Ancient Religious Houses, Chantries, Etc.

  Besides the Priory, which is already described, there were several other religious institutions in the city of Carlisle. Camden, and other writers, inform us that St. Cuthbert founded a nunnery here, but the venerable Bede, who wrote the life or St. Cuthbert, and than whom there can be no better authority, says that the nunnery was of a much older date, and that the object of the saint's journey to Carlisle was for the purpose of obtaining an audience of queen Ermengard, wife of Egdrid, king of Northumbria, who was then on a visit with her sister, the abbess of that house. This nunnery, which was destroyed by the Danes, is supposed to have occupied the site of the present church of St. Cuthbert. Another nunnery is also said to have been founded here by David, king of Scotland. In 1233, a convent of Grey or Franciscan Friars, and another of Black Friars, were founded in this city. The former was situated on the east side of English-street, and the latter on the south side of the citadel, between St. Cuthbert's church and English-gate. The name of Blackfriars'-street, which still remains, proves that some brethren of this order had once a residence in Carlisle. The old county gaol was part of the conventual buildings. There was also within the city a free chapel or chantry, dedicated to St. Alban, most probably of royal foundation. It was suppressed, with other chantries and free chapels, in the 3rd of Edward VI, and was granted, with its possessions, which consisted of several houses in the city to Thomas Dalton and William Denton.

This chapel was situated at the head of Scotch-street and English-street, and its site has given name to St. Alban's-row, where some remains of its foundations are yet to be seen in the cellars of the houses which have been built on its site1. The bell on the town-hall is said to have belonged to this chapel and, the cross which stood on the eastern end of the building is preserved in the museum of the Literary and Philosophical Society. There was a chantry* of St. Cross within the cathedral, as appears from the grant of Edward VI, which conveyed all its "messuages, lands, tenements, profits, and hereditaments, whatsoever, in the city of Carlisle, and in Kirklington," to Henry Turner and Thomas Bucher, and their heirs. There were also two other chantries or chapels in the cathedral, dedicated to St. Roch and St. Catherine. The latter was founded by John de Chapple, who endowed it with lands now possessed by the dean and chapter. St. Roch was founded end endowed with 200 by bishop Whelpdale, in 1423.

At the south end of Botcher-gate, without the walls of the city, was the Hospital of St. Nicholas, said to have been founded by one of the kings of England, for the reception of thirteen lepers, male and female; but the Messrs. Lysons say it was for twelve poor men and a master. "This hospital was destroyed, in 1296, when John Comyn, earl of Buchan, besieged Carlisle; and, after being rebuilt, it was burnt by the Scots, in a subsequent siege, when an inquisition ad quod dammum was directed." In 1477, both the hospital and its possessions were granted to the prior and convent of St. Mary, and subsequently passed, with the rest of the priory estates, to the dean and chapter. The buildings connected with this hospital are supposed to have been destroyed during the civil wars, probably about the year 1646, when the cathedral was "curtailed of its fair proportions." The Newcastle and Carlisle Railway now runs through its site. It is also said that Egdrid, king of Northumberland, founded a college of secular priests, in Carlisle, and that St. Cuthbert founded a monastery, but there is no account of either. Etiam ipsœ periere ruinœ. Among the payments charged on the dean and chapter, by Henry's grant, are 2 6s. 8d. annually to the chaplain, and 5 17s. 0d. to three bedesmen of St. Nicholas' Hospital; three pensioners, called St. Nicholas Almsmen, now receive 2 yearly, from the dean and chapter; and six others, called Patent Almsmen, also belong to the cathedral establishment, and, pursuant to the patent roll of the 15th of Edward III have 5 per annum each.

*Some writers say that Walter restored, rather than founded, the Priory.


Mannix & Whellan, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland, 1847




1. I don't know whether the foundations and cross of St. Alban's are still extant.

29 April 2008

Steve Bulman