Birkenhead Priory

Birkenhead Priory

Birkenhead Priory is in Priory Street, Birkenhead, Merseyside, England. It is the oldest standing building on Merseyside.citeweb| url=|title=Wirral Borough Council: Birkenhead Priory & St Mary's Tower|accessdate=2007-08-29 |publisher= Metropolitan Borough of Wirral ] The remains of the priory are a Grade I listed building [cite web |url= |title=Images of England: Remains of Birkenhead Priory |accessdate=2007-12-15 |publisher=English Heritage ] and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It was founded about 1150 by Hamon de Masci, 3rd Baron of Dunham Massey for the Benedictine Order.cite book | last =Richards | first =Raymond | title =Old Cheshire Churches | publisher =Batsford | date =1947 | location =London | pages =54–60]

In 1318 the monks from Birkenhead Priory were granted ferry rights by Edward II. This allowed them to build a house in what is now Water Street to store their corn. The house was also used by travellers for shelter if the weather was too bad for the ferry to cross the River Mersey.

The priory's chapter house is consecrated as an Anglican church, and is still used for services. There is a chapel dedicated to the training ship HMS "Conway". There is also a museum detailing the history of the site. [cite web |url= |title=Birkenhead Priory & St. Mary's Tower |accessdate=2007-12-15 |publisher=The Mersey Partnership ] The chapter house is a Grade II* listed building [cite web |url= |title=Images of England: Chapter House Chapel |accessdate=2007-12-15 |publisher=English Heritage ] and contains items of Norman architecture. [cite web |url= |title=Birkenhead Priory |accessdate=2007-12-15 |publisher=Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture of Great Britain and Ireland ] In 2005 the chapter house was restored. [cite web |url= |title=New life for Birkenhead Priory |accessdate=2007-12-15 |last=Clarke |first=Wayne |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=2006-01-25 |year= |month= |format= |work= |publisher=BBC Liverpool |pages= ]

St Mary's Tower was originally part of Birkenhead's first parish church, opened in 1821 in the grounds of the priory.cite web |url= |title=Birkenhead - St Mary |accessdate=2007-08-29 |publisher= ] It is a Grade II listed building. [cite web |url= |title=Images of England: Remains of Church of St Mary |accessdate=2007-12-15 |publisher=English Heritage ]

Redevelopment of the area from 1925 resulted in a large amount of residential housing within the parish being cleared to make way for the construction of the first Mersey Tunnel. An expansion of the Number 5 dry dock at the adjacent Cammell Laird shipyard in the 1960s resulted in the church losing a significant portion of its graveyard. Subsequent redevelopment of the approach roads to the Mersey Tunnel effectively cut off the church from most of what remained of its parish, further dwindling the congregation. St. Mary's Church closed in 1974 [citeweb|url=|title=Cheshire Parishes: Birkenhead (St. Mary)|work= GENUKI UK & Ireland Genealogy Retrieved 29 August 2007 ] and was partly demolished a year later, for reasons of safety. ] Only the former church tower and parts of the outer walls were retained in situ. The tower has since been refurbished and is dedicated to those who died on HMS "Thetis".

The churchyard contains the burial vault of the Laird family, which includes John Laird (1805–74), Birkenhead's first Member of Parliament and co-founder of the adjacent Cammell Laird shipbuilding company. ]


External links

* [ BBC Liverpool: Birkenhead Priory]
* [ Priory chapel]

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