Kirkham Priory is set in the Derwent Valley near the Yorkshire Wolds. Founded 900 years ago, the Priory has played host to a monastic community for 400 years. Like many monastic communities across the country, King Henry VIII disbanded Kirkham Priory after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. The Priory would have been a thriving community with many spiritual and administrative links to neighbouring towns and villages.
Visitors can admire a richly carved gatehouse added in 1300. This structure displays lots of religious imagery such as David and Goliath, and St George and the dragon. As well as this, the gatehouse is decorated with several coats of arms, for example the de Roos coat of arms. This family was one of many who financially supported Kirkham Priory in its heyday. The Priory is an excellent example of the importance of religious hubs to the local area. For example, there is a wealth of evidence that shows the nave of the church was used as a free school for nearby residents.
Kirkham Priory was rediscovered and excavated in the 19th century. By this point, much of it had fallen into ruin. However, these ruins were stabilised and quickly became a popular visitor attraction. Interestingly, during the Second World War, Kirkham Priory became host to members of the royal family and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The Priory was a top-secret base used to test equipment that would later be used in the D-Day landings. While this time has now passed, it clear that Kirkham Priory remains a significant part of local history.
Things to do and see:
- There is a small display of monastic artefacts and the gatehouse is decorated with heraldry of past patrons and owners.
- A gift shop of English heritage souvenirs.
- Picnic tables on the expansive grounds that give a great view of the local area, perfect for playing and listening out for passing steam trains!
- Ice cream is sold in the summer.
For further information on visiting, click here.
There is a free gravel car park about 100 metres from the entrance. This car park can become busy in the summer months.
There are accessible toilets on the site.
The grounds are broadly wheelchair and push chair accessible although some of the grounds can be a bit uneven. There are steep steps from the cloisters to the refectory.
Assistance dogs are welcome. Similarly, braille guides are available upon request.
The site also has baby bottle and food warming facilities.
For more information on accessibility, click here.
A great way to see more of Yorkshire is on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway! Click here for more details.