St.Mary's Priory, Princethorpe College

Description of this historic site

St Mary's Priory which was founded in the Imperial period for an order of Bendictine nuns. The priory is situated to the west of Princethorpe Great Wood.

Notes about this historic site

1 St.Mary’s Priory was founded in 1832 for nuns of the Order of St. Benedict, with a girl’s school attached. The buildings, which include a church with a bell-tower, are a prominent feature in the landscape.
2 Begun in 1832 for French Benedictine nuns from Montargis.
3 First monastery to be purpose-built in England since the Reformation; built with Girl’s school attached. Old Church – 1835/7 by Craven. Of Gothic style, on the south side of quadrangle small bell tower once topped with wooden steeple. The building is now divided with a false floor, above is a study hall and below a gymnasium converted into a theatre. Internally substantially altered, externally little altered. New Church – 1897 to 1901 by Peter Paul Pugin. Large, red brick. High south west tower, placed south of the south aisle. Nave, transepts and polygonal apse with ambulatory. Lavish ciborium altar. This Church is unaltered, in good repair and in use. It has a sea-green slate roof.
Nun’s Cemetery – completed by 1838. A round brick structure. Cloister with unbroken outer brick walls and 10 pointed arches to the centre, which was once open to sky and turfed but is now all roofed in. Pillars carry lozenge shaped memorials to nuns. Mainly unaltered, but dilapidated and with an uncertain future. Guest House built 1836-1840 by Joseph Hanson. Constructed of brick with “gatehouse” centre.
Mortuary Chapel built about 1843 by Joseph Hansom. Neo-Norman with plaster groin vault and an apse. This chapel is now used as a classroom, largely unaltered except for windows whose shape and frames are now modern. Other structures, also brick, intended to be cement stuccoed. Brick made from locally quarried clay at site later turned into reservoir; known as “Switzerland” (SP39467128). St.Mary’s Priory is now known as Princethorpe College, R.C.Boarding School. Convent of Mercy, part of Priory’s estate and established in 1897. Now used as boarding house to Princethorpe College.
6 Site Visit.
7 Ground reduction revealed the full extent of the radial vaults which are capped with limestone origininating in 1838 and a center plinth that most likely supported the the old cross base. The pillars surrounding the vault capstones were engraved with names and DOD of past nuns suggesting that that these acted a headstones to the nuns;however the dates span from 1838 to 1917. As the burial ground was suppose to have gone out of use in 1910, these may simply be memorials with the later nuns buried elsewhere.

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