Chapter Three:
Depedale Priory Mark One

At some date between 1153 and 1158, therefore shortly after the time when the Gomme built her chapel, her nephew and godson Serlo de Grendon, lord of Bradley, brother-in-law of William FitzRalph and his deputy as Sheriff of Nottingham and Derby from 1177 to 1180, invited Augustinian canons from Calke Abbey to come and create a priory on his land in Depedale. Augustinian (sometimes called Austin) canons were canons regular, meaning that they took the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, like monks, but were ordained priests as well and therefore could be attached to local churches; they had a teaching and pastoral ministry; their churches were less parochial and their rules were less rigorous than the Benedictines’.

The original complement from Calke consisted of a prior plus five canons including a Nicholas and a Simon who had been companions of Serlo’s son William de Grendon in Paris. The prior, named Humphrey, went to Rome and secured from the Pope the right to bury and celebrate Mass when the country lies under an interdict; this was a valuable privilege.

The Chronicle tells us that the Calke canons, who, being Augustinian, wore black habits, built a church and other offices with costly workmanship. What it does not tell us, however, is precisely where this building was; this again, is a matter for argument and conjecture, until such time as more research can be undertaken. The issue begs the basic question: was Depedale Priory on the site of the later Abbey of St Mary, Stanley Park, or was it somewhere close by? There are two strands to the argument.

Firstly, it is clear even to the untrained eye that alterations were made to the pillars which supported the abbey’s tower: they were enlarged and strengthened at some point. This fact has led some commentators to suppose that the original slighter pillars belonged to the Priory, being enlarged when, with its new status as an abbey, the building gained a bell tower. However, the verdict of the archaeologists most recently investigating the site is that there are no remains on the site of the abbey which pre-date 1200. If that is correct, Depedale Priory must not have been built on the site now occupied by the ruin of St Mary’s Abbey.

Secondly, the name. The Priory was called Depedale Priory and the abbey, St Mary’s Abbey, Stanley Park. (The shorter name of Dale first appears in the charters in 1143, and is not used with reference to the monasteries – just to the general area.) Stanley lies to the north of Dale, and it seems likely that the name Stanley Park referred to the northern half of the valley, and Depedale to the southern; the boundary would presumably be the little Sow