Kirklees Priory was a Cistercian nunnery was built in the township of Hartshead-cum-Clifton by Reyner le Flemyng in the reign of Henry II, around 1135.
It stands in what is now Kirklees Park, Brighouse. It accommodated between 8 and 20 nuns who devoted their lives to work and prayer. It became a wealthy nunnery and owned property in several parts of Yorkshire. It was surrendered at the Dissolution of the Monasteries on 24th November 1539.
The Home Farm was established to feed the nunnery and several of the buildings still remain.
A separate Foldout lists some of the women who held the post of Prioress.
At the dissolution, the last seven nuns were dispersed, some taking refuge at the nearby Three Nuns Inn. Amongst them were Dame Joan Keppax, Cecilia Topcliffe, Joan Leverthorpe, Katherine Grice, and Isabel Saltonstall.
There were many scandalous reports about the nuns. On 10th October 1315, the Archbishop of York heard that
There are scandalous reports in circulation about the nuns of Kirklees, and especially about Elizabeth de Hopton, Alice de Raggede, and Joan de Heton, that they did admit both clergy and laymen too often into the secret places of the monastery, and have private talks with them, from which there is a suspicion of sin, and great scandal arises
When the Priory was disbanded after the Dissolution of the Monasteries on 24th November 1539, the property passed to the King.
In 1540, the property was leased to John Rokeby.
In 1543, a grant was issued for Richard Andrews and William Ramsden to purchase the lands.
In 1544, a grant was issued to John Tasburgh and Nicholas Savile who bought the land from the Crown for £987 plus a further 13/4d for the King.
They conveyed the property to William Ramsden and James More.
In 1548, they transferred the property to Robert Pilkington.
In 1564, John Armytage bought the land from Pilkington, and this became the home of the Armytage family.
The buildings fell into disrepair. Some of the stones from the Nunnery were used to build Kirklees Hall. Only the reconstructed gatehouse remains.
Some of listed buildings on the estate – and the buildings at risk – are summarised in the entry for Kirklees Park, Brighouse.
Between 1902 and 1905, Sir George John Armytage excavated the foundations of the main buildings of the Nunnery and identified several parts, including
80 ft by 21 ft, roof covered with slates, glass windows (50 ft of glass) with a High Altar, two altars in the choir, two beneath, and 22 stalls in the choir for the nuns
At the West end of the church, 30 ft by 21 ft, without glass
South of the Church, 40 ft square, breadth 7 ft, three parts covered with slates, chambers over the other part, without any glass
On the East of the Cloister, 16 ft square, under the Dormitory with 3 little windows (6 ft of glass)
A Parlour under the Dormitory, 18 ft square, with a chimney, 2 bay windows, 30 ft of glass
A Parlour at the upper end of the Hall, 24 ft by 16 ft, no glass
At the North Side of the nether end of the Church, 24 ft by 16 ft, timber walls, no glass
The Dormitory, 40 ft long, 18 ft broad, covered with slates
The Refectory, 34 ft long, 18 ft broad, stone walls, no glass, covered with slates
Five little chambers over the West part of the Cloisters for the ladies and others to work in, covered in slates
At the nether end of the Refectory, 19 ft square, old stone walls, a chimney and no glass
There was also The Chaplain's house at the north side of the Inner Court
See Kirklees Park, Brighouse, Nuns' Grave, Prioress of Kirklees, Robin Hood's Grave and Three Nuns Inn
Revised 11:57 /28th February 2021 / 8989
Page Ref: MMK22
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