The house of Austin Canons known as the Priory of Haltemprice lay in green fields between the suburbs of Cottingham and Willerby to the west of the city of Kingston upon Hull, at Ordinance Survey reference: TA 042 309, surrounded by ever encroaching domestic buildings and developments.  Its scant remains lie open and vulnerable to the weather and vandals.  While there once stood a monument dedicated to God’s good Grace, an edifice to equal many others in Yorkshire, so great was its destruction and subsequent demolition, that its only remains are a few pieces of dressed stone, which are at the mercy of those wanting garden features, and a few indefinable earthworks.  Although this house was never on the grand scale of other monastic houses, its importance to local concerns was considerable.  It was a house dedicated to the order of St. Augustine of Canterbury, whose black habited monks were called canons.   


Haltemprice Priory was, with the exception of the two charterhouses at Hull and Mount Grace, the last Augustinian monastery to be founded in Yorkshire.  It came some 70 years after the high-water mark of the foundation of such houses, and was endowed by Thomas Wake, Lord Liddel as the Priory of the Holy Cross at Haltemprice.  Thomas Wake was granted a mandate in December 1320, by Pope John XXII to found a monastery of the order of St. Augustine in his township of Cottingham, and to incorporate the church of the said town, being of the founder’s patronage, with it.  Evidence indicates that the original site intended for the priory was intended to be in Cottingham.  Some records show that the first priory was actually built there, and that several canons had been granted leave from their house at Bourne, in Lincolnshire, to take up their abode at the new priory.  However, the site proved to be unsuitable, and Thomas Wake decided to remove the entire enterprise some 1-2 miles south, to a place called Newton, which was still within the parish of Cottingham.  Permission was needed from both the king and the pope for such a removal, and consequently, licenses were granted for the removal of the house.  The monastery therefore was moved to Newton a small village just south of Cottingham.  By his foundation charter, dated the Sunday after the Conversion of St. Paul (25th January) 1325-6, Thomas Wake granted to God, Blessed Mary, and all saints, in honour of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Exultation of the Holy Cross, and for his soul, and those of his wife his father and mother, and his ancestors and heirs &c., to the canons regular of Alta Prisa (Haltemprice)[High Endeavour} his manors and vills of Newton, Willerby, and Wolfreton, with the rents and services of the free tenants and serfs, ordaining that those three vills Newton (que nunc Hawtemprice vocatur) [now called Haltemprice], Willerby, and Wolfreton should be made a liberty, with a court of frankpledge distinct from Cottingham, and should have assize there of bread and ale &c.  The name ‘Haltemprice’ originates from the medieval French Haut emprise, meaning high, or noble enterprise, it being descriptive of the aims of the establishment.


The estates and lands of Cottingham, were from the time of Domesday, settled upon William d’Estoteville, or Stuteville which family bore as their coat of arms, argent six  bars gules, as represented herein, and as included upon the obverse of the seal of the priory.  In 1200, king John granted the Stutvilles license to crenelate their manorial house at Cottingham, whereupon it became known as Baynard Castle.  It remained a mansion for the Stutvilles until the estates passed briefly to the family of Bigod, whose coat of arms is not included on the seal, but was, or, five escollops argent upon a cross gules.  From the Bigods, it passed to the Wake family whose arms are also shown on the seal, and included herein as being : or, two bars gules, and three torteaux in chief.  The final coat of arms represented on the seal are those of Haltemprice itself: sable, a cross flory (or patonce) argent, a coat of arms sometimes still employed today for less formal reasons.  Another coat of arms is represented upon a carved stone that used to be set into brickwork over the door to the farmhouse.  This stone was dated 1584, with the date being pierced by a heart; the arms are shown as being a fret, and as was normal practice, they were likely, originally set over a fireplace.  This is confusing, as the Stutvilles later adopted the arms, argent, a fret gules, as shown here, but by the date on the stone, the buildings had been granted, by king Henry VIII to one Thomas Culpepper, who’s coat of arms is uncertain, as also is the reason for the inclusion of the heart separating the two elements of the date.  Of this, more later.

In order to provide lands for the priory, Thomas Wake began negotiations to incorporate the church at Kirk Ella, which before then was affiliated to the abbey of Selby.  As a consequence, lands held at Hessle were exchanged with royal and papal approval in 1331.  By 1399, the church of Belton had been appropriated and confirmed by Pope Boniface IX, valued at not exceeding 90 marks, it brought the value of Haltemprice up to 400 marks.  The priory provided for one canon to serve the church and people of Belton.  Wharram Percy had already been appropriated by June 1352, granted by Pope Clement VI, the wings of Haltemprice were spreading far and wide! 


The first appointed prior to Haltemprice was Thomas de Overton, who had been a canon at Bourne in Lincolnshire, his appointment dated from 5th May 1327.  Some eighteen months after in inquiry into the behaviour of the canons at Haltemprice had been cause for concern, their excesses having come to the notice of Archbishop Melton, Ebor. [York], who had dispatched his Archdeacon of the East Riding to investigate.  It seems natural to imply that whatever conditions he discovered, it was deemed necessary to bring in Overton to supervise the vexatious and maybe frolicsome canons at Haltemprice.  Thomas Overton’s rule was short lived, as he died in 1328, an enquiry was therefore held by Archdeacon Denis Avenel into the election of Robert Engayne.  Brothers Walter de Hekyington and Henry de Northwell had elected him, and it was reported that these three were the only canons then installed at the priory.  The installation was approved by Avenel, and de Engayne became the 2nd prior.  Once more his rule was brief, he resigned his post in 1329, and John de Hickling was confirmed prior, but not until 1331.


It is from the 14th century that the remarkable seal, which has survived, dates from.  2¾” (7cm) in diameter, the obverse shows an octofoil (eight lobes) with alternating fleurs de lis and leopards’ heads in the spandrels.  Central is a representation of the house with two banners of Thomas Wake over the roof, while on either side are the shields of de Stuteville of Liddel, and Wake, also of Liddel.  Beneath is the shield which has become associated with Haltemprice, and may represent the arms of the priory.  All is surrounded by a legend which reads “CEO EST LE SEAL LABBE E LE CONVENT DE COTTINGHAM QVE NOVS THOMAS WAKE SINGNOVE DE LIDEL AVOMES FOVNDE


The other side of the seal, the reverse, shows another octofoil around an architectural feature of three levels segmented, and with gothic arches over each.  Kneeling figures occupy each segment, including a prior, Sts Peter and Paul, five canons, and the founder.  A further two banners and a shield of Wake are included.  The legend which surrounds the whole reads  “EN L’AN DE L’INCARNATION MILL’ CCCXXX SECOVNDE AL HONOVR DE LA VERAI CROYZ E DE NŔE DAME E SEYNT PERE E DE SEŸT POVL.


The depiction of the priory church on the obverse of the seal seems to be somewhat stylised as it was reported to Pope John XXIII, in the year 1411, that the building of it, which had begun ‘in times not far remote’, had ceased due to the death of the founder, and was not complete.  What is more, the endowment remaining was insufficient to achieve completion.  Being as the seal was dated to the previous century, it may be that it shows what was intended, rather than what was.  To compound the difficulties, the bell-tower had been blown down, ruining the church and other buildings and offices of the priory.  Further, a fire destroyed the expensive gatehouse and some of the other buildings and offices.  [Cal. Papal letters, v. 376]  All this within about ten years of the beginning of the 15th century proved almost disastrous.   Records, apart from those concerning the election of priors, is sparse, and even that is inconclusive, and must be considered with caution.  However, the best suggestion for a chronology of priors is as follows:

