Nostell Priory: Origin Story

Nostell Priory is a beautiful Palladian style house and estate in Wakefield under the care of the National Trust. We hold their fascinating archival records at WYAS Wakefield (collection reference: WYW1352).

But where did it come from? Who was involved in its creation? What is the history of the estate?

The story begins in 1122 when an Augustinian Priory, dedicated to St Oswald, first foundations were laid. At this time the majority of citizens in England were Christians, and saints were an important part of their religious practice with the entire calendar year dictated by religious festivals. Oswald had been a King of Northumbria in the 600s, and after his death he was venerated as a saint for spreading Christianity across his realm. One of the earliest record in our collection that relates to this period in Nostell’s history is the 1215 Confirmation Charter of King John to Nostell.


WYW1352/3/1/4 Confirmation charter of King John to Nostell 25th July 1215

1215 may ring a bell for you as the tumultuous year in English history when the Magna Carter was created. This significant document was a charter of rights that promised certain protections and put limits on the power of the monarch. It was signed, unwillingly, by King John on 15th June 1215. Not long after he signed Nostell’s confirmation charter.

In this charter John agreed:

by this our charter have confirmed to God and the church of the Blessed Oswald, king and martyr, which is situated near the castle of Pontefract, in the place which is called Nostell, above the fish-pond, and to the canons there serving God, all the possessions of the same church just as Henry, grandfather of Henry, our father, endowed and confirmed the same church.”

This protected the rights of the Priory and gave them certain privileges, for example rights to the land. As you’ll notice this charter was confirming rights that were already in existence. Based on this document we know that previous charters had been confirmed previously by Henry II and Henry I of England. Gaining confirmations under different monarchs was important for the Priory and protected it in an age of continual political and military strife.

Unfortunately not all future monarchs were to be so accommodating and Henry VIII, despite protecting these ongoing rights in 1511, included this Priory in his dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540s.

This brought to a close the first chapter of the Nostell story, and although some of the ruins lasted until the 18th century unfortunately no remains are left today.

You can explore the WYW1352 Nostell Priory catalogue online here:

If you have any questions about this collection please contact:

By Dominique Triggs, Archive Assistant

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