Cartmel Priory Gatehouse

Has been described as a Questionable Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are major building remains

NameCartmel Priory Gatehouse
Alternative Names
Historic CountryLancashire
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishLower Allithwaite

Former Priory gatehouse, now exhibition hall, part incorporated into Gatehouse. Probably C14, converted to school 1624 (date of gable-end windows). Stone rubble with ashlar dressings and slate roof. 4-storey rectangular structure with stair turret to east and vaulted passage to Cavendish St. South facade has chamfered archway and top frieze. To left of archway a. small-paned bow window with small-paned casement to 1st floor, part of cottage. 2nd floor has 2-light single-chamfered-mullioned window with cusped pointed heads. Niche over archway has straight head and moulded surround. North facade has 2-light window as above but with transom, and 3 slots. Returns have cusped lights, gables have 4-light single chamfered mullioned windows with 2 upper lights over transoms, that to east is C20 reconstruction. Passage way has groin vault to south, tunnel vault to north. West side of passage has 2 entrances, one with ogee head; large window to left has small-paned fixed glazing with opening light. East side has entrance to exhibition hall. Interior: Winding stair round rubble newel to 2nd and 3rd floors, the 3rd floor removed with entrance and wide ledge in thickness of wall remaining. Collar rafter roof, some lower collars. 2nd floor entrance has ogee head with 6-panel door; niche to left has cusped ogee head. 2-light windows have window seats. North side has store in thickness of wall with wide-boarded door. West side has fireplace with elements of medieval masonry including corbel heads; entrance to small room to left has 2-fielded-panel door. The Gatehouse is the only secular building of Cartmel priory to remain; it was used as a school 1624-1790. (Listed Building Report)

The gatehouse is situated on the north side of the village square at the south end of Cavendish Street

It is built of stone rubble with ashlar dressings and a slate roof, and consists of a four-storey rectangular structure with a stair turret to the east and a vaulted passage to Cavendish Street. To the west of the arch the south face of the gatehouse has a bow window on the ground floor, a window on the first floor and a two-light mullioned window on the second floor. Above the arch there is a straight-headed niche. The north face of the gatehouse has a two-light mullioned window on the second floor to the west of the arch together with one first floor and two second floor narrow lights. Post-medieval buildings abut the ground and first floors of the gatehouse east and west of the arch. The west wall is abutted by a post-medieval building up to second floor height; immediately above the roof of this later building there is the top of a cusped single light in the gatehouse wall and above this there is a four-light mullioned window with two upper lights above. On the roof at the western end of the gatehouse there is a square chimney stack. The gatehouse east wall is also abutted by post-medieval buildings. It has a cusped single light and a narrow single light on the second floor, and above this is a 20th century reconstructed four-light mullioned window with two upper lights above. The west side of the passage has two entrances and a large window, the east side of the passage has an entrance leading to a winding stair giving access to the upper floors. Internally the gatehouse has undergone considerable modifications including removal of the upper floor while entrances have been inserted into the west wall from the adjacent property on three levels. The thick walls of the gatehouse have enabled certain features to be inserted; these include a store and a stone staircase in the north wall and an entrance and wide ledge in the east wall at third floor level.

Much of the priory precinct lies beneath the houses and gardens of modern Cartmel to the north of the gatehouse and priory church. It would have been surrounded by a stone precinct wall, the course of which is followed by a modern wall at the precinct's north west corner. Within the precinct are three areas of undeveloped land either side of Priest Lane within which archaeological remains have either been located or are considered to exist. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

As with most monastic gatehouses the function of this building was not really defensive, in the sense of offering physical protection from attack, but a portal between the spiritual world of the Priory and the secular world. It is not clear the precinct wall was actually complete but regardless it would be too large to defend and would be easily pushed over or surmounted by anything like a determined assault by more than a few people. The gate is large enough to receive the wagons of produce from the Priories granges, tenants and tithe payments. The chamber by the gate described variously as a 'prison' or 'guardroom' may actually have been an office for the cellerar to record the goods and/or for the almoner.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2* 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 ReferenceSD378787
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved

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  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 370 (plan)
  • Dickinson, J.C., 1991, The Priory of Cartmel (Cicerone Press)
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1969, Buildings of England: Lancashire, The rural north (Harmondsworth) p. 90
  • Farrer, William and Brownbill, J. (eds), 1914, VCH Lancashire Vol. 8 p. 262- online transcription
  • Farrer, William and Brownbill, J. (eds), 1908, VCH Lancashire Vol. 2 p. 143- online transcription


  • 1946, 'Proceedings' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 46 p. 287 online copy
  • 1929, 'Proceedings' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 29 p. 329-30 online copy

Guide Books

  • Dykes, L.G.F. and Hardwick T., n.d (1960?) The Priory Church of St, Mary and St. Michael Cartmel_