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Thornholme Priory in Lincolnshire ~ An Exploration

The History of Thornholme Priory in Lincolnshire
Yet another medieval gem that once stood in Lincolnshire . . .

Thornholme Priory was an early Augustinian Priory founded c1150 by King Stephen.
It was only a small monastery, for about 12 Augustinian canons , and sat in a valley close to the River Ancholme

River Ancholme Earthworks

Fish Ponds and Earthworks

It doesn’t seem to have enjoyed much prosperity, there were several disputes over patronage and in the 13th century it fell into the King’s hands due to bad debt.
In the 14th century their problems continued and a plea to the Pope himself saw a reduction in the taxes levied on them by the church.

Thornholme Priory

In 1440 a bishop visited and, the suspiciously named, Prior Robert Neville was accused of a litany of complaints by the ‘monks’ about their, lives and treatment.
Such were they that the Bishop made no decision but sought to investigate further.
He found yet more problems with debt and poor ‘management’ of Thornholm Priory.

Augustinian Priory

I would like to revisit this site, this visit took place more than 3 years ago, as it’s a lovely spot and a nice walk too.
It should be noted that the standing remains are not, very sadly, part of the priory but the remains of relatively modern farm buildings.

We’ll move over to comments for any more information or snippets from documents etc.
Any additions and comments are most welcome
All the best


  1. v said,

    January 27, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

    North Lincolnshire legendary Lore 1903
    The religious houses of North Lincolnshire, according to tradition have subterraneous passages between them e.g. one between Thornton Abbey and Goxhill Priory. There was reputedly one from Thornholme Priory but its destination was unknown.

    (Someone must have loved the place so much that they were compelled to write a poem about it. This appeared in the Hull Packet in 1884)

    O’ermastering time that in his ceaseless way
    Levels the pomp of earth in slow decay
    Soon will no lingering trace be left of thee
    They ivied walls – thy ancient witchery
    While yon sweet moon , that shone upon thy state
    And now illumines thy towers so desolate
    With lustre all thy own shall deck the scene
    And shows where Thornholme Priory has been

    Parts of the Priory were inhabited during Cromwell’s Commonwealth by Local JP Mr Michael Monkton.

  2. Rod said,

    January 27, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

    that’s another great find, you really do dig up some gems, right up my street.
    Thanks and regards,

  3. Jon S said,

    February 2, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

    I found this little gem this afternoon; it’s a summary of a report by Glyn Coppack, presented to a meeting of the East Riding Archaeological Society (ERAS) on 26 September 1979, reproduced from the ERAS newsletter for December 1979:

    “Thornholme Priory. A resume not only of the latest season’s work, but of the past five seasons’ excavations was provided by Mr [Glyn] Coppack. Lying two to three miles north of modern Brigg in South Humberside, Thornholme sits at the junction of the marine peat and the limestone, and must have virtually comprised an island in the medieval period. Remarkably clear detail of the ground plan was demonstrated on a J K St Joseph air photo, but recent ploughing affecting a quarter of the 10 acre site has caused much damage. Excavations had revealed much of the Priory such as the 14th century precinct wall, robbed out after the Dissolution, and a boundary ditch which had a curiously defensive character. A Gatehouse with added stables had also been subjected to later stone robbing. The Gatehouse had been constructed in c.1400 and had been modified over the years up until 1536. A barn built c.1500 replaced an earlier hall, possibly affording accommodation for servants. Another 15th century structure, interpreted as a granary, had been a rebuild of a quite different building, a domestic aisled hall of 13th century origins, considered by the excavator to be the Priory Steward’s residence. A dovecote adjacent and of the same date would have provided the means for a valuable winter food resource. Further service buildings have been identified – a bakehouse with stone floor and timber partitions set remote from the Priory centre as a fire risk, and a brewhouse. Beneath the latter were the remains of a 12th century hall and chamber block, the probable forerunner of the Steward’s hall whose ground plan bears a close resemblance to that of the Jew’s House in Lincoln. An earlier phase of the dovecote was also identified and finds of large quantities of leather waste would indicate a tannery nearby, probably utilising guano collected from the dovecote. Evidence of a timber phase for the monastery in the 12th century was also outlined with a guesthouse of c.1180 and a one metre deep precinct ditch. The excavation of the Priory Church remained incomplete, although multi-phase construction has been demonstrated by the partial excavation to date.”

    A quick look at the site on the OS 1:25,000 map shows that the Priory site lies along a spur in the contour lines, which perhaps supports the theory that it may have been an ‘island’ in mediaeval times, with the ‘fishponds’ on the map lying at the lower contour level.

  4. Rod said,

    February 3, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

    Aerial Photograph of the Thornholme Priory Site

    Here’s a wonderful shot taken by Jon S, viewed from the west.
    A view few of us would ever see and a wonderful thing to help us understand the layout of the site
    My thanks to Jon S for a great addition to the site.

  5. Jon S said,

    February 3, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

    Looking TOWARDS the west…!

  6. Rod said,

    February 3, 2013 @ 9:53 pm

    my legendary sense of direction strikes again :)

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