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Lanercost Priory–Priors Tower

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Dacre Tower: Dacre Hall

In the civil parish of Burtholme.
In the historic county of Cumberland.
Modern Authority of Cumbria.
1974 county of Cumbria.
Medieval County of Cumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NY556637
Latitude 54.96571° Longitude -2.69531°

Lanercost Priory–Priors Tower has been described as a probable Pele Tower.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Lanercost Priory was dissolved in 1537 under the orders of Henry VIII and the buildings were granted to Sir Thomas Dacre who made alterations and converted some of the monastic buildings, including Dacre Hall, into a dwelling house by 1559. (Scheduling Report)

At the south end the west range is the large tower known as the Prior's House. Traditionally it has always been thought to be of medieval date but there is nothing with it its fabric which can be securely dated to this era. Indeed, there are considerable number of reused moulded medieval stones incorporated within its walls which tend to indicate it is largely a post-Dissolution construction. Standing four stories in height it retains many of its windows intact though all traces of a parapet or crenellations have been lost. Such a tower might easily be added to the building by the Dacres to form a strongpoint adjoining their hall. In fact its architectural features show that the upper floors from the principal private family apartments during the Dacre occupation of the building.
The Internal walls of the tower had been repaired before the Office of Works took over the site and much of the walling is confused by large areas of refacing. This is a distinctive ashlar with a rough finish, and it seems clear that in some areas it was simply used as a means of stabilising the wallcores without any care about retaining or reflecting original features.
At the north end of the east and west walls there are opposing doorways, with a small square-headed window in the middle of the east wall. The south and east walls are noticeably thicker than the west wall. This might indicate that the tower incorporates part of an earlier structure, possibly the priory kitchen within its fabric. Indeed the first floor was evidently a kitchen, for it has large fireplaces in the east and west walls, and ovens in the south-east and south-west corners. This might therefore represent the late priory kitchen remodelled and heightened by the Dacres. (Summerson and Harrison 2000).

West range of the cloisters of an Augustinian monastery were converted into a house after monastery dissolved in 1537. Although somewhat larger than most solar towers it was attached to a hall and was not a free standing tower house. The walls are not universally thick and their thickness may represent the needs for chimneys in the buildings first incarnation as a kitchen block. It seems quite likely this chamber block would have crenellated, as that was a standard architectural style for such towers in this area, although it is arguably how much this might be considered a 'fortified' building.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:29

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