Thomas de Overton 1327  died   1328
Robert Engayne 1329 resigned
John de Hickling confirmed 1331 
Thomas de Elveley confirmed   1332   resigned 1338
William de Wolfreton 1338 died 1349
Robert de Hickling 1349 resigned 1357
Peter de Harpam 1357 resigned 1362
Robert de Hickling elected 1362 occurs 1367  ????
Peter (de Harpham) ?? occurs           1370
Robert Claworth   died  1391  
William de Selby confirmed 1391          occurs           1414
Richard Worleby     occurs 1415  
      Resigned 1423
John Thweng  elected 1424  occurs   1425 – 1430-5 – 1437  
Robert Thweng        occurs    1435 – 1439
Thomas Dalehouse     elected  1441    resigned  1457  
Robert Holme  confirmed  1457      
William Maunsel                                             elected     1471    died  1502  
William Kirkham     1502  died    1506  
John Wymmersley     1506     died   1514  
John Nandike                                  confirmed  1514  occurs    1517  
Nicholas Haldesworth   1518      
Richard Fawconer     elected  1528      resigned 1531  
Robert Colynson elected   1531  last prior     

The apparent scarcity of rendered stonework could indicate that much of the priory was constructed from brick, which was a heavily used building material in Hull nearby; or it might indicate that most of the stone had been robbed out since the buildings fell into disuse after the Dissolution.  Unless further investigations are undertaken before the site gets redeveloped, the answer might never be found.  Some academic suggestion says that the higher status buildings were indeed brick built with dressed stone details, while the lower status buildings were timber framed, again, the lack of substantial archaeological remains would seem to confirm this theory. 


 It was not unusual for buildings, especially large ones such as churches to be built of brick; stone forming the dressings, quoins, windows and other structural features, as can be still seen at the contemporary church of Holy Trinity in Hull, it being, at 285 feet (87 meters) one of the largest parish churches in the land.   Of the existing farmhouse and buildings, some may argue that used to be the gatehouse of the priory, but while the location may be correct, the building its self is much later, as evidenced by Pevsner, who reported : “Could this have been the priory gateway?  Set above is a carved shield (see above) dated 1584, and part of the building is clearly this period (1584), although altered and refenestrated in the 18th century.


The east end was probably rebuilt in the 19th century and the south-west wing added in the 18th century.  Behind, at the junction of the wing and the main block, is a brick staircase tower containing a good late 17th century closed-string dogleg staircase with square newels and bulbous balusters.  Nearby in the west elevation is a stone two-light Perpendicular window head.  …….  (under the east end is a vaulted cellar)  This remnant of a once more important building was derelict at the time of writing (1993)”   Archaeology is more prosaic, simply stating ‘that the farmhouse includes part of a high status early 16th century building including a doorway and a section of walling, buried fragments of architectural worked stone have also been uncovered in this area in the past.’  As can be seen from enclosed photographs, the dereliction has been allowed to continue, and the site has been robbed of many of the mentioned features. 


Of the priory as a building there is little else to remark, but the history remains to be completed.  In 1440, Henry VI granted Hull a charter creating it and the surrounding areas into a county of its self.  This meant that many of the rights, which had been held independently, now came under the authority of Hull-shire.  Some form of conflict was bound to ensue, and in the early reign of Henry VIII, the then Prior argued that it was HIS authority which was pre-eminent regarding the lands of Wolfreton and Willerby in accordance with the charter of foundation granted to Thomas Wake.  The sheriff of Hull, Edward Mattison, was equally adamant that it was Hull’s rights that were superior.  Consequently, on 6th October 1515, he and 200 citizens of Hull made their way towards Wolfreton.  John Nandike had by then assumed the priorship, and warned of the approaching mob, organised his tenants, armed his monks, and the ecclesiastical warriors set forth to defend their rights, by force if necessary.  When the two opposing forces met, there was a very heated exchange of words and views.  After losing patience with those recalcitrant monks, the sheriff eventually ordered his archers to let fly their arrows.  There then followed a hard-pressed battle, during which the fortunes of both sides swung from the advantageous to the desperate.  Eventually however, the trained men of Hull were able to defeat the monks, who retreated to the priory, hotly pursued by a rampant sheriff and his men.  It was about this time that the mayor of Hull, together with some 60 horsemen arrived and called a halt to the conflict.  It was a further three years until the dispute was resolved after the case had been presented before the Star Chamber in London, and the typical English compromise was reached, whereby, the priory handed over control of the freshwater springs to Hull, and in return, the priory received the royalties of Willerby and Newton.  The recorded version of the judgement appears in Hull’s Bench Book 3, and a full transcription can be accessed HERE. (Click the blue HERE to open a new window containing the full transcript)

