Near Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
Woodspring Priory was founded in 1210, perhaps as an expiatory gesture, by William de
Courtenay, grandson of Reginald FitzUrse who, with other West Countrymen, murdered Thomas a Becket. It was an Augustinian house of the rare Victorine rule, and had St Thomas the Martyr as a patron saint.
|The priory was a small one but, as elsewhere in Somerset, flourished in the fifteenth century, when the tower and nave of the church, the infirmary and a great barn were built of a beautiful golden stone. The north aisle was unfinished when, in 1536, the priory was suppressed and the church, most unusually, turned into a house, a chimneystack built up through the roof of the nave.|
|We found Woodspring in 1969 as it had been since the Dissolution, the church still inhabited as the farmhouse of a picturesque and rather old-fashioned farm. However, the buildings had suffered greatly from the ravages of time. We repaired the church tower (one man and a boy, using ladders) and reinstated the crossing and north aisle inside it. These and the infirmary are open to the public (daylight hours, never closed).|
|The rest of the priory, including the range built in 1701 on the site of the priorís lodging, we have repaired for you to stay in. Two bedrooms and the sitting-room occupy the nave of the church, each containing some token of its ecclesiastical past. Their windows look south on to walled gardens, once the cloister and outer court.|
Other monastic remains are grander, others more complete than Woodspring, but few have kept so well the serene atmosphere of an isolated religious community, surrounded by a working farm, and lying by the sea.
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