The Priory Church of St Mary & St Bega - over 900 years of worship

The present building was started in about 1120 by the Norman Lord of Egremont on an existing religious site, from which  two 10th Century cross-shafts survive.  It was the first monastery in the west of Cumbria, and functioned until 1539, when it was closed by king Henry VIII in the English Reformation.

The monastic buildings were gradually demolished, but the body of the church was kept in use as the Parish Church. Revival started in 1816 when the pioneering Theological College was founded here, and over the next 50 years the Priory was gradually restored. It is still the second longest religious building in Cumbria, surpassed only by Carlisle Cathedral.

Today, the Priory is the Anglican parish church of St Bees, and is open during the day.

Ad-hoc guided tours can be arranged, Contact Chris Robson on 01946 822468 (email:

Priory drawing
Priory layout at the height of its prosperity
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