Newburgh Priory’s name comes from the Augustinian priory founded in 1145 from a grant of land to Robert de Mowbray from William the Conqueror. Mowbray’s son established the priory. When the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII, the priory was turned into a private home in 1546 by the chaplain of Henry Vlll, William Bellasis, to whom the king sold it. The estate remained in the same family over the ensuing centuries, albeit with a name change to Fauconberg.
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The stone house is a mix of styles from Tudor to Jacobean to 18th century. The porch and mullioned windows are Elizabethan. The house is thought to be the burial place of Oliver Cromwell after his bones were removed from Westminster Abbey. The tomb has never been opened. Cromwell’s death mask decorates the top of the tomb. In this tomb room are two collections, one of walking sticks and one of Roman coins found on the estate.
A tour of the house starts in the oldest part, the Black Gallery (c1145). Its name comes from the next door room where local courts were held and this room was where people waited before facing the court. Original wide Elizabeth oak flooring remains. Family portraits are on the wall. Eight carved walnut arm chairs are from the Charles II period. The Justice Room is painted in its original Georgian colours with deep turquoise a feature. The partial panelling was installed in 1725 by Lord Fauconberg IV. Family portraits also adorn these walls. Off this room is a study. Two chests date from 1690. There are Leeds creamware pieces on the mantel, a Charles II table, a saddle seat, carved and inlaid chairs, and a decorated leather door.
An interesting tale is related to the ‘Unfinished’ or ‘Cursed Room’. It dates from 1758 when the 4th viscount was remodelling the house as a Georgian home. Fire gutted the end of the priory where the room is located, and during the fire a maid died in the room. Supposedly she could have been saved by the viscount’s son, Henry, but he chose not to. A curse was said to exist from the maid who said if the room were ever finished the son and heir would die an untimely death. The room was not touched until 1889 by Sir George Orby Wombwell who did not believe the tale. However within a few days of workmen starting to finish the room, his eldest son died in India, then a few years later his second and last son died in South Africa. The room remains unfinished.
The china staircase gets its name from the cabinets full of pieces at the foot of the first flight of stairs. In the cabinets are Derby, Crown Derby, Dresden, oriental and German china. Paintings are on the walls. There is a Venetian wall light and a Venetian ebony cabinet inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The carved wall panelling dates from the 1600s.
The dining room was once a reception room. In this room is a portrait of Mary Cromwell and her husband, Lord Fauconberg, 2nd viscount. He was active in government circles. His monument is in Coxwold church. In the dining room is a chimneypiece dating from 1615. It was carved by Nicholas Stone and influenced by his stay in Amsterdam. A solid oak fender seat was made in 1600. The china dishes are Chinese export and date from c1726.
The small drawing room ceiling, created 1765-1767, is decorated with scrolls, crossed palms, olive sprays and garlands. There are more portraits and paintings in this room. The large drawing room has a marble chimneypiece dating from 1767. The ceiling and wooden columns enhance the look of the room. The chairs date from c1760 and have original needlework. A fire in 1947 gutted the long gallery and it was made into a garden.
In the grounds is a water garden, walled garden, and topiary. There are woodland walks.
Coxwold, between Thirsk and York, Yorkshire
Tel. 0 1347 868 372
Open: April-end June, Wed and Sun; house, 2.30-5.45pm; garden, 2-6pm; house tours every ˝ hour; both open May BH; Nov-22 Dec, Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm, Sat and Sun, 10am-4pm
Tea-room; parking; wedding venue
Web: Newburgh Priory
Photos © by Barbara Ballard except photo of gatehouse and clock tower by Colin Price, courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland
Interior photos were not allowed.