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Kirkham Priory

OS grid reference:- SE 736 657

The ruins of Kirkham Priory lie in a tranquil spot on the north east bank of the River Derwent, at Kirkham. A former Augustinian priory, it was founded in 1130 by Walter l'Espec, lord of Helmsley, who also founded Rievaulx Abbey. Legend relates that Kirkham was founded in remembrance of l'Espec's only son who had died close to the site due to his horse being startled by a boar.

Kirkham Priory

From 1155, following the death of l'Espec, the abbey passed to the de Roos family, of Helmsley. It was surrendered to the crown in 1538 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and stripped of its valuables.

Kirkham PrioryKirkham Priory

The Gatehouse of Kirkham Priory, which dates to circa .1290-5, is one of the best preserved parts of the priory site, it has a wide Gothic style arch, with sculptures of St. Bartholomew and St. Philip, St. George and the Dragon and David and Goliath. There are also many escutcheons with the armorials of the various benefactors of the Priory, including the arms of the de Ros, Scrope, de Forz, Vaux, FitzRalph and Espec families. Nearby are the partial remains of a fourteenth century cross.

Kirkham PrioryKirkham Priory

Some of the buildings now stand reduced to foundation walls, although the impressive surviving remains include those of the priory church, which dates back to the twelfth century and forms the north cloister range, the thirteenth century chapter house, dorter, guest house and kitchens. One of the most imposing structures is the lavatorium. in the cloister. Constructed in the thirteenth century, the lavatorium was used by the monks for washing prior to meals, and is in excellent condition.Visitors can follow the drainage pipes around the monastery to the river.

Kirkham PrioryKirkham Priory

The area was used to test the D-Day landing vehicles, the River Derwent was used to test the waterproofing compounds for tanks and other vehicles. It was secretly visited by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and George VI during World War II. The ruins are now in the care of English Heritage.

Kirkham PrioryKirkham Priory


Around 5 miles to the south-west of Malton, on a minor road off A64. Sat Nav-Postcode: YO60 7JS

Free parking is available for about 50 vehicles on gravel surface some 100 metres from site.

Images courtesy of Paul Johnson

Abbeys and Churches

Historic Buildings