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WETHERAL PRIORY

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  WETHERAL PRIORY GATEHOUSE, PRIORY OF HOLY TRINITY ST MARY AND ST CONSTANTINE, PRIORY OF ST CONSTANTINE
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The gatehouse and a length of medieval wall at Wetheral Priory are the only surviving remains of this Benedictine monastery. It was founded in circa 1106-12, when Ranulf Meschin, first Norman lord of Cumberland, gave the manor of Wetheral to the abbot of St Mary's, York. The priory was dedicated to Holy Trinity and St Constantine and housed twelve monks. It was also an important place of sanctuary in the Border region. In 1342 Edward III offered a pardon to those claiming sanctuary here on condition that they fought for him against the Scots. In 1538 it was dissolved by Henry VIII, and subsequently all the buildings, with the exception of the gatehouse, were demolished. The gatehouse was used as vicarage in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, before becoming a hayloft. It passed into state guardianship in 1978. Built from red sandstone in the 14th century, the gatehouse is three storeys high and two bays wide. The remaining section of wall, thought to be part of the eastern wall of the Chapter House, has an original two light window and indications of a stairway. The destroyed church and monastic buildings lay to the east of the gatehouse. The gatehouse was the original entrance to the priory precinct and traces of rooflines can be seen on two sides, indicating that it was originally part of a range of other buildings including a chapel and monastic school. Through the gatehouse is the main entrance passage, with a small lodge for the porter alongside. A circular stair leads to domestic chambers on the first and second floors. Each floor consists of a hall with a garderobe (latrine) and fireplace, and may have been used by priory officials or as guest lodgings for important visitors and travellers. The floor of the upper chamber does not survive. Tree-ring analysis has shown the gatehouse roof to be constructed primarily from timbers felled in AD 1512-36. However, there is a possibility that at least one timber of the late 15th century has been incorporated.

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