900 years of history is high praise indeed for Bridlington's iconic building
THERE'S much more to Bridlington than sand castles and cockles.
The town boasts a wealth of historic attributes and this year marks a landmark birthday for one of the most important.
The celebrations to mark 900 years since the foundation of Bridlington Priory are seen as a chance to celebrate the town's heritage. They will also aim to re-acquaint locals with their roots.
Priory 900 co-ordinator Penelope Weston said: "As soon as it dawned on us this date was coming, we had to go for it.
CAR KEYS AND REMOTES "FREE REMOTE KEY FOB BATTERY" 01482 423414 ...View details
FOR ALL YOUR CAR KEY NEEDS CALL US NOW ON
SNAPPED KEYS, LOST KEYS, KEYS LOCKED IN VEHICLES,
WE ALSO REPAIR 90% OF ALL REMOTES AND KEYS, NO FIX NO CHARGE.
Terms: Terms: FREE REMOTE KEY FOB BATTERY ONE PER CUSTOMER
Contact: 01482 423414
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"Obviously – we want to celebrate the heritage. The Priory has a very famous past, it is the most significant building in Bridlington by far.
"We want to make sure this celebration is about the whole of Bridlington."
Record books show the building was established as an Augustinian Priory in 1113 but it's known there was a church there at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086.
During the 12th century reign of Henry I, the town of Bridlington was greatly improved and the church of St Mary given enough property to support a body of canons regular, similar to friars, of the order of St Augustine.
Later, the possessions of the Priory became even greater, with land from all over Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
The Charter of King Stephen gave the canons the port and harbour of Bridlington as well as the rights to salvage shipwrecked goods along the coastline.
In 1200, King John granted them a fair to be held every year on the eve and feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, and a market to be held every Saturday. The history of the Priory is the history of Bridlington. There is still a fair every year and a market every Saturday.
But the town is not a heritage destination like Beverley or York.
That is why Priory 900 wants to reintroduce townsfolk to their most spectacular asset.
Mrs Weston said: "The Priory is magnificent now but, in the Middle Ages, it was twice as long as it is now, nearly as big as York Minster.
"The last Prior, William Wode, joined the rebellion against Henry VIII. He was taken to the Tower of London and later hung, drawn and quartered at York Racecourse.
"In the King's view, it was treason and everything at the Priory was forfeit to the Crown. They seem to have done a pretty good demolition job on the Priory."
The shrine of St John of Bridlington, the last British saint to be canonised by the Pope, was completely ripped out at that time.
Compared with drama like that, the histories of many other British towns seem a little tame.
The Priory 900 committee know they have plenty of material in their efforts to make Bridlington a heritage destination like Beverley or York.
But they also know it should start at home, with the locals.
Mrs Weston said: "We want to tell the local people about the history because it's their history."
One way of doing that is offering people the chance to "buy" one year from the Priory's past for a nominal sun and add new facts from that year to an online living history.
Someone, for instance, might like to "buy" the year their grandfather was born and add that as a fact.
Organisers accept the 14th and 15th centuries may be tough to sell. The idea is simply to involve people in the process and demonstrate the Priory has been Bridlington's backdrop for many hundreds of years.
Priory 900 secretary Anthony Halford, also a church warden, feels the year of workshops and other events is a chance for the Priory to raise its profile and play a part in the community.
He said: "A lot of people come to Bridlington and only know it as a seaside resort, the battle is to make people aware of what we have to offer.
"The Priory is a jewel of a church. It's not as well known as Beverley Minster but, in its time, it was bigger."
The challenge at the Priory is similar to that faced by churches across the country. All face rising utilities bills and maintenance costs they can ill afford.
Churches have to attract visitors and be the focus of their communities.
Mr Halford said: "The contribution made by the Church and the Christian religion isn't as central to people's lives as it once was.
"The challenge we have is managing to sustain the daily life of the church."