Cartmel Priory

Cartmel Priory

Cartmel Priory:

Cartmel has recently been celebrating the 800th anniversary of the man who founded Cartmel Priory.

The church, dedicated to St. Mary and St. Michael, stands in the centre of the village. There has been a place of worship here since before the Norman Conquest.

The church was founded in 1189 by Sir William Marshal on land recently granted to him by King Henry II.

He became a famous medieval figure who was later involved with the Magna Carter.

William Marshal still has a bearing on the nations’ laws and governments to this day.

Originally founded as a priory for Augustinian canons in around 1189, the oldest parts are the chancel, transepts, the south doorway and part of the north wall of the nave. 

The huge east window nearly fills the east wall and contain some fragments of medieval glass rescued from earlier works.

Cartmel Priory

The Priory Church of St Mary and St Michael also served as a parish church.

From the outside, notice the unusual tower built at a 45-degree angle across the original low lantern tower.

The church clock is one of the oldest in Britian and still chimes on the hour.

Thankfully, the priory was saved from outright destruction during the Dissolution of Monasteries in the 1530s.

Keep a look out for the 15th-century choir stalls, each with a misericord, and bear many carvings of animals.

Finally, don’t miss the bullet holes visible in the south west door of the nave.

Cartmel Priory

These holes are leftovers from the 1640s, when Roundhead troops stayed in the village and stabled their horses in the church.

The link between horses and Cartmel Priory goes back centuries. Horse racing at Cartmel is likely to have started in the twelfth century by monks on mules.

Even to this day, as the racing season comes to an end, a special service is held at the Priory to show support for the racing community and what it brings to Cartmel. The service is known as Steeplechase Sunday.

Staff and personnel connected to the racecourse, take part in the morning service. At the end of the service, the congregation and visitors gather on the Priory driveway to greet the arrival of the racehorse.

Cartmel Priory

The vicar, Revd. Nick Devenish, offers prayers, followed by refreshments provided by the racecourse.

Steeplechase Sunday has now become a firm marker of the Cartmel racing calendar.

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