Lottery celebrations for Priory’s tower

Priory Church in Dunstable
Priory Church in Dunstable

Dunstable’s Priory Church has been given £71,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The money will be used for the church’s urgent repairs to the tower and will help the Priory Church discover its special heritage.

The Priory Church of St Peter on Church Street has held a special place in the lives of many residents for almost 1,000 years, whether there has been a wedding, christening, funeral, school concert or an educational visit.

On Thursday, the Church Wardens at the Priory Church posted on The Priory Church Dunstable Facebook page: “THE PRIORY CHURCH TOWER NEEDS URGENT REPAIRS COSTING OVER £100,000.

“We are absolutely delighted to report that we have been fortunate enough to secure a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant to support these essential repairs to the tower.

“This means that in late spring or early summer, the tower will be surrounded by scaffolding for up to four months to allow these vital repairs to be made.

“There will be several events to ensure everyone is aware of what is happening and involve more people in the work we are doing. We do hope you will support us in these events.

“More details later on when dates etc are arranged with the architect and contractor.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund use money raised by National Lottery players to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about.

The Priory Church of St Peter, which was founded in 1132, is steeped in history and the building is Grade I listed, part of the only 2.5% of buildings in England which are listed in this category and quoted by Historic England as of exceptional interest.

During its 900-plus years, the church has taken many forms and been adapted to suit the needs of the town, from the original Augustinian Priory founded by Henry I through the formation of the Church of England, reformation, restoration and into more modern times.

It has been more than just a place of worship, the building has served as a community venue throughout this time and played an important role in several historical events.

>The original Norman building formed the shape of a cross; however, two western towers were lost in a storm in 1222.

>The body of Queen Eleanor of Castile, beloved wife of Edward I rested at The Priory before proceeding to St Albans and then on to her burial at Westminster Abbey.

> The Priory oversaw tournaments attended by Edward I in 1279 and 1280, and Edward III in 1329 & the country’s last old style tournament took place in Dunstable in 1349.

> The annulment of the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, the court of which took place in the Lady Chapel on 10th May 1533. Henry’s desire for a divorce had led to the country’s permanent break with the Catholic church.

> Dunstable Priory was nearly chosen to be a cathedral in the years before the reformation.