Marmaduke Prickett.

An historical and architectural description of the priory church of Bridlington, in the East Riding of the county of York online

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insurrection in Lincolnshire was headed by the prior of
Barlings in disguise ; and another broke out about the
same time in Yorkshire, which was called the " Pilgrimage
of Grace." Both, however, were soon quelled. The last
insurrection which took place, was chiefly in the North and
East Ridings of Yorkshire, and in this William Wode, the
last prior of Bridlington, appears to have taken a prominent
part. This attempt, like the former, proved unsuccessful ;
and the leaders of the insurgents, among whom were the
Lord D'Arcy, Earl of Holderness ; Sir Robert Constable, of
Flamborough ; Sir Thomas Percy ;* the abbots of Fountains,
Rievaulx, and Jervaulx ; and the prior of Bridlington, were
apprehended and executed for high treason.

The suppression of the religious establishments over
which these unfortunate persons had presided, was now a
measure of no great difficulty, and in the thirty-first year
of Henry the Eighth, an act similar to the one just men-
tioned was passed, for the suppression of the greater monas-

In pursuance of this act of parliament, an inquisition was
held A. D. 1538, at York, before William Fox Esq., the
King's escheator, when Sir William Fairfax, and other
commissioners, who had been appointed to inquire into
the value of the manors forfeited to the King, upon the
seizing of the persons attainted of high treason in the late
rebellion, were examined on oath, and at this time the clear
annual value of the manor of Bridlington was declared to
be 196/. 5s. 5d. and that of the rectory, which had been
appropriated to the prior and convent, 36/. 6s. Sd.-f

* He was second son to Henry Algernon, fifth Earl of Northumberland,
who died about A. D. 1527, and by whom the famous Percy Household Book
was composed, A. D. 1512, for the use of his castles of Wressil and Lecking-
field, near Beverley, where, in the minster, he erected the beautiful Percy
monument in memory of the Earl and Countess, his father and mother.

f See Appendix I.



The buildings belonging to the monastery were demolish-
ed the following year A. D. 1539, including the transepts,
central tower, and choir of the conventual church. The
letter which follows, has been published in the new edition
of Dugdale's Monasticon ; and, although the latter part only
relates to the demolition of this Priory, yet the particulars
respecting the destruction of Jervaulx Abbey serve equally to
show the line of proceedings adopted in similar cases. The
original letter is preserved in the British Museum, but the
author transcribed it from Roger Dodsworth's copy in the
Bodleian Library. It is addressed to Cromwell, the chief
secretary of state, by Richard Bellycys, one of the commis-

" Pleasythe your good Lordshipp to be advertysed. I
have taken downe all the lead of Jervayse, and made itt in
pecys of half-foders, which lead amounteth to the numbre of
eighteen score and five foders, with thirty and foure foders,
and a half, that were there before. And the said lead can-
not be conveit, nor caryed unto the next sombre, for the
ways in that contre are so foule, and deep, that no carrage,
can passe in wyntre. And as concerning the raising, and
taken downe the house, if itt be your Lordshipps pleasure
I am minded to let itt stand to the Spring of the yere, by
reason of the days are now so short it wolde be double
charge to do itt now. And as concerning the selling of the
bells I cannot sell them above 15s. the hundreth, wherein
I would gladly know your Lordshipps pleasor, whether I
should sell them after that price, or send them up to London.
And if they be sent up surely the carriage wolbe costly frome
that place to the water. And as for Byrdlington I have
doyn nothing there as yet, but sparethe itt to March next,
bycause the days now are so short, and from such tyme as
I begyn I trust shortly to dyspatche it after such fashion that
when all is fynished, I trust your Lordshipp shall that think


that I have bene no evyll howsbound in all such things, as
your Lordshipp haith appoynted me to doo. And thus the
Holy Ghost ever preserve your Lordshipp in honor. At
York this fourteenth day of November by your most bounden

[1538.] Richard Bellycys."

