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The House that the Monks Built

Brinkburn Northumberland is steeped in history dating back to when the monks built the monastery in the 12th century. After 400 hundred years of Brinkburn Priory being used as a religious property came the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536.  The grounds shifted from being a working religious site to being a domestic house alongside a parish church.  In 1602 the regular services at Brinkburn stopped and by 1700 the roof had collapsed.

This collapse went on for another 150 years before Cadogan Hodgson Cadogan decided that he was going to restore the property which began in 1858.

Brinkburn is full of untold stories which truly makes the mind wander. I was idling some time away on the internet and have found this picture in the Prince Albert’s Royal collection of Photographs.

It shows the Priory looking North West from the South side of the river Coquet, a perspective rarely seen by visitors. In the right-hand side of the picture is the Manor House. On the left-hand side of the picture is the west front of the Priory.  The restoration required the rebuilding of one corner of the west front, the reinstatement of all the stained-glass windows interior and roof.

We also recently found a contemporary drawing of the Priory and Manor House dated August 19th 1842.  It is part of curious poem written by a visitor to the site. It is entitled ‘The House the Monks Built’. It starts:


This is the house the monks built,
This is the bank all covered with trees
With nettles and thistles as high as your knees,
In front of the house the Monks Built


I try to conjure up what the Priory looked like without a roof. Though it was in disarray, it is magical to think that you could be in such a beautiful building and look up at the stars. Some of you may feel that the roof has collapsed in on your lives but I invite you all to take the time to look up and be thankful for the stars.