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A couple of blogs ago I promised to provide more detailed information about Newark Priory which is situated near Pyrford not far from Woking in Surrey (UK). My earlier blog described how to walk from the centre of Woking (with its well connected rail links) to the priory ruins following a very scenic route. If you missed it and would like to take a look please use the link here.
I find the ruins are particularly impressive, particularly when you understand something of the history of the priory. Therefore in addition to providing some more information and high definition photos in this week’s blog I will also introduce you to the music and associated video by the TRANSFORMATES which were inspired by this ancient monument. More on that later, but first I would like to share with you another ancient monument close to the priory ruins which played an important role in its history. This other ancient monument is the church of St. Nicholas in Pyrford which itself dates from about 1140 A.D.
The reason I refer to this church in a photo blog about Newark Priory is that it is reported that the hill upon which the church stands was used as a base in 1539 for Thomas Cromwell to bombard the Priory during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In other words Cromwell would have situated one or more cannons close to St. Nicholas’ Church in order to get a clear shot at the Priory (this use of cannons is not lost in my musical composition!).
I will prepare a separate article about St. Nicholas’ church together with more high definition photos at a later date so consider the picture above as a preview of my collection about this extremely well preserved ancient structure. The church also has a fascinating history which is perhaps not surprising with a building dating from the twelfth century A.D. To wet your appetite I have also included some of the photographs of the church at the beginning of my video to accompany the TRANSFORMATES’ music (appropriately called ‘Rock the Priory’).
Presumably one of the reasons Cromwell would have needed to bombard the priory from a nearby hill was that it was situated on a natural island formed between two quite significant waterways (the river Wey and the Abbey Stream). In fact there are a number of other streams that criss-cross this area making access to the ruins very challenging. In addition I can vouch from my photo-shoot session near the priory ruins that the area is surrounded by some very soggy marshland. For these reasons, together with the presence of some rather ferocious looking cattle (and geese) it is very difficult to get close to the ruins.
Old structures and ruins do not stay the same for ever. I was reminded of this when I took some photos in South Africa of a particularly interesting ship wreck. When I returned a little later to try and take some more pictures I was rather disappointed to discover that much of the wreck had already sunk and disappeared from view (see the picture below).
This awareness that old structures can sometimes change and even disappear drove me to try and capture the current status of the priory ruins in the following photos. The next 11 pictures capture the views of the monument as I walked around it at close proximity. If you double click on any of these perspectives you will open the original high definition photograph and can then magnify the picture to view the construction detail. For anyone interested in how ancient buildings were constructed this may save them having to travel all the way to the site. The priory dates from around A.D. 1190 – this is roughly how far back we have traced the origins of the Duggleby family tree (here is the link to the tree). Interestingly the earliest written records we found about the Duggleby family came from the charters of land transactions by another priory at Bridlington in Yorkshire. That Priory met with a similar fate to Newark Priory during the Dissolution but fortunately its ancient land transaction records where preserved providing us with valuable evidence of the existence of Sir Henry Duggleby and his offspring (for details about these Bridlington Priory records please see my article here).
The present Newark Priory structure is an example of early English Gothic architecture and dates from the reign if King Richard 1 (Richard the Lionheart, 1189-1199). To put this into some perspective against our own Duggleby family history this is around the time when Sir Henry Duggleby and his son Adam Duggleby lived (see the first page of the family tree – here). Wikipedia describes that Newark Priory (then referred to as the Priory at Aldbury) was granted substantial lands in the late 12th Century by Rauld de Calva and his wife Beatrice de Sandes for the Augustinian canons to build a church. This is not dissimilar to the significant parcels of land granted to Bridlington Priory by, among others, the families of Sir Henry and his son Adam Duggleby at around the same time (see my account here). Newark Priory was shown to have considerable non-ecclesiastic assets in the taxations records of 1291 including rents from London, Rochester and Winchester areas.
Newark Priory was dissolved by King Henry VIII. Local reports claim that a cannon was used from nearby Church Hill to bombard or demolish the very extensive buildings associated with the Priory. The establishment and accompanying lands were surrendered in 1538 and the last Prior, Richard Lipscombe was pensioned off. As with the dissolution of other catholic structures all the valuables were sent to the Tower of London and the land was given to the ‘master of the kings horse’.
Today the ruins of Newark Priory are a Grade 1 listed Ancient Monument held under the English Heritage register of buildings at risk.
For true mediaeval architecture junkies I have also included some more detailed shots of the structures around the doors and windows as well as some of the remaining walls. In addition to battling with the marshland and cattle I found myself clambering over numerous cow pats to get these close ups. However I believe it was worth it because this is not an opportunity that presents itself every day. The next 13 photos describe the details of the remaining structures.
Towards the end of my photo-shoot the local geese decided to reclaim their territorial right to the monument!
Although it is quite difficult to get close up views like these you can get some very scenic views of the priory from the Wey Navigation waterway which runs past the site. One of the best positions is at the Newark Lock. Below are some pictures of the lock itself and a Google Earth map of the area to help you locate it if you intend to visit.
Interestingly even the lock itself has a long history dating from 1653 – clearly this area is not lacking in historical relics.
Now speaking of historical relics the photo below captures a more familiar relic in the form of yours truly just to re-enforce the fact that I really did take these pics. In addition to using them to illustrate this blog most of the pictures together with some others from the area have been used in the video for my most recent composition ‘Rock the Priory’.
Rock the Priory tries to capture some of the drama featured in the long history of Newark Priory. I have already mentioned that the piece includes cannon fire (eat your heart out Tchaikovsky with your 1812 Overture – here is the Woking equivalent). In addition the wars raging between the Catholic and Protestant churches have been illustrated using musical battles between a distorted lead guitar and synthesizer which come in half way through the piece (yes it gets a bit heavy!). Those used to the more serene music of my earlier composition ‘Heaven’ will find this latest instrumental piece something of a contrast. If you have headphones be careful on the volume! in addition the tonal range may challenge less capable music systems.
And finally after a day of taking photos I returned back to the centre of Woking to be greeted by a nice sunset from my balcony – just in time for an evening snack and a nice drink. Cloudy days can often provide some of the most impressive sunsets.
If you are interested in reading more about Woking and Surrey history please see the following blog articles:
If you would like to get the YouTube links for my last three releases with the TRANSFORMATES and learn more about the background to the songs please check out the link below:
In addition I have prepared a YouTube playlist which I will update whenever I produce new musical treats. This means you can punish your ears with a single click. Here is the play list link: