St Bees Priory

The church was founded in 1120, is one of the architectural jewels in Cumbria and well worth a visit.

About this church

We welcome you to St Bees Priory, this beautiful and historic church in the seaside village of St Bees. Built in 1120, only the church remains of the original Priory, but it is a thriving and much loved parish church.

When you arrive walk along the Sleeping Child Garden, the idea of Josefina de Vasconcellos as a memorial to lost young lives, then enter the church through the west door, a magnificent Norman doorway. As you come in you will see the large nave, the Victorian metal Screen and through it to the chancel and altar. To the left is the Lady Chapel and in the opposite transept, the famous Willis organ, an instrument of cathedral size built in 1899 and still in regular use for services, recitals and concerts. Through the doorway on the left of the altar lies what is now Old College Hall. This was originally the chancel and the altar area of the monastic church, and later the 19th century Theological College lecture room, the only college in the country training priests outside of Oxford and Cambridge, and now a beautiful medieval hall used by the church and community.

If you stand in the doorway and look towards the entrance of the church and to the back of the hall you can appreciate that this church was originally of cathedral proportions. Along the south aisle are numerous panels describing the history of the church, the village and the public school. There are also panels and artefacts about the Crusader knight known as St Bees Man, the almost perfectly preserved body of a medieval knight, discovered in 1981, one of the most extraordinary archaeological burial finds in Britain in the late 20th century. There are many other items of interest in the church and grounds and guide sheets and booklets are available to help you find them.

On your way out, take one last look at the interior of the church and then please record your thoughts in our Visitors Book. If so moved, place a donation in the adjacent box!

Thank you for visiting us.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Wildlife haven
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here
  • Famous connections

Visitors information

  • Bus stop within 100m
  • Train station within 250m
  • Level access to the main areas
  • Car park at church
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets in church
  • Church shop or souvenirs

Other nearby churches

St Nicholas

Known affectionately as 'The Old Church' St Nicholas was built in 1693, the first place of worship what was then the fishing village of St Bees.

St James

A fine example of a Georgian church, which has been sympathetically modernised.


St Mary

Located within the Lake District National Park, first stop on the popular Coast to Coast walk, St Mary’s is beside the River Ehen, close to the two pubs and a tearoom and shop; the old churchyard has associations with William Wordsworth.

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