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At Tynemouth Priory

by William Lisle Bowles

Author’s own note: The remains of this monastery are situated on a lofty point, on the north side of the entrance into the river Tyne, about a mile and a half below North Shields. The rock on which the monastery stood rendered it visible at sea a long way off, in every direction, whence it presented itself as if exhorting the seamen in danger to make their vows, and promise masses and presents to the Virgin Mary and St Oswin for their deliverance.

The site of the priory may have been occupied in Roman times, and the religious community was probably founded in the 7th Century. It was destroyed by Danish raiders in the 875 AD. The site was subsequently fortified by the Saxons and it was the fortress of Tostig, brother and enemy of King Harold Godwinesson.

‘Tinmouth Priory.’ aquatint by J Hassell (1807)

William Lisle Bowles (1762-1850) preceded and inspired many of the Romantic poets such as Coleridge and Wordsworth. He was less well-known but equally accomplished as an antiquary, hence his turbulent trip to explore the Priory captured in this powerful sonnet.

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