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HOMEPAGE Yorkshire Dales, North Pennines and parts of Cumbria Scenes50b. Bolton Priory Ruins and Priory Church at Bolton Abbey

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The beautiful ruins of the 12th century Augustinian Priory are situated on a bend of the lovely River Wharfe. Bolton Priory was never an Abbey! A community of Augustinian Canons was founded at Embsay near Skipton in 1120. In 1154 Lady Alice de Romille of Skipton Castle (or 1151 Alicia de Romilly) gave the Canons land and resources to establish the priory at Bolton, now referred to as Bolton Abbey. The Priory was 'Dissolved' in 1539 following the dispute between Henry VIII and the Poe in Rome. The establishment was stripped of its furnishings and the roof lead, except the nave was converted to the Parish Church serving the newly formed Protestant Church of England.

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View from the north-east of Bolton Priory ruins from the east bank of the River Wharfe, home to a community of Augustinian Canons from ~1151/1154 to1539. The canons made money from farms, mills and mines and built the magnificent priory (as it would have been) over several centuries of construction. Repairs were needed after attacks by the raiding Scots in the 1320s

On the left the ruinous chancel-choir of the Priory church and on the right the north transept.

 

View of the Priory ruins from the east side of the River Wharfe and children play on the 'beach'

 

No wonder the scene captivated so many artists and the general public since Victorian times.

 

A closer view of the east end of the Priory (the chancel) and the north transept. Later in the 13th century the chancel was extended including the construction of the huge east window, now 'blank'.

 

Work on Bolton Priory began soon after the establishment of the Augustinian foundation, and work of ~1170 exists in the west half of the chancel (~centre of image).

 

The pointed arch of the great east window, totally devoid of all its fine tracery. One of the reasons for sighting Bolton Priory here was the abundance of fresh water and the River Wharfe could be forded.

 

The view from the east of the east end of the Priory ruins, with the south transept on the left and the north transept on the right.

 

There is a small graveyard just north of the north wall of the chancel of the medieval Bolton Priory ruins.

 

The two arches and upper windows of the east wall of the south transept of Bolton Priory

 

View of Bolton Priory from the south-east, on the left the south transept, on the right the south wall of the chancel of Bolton Priory. Round-arched doorways connected the inner chapels with the chancel

On the left is the tall arch of the south side of the crossing, on the right is part of the south wall of the chancel of Bolton Priory.

 

Looking down the chancel eastwards out through the great arch of the east window at the end of the Choir, down to the River Wharfe (unseen lower down). On the left are the remains of lines of canopied arches below which the Canons would be seated when performing the seven offices or services every day!

 

Details of the beautiful stone work in the nave of Bolton Priory.

 

The south aisle wall of the nave of the Priory Church of St Mary and St Cuthbert at Bolton Abbey.

On the left is the south wall of the nave of the Priory Church, with its six sets of double lancet windows (containing the Pugin stained glass), on the right you are looking over where the quadrangle of the cloister was to the south transept of the Priory ruins. The nave was not completed until the mid 13th century.

 

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 the nave was left intact as a parish church of exceptional majesty and atmosphere in such a beautiful rural setting where worship has taken place for over 800 years. The unfinished west tower, begun in 1520, but left unfinished in 1539, is now roofed in. forms a magnificent entrance to Bolton Priory Church.

View from the west of the impressive original west door entrance to the parish church.

Of the canons' church much remains, and the roofed west parts now form the Bolton Abbey Parish Church of St Mary & St Cuthbert. It is the eastern parts, illustrated in the first half of the page, which are sadly, in such a ruinous state.

 

Details of the west windows and the restored west door entrance to the Bolton Parish Church of St Mary and St Cuthbert, the highly ornate west end is of a mid 13th century Early English design.

 

From 1853 to 1880 there was an extensive Victorian restoration of the church, mainly under the guidance of the distinguished architect, George Street and in 1982-1985 the church was refurbished, thanks to the inspiration of Canon Maurice B Slaughter. Above are the fine details of the stonework of the arches of the west door entrance to the nave of Bolton Abbey Parish Church.

 

Looking down the nave of  the Bolton Parish Church of St Mary and St Cuthbert., with the arches of the north aisle on the left, on the right is relatively new east wall, with the 'new' altar at the foot of it. The east wall has a series of paintings of plants on it (more details further down).

 

Some of the stained glass windows of the Priory church. In the north aisle windows there are a few pieces of 14th century stained glass in the upper panels - see below.

 

A few fragments of medieval stained glass in the Bolton Parish Church of St Mary and St Cuthbert.

 

A few fragments of medieval stained glass.

 

High up in the north-east corner of the nave, more fragments of medieval stained glass.

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In the south aisle of Bolton Parish Church of St Mary and St Cuthbert. are the 6 magnificent 19th century stained glass windows by Pugin set into the twin sets of lancet windows, the foremost stained glass artist of his generation. Each set of panels contains 6 medallions representing scenes from the life of Christ, from the Annunciation to the Pentecost.

 

There are 6 sets of panels of the amazing stained glass windows designed by A W N Pugin.

 

The glass panels are of outstanding quality, if not the photographs!

 

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They are magnificent stained glass windows, if not in perfect focus!

 

Very beautiful intricate designs.

 

Medieval fragments of stained glass.

 

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The east wall of the Parish Church was built in 1877 to replace the old wall erected in 1539, below it is the Sanctuary and Altar. The wall painting above the High Altar on the east wall of the parish church was done in 1880 by local artist Thomas Bottomley, assisted by R H Greenwood. The five Madonna lilies represent the Virgin Mary, and other plants symbolise various events and sayings in the life of Jesus Christ.

 

 In the nave of Bolton Parish Church of St Mary and St Cuthbert, I was much taken by the painting on the east wall (though the poor photograph barely does it justice, hand-held camera and too slow!), which consists of five lilies (each slightly different) alternating with six other symbolic plants (see below).

 

1. Barley

Priory Cross

2. Lily

Angel

3. Olive

Chi-Rho

4. Lily

Lion

5. Vine

Crossed Keys

6. Lily

Paschal Lamb

7. Passion Flower

Star of David

8. Lily

Ox

9. Rose

IHS

10. Lily

Eagle

11. Palm

Alpha and Omega

Below each plant are various emblems, one heraldic and ten religious.

 

The Priory ruins and Parish Church in the context of the beautiful River Wharfe and Wharfedale as we head back to the car park on the Bolton Abbey Estate.

 

What a last view of the Bolton Priory ruins, so humble and lacking in remains, but such great beauty in their setting of the Yorkshire Dales.

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