Lanercost Priory

Bank Holiday weekends often find us heading North, away from the crowds, towards the quieter parts of North East Cumbria. This Easter was no different and we took a trip up to Lanercost Priory and Talkin Tarn.

Lanercost Priory is one of our favourite ruins, and the Parish Church, next door to the ruined Priory, has some stunning furnishings and windows. The Church - dedicated to St Mary Magdalene - was built in the 12th or 13th Century, with stones from the nearby Hadrian's Wall.

There are a number of stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris.

In addition there is a beautiful Dossal, designed by William Morris and embroidered by the ladies of the Parish, and Morris's daughter, May Morris. The Dossal was commissioned by George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle, who lived at nearby Naworth Castle and was a patron of the arts and a keen supporter of the Arts and Crafts movement. George Howard was close friends with William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, and this friendship is the reason why there are some many outstanding examples of Arts and Crafts and Pre-Raphaelite art, in and around the Carlisle area.


On this visit we spotted the Evie Hone Window. Evie Hone was an Irish artist who became friends with Winifred Nicholson, when they were both students at the Byam Shaw School of Art. They were lifelong friends, often visiting each others homes. When Winifred's mother Cecilia Roberts died, Winifred asked Evie to make a window in Cecilia's memory. Winifred suggested that Cecilia could be wearing a blue dress, but Evie, who knew Cecilia from her visits to Winifred, said that blue was not her colour. Evie chose red. St Cecilia is the patron saint of music which is why she is holding an instrument ready to play. Knowing Winifred Nicholson's work it seems likely that the flowers have not blossomed by chance at Cecilia's feet.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Lanercost, especially with all the connections to the Arts and Crafts, Pre-Raphaelites and Winifred Nicholson. There is even a connection, through the Dossal, with Christine Boyce, the stained glass artist who created the memorial window to William Nicholson, in Millom Church.

Such richness in a quiet and isolated part of Cumbria.