The CANONS OF ST AUGUSTINE lived together in a community, worshipping together in the special part of the great priory church called the choir, praying and working.
They were priests, scholars and teachers. What made them different from other monks was that they lived in community, but also went out into the local villages to teach the Christian faith.
They also would teach reading and writing, as well as more practical skills necessary for the Priory community – building skills, farming, book-keeping and the care of the sick and visitors were all important as the community grew.
The Priory Buildings
On the north side of the great church were the cloisters and living accommodation, all built in fine stone. The river Ryton served to bring water first to the Priory Mill on the Canch, then to the kitchens, (where the church hall now stands). It then flushed away the kitchen and domestic waste before being dammed to provide fish ponds on what is now Bracebridge.
There were farm buildings, barns and stores, splendid rooms for the Prior, a place for writing and a library.
There was also the fine Gatehouse, where travellers caught their first glimpse of this impressive and busy community. After a journey through Sherwood Forest, with its outlaws and thieves, many were grateful to be in a place of safety, and the little chapel where they would offer their prayers of thanksgiving still exists.
In the great hall of the Gatehouse, travellers would gather for their meals, no doubt exchanging stories of Robin Hood and his merry men. Others would wonder at the grandeur of the great Priory Church, with its majestic nave and, if they were privileged to see it, the splendour of the choir with the fine tombs and chantries of the de Lovetots, and their successors the Furnivals and Talbots, Earls of Shrewsbury.