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Conishead Priory, Cumbria

Conishead priory by Ian Taylor courtesy Conishead Priory has played a number of roles since the Augustinian canons established it as a leper colony in the 12th century.

After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, a private home was built on the site. This house and all the priory ruins were removed by a Colonel Braddyll who built, in 1821-36, the ornate Gothic mansion standing today on the site. He also constructed the ruined folly on Chapel Island, seen from the estuary at Bardsea. The Braddyll Arms in Bardsea is named after him.

Wordsworth was particularly taken with the Chapel Island ruin, writing a poem about it in Book X of The Prelude:

. . . Upon a small
And rocky island near, a fragment stood
. . . the low remains
. . . Of a dilapidated structure. . .

Conishead priory house by Stephen Middlemass courtesy The mansion served as a hotel, and later in the 1930s as a miners' convalescent home. Now owned by the Manjushri Institute, it is a Buddhist centre.

There is a high towered gatehouse, a large hall with a high ribbed-vaulted ceiling and ornate plaster ceilings. A 16th century oak screen decorates a gallery, and carved woodwork decorates the Oak Room. Linenfold panelling and stained glass are among the treasures found in the mansion.

The house and 70 acres of grounds are open to visitors on summer weekend afternoons. One path through the woods leads to the beach. Courses are offered at the Institute.

Conishead Priory
Bardsea is two miles south of Ulverston off the A5087

Photos courtesy
Conishead priory by Ian Taylor
Conishead priory house by Stephen Middlemass

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