  My thanks go to the Archivist at the Brynmor Jones Library, Hull University, for permission to reproduce it here.  To view images of the actual document click on the thumbnails, which will open into a new window, they are here reproduced by kind permission of Hull City Archives, to whom go my sincere thanks.  BRE.2 is the first page – BRE.2a is the second: the reference BRE.2, f.104 was formerly titled Bench Book 3 known also as Liber Albus or White Book.  [The images are large, so may take a little time to load]





On the 26th May 1536, the house was visited by commissioners Dr. Richard Leyton and Dr. Thomas Legh, who reported that the house was held by the prior Robert Collynson and nine ‘confrates’ together with forty servants and boys.  They suppressed the priory on the 12th August next.  Layton and Legh had managed the almost impossible task of dissolving all the lesser monasteries in seven entire counties within SIX weeks, of which Haltemprice was but one.  In their report of the place they said, under the heading -

[meaning superstitions or legends of the house, in the original Latin],  Haltemprist.  Huc fit peregrinatio ad Thomas Wake pro febri, et in veneacione habent sancti Georgii, et partem sancta crusis et zonam Marie parturientibus salutiferam ut putator. 

A colleague has kindly provided the following original full translation from Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, vol. 10, no.364 (p.139):

Haltemprise. - 4 sod. [i.e. sodomites]., 2 incon. [i.e. incontinent = not celibate], one of them before entering religion.  Founder, the duke of Richmond. Rents, 104/. Superstition: pilgrimage to Thomas Wake for fever, and they reverence the arm of St George, a part of the Holy Cross, and the girdle of St Mary, which is thought to be helpful in childbirth.” 

Interesting to note that the two commissioners managed to get the founder of the Priory wrong, but this error possibly assisted the monks in their attempts for pensions, having apparently a royal patron.  The comments regarding the apparently less than acceptable moral condition of some of the monks at Haltemprice was not a special case.  Layton and Legh took a certain pleasure in making such claims, true or not, and at many a monastery they visited, similar such claims were made against the monks.  I should also be noted that for the tomb of Thomas Wake to have been the focus of pilgrimage was a very rare occurrence for one not canonised, nor even of the Church.

The clear annual rated value in 1535 was assessed at £100 00s 3½d (net).   This figure was itemised in Valor Ecclesiasticus :

The annual income was as follows in old and new UK currency:

From the site and manor  £12 07s 10d  £12.39  
Lands and tenements in Cottingham parish £18 10s 00d £18.50  
Property in Etton    £01 04s 00d  £1.20  
Howilke    02s 00 £0.10  
Tithes from rectory of Kirk Ella  £46 13s 04d   £46.67  
Tithes from rectory of Wharram Percy £23 06s 08d £23.34  
Lands and tenements in Willerby, Wolfreton, West Ella ,Swanland, Anlaby, Kirk Ella, and Hessle  £61 17s 00d   £61.85  
Lands and tenements in Barkeston   £06 13s 04d    £6.67  
Lands and tenements in Deeping (Lincs) £04 00s 00d   £4.00  
Pension from Belton, Isle of Axeholme   £03 06s 08d  £3.33  
Total £178 00s 10d   £178.04  

Annual expenditure was :

Rents to the Crown for lease of pasture called ‘Le Wythes’ (the Wises) in Cottingham; other rents : Crown, Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary, York, Rector of Cottingham, Prior of Ferribly, Beverley various, and Other pastures in Willerby and Cottingham 

£13 04s 01½d £13.21  

Various pensions to the Archbishop of York concerning Kirk Ella, Wharram Percy, and Towthrop  

£43 17s 08d  £43.89  
To the Prebendaries of Beverley and the rector of Kyrkby      
Homondale   £9  18s 04d   £9.92  

Alms to the poor on the obits (sic) of Henry Brownfete and  Thome Kyrkman           

£02 00s 05d   £2.02  
Fees to Earl of Northumberland, two bailiffs, and an auditor  £9    £9.00  
Total   £78 00s 06½d   £78.03  
Carried forward £178 00s 10d  £178.04  
Balance £100 00s 3½d   £100.01  


This value of the priory was meagre compared to houses such as the nearby Meaux Abbey at £445 10s 05½d or £445.53 and Watton at £453 07s 08d or £453.39, which placed Haltemprice in the class of lesser monasteries of less than £200 per annum.