The promise contained in this letter was amply fulfilled
in the demolition of the Priory of Bridlington. Never was
transition more rapid from the height of prosperity and
power, to almost utter annihilation. For nearly four centu-
ries this magnificent monastery had flourished in uninter-
rupted security. Thirty-one superiors of the convent had
succeeded each other in a long and unbroken line of succession,
and the last unfortunate person, who filled this illustrious
and dignified station, was now doomed to prove, by bitter
experience, the instability of human fortune ; himself con-
demned to perish 'on the scaffold, and his princely revenues
squandered in reckless profusion, to gratify the rapacity of
courtiers, or the extravagance of royal desires. It was not
for such purposes that these revenues had been bequeathed
by the noble benefactors of the monastery. In their minds,
the first feeling was a sincere though mistaken notion of
providing for the repose of their souls, and the remission of
their sins, by bestowing their worldly possessions to promote
the honour of God, and the sumptuousness of his house, and
the splendid solemnities of his worship, and the maintenance
of the priests of his altar ; the next, a spirit of benevolence
towards their fellow men, the relief of the poor, and the care
of the infirm.

We mean not to assert, that these benevolent intentions
had, in all cases, been carried into effect by those to whom
their execution was entrusted. Suppose them to have been
generally abused, and misapplied. What was the proper
work of reformation ? Was it not to lead back the streams



of charity into their original channel, or one more beneficial
to the community at large ? * Were there no longer schools
and hospitals to be founded ? No clergy to be respectably
maintained ? No poor to be relieved ? Let the present de-
plorable state of many of our impoverished parishes answer.
By the dissolution of the monastery, the manor and
rectory of Bridlington, which had been granted by William
the Conqueror to Gilbert de Gaunt, and by him to the
prior and convent, now reverted to his royal successor
Henry the Eighth, by whom, and his successor, Edward the
Sixth, they were granted on lease to various individuals.

In the time of Queen Elizabeth the manor and rectory
were granted on lease to John Stanhope Esq., on condition
of paying a salary of eight pounds a year to a priest, who
should perform divine service, and have the charge of souls
within the parish. The lessee was also allowed to take stone
from the ruins of the monastery for the repairs of the pier.

The manor and rectory were conferred by James the First
upon Sir John Ramsay, a Scotch baronet, to whom the title
of Earl of Holderness, extinct by the attainder of the Lord
D'Arcy in the late rebellion, had been given, as a reward
for his services.

In the time of Charles the First the manor was sold by
the Ramsay family to thirteen inhabitants of the town ; by
whom it was purchased on behalf of themselves and the
other tenants within the manor. By letters patent of
Charles the First, reciting all the former grants made by
his predecessors and others to the dissolved Priory, the
manor was confirmed to the then proprietors and their suc-
cessors, one of whom is annually elected chief lord of the
manor, f

The Rectory was sold to the Boyntons, from whom it

* See Sir Henry Spelman's Treatise on Tithes,
f See Appendix K.


passed successively into the possession of the Fairfaxes,
Bowers, and Heblethwaytes, who are the present impropria-

The advowson was, however, retained by the Crown, the
nomination being vested in the Archbishop of York; by
whom, towards the close of the last century, it was trans-
ferred, under the act of parliament, to the Rev. Matthew
Buck, and his heirs, in consideration of a donation for the
augmentation of the living, to enable it to receive Queen
Anne's bounty, f

Some account of the public charities belonging to the
parish of Bridlington will be found in the Appendix. J

* See Appendix L. See also Allen's History of Yorkshire, Lib. IV.
c. 12. p. 15.

f See Appendix M. I See Appendix N.



THE nave of the ancient Priory Church, and an arched
gateway leading to it are the sole remains of the once
spacious and magnificent monastery of Bridlington. But in
order to form a just estimate of these beautiful architectural
fragments they must be viewed in connection with those
parts of the fabric now destroyed, or we shall never form a
just idea of the relative proportions of the whole.* The
ancient precinct of the monastery must have been accurately
defined by the walls and gates with which it was enclosed in
the reign of Richard the Second, but no traces of them exist,
if we except the ancient gate-house, or principal entrance to
the close of the Priory, now called the * Bayle Gate.'
Through this noble gateway we enter the ancient close of
the monastery, which is still an open space, called 'the
Green,' and used as it formerly was, for holding the fair
granted by King John to the canons, f On the north side of

