Bolton Priory, North Yorkshire

Traditionally referred to as Bolton Abbey, this Augustinian house was actually founded as a priory in 1121. Commanding a prime position beside the banks of the River Wharfe, these picturesque remains, along with the present parish church, provide a delightful insight into the former glory of Bolton Priory.

Remarkably, the east end gable has survived to full height, as well as a considerable section of the north transept. This great building was constructed in various stages over a period of some 350 years, progress often halted by invasion, poverty, sickness, and the severity of northern winters. Consequently, the west tower - still under construction at the time of the Dissolution - was never completed. Little evidence remains of the monastic outbuildings but the claustral range foundations can still be identified. The Chapter House was of octagonal design and must have presented a wonderful sight in this quiet, valley setting. Sadly, all that survives today is the arched entrance of the Chapter House passage.

Following the Dissolution, the original nave of the Bolton Priory church was secured by Prior Moone for continued use as a place of worship for the local people. With much restoration and refurbishment, the church has been in continual use since that time, despite a minor hiccup in the 1970s when major repairs were again necessary. Today's church retains the richly-decorated, 13th century west doorway, the nave arcading, and the impressive wooden roof adorned with golden angels and bosses. The overall picture is one of medieval and modern existing in harmony, and signifying the timeless beauty of such dedicated work.

Prior to 1998, we had visited Bolton Priory on only one occasion and on that day the weather proved disappointingly dull and overcast. However, during subsequent visits we have been able to enjoy the full glory of these evocative ruins set against the spectacularly scenic backdrop of the estate owned by the Duke & Duchess of Devonshire. Whether you seek 'monastic' pleasures, enjoy hiking across ever-changing countryside, or have a particular interest in the flora and fauna of the area, Bolton Priory can adequately fulfil your needs. Relaxing beside the river with a picnic is also another extremely pleasurable way of enjoying the scenery and appreciating the quiet existence of the early monks.


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