The Priory Gatehouse

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The Priory Gatehouse

It has been suggested that the building was required after the granting of a market and fair to Thos. Lord Furnival in 1296, which fair the market cross undoubtedly links up.  This cross was set back and enclosed by railings when the road which used to run under the Gatehouse was diverted round it in 1891.  The 7th Duke of Newcastle paid £1,700 to divert the road to the west of the Gatehouse ‘Priorswell Road’ as over several centuries vehicles passing through the archway had severely shaken the foundation of this great and wonderful ancient structure.  Prints of the last century show posts in front of the Gatehouse, which I am told indicate the position of the parish stocks.

There are few Gateways which compare with this unique link with the past. I would however mention one Augustinian, the Bayle Gate at Bridlington, and the Cisterian example at Roche Abbey, of which only the lower storey remains.  In 1314 the Archbishop of York gave permission to fell 200 oaks in Sherwood Forest and it appears likely that the Gatehouse was the building in progress at this time.

The south elevation of squared ashlar is divided by four buttresses, over the archway is a flat arched window of six lights, situated centrally, upper and lower windows to light the chambers on the west side and the beautiful shrine has a light over it on the eastern side.  The lower niches in the buttresses were empty in 1676, but in 1634 they contained the effigies of armed knights, on the west charged with the arms of Sir Wm. De Lovetot, and on the east with the arms of the crusader Sir Gerald Furnival.  The niches to the west of the great window contains St Augustine, founder of the order of Canons here established, and to the east St Cuthbert, the patron saint.  Above in another niche, badly decayed is the Trinity, God the Father seated with the crucifix of God the Son between his knees and the dove of God the Holy Spirit above; over the niche is a pretty trefoiled opening.  The projection on the front is the porch to the shrine, its richness indicates it as an addition, the vaulting of which is very fine, with a rich canopy over a niche which may have contained a statue of the Blessed Virgin, and a doorway leads into what was once a small oratory.  Returning to the outside, over the western door are two tiers of niches, likewise over the eastern, the remains of the angel and lily indicate this was the Salutation, whilst to the front there is a representation of the Adoration of the Magi.  Behind the oratory is the Porters’ Lodge, over the gateway was the guest chamber, with its open fireplace and light bracket, a small room to the west was the cell of the Brother whose duty it was to look after the wayfarers.  Where a stranger was received as if Christ Himself, given food and three days’ shelter without revealing his identity.  In 1488 when Clergy granted one tenth in convocation,  the Priories of Worksop and Newstead were exempted, being situated on the Kings’ highway they were burdened beyond what they could bear by the coming of strangers. So for centuries the work, healing to the suffering, teaching, relief to the poor and shelter to the travellers were administered from its sacred walls.  The old Parsonage was attached on the east.

For many years the Gatehouse was used as a school.

Frank Underwood c/o Worksop Priory