Lancaster Priory, formally the Priory Church of St Mary, is the Church of England parish church of the city of Lancaster, Lancashire, England. It is located near Lancaster Castle and since 1953 has been designated a Grade I listed building. It is in the deanery of Lancaster, the archdeaconry of Lancaster and the Diocese of Blackburn. Its benefice is combined with that of St John and St Anne.
A Roman fort existed on the site from the 1st century, and some form of church may possibly have been established around the year 200. A Saxon church is thought to have stood on the site from the sixth century. In 1912 excavations revealed a wall beneath the present chancel area which may be from Roman times, and a small Saxon doorway has been exposed in the west wall of the present nave. It also believed that a monastery had been established here prior to the Norman conquest of England.
Construction to 17th century
In 1094 Roger de Poitou established a Benedictine priory, dedicated to St Mary, as a cell of the Abbey of Saint Martin of Sées in Normandy, France. Around 1360 the nave was widened to about 49 feet (15 m). In 1431 the church was transferred from Sées to Syon Abbey near London, and following this there was a major reconstruction in Perpendicular style. In 1539 this Catholic monastic institution was abolished by Henry VIII and the following year the priory became a parish church. A restoration of the church occurred in 1558.
18th to 20th centuries
In 1743 it was decided to raise the steeple 10 yards higher so that the bells could be heard better, and the bells were also to be re-cast. In 1753, the tower was determined to be in danger of falling down, so the bells were removed from it. Henry Sephton was commissioned to demolish and rebuild the tower. In 1759 a new tower was erected, which still stands.
An organ was installed between 1809 and 1811 by George Pike England for a cost of £672. Between 1868 and 1871 the local architects Paley and Austin restored the chancel, and added a new organ chamber and vestry. In 1872 the old organ had been replaced by a new one in the north aisle. In 1887 a peal of eight new bells, donated by James Williamson, was rung for the first time and in 1894 a clergy vestry was built adjacent to the choir vestry. A south porch designed by Austin and Paley was added in 1903 and in the same year an outer north aisle with a polygonal apse was built. This aisle forms the memorial chapel to the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. In 1922 the organ was rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison of Durham. In 1972 the bells were overhauled and re-hung. The pipe organ was replaced in 1982 by an electronic organ made by J. and J. Makin, and in the same year the choir and clergy vestries were converted into a refectory. In 2012 a pipe organ was installed by David Wells Organ Builder of Liverpool. It restored to use two redundant instruments, now linked into one scheme played from a single detached console. The organ in the west gallery was built originally by Henry Willis for St John's Church, Blackpool in 1915, while the organ in the North Choir Aisle was built by Harrison and Harrison in 1908 for Blackburn Girls’ School.
The church is built in sandstone with roofs of slate and lead. Its plan consists of a west tower, a four-bay nave and a four-bay chancel with a clerestory under a continuous roof, a north and south aisles and a south porch. At the east end of the north aisle is St Nicholas' chapel and at the east end of the south aisle is St Thomas' chapel. To the north of the north aisle, occupying the west four bays, is the King's Own Regiment Memorial chapel and to the east of this is the refectory and kitchen. The tower is in four stages surmounted by corner pinnacles and an embattled parapet. In the first stage is a south doorway and above this in the second stage is a four-light window. The third stage has a round window above which is a clock face. The bell openings in the fourth stage have four lights. The parapets of the aisles and nave are embattled. The south porch has two storeys with a staircase turret to the east, and crocketed pinnacles. The east window has five lights and Perpendicular tracery.
The carved choirstalls are of oak and, dating from 1340, are the third oldest in England. Pevsner states that they are "about the most luxuriant canopies in the country". The seats have misericords, some of which have carvings. At the back of the stalls are modern embroidery panels. The carved pulpit dates from 1619. It was originally a three-decker pulpit with a canopy surmounted by a crown on a Bible. In 1999 the canopy was reinstated, using the original crown. The stone base of the font was installed in 1848 and its carved wooden cover is dated 1631. The three brass chandeliers are dated 1717. The stained glass in the east window was designed by Edward Paley and made by Wailes. The church plate includes four flagons, a chalice and two breadholders dated 1678–79, a small chalice presented in 1728 and a cup dated 1757.
