The Prior’s Tower, Carlisle Cathedral
Location Carlisle – Grid Ref : NY 399599
Within the grounds of Carlisle Cathedral are various buildings of interest, including the Deanery, with its 14th century pele tower, called The Prior’s Tower, which contains a fine painted 16th Century heraldic ceiling.
The present tower was built in the 15th Century. It was just inside the ancient walls of the City of Carlisle, and so provided both a useful lookout and a place of safety during Scottish raids.
The ground floor, or undercroft, with its thick walls, was used as a storeroom for such things as food, ale and wine. The first floor room is known as the ‘Prior’s Room’. Here the prior of the monastery had his day-room. It is a well built room with double walls and a passage between them. Originally the stone walls and small windows would have made this an austere living-room , office and meeting room for the head of the monastery. It was at the time of Prior Senhouse (1505-1520) that the fireplace was built, and the ceiling painted. The design of the ceiling consists of three themes – the Senhouse crest, various scrolls, and a section incorporating the scallop of the Dacre family and the tree of the Greystoke family.
The second floor was the Prior’s bedroom, with undecorated walls, traces of a fireplace, and a ‘garderobe’ (or en-suite loo). This room now houses the Angela Bevan collection of dolls. These were presented to the Cathedral in 1995, and the collection consists of dolls representing the kings and queens of England from William Rufus to the present Royal Family. Each has been carefully researched and both doll and costume are hand-made.
Although not normally open to the public, the Prior’s Tower is the base of the Cathedral’s education work with schools and teachers. More information about the history of the tower, and details of the painted ceiling are available in an information leaflet.