Mount Grace Priory

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House of Mount Grace of Ingelby

North Riding

Mount Grace Priory.jpg
Mount Grace Priory
Grid reference: SE449985
Location: 54°22’48"N, 1°18’40"W
Village: East Harlsey
Order: Carthusian
Established: 1398
Founder: Thomas Holland, 1st Duke of Surrey
Disestablished: 1539
Condition: ruins
Owned by: National Trust
(in the care of English Heritage)
Website: Mount Grace Priory

Mount Grace Priory stands in the parish of East Harlsey in the North Riding of Yorkshire, set in woodlands within the North York Moors National Park. It stands as the best preserved and most accessible of the ten mediæval Carthusian houses (charterhouses) in Britain.[1]

The priory was founded in 1398 by Thomas Holland, 1st Duke of Surrey,[2] the son of King Richard II's half-brother Thomas, Earl of Kent, it was the last monastery established in Yorkshire, and one of the few founded anywhere in Britain in the period between the Black Death (1349–50) and the Reformation. It was a fairly small establishment, with space for a prior and twenty-three monks.[2]

Mount Grace Priory consisted of a church and two cloisters. The northern cloister had sixteen cells whilst the southern had five cells, Frater and Prior's house and the Chapter House. To the west stood the lay brothers' quarters and the guest house.[2]

When Richard II was deposed, Holland and others of the king's supporters attempted to assassinate his recently crowned usurper, Henry IV, at New Year's, 1400, but were captured and executed. Holland's body was eventually recovered and, in 1412, re-buried in the charterhouse that he had founded. The orphaned priory of Mount Grace, bereft of its founder and the income that had been granted to it by Holland and King Richard, depended upon royal largesse for its income for more than a decade.

Carthusian Priory

On its founding, Thomas Holland ordered that the monks were to pray for the king, queen and several members of the royal family, and for himself and his heirs, and many others including John and Eleanor Ingelby. The prior of the Grande Chartreuse allowed him to nominate Robert Tredwye as the first rector (although the charter[3] refers to him as the first prior) and to dedicate the priory to "The Blessed Virgin and Saint Nicholas". The second part of the dedication lapsed and the priory became known as the House of the Assumption of the most Blessed Virgin in Mount Grace.[4]

Nicholas Love, prior of Mount Grace, succeeded in creating a link between the priory and the Lancastrian administration, in part by submitting his "Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ" to Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, Henry IV's chancellor, in support of the archbishop's campaign against Wycliffism, and by granting Arundel confraternity in the spiritual benefits of Mount Grace in exchange for his provision of material benefits. In 1410 the house was formally incorporated into the order, and Love named as fourth rector and first prior.[5]

Broad view of Mount Grace Priory remains

The house received a number of grants and charters:[4]

  • March 1399 from Richard II, a charter of liberties and franchises in general terms, including the right to mine lead.
  • May 1399 from the King at the request of the Duke of Surrey, the seized alien priories of Hinckley in Leicestershire, Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight, and Wareham in Dorset.
  • From Henry IV, in place of Wareham, £100 a year from the Exchequer until they were able to get lands of equivalent value (£1,000) and a barrel of the 'better red wine of Gascony' to be received at Kingston upon Hull every Martinmas.
  • In 1412 from Henry V a confirmation of the gift of Hinckley
  • In 1421 from Henry V four further alien priories (Long Bennington, Minting and Hagh (Hough-on-the-Hill) in Lincolnshire, and Field Dalling in Norfolk), redeeming the yearly £100.
  • In 1456 from Sir James and Lady Elizabeth Strangways of Harlsey Castle the advowson of the church of Beighton, in Derbyshire.
  • In 1462 from the King, the manor of Atherstone, Warwickshire (part of the alien priory of Great Ogbourne in Wiltshire), for the relief of the poor.
  • In 1522, in the will of Sir Thomas Strangways, a Lady Chapel at Mount Grace is mentioned and directions given for the priest who sang masses there.


Mount Grace became an important locus for the production and preservation of contemplative and devotional texts: among writers professed as monks there were John Norton and Richard Methley (the latter known for his Latin translations of "The Cloud of Unknowing" and of the anonymous English translation of Marguerite Porete's "Mirror of Simple Souls"). The only surviving manuscript of "The Book of Margery Kempe" also belonged to Mount Grace Charterhouse.


The priory was closed in 1539 during the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII. Some of the monks had (in 1534) attempted to avoid taking the oath of supremacy but, after they were imprisoned, the last prior, John Wilson, handed the keys over to Henry VIII's representatives. The site then passed into private ownership.[2]

Mount Grace was valued at £382 5s. 11½d. gross (£323 2s. 10½d. net) which included £104 6s. 8d. from spiritualities in Lincolnshire, £164 from lands outside Yorkshire and the rest from its home county. In December 1539 the brothers were awarded pensions totalling £195 – £60 plus the house and chapel called the Mount for the prior, £7 for each of eight priests and small sums for eighteen.[4]

After dissolution

After the dissolution, the ruins of the guest-house of the priory were incorporated into two later houses: a seventeenth-century manor—a rare building of the Commonwealth period— built by Thomas Lascelles[6] and the larger house of 1900–01, an important example of the Arts and Crafts movement.[6] The Manor House at the priory was decorated in Arts and Crafts style under the ownership of the ironmaster Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell.[7]

Present day

The property is now owned by the National Trust but under the care of English Heritage.[1]

Visitors today can see the layout of the whole monastery, including one reconstructed monk's cell, together with the typically small Carthusian chapel and the later house. There is also a museum on the site detailing the history of the priory.

English Heritage currently let the Prior's Lodge as a holiday cottage.[1]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Mount Grace Priory)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Mount Grace Priory – English Heritage
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Moors Knowledge website [1] Date accessed: 29 December 2010.
  3. Manuscript in 'Ingilby Records' [2] Date accessed: 29 December 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 'Houses of Carthusian monks: Priory of Mount Grace', A History of the County of York: Volume 3 (1974), pp. 192–193. Mount Grace Priory
  5. The Archive Of Bermondsey Abbey
  6. 6.0 6.1 BBC News [3] Date accessed: 29 December 2010.
  7. "Arts and crafts revival planned at Mount Grace". English Heritage. 14 January 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  • Sargent, Michael G., ed., 2005: "Nicholas Love. The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ: A Full Critical Edition, based on Cambridge University Library MSS Additional 6578 and 6686, with Introduction, Notes and Glossary." Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press. (ISBN 0 85989 740 0)