Lanercost Priory
The Foundation of the Priory

The Normans captured Carlisle in 1092, but the border lands to the east remained part of Scotland, though hotly contested.

In 1157 King Henry II finally gained control of the lands around Gilsland and Lanercost from the Scots, installing Hubert de Vaux as the overlord of the barony of Gillesland. Hubert died in 1164 and shortly afterwards in 1169, with the encouragement of the King, his son Robert de Vaux founds an Augustinian monastery at Lanercost in memory of his father.

The 'de Vaux' arms (left) can be seen high up on the west end of the Priory. The right hand half of the shield shows the arms of the de Vaux family, the left hand half the arms of the Dacres who assumed control of the Priory in 1315.

The name 'Lanercost' is derived from Llanerch, a British or Gaelic word meaning an open space in a wood - and indeed there is still much woodland around the Priory site. It was in many ways a good site to build a monastery, in the Irthing valley close to the river with good supplies of timber readily available, with plentiful building stone to be taken from Hadrian's Wall and Roman quarries nearby.

Much of the early history is recorded in the Lanercost Cartulary, containing contemporary copies of charters and other records from the early years of the monastery, and the Lanercost Chronicle, giving an account of events in the thirteenth and the first half of the fourteenth centuries.

'Gillesland' is often confused with the village of 'Gilsland'. The barony of Gillesland covered a swaithe of what is now North Cumbria, with the de Vauxs based at Irthington Castle. Their successors, the Dacres, later moved to Naworth Castle; it is thought that stones from Irthington were used in the building of Naworth.

Robert de Vaux was married to Ada d'Engaine, who had inherited the Barony of Burgh from her father.