In 1807 a runic cross was found while digging in the churchyard. The cross is 3 feet in length, and 1 foot 9 inches across. The Anglo-Saxon Runic inscription translates to "Pray ye for Cynibald Cuthburuc". Following a meeting of the British Archaeological Association in Lancaster, the cross was moved to the British Museum in 1868. A replica of the cross is now on display near the south west door of the priory.
In the churchyard is a sandstone sundial dating from the late 18th century which was restored in 1894 and which is listed at Grade II. Also in the churchyard and listed at Grade II are the Rawlinson memorial dating from the late 18th century, and a tomb chest with a damaged marble effigy dating from the mid 19th century. The ground under and around the church is also a scheduled monument.
The church holds the usual services of an Anglican church, the civic ceremonies of a city's parish church, and regular concerts, the church is open for visitors from 9:15-16:00 Monday-Saturday and for services on Sundays (during the summer it is open from 7:30am-end of Evensong on Sundays). There is a bookshop open during the summer season at the back of the church. There is a coffee shop open most Saturdays during the year serving Fair Trade hot drinks, soup and cake. Lancaster Priory is a member of the Greater Churches Group.
- Grade I listed buildings in Lancashire
- Grade I listed churches in Lancashire
- Listed buildings in Lancaster, Lancashire
- List of ecclesiastical works by Paley and Austin
- Scheduled monuments in Lancashire
- Historic England, "Priory and parish church of St Mary, Lancaster (1195068)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 21 May 2012
- Archbishops' Council, Lancaster St Mary (The Priory), Church of England, retrieved 21 May 2012
- Time Line, Lancaster Priory, archived from the original on 13 August 2007, retrieved 21 May 2012
- Fleury, p.4
- Hartwell, Clare; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2009) , Lancashire: North, The Buildings of England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, pp. 364–369, ISBN 978-0-300-12667-9
- Historic England. "Part of a Roman fort and its associated vicus and remains of a pre-Conquest monastery and a Benedictine priory on Castle Hill (1020668)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
- Fleury p.572
- Fleury, p.36
- Fleury, p.5
- Fleury p.523, but see the Addenda for the correct cost.
- Brandwood, Geoff; Austin, Tim; Hughes, John; Price, James (2012), The Architecture of Sharpe, Paley and Austin, Swindon: English Heritage, pp. 223, 225, ISBN 978-1-84802-049-8
- Fleury, p.37
- The Organ, Lancaster Priory, archived from the original on 13 August 2007, retrieved 21 May 2012
- "The Organ | Lancaster Priory". Lancaster Priory. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
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- The Archaeological journal, Volume 3, British Archaeological Association, Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, p.72-73.
- Fleury, p.32
- Fleury, p.581
- Historic England, "Sundial approximately 15 metres south of tower of Priory Church of St Mary, Lancaster (1195070)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 21 May 2012
- Historic England, "Rawlinson Memorial approximately 13 metres north of tower of Priory Church of St Mary, Lancaster (1212472)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 21 May 2012
- Historic England, "Monument approximately 19 metres west of tower of Priory Church of St Mary, Lancaster (1195069)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 21 May 2012
- Worship, The Priory Church of St Mary, Lancaster, archived from the original on 15 May 2012, retrieved 21 May 2012
- The Priory in the Community, The Priory Church of St Mary, Lancaster, archived from the original on 24 April 2012, retrieved 21 May 2012
- Music Events at the Priory, The Priory Church of St Mary, Lancaster, archived from the original on 15 May 2012, retrieved 21 May 2012
- Home, The Priory Church of St Mary, Lancaster, retrieved 21 May 2012
- Priory Gift and Book Shop, The Priory Church of St Mary, Lancaster, archived from the original on 15 May 2012, retrieved 21 May 2012
- List of Member Churches, Greater Churches Network, archived from the original on 29 October 2013, retrieved 21 May 2012
- Cross Fleury (1891). Time-Honoured Lancaster.
Media related to Lancaster Priory at Wikimedia Commons