St Mary’s Priory Church

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June, 2021

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Only the nave and the SW tower survive of a once important Gilbertine Priory. This is the only one of the 26 monasteries founded by Gilbert of Semperingham to survive. It is the only religious order that began in England. There are a series of information boards about him in the church.

The Gilbertine priory was built by local landowner, Eustace Fitz John in the late C12th. The workmanship was of very high standard and masons marks include those of men who worked at Ripon Cathedral.

The “Priory”: was endowed with farmland and was one of the largest and wealthiest of the Gilbertine Houses. Many of the canons represented the area in Parliament.

The north west NW tower collapsed in a fire that caused major damage to the north aisle at the start of the C15th. It was rebuilt in the Perpendicular style which explains the perpendicular window in the west wall and the ornate pillar in the north wall and different arcading at the back of the church.

The Priory was dissolved in 1539 and the canons were pensioned off, although some became parish clergy in the area. The monastic buildings were used for building stones. The church survived as the parish church.

The central tower was taken down in 1636 as it was unsafe and the church sustained damage from canon balls during the Civil War. By the early C18th the church was in a ruinous condition. Permission was given to demolish the north aisle, remove the clerestory and shorten the east end of the church by removing the chancel, which had been the preserve of the monks.

There was a major restoration in 1877, undertaken by the architect Temple Moore, with the imminent collapse of the remaining south west tower. The south aisle was removed. The Norman pillars of the south arcade can be seen in the south wall, but the arches have been filled in. The roof had to be replaced based on a C15th design. Temple Moore was responsible for the organ case, panelling in the chancel and the splendid tester above the altar. Seven of the original 35 misericords survive. The rest are from the C19th restoration.

St Mary’s Priory Church is in Old Malton, a short distance from New Malton. It is open daily and cars can be parked just inside the entrance gateway. The post code is YO17 7HB and the grid reference is SE798726.

It is definitley worth stopping to visit.


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