. The earliest features comprise timber structures which were precursors to, or were associated with, the initial phase of stone construction of the priory in the late 12th/early 13th centuries. This stone construction comprised two buildings with a possible associated courtyard. The structures were enlarged during the 13th or early 14th centuries and large amounts of industrial residues suggest that the area was given over to industrial activity at this time. A further phase of structural remodelling occurred prior to abandonment and demolition of the buildings in the late 14th century. The features revealed in Priory Gardens extend beyond the areas excavated suggesting that similar well-preserved medieval remains await discovery elsewhere within the priory precinct. Such an area is the field south east of Fairfield Lodge centred at approximately SD38917893. This field formed part of the priory's outer court, an area housing the agricultural and industrial buildings essential to the priory's economy. Excavation and documentory sources associated with other medieval abbeys and priories indicate the wide range of buildings located in areas such as this including barns, graneries, brewhouse, bakehouse, guesthouse, woolhouse, swinehouse, stables, mills, dovecots, tannery, and blacksmiths etcetera.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These comprise all modern walls, fenceposts, gateposts, railings and telegraph poles, a shed in the garden of No 1 Church View, an electrical substation in Farmery Field, a greenhouse, a gazebo which is a Listed Building Grade II, all outbuildings and all dwarf walls associated with a market garden in Priory Gardens, the surfaces of all paths and access drives, and the road surface beneath the gatehouse. The ground beneath all these features is included. Additionally all signs, information boards, exhibits and associated fixtures and fittings in the gatehouse which are affixed to the medieval masonry are also excluded from the scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Dickinson, J C, The Priory of Cartmel, (1991)
Wild, C, Howard-Davis, C, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Excavations at Priory Gardens, Cartmel, , Vol. MM, (2000), 161-80
Wilson, P R, Clare, T, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Farmery Field, Cartmel, , Vol. XC, (1990), 195-8
AP No. MY70, Cambridge University Collection, Cartmel Priory,
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

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