"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 26 September 2016

Yorkshire Holiday - Wednesday, 14th September, Part 1: Bolton Priory and the Parish Church of St Mary and St Cuthbert

On Wednesday I was hoping we would go to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens and had even planned a picturesque route through the Dales. Sadly, the long and pretty route turned out to be my downfall as B vetoed the trip as too far and suggested if I wanted to visit an abbey Bolton Priory was only a few miles away.

A rather lovely ancient tree

First view of Bolton Priory


1120 - A community of Augustinian Friars (known as Black Canons) was founded at Embsay, near Skipton.

1154- Lady Alice de Romille of Skipton Castle gave the Canons land and money to they could form a community at Bolton. The monastic way of life the friars followed observed the vows of poverty, abstinence and chastity.

1539 - The Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII closed Bolton Priory, furnishings were removed and lead stripped from the roofs. The Nave was allowed to remain for use as a Parish Church following the new Church of England faith.

1853/80 - The church underwent a Victorian Restoration mainly by the architect, George Street

1982/85 - Major refurbishment of the church.

Plan of the Priory today

The Priory before the Dissolution

The Choir

Graves and North Transept

The Choir

Cloister and Nave (the latter is the Parish Church)

South Transept

Plants in Walls

The Parish Church of St Mary and St Cuthbert

The doorway to the church is a beautiful example of Early English architecture c1220

The wall paintings by Thomas Bottomley and his assistant were installed in 1880. The five madonna lilies represent the Virgin Mary and the 6 other symbolic plants - barley, olive, vine, passion flower, rose and palm represent events and sayings in the life of Jesus. Below the plants are emblems - one heraldic (Priory Cross derived from the Arms of the Earls of Albemarle who were early patrons of the Priory) and an Angel, Chi-Rho, Lion,Crossed Keys, Paschal Lamb, Star of David, Ox, IHS, Eagle and Alpha and Omega.

This model shows the Priory as it would have looked before 1539.

Victorian pipe organ

Font (1867) designed by George Street

The stone altar is a rare example of a pre-Reformation altar which may have been used by the Canons. The central hollow may once have contained a sacred relic. There are 5 consecration crosses on the altar (which I managed to miss - as usual I didn't read the guide book until after the visit - I also managed to miss a Green Man:( ). The altar once served as a floor slab over the tomb of Elizabeth Morley (see brass plate below).

Stained Glass - the upper section of the windows contains some ancient glass (14th century)

The six south windows contain 19th century glass by Pugin, a famous stained glass artist, depicting 36 scenes from the life of Jesus. The windows were installed in 1853. I couldn't get photos of all 6 as the sun was shining directly through 2 of the windows.

The Cuthbert Window shows St Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne and a Patron Saint of the Priory. He is depicted holding the severed head of St Oswald who was King of Northumbria and killed in battle by Penda of Mercia. The King's skull was buried at Lindisfarne. In the 9th century when the monks had to leave there due to Viking raids they took the skull and St Cuthbert's remains with them. These are now interred in Durham cathedral where the Lindisfarne monks eventually settled.


River Wharfe


I paid a brief visit to an excellent secondhand bookshop (Grove Books) selling rare books with a lot of books on Yorkshire and a large collection of natural history books. I was swooning over the amount of Collins New Naturalist and Wayside and Woodland books. With the family nearby I decided purchases would not be prudent - I had already got into trouble trying to buy a new cuddly toy (a sheep) in Harrogate! As B points out we are supposed to be decluttering not adding more!

After lunch we visited The Strid but I'll do a separate post on that (there will be less photos!).


Pete Duxon said...

it is a lovely church but tell the family they really need to go to FOUNTAINS :D

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon - Thanks Pete and lol! :) To OH any abbey is the same as any other :( Hopefully, we will return to Yorkshire and somehow I will get to Fountains! :)

CherryPie said...

This brings back memories of my visit here. You have captured some lovely photographs :-)

Ragged Robin said...

CherryPie - Thanks so much - lovely to hear it brought back memories :)

Wendy said...

A lovely look around two fascinating buildings. I like to imagine Bolton Priory as it was, so busy and important and so awe-inspiring to visitors. The Victorian wall paintings are interesting in the church and so is the altar - it's so fortunate it's survived. The thirteenth century door is beautiful.
I would be very tempted by those natural history books, too!

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - Thanks so much. The Priory was very atmospheric and as you say it is always lovely to imagine it as it was in its prime :) The wall paintings were very beautiful with all the plants.

I could have spent quite a lot of money in the bookshop - in fact, I had to beat a hasty retreat before I did just that!

Rosie said...

How wonderful. Two amazing buildings I love wandering around old ruins and imagining what they would have been like when in their heyday. The doorway to the church is so beautiful:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks very much Rosie. I agree about the walking around and imagining what they were once like - such a superb sense of history about such places :)

David said...

Shame you didn't get to visit Fountains but Bolton is by no means a poor alternative, indeed I would even argue that Bolton is in a more attractive and definitely more natural setting. Exploring the ruins of these old religious communities is always fascinating and one can't help but try and imagine what life was like in their heyday.

If you do manage to return to Yorkshire again I can also thoroughly recommend Byland Abbey and of course Rievaulx Abbey, the latter being my personal favourite thanks to its hidden away position in a deep valley a few miles north of the attractive town of Helmsley (which also has a castle!).

Hope you and yours are well :-)

Ragged Robin said...

David - Thanks so much again David. It was wonderful and atmospheric to wander around the ruins and imagine life in the past. I didn't realise how much there was to see in the Parish Church either.

Thanks so much for recommending other abbeys - am so hoping we can return perhaps to a slightly different area and I will certainly make a note of Byland, Rievaulx and Helmsley. You do do well for abbeys and castles up there :) and I am sure the churches are well worth exploring too :)

Best wishes Caroline