As you approach Pentney Abbey’s Gatehouse, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was once part of a castle. It was, however, the main entrance to a medieval Augustinian monastery and was known as ‘Pentney Priory’ – it’s only in recent times that it has become ‘Pentney Abbey’.
The Gatehouse, which is the only building left from the original site, was the last part of the Priory to be built and it can be dated between 1380 and 1425. It was used as accommodation for visiting bishops, who would often demand separate rooms for themselves and their stewards. This part of the Gatehouse, which can be reached by a romantic stone spiral staircase, is today used as the bridal entrance into the ceremony room.
Pentney Abbey enjoyed a relatively peaceful existence from its founding by the Sheriff of Cumberland in the 12th century right up until King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. When Henry VIII proclaimed himself head of the newly formed Church of England, many monasteries were confiscated, sold, or retained as churches. Sadly, the priory buildings at Pentney were quickly demolished but the Gatehouse remained and was used as a dwelling until the 18th century.
For over 300 years the Gatehouse deteriorated and in the 1990s it was placed on the ‘At Risk’ register by English Heritage. By 2011, Pentney Abbey was a mass of fallen walls, overgrown with vegetation and debris, and thus a decision was made to restore the building to its former glory. Thanks to the passion of the previous owners, English Heritage, and several other dedicated souls, Pentney Abbey was brought back to life.
Today, Pentney Abbey is not only structurally sound and secure but also magnificent and awe-inspiring. It has been refurbished and redecorated in keeping with the original aesthetic – with a few modern updates and romantic additions, of course – and is ready to be enjoyed by many generations of happy couples to come.