For a few days during the Pilgrimage of Grace, the monastery was re-established, the hows and wherefores are unknown except that Robert Aske, one of the East Riding leaders of the revolt, and who hailed from Aughton, not too far distant, was married to one of Sir Ralph Ellerker (the Elders’s) daughters (sister of the Younger – see below).  It had been a hope of the rebels that Sir Ralph would join them, and maybe the re-establishment of Haltemprice was an inducement.   It was a forlorn hope however, Sir Ralph had other plans for Haltemprice.


There remains some confusion regarding the dispersement of the priory and its lands after it had been dissolved.  My personal theory has it that Sir Ralph Ellerker of Risby in East Yorkshire secured a lease on the property in 1536, possibly from Thomas Culpepper, who it is known was granted some, if not all the Haltemprice lands.  Ellerker almost certainly received some small recognition from a grateful monarch for his loyalty during the recent “Pilgrimage of Grace”, during which troubled time Sir Ralph, together with Sir John Constable ensured that the town of Hull remained loyal to the king by quelling all indications of insurrection.  Sir Ralph had received a letter from the king at Greenwich, also addressed to Sir John Constable and Sir Christopher Hilliard (sic), dated 19th Jan 1536/7 [HCR L 12] about the apprehension of John Hallam, and giving instructions concerning his examination, trial, and execution; and also ordering the arrest of Sir Francis Bigod.  A later letter addressed to the same men, and likewise from the king, gave them thanks for the examination and execution of John Hallam and urging the speedy arrest of Bigod [HCR L 14].  The site of the Priory together with certain other lands were subsequently granted to Sir Ralph at Michaelmas 1539 at a rent of £18 / 14s / 9d per annum for a period of 21 years.  This date is in conflict with that mentioned previously, so, whether the survival of the document from which this date is derived is an update – a re-affirmation of the grant of land – I cannot tell, but the confusion does not end there.  In 12th June 1540, the lands and presumably the estate of Haltemprice were granted to Thomas Culpepper.  Not to mince words, Culpepper was the queen’s lover, and in 1541 during a royal progress in the north, the queen – then Catherine Howard – Culpepper, and Lady Rochford took great delight searching all lodgings for back stairs or secret ways for Culpepper to access the queen’s bedroom.  Discovery of the deception was inevitable however, and on the 10th December 1541, Culpepper paid for his passion with his head; queen Catherine’s followed in the New Year of 1542.  None of which appears to have much relevance here, except that upon the death of Culpepper, Sir Ralph Ellerker once more seems to regain the title to the lands.  He later became a Member of Parliament, but died fighting at Boulogne in 1546.  Many subsequent generations of Ellerker’s are interred in the parish church of St. Peter in Rowley, East Yorkshire.  It aught to be included here that in reference to the coat of arms bearing the date 1584 over the door to the farmhouse for so long [see above], that the coat of arms for the Ellerker family was a fret (sometimes differenced by a chief – a stripe at the top of the shield), very similar to those depicted on the carving. 

One suspects that the shield has often been attributed to the De Stutville’s of earlier times, borrowed perhaps to enhance the history of the place.  In truth, the Ellerker’s had no need for such embellishment; they had their own arms.  Different branches of the family each bore slightly altered arms from the others, and it is of interest to note that the tinctures for the main branch of the family were azure a fret argent. A depiction of Risby Hall dated 1700 shows the arms quartered with those of Hildyard, but in this version, they appear to be reversed – argent a fret azure – this would tally with the arms shown over the door of the farm. 