* It is reported, I know not with what degree of accuracy, that drawings
and ground plans of the church and monastery of Bridlington, taken before
the dissolution, are preserved along with those of many other English
monasteries, in the college at St. Omer's, and in the Vatican at Rome.

f This was probably also the ancient market-place, as at Whitby the
market during the time the monastery was in existence was held near it,
round an old cross, but after its dissolution removed into the town, for the
better convenience of the inhabitants. Sec Charltoris History <>f Whitby.


this piece of ground stands the church, and a paved cause-
way, the same width as the gate, leads directly across it to
the great west door; the south-west angle of the church
facing the Bayle Gate. The principal tower appears to
have been in the centre of the church between the nave, and
the choir now gone ; it is stated in the Visitor's Survey to
have been furnished with seven bells, but in a very ruinous
state. A buttress of a similar style to those on either side
of the great west window seems to have been raised at the
north-east corner of the church on the inside for its support.
At the west end there appears to have been also two towers,
of which the lower stories only now remain. The north-
western tower is now unroofed, and the arches connecting it
with the north aisle are built up. The name of ' the old
steeple ' it may have acquired probably from a bell, or bells,
hung in it since the dissolution, the three bells which the
church now possesses were purchased by subscription about
the middle of the last century,* and the octagon turret, with
its leaden cupola, which was erected for their reception on
the top of the basement of the south-west tower, is as ano-
malous and disfiguring to the venerable structure to which it is
attached, as can well be conceived. The ruined state of the
central tower may account for the extensive repairs which
appear to have been in progress at the west end of the nave,
when their completion was stopped by the dissolution of the
monastery. The effect of these repairs was to assimilate
the western front of the church, to that of the beautiful
neighbouring collegiate church of Beverley, which is in
the same style. Between the south-western tower, and
the south door, the prior's lodge was built against the wall
of the church : the hall having an ascent of twenty steps
on the south : in the Avail of the church the pillars and
groined arches of the vaulted apartment below it still

* A.D. 1763: the tenor bell weighs 11991bs.


remain.* Eastward of the prior's lodge, along the south
wall of the church, may be seen ranges of stone abutments for
supporting the beams of the roof, of one side of the cloisters
which were so situated as to connect the prior's lodge with the
church, and the other domestic buildings of the monastery.
On the east side of the cloister square was the dormitory,
occupying, as it would seem, the position of what would other-
wise have been the south transept ; and beyond it, as a
building detached from the rest of the fabric, the chapter-
house. The refectory was on the south side of the cloister.
The buildings of the monastery thus occupying the area south
of the church, the ancient burying ground was therefore
entirely on the north side. And beyond the street which
bounds the church-yard on the north, and surrounding
a large piece of water, called 'the Green Dyke,' were
the barns and stables, granary, maltkiln, and other agricul-
tural premises belonging to the convent; which, if we may
judge from their dimensions, as given in the Visitor's Survey,
being also built of stone and covered with lead, were on
a very large and substantial scale. Such appears to have
been the original plan of the monastery, and the relative
position of the various buildings of which it was composed ;
and, having given this general outline of the whole, we may
now proceed to a more particular examination of the several

The principal entrance to the Priory, now known by the
name of the Bayle Gate,f is still entire. Most of the larger
monasteries were furnished with such an appendage ; and
these gates have, in several instances, escaped the general
demolition of the rest of the monastic buildings. Those re-
maining at St. Alban's and Ely are similar to the present one.

* The demolished prior's lodge has not been succeeded by any parsonage-

f Ballium, a fortress or prison.


