The Café at Mount Grace Priory, North Yorkshire

There’s a little almost derelict Priory near Osmotherley in North Yorkshire. It’s the ruin of a 14th Century Carthusian order dissolved, like many others, by Henry VIII when he set about ridding himself of the Catholic Church ‘cos they wouldn’t let him remarry…and remarry…and. You get the picture. Now, we don’t suppose Henry knocked it down himself. Far too far from London and far too wild a region. Hilary Mantel quotes Thomas Moore, when describing his trip to Yorkshire at the time, about what they eat in Yorkshire…”Londoners, when they can get them”.

A few years ago the local landowner, Sir Lowthian Bell [steel etc] rebuilt one of the monks cells. They took a vow of silence and had their food [vegetarian] passed through a hatch, so they wouldn’t see the server. Once inside, mind, they had pretty substantial accommodation in each ‘cell’. A living room, study and bedroom, and upstairs a workroom. Ouside a rather wonderful covered cloister surrounding the garden, flushing outside wc and a covered, glazed sun room. It was a good choice, being a Carthusian monk.

Bell was a patron of the arts, and architecture particularly. His family were great patrons of Philip Webb, a notable Arts & Crafts architect and friend of William Morris. The house at Mount Grace probably incorporates much of the stone from the demolished Priory and the interiors were remodelled and incorporate some nice Arts & Crafts features.

The property is run by English Heritage but owned by the National Trust. Between them they’ve commissioned a new tea room. A rather splendid but simple timber structure, where the frame is exposed and configured to reflect the trees surrounding it. Also very friendly staff. Simple snacks, coffee, soup, hot chocolate – your know the kind of thing. Already too small they’ve an extension planned. Shortlisted for an RIBA Award in 2019 and designed by Maison Kerr Architects – a delight.

Little known fact: the Priory’s stoat population was made famous in 2005 by David Attenborough – ‘probably the most famous pack of stoats in Britain’.

Mount Grace Priory Café

Beautiful manifestation matching the timber…[it’s an architect’s thing]

A monk’s house…just for one

…and their little courtyard for one; heaven arrives early?


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