In 2013 Bridlington Priory, one of the oldest Augustinian houses in England and a major Yorkshire heritage site, celebrated 900 years since its foundation in 1113. An enthusiastic team came together to develop and plan a festival programme of special events which took place at the Priory between March and October 2013.
The Priory 900 festival aimed to celebrate:
- The original vision of its foundation to promote spiritual growth, understanding and hospitality for the whole local community
- The life and achievements of the Priory and its people, past, present and future, and its place in the wider community
- The life of the whole community of Bridlington and its hinterland.
Priory 900 was intended to be both a domestic and an inclusive celebration, and we would like to thank those from all over Yorkshire and beyond who visited the Priory to recognise this historic event of such regional, and even national, significance.
With the scale and splendour of the pre-Reformation building, St John of Bridlington’s unique status as the last English person to be canonised before the Reformation, the fame of the Priory as a pilgrimage centre in the late Middle Ages, and the drama of the Dissolution and the last Prior’s execution, there was an important story to tell.
The Priory has also sustained its importance as a centre of Christian life and a focus for the local community, and we hope it will continue to do so for many years to come.
We hope that Bridlington Priory was a stimulating and even challenging place to visit during the Priory 900 season; one that informed and challenged assumptions about such buildings, and the part they have played and continue to play in the lives of the local community.
The celebrations included:
- An exhibition and a new tapestry based on the life of St John of Bridlington, and the introduction of a new book ‘St John of Bridlington: His Life and Legacy’ by John Wardle, a former rector at Bridlington Priory
- A trail or ‘reflective journey’ around the inside of the Priory for visitors to take part in, and a temporary labyrinth in the Priory churchyard.
- ‘Carving the Tree’: an installation in the Priory churchyard by nationally renowned stonecarver Stephen Carvill
- Activities for children and schools
- A fortnightly series of practical workshops based on crafts related to historic churches and monasteries, e.g stone masonry, wood carving, stained glass, calligraphy, embroidery
- A concert programme including music and drama, and a specially commissioned cantata, Sailing to the Marvellous
- Celebrating the Heritage, a conference with specialist contriubtions on historical themes relating to the Priory and its monastic life
- Worship and spirituality: regular Sunday worship and major services to launch and close the Priory 900 festival, plus ‘taster’ sessions of a diverse range of Christian spiritual practices
- Community events including the annual Summer Fayre, Old Town Festival and Town Criers Competition took on a Priory 900 theme in the special year
- Given the importance of Bridlington Priory as a pilgrimage destination, it is appropriate to include a pilgrimage in the programme. The Priory 900 pilgrimage had two ‘branches’ – a small group coming from Beverley and another, larger group from York – meeting on Woldgate to arrive together at the Priory.