On approaching the church by this entrance, a very beautiful
view of it is presented to the eye, the noble west front and
part of the south side of the nave being visible under the
archway, the groined roof of which is of excellent workman-
ship, and very handsome. (See Plate I.)* In this view, too,
the site of the eastern part of the old conventual church
being hidden from the view by the arch of the gate, there
is no one from which we may form a better idea of the
original grandeur of the edifice, if the eye were not offended
by the incongruous modern bell-turret, on the top of the
south-western tower. On reference to Plate I. it will be
observed that on the outer side next the town there is a
greater arch and a postern, in the sides of which the hooks
that formerly supported the doors still remain. The upper
part of this building, next the town, has been rebuilt with
brick so as greatly to disfigure its beauty, of the other side
a view is given in Plate II. This building is thus described
in the Commissioners' Survey, f at the time of the dissolu-
tion of the Priory, and has been very little altered since
that period :

" At the coming in of the Priory is a gate-house four
square of tower-fashion, builded with ffree stone, and well
covered with leade. And on the south syde of the same gate-
house, ys a porter's lodge wt. a chymney, a rounde stayre
ledying up to a hye chamber, wherein the three weks courtej
ys always kept in, wt. a chymney in the same, and betweene
the stayre foote, and the same hie chamber where the courte
ys kepte, be tow proper chambers, one above the other,
wt, chymneys. In the north side of the same gate-house
ys there a prison, for offenders wtin the towne, called the
Kydcott. And in the same northsyde is a lyke payre of

* The Numbers refer to the List of the Plates,
t See Appendix O.

I The Court Baron was formerly held every three weeks. Blackstone,
vol. iii.


stayres ledyng up to one hye chamber in the same toure
with a chymney. Md. tha't all the wyndowes of the sayd
toure be clerely wtoute glasse."

The larger arch on the outer side of the gate is orna-
mented with two broad hollow mouldings, in which, at inter-
vals, are placed leaves, flowers, and grotesque heads. There
is a similar moulding under the great west window, of which,
as well as the highly ornamented door beneath it, a separate
Plate has been published as a companion to those in the
present work.

The arch on the inner side is elegantly wrought below its
spring with two compartments of trefoil headed pannel-
ling, one above the other, surmounted by a narrow band of
quatre-foils. On the right side of this arch is a flat-headed
door, which seems to have been formerly a window, as there
is a corresponding one on the other side now filled up, and
recently hidden from the view by the erection of a shed for a
fire-engine, whose red brick walls and tiled roof ill accord
with the grey walls of the venerable building to which it is

The four corbels from which the groined roof of the gate-
way springs, are well worth notice. They represent four
figures in a sitting posture. Two of them are delineated
in Plate VIII. On one side are two ecclesiastics, with the
monk's cowl and habit, and one of them has an instrument
something like a bagpipe under his arm. On the other
side is a king and a warrior, the former is crowned, and in
chain armour ; the other bears a shield, on which may still be
traced the device of a dagger : but all are much defaced, as
well as the bosses upon the intersections of the groining,
which are large, and seem to have been well wrought.

From this fine gateway we proceed to the grand western
entrance of the ancient Priory Church. (See Plate III.)
It is profusely decorated, and is an exquisite specimen of the
architecture of Henry the Seventh's time : excepting, how-


ever, the north-western tower, which we have^before observed,
belongs to a much earlier period. On either side of the great
west door is a range of six niches with brackets for the statues,
ornamented with angel heads. These niches are three feet
high, and the elegant crocketed canopies with which they
are surmounted rise to the same height. Above the door
within the ogee canopy, which rises over it, and is like the
niches ornamented with crockets, is another niche. The
design of the whole seems to have corresponded with that of
the high altar screen, which contained statues of Christ and
the twelve Apostles, at the Assumption of the Virgin. Here,
however, the niche over the door was most likely occupied by
the Virgin and Child. There are also two other niches
placed rather singularly, so as to interrupt the perpendicular
mouldings of the great door on each side, they might be
intended for stoups, or holy water-basins ; but in their pre-
sent mutilated condition it is difficult to determine. Niches
similar to the six on each side the great door are continued
round the immense buttresses, which flank the west window ;
but the brackets of these are plain, and the canopied heads
of the niches on the face of the buttress are of a pattern
diverse from the others. The wall below the window and the
entire surface of the buttresses is richly pannelled throughout,
and the base-mouldings are extremely bold, and well exe-
cuted. The foliage of the ornamental borders within the arch
of the great door is uncommonly elegant, although sadly
mutilated. There are three patterns, one of oak leaves and
acorns ; another of olive leaves and berries ; a third of fig-
leaves, and the capitals of the side shafts are blended into
one broad border of vine leaves.