The Priory farm continued in the ownership of the Ellerker’s until the latter quarter of the 18th century.  In 1777, the family had become extinct of a male heir, the manors and lands devolving principally upon Elizabeth Mainwaring Ellerker, Harriet Mainwaring Ellerker, Charlotte Mainwaring Ellerker, and also upon the Hon. George Onslow who claimed via his (assumed dead) wife Isabella Mainwaring Ellerker.  The Haltemprice part of the entire estate was formed by the currently surviving farmhouse, out buildings (now demolished), and 208 acres of land adjoining [Bulmer’s 1892].  To this, though nowhere mentioned, but subsequently added to the historical monument, are the three depressions in Ash Hill, a field surrounded by a ditch or moat, the three depressions being the remnants of three interlinked fish ponds dating to the time of the Priory.

In the late 19th century, Haltemprice became the property of Arthur Wilson of the famous shipping company family, who acquired it from Lord Onslow.  This brings us to the 20th century, and an article printed in the Hull local press with a date I think of 1903 entitled Ancient Hull, The Story of Haltemprice Priory, Old Time Documents, from which this is directly quoted “The several local histories of the century ago refer to finds of carved stone, bones, a seal, and other fragments.  And recently, in excavating in the vicinity of the farm buildings which now exist about the site of the Priory, a score or more of massive stones, evidently part of the once ecclesiastical building, were revealed.  One was part of a pinnacle, with panelled or hollowed sides and a tapering end, another was a carved floral head of a pinnacle or other section; and one was about four feet long, flat on one side and an equal sided ridge on the other, being evidently the coping of a wall.  There were one or two blocks which on one of their sides had deeply or rounded in-and-out carving.  They were about three feet long and about two feet across at their broadest ends.  Each stone was a quarter of a section of the pillars or columns which had at one time graced the old priory building.  As the farm was requiring a bridge over the boundary drain on the south side of Haltemprice – which with its 208½ acres. Is, by the by, a parish within its self – the stones went to make the foundations of the bridge before antiquarians sighted them.  In these landings they are visible when the dyke is dry, but only the plain or uncarved sides are to be seen.  Chippings from loose carved stones and those incorporated in the farm buildings show the priory to have been constructed of mountain limestone, as found and quarried in the neighbourhood of Tadcaster in the West Riding.**”  

**A kind of white magnesian limestone quarried in the locality of Tadcaster WR, which quarries belonged in the Middle Ages to King’s College Cambridge and the canons of Howden amongst other ecclesiastical interests was in those times a popular building stone.  There were several reasons for this, not least its attractive glowing whiteness and its relative softness that allowed for easy carving.  If one can imagine the fine tracery and masonry of York and Beverley Minsters or Selby Abbey, for all are built of the material, and then one begins to form a picture of the stone as it was used at the Priory.  The combined use of the local reddish orange bricks and magnesian limestone at the Priory can easily be appreciated by viewing the exterior of Holy Trinity church in nearby Hull, which dates from a similar period.  Although Haltemprice Priory was smaller than Holy Trinity that being the largest parish church in the country, the general overall impression would have been very similar.  The composition of magnesian limestone, sometimes referred to as Dolomite, for those of a chemical bent is: CaMg(CO3)2.  The use of it too had to follow certain rules “A stone should never be laid with its bedding planes parallel to the outer face of a wall.  The builders of out Gothic cathederals seem to have carefully observed this rule, now much neglected.” [VCH Yorks vol. 1 footnote 1].  When Tom Sheppard (the ‘father’ of Hull’s museums) in c1903 identified the stonework at the Priory as being Tadcaster stone, it is the above to which he was referring.  It has also been proposed that the stone was not from the Tadcaster quarries, but from those at Ancaster in Lincolnshire, where a similar but slightly lesser quality magnesian limestone was also quarried.  Results of analysis taken from samples of stone at the Priory will be revealed with the publication of the archaeological report that will be displayed on this site as soon as they are available, in section two, the update.

