Finchale Priory is a former Benedictine priory founded in 1249 by William de St. Barbara, a local knight and Lord of the Manor of Finchale on the River Wear near Durham, England. It was one of numerous monasteries dissolved during Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537. Today, it remains as an important part of Durham's history and can be visited for free.
The priory has had a long and varied life over its 800-year existence. In its prime, Finchale was home to around 18 monks living under the rule of St. Benedict who ran it as a large farmstead with sheep pastures and arable land. After the dissolution, many parts of the priory were taken over by local families who used it as a summer house and some areas were even converted into smithies.
In its later years, Finchale was again used for religious purposes when an Anglican friary was set up in 1796. The friary had a short life and was closed down in 1808. One of its last uses was to prepare supplies for the Duke of Wellington's army during the Napoleonic Wars. Despite the changing activities at Finchale, many architectural features still remain today including parts of the Chapter House, claustral buildings, cloister garth and gatehouse.
Durham County Council
Finchale Priory is now owned by Durham County Council and is used as an educational resource to help educate people about its fascinating history. It also regularly hosts art exhibitions and workshops, allowing visitors to appreciate the beauty of the Priory. Its grounds are used for recreational activities such as nature walks and picnics, making it a great destination for families looking to explore the outdoors in a historical environment.
11 Acres of Lush Parkland
Finchale Priory is still very much alive today, with its rich history remaining intact - from monastic retreats to military supply centres. With its well-preserved architecture, diverse range of activities and educational opportunities, Finchale remains an amazing place to discover more about the Northeast City of Durham.
It has been a witness to centuries of change, but some aspects of Finchale Priory have remained constant over the years, such as its stunning grounds. Its 11 acres of parkland are home to lush greenery and wildlife, including ducks, herons and otters. Many of these areas are open for visitors to explore, making Finchale Priory a great destination for families looking to enjoy nature in a historical setting.
Visitors can take guided tours around the ruins or participate in educational activities such as art classes and scavenger hunts. There is also plenty for children to do, with birdwatching classes, pond dipping sessions and opportunities to spot rare plants throughout the grounds. In addition, special events run throughout the year such as outdoor theatre performances and storytelling sessions that make learning about history even more fun.
Finchale Priory has been designated as a Scheduled Monument, meaning it is protected by law to preserve its historical significance. Its survival over the centuries has ensured that Finchale Priory remains an incredibly important part of British history, and visitors can explore its surviving features including the 14th-century chapel and 15th-century gatehouse.
So if you’re looking for a unique day out with plenty to do and learn, then make sure to visit Finchale Priory! You won’ disappointed.
There are many places of interest in and around the Durham area, please try Durham Museum and Heritage Centre for a quality day out
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