Religious Place In Tynemouth, Tyne And Wear
A combined moated castle and gatehouse with the ruins of a Benedictine priory where early kings of Northumbria were buried.
If you live in the north east, then undoubtedly you will have seen Tynemouth Priory before. Sitting on the headland called Pan Ball Crag you can see it as you travel from Whitley Bay and also amazing views of it from across the harbour from South Shields too.
As you approach Tynemouth the building you see jutting out is the priory, but once you arrive in Tynemouth this is hidden by the gatehouse, so can be a little deceiving.
There is a bit of a mismatch of buildings in the grounds and also a lot of history to get through, so we've allocated the job to Sandra our in-house, highly-rated historian so put us in the picture.
There are 4 separate elements to the site at Tynemouth. The priory is the earliest part, founded in the 7th century. The castle came later in around 1095 and in the late 19th century, the castle was used as an army barracks with several new buildings being added.
Finally, there is the coastguard station built in 1980, which remained in use until 2001. It's quite the mismatch of styles, but we are just talking about the priory and castle to keep things simple.
The Priory was founded by Edwin of Northumbria in the 7th century. In 651 Oswine, King of Deira (Deira being the Southern half of Northumbria), was murdered by Oswiu, King of Bernicia (the Northern half of Northumbria) and his body was brought to Tynemouth for burial.
He was later recognised as a Saint. He was one of three kings to be buried at Tynemouth along with Osred II of Northumbria in 792 and Malcolm III of Scotland in 1093.
The coat of arms of Tynemouth still includes 3 crowns, commemorating the 3 kings who were buried there.
There were several attacks on Tynemouth priory in the 800s by the Danes, at a time when the monastery was flourishing. In 800, after the Danes first attack, the monks strengthened the fortifications, however, the priory was attacked again in 832.
The church and monastery were destroyed in 865 and nuns who had fled St Hildas convent in Hartlepool for their own safety were sadly murdered there. The priory was attacked again in 870 and completely destroyed by them in 875. Only the church of St Mary survived, and is still well preserved to this day.
If you head inside The Oratory of St Mary, or Percy Chapel you will still see the stained glass windows and an altar.
The monastic community was not re-established at Tynemouth until 1083 by Turchil, a monk of Jarrow. In the 12th century the priory began to prosper again, due to it's extensive lands and the priory's possessions became known as the 'Liberty of Tynemouth'.
More work was done on the site and by 1260 there was a choir, presbytery and a chapter house. St Mary's Chapel was updated in the mid 15th century.
The Priory continued to thrive until it was suppressed in 1538 by Henry VIII. He took over the lands attached to the priory and monastic buildings were dismantled.
When the first war of Scottish independence began in 1296, the priory sought permission to fortify the site and additions including a wall and several towers were made. Tynemouth emerged unscathed from the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), due to the castle's defences and an 80-strong garrison.
More upgrades were made in the 14th century, including the 'Whitley Tower' and the castle was described as one of the strongest fortresses in the border region.
In 1390, renewed Scottish Wars caused Richard II to give money to the castle to repair it's defences. Money also came from Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland (he must have been loaded!), and the money helped to pay for the Great Gatehouse which still stands today.
The cannons and guns that were installed still stand protecting the priory and castle.
Tynemouth Priory and Castle are now managed by English Heritage.
Finally a little aerial photo to give show you the full grounds. It's not our usual drone shot, it's actually just a photo of a painting in the visitor centre!
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Place contributed by Simon Hawkins
Thanks for checking out this place on the Fabulous North! I do enjoy a wander out in to the countryside trying to find hidden gems that not many people know about. You can't beat a rogue Pele tower up a remote hill or a mysterious stone circle or a stunning waterfall secluded in a forest.
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