The Priory of St Mary of Gisborough was formally dissolved on 8 April 1540 during the reign of Henry VIII. By 1550 the Chaloner family had bought the site and buildings and still own the site today.
The cloister buildings and the nave of the church were cleared away and formal gardens were established by 1709. The cloister had become a sunken bowling green by this date and the only priory building to remain was the Norman gatehouse. The eastern gable of the church was retained as a landscape feature.
In the 1700s the garden was roughly L-shaped and apparently extended as far east as the present lodge at the entrance of Gisborough Hall. The house shown in the 1709 engraving was demolished ca. 1805. The Chaloner family then moved to Gisborough Hall (now a hotel).
Despite the later addition of a Victorian kitchen garden and glasshouses and an Edwardian lily pond, there have been surprisingly few changes to the 18th century layout. Two principal surviving features are The Monks’ Walk and the grand terrace.
The Dovecot at the West of the present day site possibly dates from the 14th century. It can be seen surrounded by an orchard in the 1709 engraving.
Admiral Thomas Chaloner (1815-1884) began excavation of the site in the 1860s and the great quantities of carved Priory stone which he found is laid out where he left it at the East end of the Monks’ Walk.
Look at the vision, restoration and news pages for more information about the current condition of the gardens.
The Priory of St Mary of Gisborough was one of the earliest houses of the Augustinian order in England. It was founded in 1119 by Robert de Brus, on land bequeathed by William the Conqueror. (Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, was a descendant of the founder.)
The Norman gatehouse at the western end of the site is the only surviving element of the original Priory. It has survived because in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was used as an entrance to the Chaloner mansion in Bow Street. It dominated the life and fortune of both the town and the surrounding countryside throughout the middle ages when it was said to have supported 500 households.
We know that at least one fire caused catastrophic damage to the buildings in 1289 when it is recorded that a plumber’s mate carelessly left a pan of burning charcoal on the roof timbers while he took a break. The sparks set light to the roof countless precious objects were destroyed together with much of the church building.
The priory was the fourth wealthiest religious house in Yorkshire at the time of the dissolution. Today it is cared for by English Heritage and is a scheduled ancient monument.