Founded in the 12th century, Northumberland’s Brinkburn Priory was built in a secluded and peaceful location at the foot of a ravine on a bend in the Ricer Coquet
Local historian and photographer STEVE ELLWOOD has built up an extensive personal archive of footage capturing Newcastle and the wider North East over the past three or four decades. He kindly has been share some of his work with ChronicleLive over the past few months. Here Steve provides photographs and describes the history of Brinkburn Priory in Northumberland.
Founded by William de Bertram, 1st Baron Mitford, in the 12th century for black Augustinian canons, Brinkburn Priory was built between 1130 and 1135 by master mason Osbert Colutarius. The site of the priory was well chosen, being in an isolated and peaceful place at the foot of a ravine in a bend of the Ricer Coquet.
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, the priory fell into ruin but was saved in the 19th century by the Cadogan family who had acquired the buildings and land. Newcastle-based architect Thomas Austin was commissioned to prepare plans for the building’s restoration, and work took place between 1858 and 1859. Following the 19th century restoration, the building was extensively remodeled, but many original features can still be seen.
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Within the grounds of the priory is the Grade II* listed mansion, built in the 16th century for the Fenwick family. The house incorporates parts of the southern area of the original priory. In 1810 it was remodeled in a Gothic style and extended by Newcastle architect John Dobson between 1830 and 1837.
A story about the priory dates back to the days of Scottish raiders when Northumberland was regularly raided from the north. On one occasion the assailants became lost in the nearby woods and, unable to locate the priory, began their journey home. Rejoicing at this turn of events, the monks rang the priory bell with the unfortunate consequence of alerting the looters to their location. It is claimed that following the attack the bell was thrown into the River Coquet, an area now known as The Bell Pool.
Brinkburn Priory, a listed ancient monument, is signposted from the A697 Morpeth road at Wooler, turning onto the B6334 road. The site is on the left.
English Heritage operates the site and it is open to the public between April and October, but not on Mondays or Tuesdays. There is free parking 400 meters from the entrance.
Steve Ellwood was born in Newcastle, raised in Westerhope, and has lived in Whitley Bay for 30 years. He is a local historian, photographer, Newcastle city guide and a member of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle. His three books – River Tyne; Newcastle in 50 buildings; and 50 Northumberland Gems – are published by Amberley. You can follow Steve on Twitter here.