Brinkburn Priory, Northumberland

An Augustinian priory was founded on this site in the early 1130s, colonised with monks from Norfolk. Some 50 years later, Brinkburn Priory became an independent house, and the building of the monastic church commenced.

Early history of Brinkburn Priory is scant, but it was never a wealthy house, suffering damage and losses as a result of the Scottish Wars. In 1536 it was dissolved, and by the beginning of the 17th century the church had fallen into a poor state of disrepair. Before the end of the century, the roof had eventually collapsed, regular services were abandoned, and the site was deserted.

Then, in 1858, a major restoration programme was undertaken by the Cadogan family, the owners of the property at that time. With its new roof, stained glass windows and floor tiles, Brinkburn Priory today represents a very sympathetic Victorian restoration of the original medieval church, and the work was completed within eight years. Through the squat Norman north doorway, beautifully carved and moulded, the church reveals a deceptive loftiness. Slender columns soar upwards to form elegant arches, and three tiers of lancet windows span the narrow width of the east end. Sparsely decorated, with the internal walls showing unfaced brickwork, Brinkburn Priory emits an air of dignity and solemnity.

Apart from a few fragments of claustral buildings, little evidence of the working monastery survives, and even the cloister paving is modern. Now standing on the site of the west range, if indeed there ever was one, is an early 19th century manor house incorporating part of the vaulted undercroft to the monks dining hall.

On a sloping site beside the River Coquet, Brinkburn Priory is one of Northumberland's little treasures, almost buried in the densely wooded valley. Although church services and concerts are held here on occasion, most of the time the site is a wonderfully tranquil place for reflecting on the lifestyle of those early monks.

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