The west window is fifty-five feet in height, from its base
to the crown of the arch, and twenty-seven in breadth.
The head is filled with good perpendicular tracery ; the
lower compartment below the transom is the only portion at
present glazed, and is fifteen feet high. Along this there is


a gallery connecting the two western towers, and it is remark-
able that the upper part of the window is two feet wider than
the part below the transom. The door in the south-west
tower is precisely of the same character as the larger one
just described ; its ornaments are in better preservation, and
it has therefore been engraved in Plate VI., as a specimen
of both.

The north-western tower has a low door, now walled up,
and a semicircular arch, the only door-way of this form now
remaining in the building. The mouldings, however, are
devoid of any ornament. The style of this tower is early
English, as is also the whole of the north side of the church.
(See Plate IV.)

The windows eastward of the north porch are beau-
tiful specimens of this style. Three are in pairs, and
two single: the buttresses which separate them are also
extremely light and elegant, surmounted by triangular heads
crocketed ; in the centre of each is a grotesque figure,
serving the purpose of a water-spout. The clerestory
windows correspond with those on the south side of the
church, which are all early decorated, excepting the three
nearest the south-west tower. These, as well as the piers
below them, seem to have been altered along with the west
front. The tracery is perpendicular, though far inferior to
that of the great west window ; and the piers, instead of being
clustered, are quadrangular, and covered with pannelling like
the interior and exterior wall of the west front. All the
decorated windows of the church are of an early kind, and
the tracery consists of various combinations of trefoils, and
quatre-foils ; there isno instance of the more elegant decorated
tracery, of which the west window at York is so fine an
example. The parapet of the nave is ornamented with a
border of very unusual pattern (see Plate VIII.) : it is con-
tinued round the top of the north-west tower.

The north porch is a truly splendid specimen of architec-


ture, and perhaps better worth preservation than any other
part of the fabric ; but it has been sadly neglected, as the
entrance is seldom used, and the earth has been suffered to
accumulate so much against the whole of the north side of the
church, that there is now a descent of several steps into the
porch. In spite, however, of damp and dirt, the freshness
of some parts of the sculpture is astonishing. In Plate VII.
an elevation of this porch is given, as it would appear if the
earth were cleared away which now conceals the lower part of
the columns below the two heads, which form brackets in the
niches on either side. The variety and beauty of the mould-
ings is very great; among these the toothed ornament is
conspicuous, and the open work of the foliage on the capitals
of the columns is of the best sort. The groined stone ceiling
is destroyed, and the original angular roof of the porch
has been displaced to make way for the erection of a room
over the porch, which has had a communication with the
interior of the church. This upper story is altogether un-
worthy of the lower. There is a perpendicular window of
five lights in front, and an ogee arch at the side.

The east wall of the church is merely an unsightly mass of
buttresses. Two windows, probably taken from the ruins
of the choir, have been inserted, one is decorated, the other
perpendicular. The architecture of the demolished choir *
appears to have corresponded with that of the north aisle of
the church; nothing is said about the north transept. In
the north aisle of the choir were eleven narrow windows, and
similar ones in the south aisle, every one of them ( of one
lyghte/ except two windows on the south with ' five lyghtes

apiece.' In the east end of the choir were eleven windows;

* The beautiful collegiate church of Howden shared a similar fate : Mr.
Pennant says, " Howden is distinguished by the ruin of its fine church, in
form of a cross, length 251 feet, transept 100 feet, east part quite a ruin."
The chapter-house is an octagon of the richest workmanship, also in ruins.
See Allen's History of Yorkshire. Book IV. c. 15. p. 165.


' ten of one lyghte, and one of three lyghtes.' The clerestory
windows appear also to have been similar to those in the
aisles, being described as a double story of the same. There
does not seem to have been any painted glass in the choir,
for it is particularly mentioned the ' windowes were all of
whyte glasse.' Some fragments, however, have been found
in digging near the church, and have been taken out of

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Online LibraryMarmaduke PrickettAn historical and architectural description of the priory church of Bridlington, in the East Riding of the county of York → online text (page 5 of 12)