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Priory Church History
The Post-Reformation Church
The Priory was dissolved by order of Henry VIII on 16th October 1539. The monks and Prior were pensioned off, but the nave and tower crossing were retained in use as a parish church. The prior became the first vicar of St Bees. As a result, St. Bees has one of the most complete set of parish records in the country, which date from 1539. These are now in the public record office in Whitehaven.
The Monastic chancel had its roof stripped, but some of the cloister buildings and the gatehouse survived until the 1800's. Access was no longer by the west door, but by a porch on the north side. Three views are shown below from this period.
It is known that the church was extensively repaired in 1611 and a stone with this date, thought to have the initials of the churchwardens, is set in the wall of the baptistry.
The 1611 Stone - now in the baptistry.
During this period essential repairs were carried out, and the church was in regular use, but it was not until the 1800's that the great era of restoration began.