It is too easy to get over involved with such details as this, so I must now return to the main narrative. [RGH]


The article later continues regarding the Priory “An old bell, evidently centuries old, has been presented by Mr. J. Sudderby, the owner of Haltemprice, to the Hull Museum, along with a view of an ancient doorway of the farmhouse.”  The inference here I think is that the bell had belonged to the priory, but whether the bell has survived the ravages of World War Two bombing or not is in question, for certain the museum lost a large part of its collection at that time. 

In 1916, it is listed that the Priory farm was then either owned or tenanted by Albert Briggs, thence one assumes it passed to his son Ernest, who is listed there in 1937.  An amazing survival of an interview, together with photographs, published by the Hull and Yorkshire Times on the 7th January 1956, has come down to us.  The reporter was Kevin Carrol, who describes the attitudes of the then farmers of the Priory farm, tainted without doubt by incessant poking around by antiquarians with or without permission, it also contains some exaggerated history of the place including an inevitable ghost – which will not be described here!!   

An examination of the site was conducted by Norman Higson and Lt. Col. Norfolk [it has to be assumed, by the initials on a plan of the survey plan they made] on the 12th July 1959. 

This field survey, while it purports to be that of an excavation – held by the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull [DDX / 16 / 339 and 340], to whom my thanks for their permission to reproduce it here [the actual copyright holder is currently unknown, anyone with information regarding this should contact me via email is in today’s terms, a “lumps and bumps” survey with the interpretation of the earthworks described by Mr. Higson and Lt Col. Norfolk.  They also mentioned stone walls running 14 feet and 10 feet from an angle that was located in a garden on the site [SMR (Med. Arch. Vol. 4)] It was apparently the first attempt at what was planned as a major investigation of the site including an in-depth survey and an excavation to be carried out the following year by a “local group”.  Mr. Briggs, already not over enamoured by the constant attention of unwanted people on his land, was it seems, having none of it.  He forestalled any further investigations of the site by bulldozing, ploughing, and cultivating those areas which contained earthworks during February 1960, to the extent that it is thought, nothing now has survived.

A description of the interior of the farmhouse was reported in the Cottingham LHS Journal vol. 5 pt. 4 – April-June 1976. 

“From most view points the building is not especially impressive for it seems to consist of a main rectangular block running east – west from those whose western end a southern wing projects.  The principal entrance doorway is in the angle between these two blocks.  The eastern south gables are absolutely plain and substantial architectural detail is confined to the remainder of the south wall and the northwest angle of the building.

On closer examination it is seen that the building history is complex.  It is said that the original Priory buildings (date given for the foundation of the Priory is 1324) lay to the east and north of the present farmhouse and that the existing building, therefore, has nothing to do with the pre-reformation structure saved in the reuse of demolition material from the Priory – a conclusion aided by the fact that a coat of arms over the principal door is dated 1584.  The following, however, is revealed:-

The doorway itself is of moulded brick of exceptional richness.  For example, the spandrels chief ornament flanked by other pierced and shaped motifs of a character that cannot now be matched in any other contemporary brickwork in North Humberside.  It is possible, but not probable, that the doorway could have been moved brick by brick from the Priory building.  (The complexity of the brickwork would have made this and expensive undertaking).   To the left of the doorway, however, the changing thickness of the brick wall and its chamferings make it seem more likely that the doorway was once a gateway inset into the boundary wall, a view perhaps confirmed by the fact that a continuation of this wall projects from the west of the building crowned by still partially decorative stone battlements.

Taking this as a starting point and giving this gateway a date of 1500 – 1525 (but it could be earlier) the first structure to be added to it on the northern side is a rectangular room, part stone part brick, in which the remains of an early window can still be seen, a compartment that internally now contains the late 17th early 18th century balustered staircase.  This building was then continued eastwards until about 20 feet from the east wall.  The building period can be precisely defined by the survival of simple flints, which stop abruptly.  Internally this portion contains a now much subdivided principal chamber whose ceiling is divided into four equal compartments by two massive moulded beams that serve to support the subsidiary, though smaller, ceiling joists some of which are moulded and some chamfered.   The eastern most compartment (that is the part without external plinths) is built over a semi-elliptically vaulted cellar whose north and south (now blocked) windows have stone mullions and heads of uncertain date.  To negotiate the vaulting, this eastern-most room, a large kitchen with its once open fireplace, is raised a few steps above the level of the rest of the building.  This ceiling here and in the room above has a massive longitudinal beam running east to west that was intended to give support to the principal ceiling joists (many of whose undersides do not, however, rest upon the upper surface of the longitudinal beam).

