Lindisfarne Priory

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameLindisfarne Priory
Alternative NamesHoly Island; holy Iland
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishHoly Island

C11-C12 Church and later buildings of Priory originally founded in C7. Cloister turned into fortified ward, probably in C13, large tower-like projections and an outer ward added in C14. Church modified in C14 with loops inserted in west wall and possibly crenellated all around.

Lindisfarne Priory is an important example of a small Benedictine house refounded to be a cell of Durham Cathedral. Its standing remains are well-preserved and provide a good illustration of a wide variety of monastic buildings. ... In the 14th century, a new prior's lodging was created at the junction of the south and east ranges and comprised a two-storey building with a warming house below and a private apartment above, which was partitioned to create a bedroom, study and oratory or private chapel. To the east, the former infirmary was enclosed by a fortified wall with a semi-octagonal tower at the north-east corner. ... Raids during the Scottish wars of the 14th century caused some devastation of the district dependent on the priory, but the monastery itself was partially fortified and protected by the basalt ridge to the south known as the Heugh. (Scheduling Report)

"in the summer of 1385, the prior and convent of Holy Island petitioned Richard II, asking his permission to remove crenellations from their priory, as they lacked the means 'to guard and defend the church and priory with men against (the king's) enemies', and that it would be 'a great loss' (magnum dampnum) to the king and his lieges in the area if the place was captured and held by the enemy." (King, 2007, p. 381)

Gatehouse Comments

The priory could act as a military storehouse but the lack of garrison actually made it a target for attack if so used. The adjacent parish church of St Mary is, occasionally, described as fortified and may have been part of this defensible complex. There may have been watch towers, as part of this defensible C14 complex, at The Heugh and Beblow both occupied by later C16 fortifications.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNU126417
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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 247, 421
  • Harrison, Peter, 2004, Castles of God (Woodbridge; Boydell Press) p. 67, 73-4, 77
  • Brooke, C.J., 2000, Safe Sanctuaries (Edinburgh; John Donald) p. 59, 72-76, 80, 134, 361-4, 366
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 55-7
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 115-7
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 189
  • Dobson, B., 1992, 'The Church of Durham and the Scottish Borders 1378-88' in Goodman, A. and Tuck, A. (eds), War and Border Societies in the Middle Ages (London; Routledge)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 363
  • Butler, L. and Given-Wilson, C., 1979, Medieval Monasteries of Great Britain (London; Michael Joseph)
  • Knowles, David and Hadcock, R. Neville, 1971, Medieval religious houses in England and Wales (Longman) p. 69, 476
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 123
  • Raine, J., 1852, History and Antiquities of North Durham (London) p. 146-9
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 4 p. 109-22
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1776, A View of Northumberland (Newcastle) Vol. 2 p. 105- online copy



  • King, Andy, 2007, 'Fortress and fashion statements: gentry castles in fourteenth-century Northumberland' Journal of Medieval History Vol. 33 p. 381
  • Crossman, W., 1890-1, 'The Recent Excavations at Holy Island Priory' History of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club Vol. 13 p. 225-40

Guide Books

  • Story, Joanna, 2005, Lindisfarne Priory (London: English Heritage)
  • Cambridge, Eric, 1995, Lindisfarne Priory and Holy Island (London: English Heritage)
  • O'Sullivan, Deirdre and Young, Robert, 1995, English Heritage book of Lindisfarne, Holy Island (London: English Heritage)
  • Halpin, Joanna, 1976, Lindisfarne Castle
  • Addleshaw, G.W.O., 1957, Holy Island or Lindisfarne (Sunderland: Vaux and Associated Breweries)
  • Thompson, A.H., 1949, Lindisfarne Priory (London; HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Durham Cathedral Muniments, 2.4. Reg. no. 1; printed in Raine (1852), appendix 121-2
  • Sir Robert Bowes, 1550, A Book of the State of the Frontiers and Marches betwixt England and Scotland taken from Brit. Mus. Cotton. MS. Titus, F.13, a copy of the original (see Bates, 51, n185). Printed in Hodgson, [pt.3, ii, 187, 205 >]


  • Northumberland County Council, 2009, 'Holy Island' Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey doi:10.5284/1000177 [download copy >]
  • Kelland, C.H., 1982, Ecclesiae Incastellatae: A Documentary and Architectural Study of the Concept of 'Fortified Churches' in England and Wales (M.Phil. Thesis, 2 vols, University College, University of London) p. 209