Keldholme Priory

Kirbymoorside, North Yorkshire

Keldholme Priory, founded by one of the Robert de Stutevilles for Cistercian nuns in the time of either Henry I or II, suffered almost permanently from a series of violent disputes and internal wrangles. A particular bone of contention appears to have been the selection of a Prioress, and one layman's penance for obstructing a particular appointment is recorded in the Victoria County History.

The priory was always small, and, although their church was believed to contain a piece of the true cross as well as one of St. Stephen's fingers, the 'nuns of Dove' needed to board girls and widows in order to supplement Priory funds. The lack of adherence to a strict code is reflected in the no doubt apocryphal tale of one errant nun who constantly sought to pursue her devotions outside the cloisters. Her reasons however, were not wholly holy, and her parochial perambulations were inevitably in the direction of a neighbouring monastery where dwelt a monk of bad habits. Eventually, during their clandestine encounters, they succumbed to more proletarian pleasures and were duly rewarded with the gift of a child.

Compassion appeared to prevail within their respective sanctuaries, and, far from being excommunicated they were allowed to jointly raise the child until such a time as it could be admitted into fellowship. They did not escape completely however, and their penance was that they should be buried in an upright position, a situation which would complicate heavenly salvation.

It is not known where their initial burial was, but at some time prior to 1921 it would appear that workmen levelling the ground accidentally unearthed their stone coffins. After recovery they were incorporated, still vertically, into the garden wall of the building which now occupies the site of the priory.


The two upright coffins are clearly visible from the private driveway to the modern dwelling now called Keldholme Priory. They are set a few metres apart into the northern side of the garden wall immediately east of a small entrance gate.