There are two staircases in the building. The principal staircase at the west end has a handsome turned balustrade between stout square newals.  Like many other staircases locally it is approximately square on plan with moulding only on the wall side of the handrail which is a local characteristic.  The baluster pattern follows that of Beverley houses such as 14/16 Newbegin, a house of about 1680 or 1700.[c1689 : Pevsner].

The rooms to the south of the staircase occupying the whole of the south wing have interesting survivals of reused carved woodwork whose early history is almost certainly traceable in that the various carved mouldings and doors and the chimneypiece in the first floor room are almost certainly part of Colin Campbell’s Eastgate House, in Beverley, a house built between 1716 and 1721 and demolished in 1766.  The documentary evidence of the building accounts for the house shows that all carved work was carried out by William Thornton of York one of the leading carvers of the day.  When Eastgate House was demolished its carved fittings were dispersed throughout the area (Thornton’s best work can best be studied in sites at Bessingbrough Hall, Wentworth Castle and Beverley Minster), while demolition material from Hotham House itself can be seen in Beverley Public Library, 26-28 Eastgate and 46 Saturday Market, Beverley.  At Haltemprice Priory the various mouldings have obviously been roughly put together and reduced in size where necessary without any relation to their former position.  They are none the less an important survival.  The remainder of the rooms retain original Georgian doors and occasional brass fittings but are otherwise plain.

It is interesting to note that the roof of the principal block is of basically Queen post construction and the floor of the roof-space is of concrete.  The timbers are a mixture of oak and pine, the latter predominating.  The roof over the south wing is however, of typical East Riding construction almost all in oak.  The timbers in both sections show some woodworm of very long standing.

Generally the plastering between the joists has perished and certain areas of pantiling need urgent repair.  Apart from this the roof is basically in sound condition. 

There is some evidence of settlement cracks of long standing and though very little has been spent upon the building in recent years the building is at the time of writing fully capable of restoration.  It may well be that the renovation of the internal partitioning of the principal room and perhaps the reopening of some of the blocked windows could restore the house to something of its former comfort and pleasantness without substantial expenditure in place of the present underlit and ill-ventilated sequence of rooms to be seen at present.  The most notable gain in this sense would undoubtedly be the great chamber of the ground floor.

We must note in passing that recent ploughing in the fields east of the building has revealed notable quantities of building materials on the site of the former Priory buildings. 

NB:  Only one fragment of the Elizabethan panelling now survives, serving as a cupboard door.

15th August 1975
Ivan Hall.” 

In concluding this section of the history of Haltemprice Priory the author has made a representation of how the place might have once appeared, based it has to be said on nothing but speculation.



My sincere thanks have to be relayed to the staffs of the
Brynmor Jones Library, Hull University;
Hull City Archives Office;
Hull City Libraries;
The Local History Unit, Hull College;
Sites and Monuments Records Office, Humber Archaeological Partnership;
Mr. J. & Mrs. V. Garbera for many of the photographs;
Jean Manco for going out of her way to find the actual translation of the Latin;
John Colby for his patience trying to explain to a novice about limestones;
and by no means least Mrs. C. Hadgraft, the current owner of the site for her unstinting support and co-operation.


The main published works referred to have been the
Valor Ecclesiasiticus; 
Victoria County History of Yorkshire vol. 3, published by the University of London Institute of Historical Research, 1974 edition;
The Building of England series, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding by Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave by Penguin Books, 1997 edition;
and A Brief History of Haltemprice Priory by A. H. Stamp, M.A., Ph.D. published by Cottingham Local History Society, 1989.

Web sites referred to in order to discover the meaning of “magnesian limestone”




Designed by Richard Hayton 2006