NGR: SE 06686 97759. About 1 mile southwest of Marrick village, on the north bank of the river, in Swaledale (formerly Richmondshire), North Yorkshire, are the now ‘very scanty’ ruins of Marrick Priory, a 12th Century house of Benedictine nuns that was founded by Roger de Aske and, dedicated to St Andrew & St Mary the Virgin. The religious buildings, or what’s left of them, are now incorporated into more modern buildings that are an Outdoor Education and Resi-dential Centre for young people. The former priory church (St Andrew’s) has largely survived and was still in use up until 1948 as the parish church, though the tower was rebuilt in the early 19th Century, and the rest of the building much renovated more recently. One is still able to see the fragmentary remains of some of the monastic buildings in particular the cloister and chancel and fishponds. The priory ruins are on [private land] but you can view them from the lane: by heading southeast from Reeth via Fremington and Grinton on the B6270, or southwest from Marrick via the 375 nuns’ stone steps (causeway) down through the woods, and then onto Sikelands Lane.
Marie Hartley & Joan Ingilby (1963) tell us that: “The Priory of St Andrew, a house for Benedictine nuns, was founded c. 1154 by Roger Aske, who endowed it with a hundred acres of land and the advowson of the parish church of Marrick. Other gifts of land here and elsewhere followed. Bear Park in Wensleydale was their most valuable property. Although one of the smaller houses exempted from suppression, it was surrendered 17 November 1540; it then had a prioress and twelve nuns, and the gross annual value was £48 18s. 2d.
“The parish CHURCH is still there, and recently the interior has been renovated and altered for an Outward Bound centre for young people. The tower was pulled down and rebuilt in 1811, and old arches were used to form a chancel arch. A chapel of ease in Marrick village, formerly a Roman Catholic church, bought in 1893, has replaced it. Some of the priory buildings are incorporated in the farmhouse; other remains may be picked out amongst the farm buildings, and the ruins of the old chancel, swathed in ivy, stand at the E. end of the church. Note: fishponds between house and river.”
Frank Botttomley (1981) has the following entry information for Marrick, Yorkshire North Riding c1155-1540. “Large P (CN, possibly BN) with dependent H at Rerecross. Some remains cannibalized by C19 church, ruins of chapel in situ, incorp-orated in new secular building.” Key: P – priory, CN – Cistercian nuns, BN – Benedictine nuns, H – house.
Frank Bottomley adds regarding Benedictine priories, that: “Their chaplains may have been Benedictine priests but some of the older nunneries were provided with secular chaplains with prebends in the monastic estates. Such benefices generally became the perquisites of royal clerks who provided vicars for the nunneries.”
The following information is from the Genuki Website: “The Church (St. Andrew) occupies a portion of the site, and seems also to have served for the conventual chapel as well as the parish church. The old structure having become much dilapidated, the greater part of it was taken down in the early part of this century, and the present small church built on its site, mixed with parts of the old fabric. It consists of a nave, with north aisle, chancel, and the ancient tower, In the latter are three bells, one of which dates from old Catholic times, and bears the invocation in Latin, “St. Peter, Pray for us.” The chancel was restored and improved in 1885, at the expense of the impropriator. A few ancient tombstones remain. On the chancel floor, cut in relief, are the arms and sword of Sir Roger de Aske; and near the door are the places from which some vandal hand has torn the funeral brasses of the founder and his wife. In the nave is a slab, which a Latin inscription, in Old English characters, tells us covers the remains of Isabella, one of the nuns of the priory, and sister of Thomas de Pudsay, of Barforth; and on another, forming part of the step of the altar rail, are an incised cross, with chalice, book, a square object charged with a quartrefoil, and another object, apparently a pax. Against the wall is a tablet to the memory of Mr. Thomas Fawcett, of Oxque, in this parish, who died in 1783. He was, the inscription tells us, “a celebrated cultivator of bees, for which he received many testimonies from the Society in London for the encouragement of Arts and Sciences.” See Genuki – UK & Ireland Genealogy Website Link, below.
The Yorkshire Dales Official Guide says that: “The Priory has a most delightful situation a short distance from the river, and was founded in King Stephen’s reign by Roger de Aske. Built into the shell of the Priory is a two-storey structure to provide hostel-type accommodation for youth organisations as a kind of spiritual Outward Bound Centre. A refectory, quiet room, chapel and two dormitories provide accommodation for 35 young people of both sexes.”
Sources / References and related websites:
Bottomley, Frank, The Abbey Explorer’s Guide, Kaye & Ward, London, 1981.
Genuki Website: https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/NRY/Marrick/Marrick90
Hartley, Marie & Ingilby, Joan, The Yorkshire Dales, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, 1963.
The Yorkshire Dales Official Guide, (Compiled by: Eric Lodge F.R.G.S.), The Yorkshire Dales Tourist Association, Burnsall, Skipton.
Click on: https://marrickpriory.co.uk/history/
Click on: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marrick_Priory_-_geograph.org.uk_-_142879.jpg
© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.