Sophie and I do like a good ruin, and whilst not overly spectacular in comparison to Tynemouth Priory Lanercost Priory, or Mount Grace’s Priory, it’s still very much worth a visit. The best bit about it for me, is the history, which has a lot to do with the Pesky Scots, and we’re looking at the ancestry of the Peskiest Scott of all, Robert the Bruce, though he had nothing to do with the priory sadly.
The History Bit ☕️ 🍪 *Long post alert*
Guisborough Priory is a ruined Augustinian monastery founded in 1119 as the Priory of St.Mary by Robert de Brus, 1st Lord of Annandale, (1070–1141)a Norman feudal magnate, Lord of Skelton, and one of the largest landowners in the north, owning more than 40,000 acres in Yorkshire alone. The priory became one of the richest monastic foundations in England with grants from the crown and bequests from de Brus, other nobles and gentry and local people of more modest means. The Bruce clan, are all descended from our Bob the 1st.
The family name is derived from the place name Bruis, now Brix, Manche in the arrondissement of Valognes in the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy. Which means Bob was a Pesky Frenchman before his progeny became Pesky Scotts. Bob was mates with King Henry 1st and had been with him at The Battle of Tinchebray in Normandy, in 1106 which they won. He’s mentioned several times in historical surveys and documents witnessing charters from Lords to churches, and being gifted lands by an Earl and King Henry and it may bore you to death if I list them all but if you’re that way inclined you can click on the details arrow and see that.
So our Bob was doing very well for himself in England and France, hob nobbing with Lords and Earls and the King, but had also become a ‘companion in arms’ with a Scottish chappie, brother of the Scottish King Alexander, called David FitzMalcolm, who was in France with Bob and King Henry in 1120. Dave must have got on well with the King as Henry allotted him most of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy. Our Dave then succeeded to the Scottish throne after Alex’s death in 1124, where upon he bestowed the Lordship of Annandale upon his good ol’ battle~pal Bob’s shoulders. There’s no evidence Bob ever lived there though, so he missed out on the Annandale Whisky Distillery and lovely scenery and hills with names such as Devil’s Beef Tub.
Well dear reader now it all goes to ratshit. King Henry died and we get King Stephen who I’ve written of before but here it is again as I know you’ve forgotten him. -Stephen was the grandson of William the Conqueror, and when Willy Conk’s son King Henry 1st died leaving the succession to the throne open to challenge, Stephen hot footed it over the channel to England and with the help of Henry, Bishop of Winchester, took the throne, before Henry’s daughter Matilda got her little graspy hands on it.-
King David was not a fan of King Stephen but supported Matilda so he took advantage of the chaos in England due to the disputed succession there, and he took the chance to realise his son’s claim to Northumberland. Our Bob was very unhappy at this, and the friendship was over, with Bob bitterly renouncing his homage to David before taking part on the English side at The Battle of The Standard in North Yorkshire in 1138. Bob pleaded with Dave, asking him to remember how earlier he and other Normans had persuaded King Alexander to give part of the Scottish Kingdom to him. But to no avail. Bob’s family split, witih Bob and his eldest son Adam fighting for England, whilst his youngest son, Bob 2, with his eye on his Scottish inheritance, fought for Scotland. Though only for 3 1/2 hours as Henry’s forces won that one. Bob took Bob 2 prisoner!
Two years later, at the grand age of 71, Bob died whilst at Skelton Castle. As the founder of Gisborough Priory, he was buried inside the church, in the place of honour between the Canon’s stalls in the Quire. Priory histories record his death and his burial there. He was survived by his wife Agnes, and his children. Robert’s son, Adam de Brus, Second Lord of Skelton, would be buried there in 1143, and his son Robert, Second Lord of Annandale, would be buried there after his death in 1194. Both the Scottish and English sides of the family would be laid to rest there, the last being Robert de Brus, Fifth Lord of Annandale in 1295. Eventually a great Cenotaph would be placed there honoring the Brus Family and commemorating its most famous descendant King Robert Bruce of Scotland, Bob 5’s grandson,
It was a dry day with clouds coming and going and Sophie and I had a good wander around the grounds. Photos taken with my Contax Aria, loaded with a roll of Portra 400.
The priory and the community prospered, rebuilding the priory on a grand scale at the end of the 12th century and again after a catastrophic fire in 1289. Then Henry VIII happened and the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, and Guisborough suffered. The priory buildings were demolished and the stone re-used in other buildings in Guisborough. The east end of the priory church was left standing with its great window forming a distinctive arch, a well-known landmark used as a symbol for Guisborough. It became part of the estate of the Chaloner family, who acquired it in 1550. The east window was preserved by them as part of a Romantic vista adjoining their seat, Gisborough Hall, from which the priory takes its name. It is owned by the Chaloners but is in the care of English Heritage as a scheduled monument
The priory buildings stood at the centre of a walled precinct arranged in two courts, inner and outer with gatehouses at the entrances to both; the remains of the great gate of the inner court are extant but the outer gatehouse no longer survives. The gate comprised an outer porch, an inner gatehall and a porter’s lodge on the ground floor with chambers above the arch. It survived intact into the early 18th century but only the outer porch remains.
Land immediately south of the priory was used by the Chaloners for formal gardens attached to Old Gisborough Hall. In the early 18th century they planted an oval-shaped double avenue of trees, the Monks’ Walk, where stonework recovered from mid-19th century excavations was deposited. In between the trees was a manicured lawn used to hold musical and theatrical productions. The Monks’ Walk fell into disuse and became overgrown but is under restoration by the Gisborough Priory Project.
There is an octagonal dovecote just to the west of the grounds, built in the 14th century, it was modified in the mid-18th century with the addition of a pyramidal roof tiled with Welsh slate and capped with an open-sided timber cupola. The original nesting boxes have been removed and the dovecote is used as a garden store.
Well done if you got through all that!
Stay tooned for Part 2 next time.