Lanercost Priory Church: Lanercost Cross

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Standing in the now blocked doorway at the west end of the aisle in Lanercost Priory church is the shaft of the Lanercost Cross. Originally standing outside the church, the carved cross shaft contains a central inscription dated to 1214. Although the cross has suffered much damage, the full text was recorded by the English nobleman Lord William Howard in 1607. Part of the inscription was hacked off so that the burial of two year old Robert could be recorded on 20th July 1657 (top). The full inscription was:

“In the 1214th year from the Incarnation, and the seventh year of the Interdict, Innocent III holding the apostle see, Otto being emperor in Germany, Philip reigning in France, John in England, William in Scotland, this cross was made.”

The cross has been in its current position since 1888.

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Lanercost Priory: Outer Gatehouse

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To the west of Lanercost Priory stands the remains of the inner arch of the priory gatehouse. Forming a link between the outside world and the canons inside, the surviving part of the outer gatehouse above would have faced into the precinct and the building would have extended to the edge of the road. Dating to the early 13th century, the gatehouse was constructed of squared calciferous sandstone and coursed rubble which was taken from the nearby Roman wall. The gatehouse remains feature a chamfered segmental arch of three orders, hood mould and moulded corbel stops with fragments of fan vaulting. The current gates reflect the Arts & Crafts interests of George Howard, ninth Earl of Carlisle, who erected them during his restorations. The surviving inner arch of the gatehouse is Grade I Listed.

Lanercost Priory: Undercroft

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Beneath the refectory (dining room) in the south cloister range at Lanercost Priory is the vaulted undercroft. Originally divided in two, the undercroft was built during the mid 13th century and provided plenty of space for storage of food and drink. The last three bays were known as the warming room, the only place the canons were allowed to keep warm in front of a fire. As with the other monastic buildings at the priory, the undercroft is constructed of dressed sandstone and originally lay beneath the refectory which was a victim of the Dissolution.

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Providing a practical way for masons to identify which pieces of masonry they have produced, the marks of the masons were used both as a way for masons to ensure they were paid for their work and as a quality control. Many such marks (above and below) can be found on numerous stones around the priory.

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The marks of the masons provide us with evidence for the working practices of the highly-skilled and able men who constructed the magnificent stone structures of the past. The marks were put on the stone for entirely practical reasons and in answer to the particular needs of the industry. Most masons only worked on site between the spring and the autumn and work was scaled right down during the winter when it was not possible to build for fear of frost damaging the partially complete structure.

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Archaeological excavations in 1994 recorded eighty seven masons marks with tooling marks evident on most of the masonry wall blocks. The position of the marks on the lower courses of the wall above the foundations suggest that they are related to the first phases of construction of the priory church in circa 1200 A.D. We may not be able to identify, or name, all the masons from their marks but we can use them to deepen our understanding of their work and appreciate more the buildings that they helped to create.

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The undercroft contains replicas of Roman altars and tombstones found near Lanercost over the last 200 years. The above relief sculpture depicts Hercules on the left and Jupiter on the right. A similar relief was found in 1821 at Birdoswald Roman Fort and a more detailed description can be found in my earlier post entitled Gilsland: Birdoswald Relief Carving (July).

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The above altar is dedicated “To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, the First Aelian Cohort of Dacians… willingly and deservedly fulfiled its vow, with (…) rinus, beneficiarius, in charge of the work.” The Province of Dacia was situated in Romania and a beneficiarius was someone who had been seconded for special duties.

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The above altar is “To the god Cocidius the soldiers of the Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix willingly and deservedly fulfiled their vow in the consulship of Apr… and Ruf…” Cocidius was a native god and is identified with the Roman gods Mars and Silvanus. This altar was dedicated in AD 153. On the left hand side is a jug and on the right is a dish for pouring the libation or offering on to the top of the altar. A wild boar, symbol of the Twentieth Legion, is portrayed on the base of the altar. This altar was found in the foundations of Milecastle 52 at Bankshead.

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The above altar is “To the god Cocidius the soldiers of the Second Legion Augusta willingly and deservedly fulfiled their vow.” This altar was also found in the foundations of Milecastle 52 at Bankshead.

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The above altar is “To the holy god Cocidius, Annius Victor, legionary centurion.” The cult of Cocidius was limited to north Britain and most of the dedications to him come from Hadrian’s Wall or its vicinity.

Lanercost Priory: Charles Howard & Rhoda Ankaret

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In the south chapel at Lanercost Priory is the tomb of Charles Howard, tenth Earl of Carlisle, and his wife Rhoda Ankaret. Born in 1867, Howard was a British soldier who served in the Second Boer War as a Captain. Following a military career, Howard served as a politician and was elected MP for Birmingham South in 1904. He held his seat in the House of Commons until 1911 when he entered the House of Lords having succeeded his father in the earldom. Howard died in 1912 aged just forty four and was laid to rest at Lanercost. The tomb was designed by the Scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer and features the Dacre scallop shells and coat of arms. The inscription is taken from Proverbs 4:18 and reads “The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more until the perfect day.”

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Lanercost Priory: Lord Thomas & Lady Elizabeth Dacre

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In the south arcade of the presbytery is the elaborate canopied tomb of Lord Thomas and Lady Elizabeth Dacre. Born in 1467, Thomas was the son of Humphrey Dacre, 1st Baron Dacre of Gilsland. In 1487/1488, Thomas married Elizabeth Greystoke, 6th Baroness Greystoke and they had seven children. The carved decoration on the tomb would have been brightly painted but due to erosion this has been lost.

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Thomas fought at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 against Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. The rival forces of Richard III were defeated and Richard himself was killed. His early support for the House of Tudor earned Thomas some favour with Henry VII who continued to trust his services for the remainder of his reign. Thomas was named deputy to the Lord Warden of the Marches in 1485 and eventually became Warden himself in 1509.

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Henry VII named Thomas a Knight of the Bath in 1503. Swearing loyalty to Henry VIII in 1509, Thomas and his forces served under Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, in the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513. Thomas commanded the Border Lancers at the battle in which the invading army of James IV of Scotland was defeated. Henry VIII named Thomas Knight of the Garter in 1518 and he died on campaign in Scotland on 24th October 1525.

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The two salmon are part of Lady Elizabeth Dacre’s heraldic devices

Lanercost Priory: Elizabeth Dacre Howard

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In the side chapels at the east end of the priory church are several tombs of Lanercost’s patrons from the death of Randolf, the first Lord Dacre, in 1339 to the 20th century. The above monument commemorates Elizabeth Dacre Howard who died on 17th July 1883 aged only four months.

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The exquisite life size terracotta effigy is the work of the renowned sculptor Sir Edgar Boehm. Born in Vienna, Boehm became a naturalized Briton in 1866 and was a favourite choice of Queen Victoria. Commissioning Boehm to produce numerous statuettes of her family, she appointed him Sculptor in Ordinary to the Queen in 1881.

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Such monuments and memorials to children were extremely rare before the late 18th / early 19th centuries. The monument depicts the body above a chest tomb lying in repose with its head resting on a corner tasselled pillow.

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