The story of Gisborough Priory Project

In the Begining

The story of Gisborough Priory Project has its roots in the late 1990s. Guisborough Town Pride (a local charity working to improve the town) suggested that the historic gardens associated with Gisborough Priory should be restored and opened to the public. In 1999, they held a public meeting to promote this idea.

Following this a group looked at ways to restore the gardens and to promote Gisborough Priory more widely. They formed a sub-committee to organise events and raise money to support their work.

Gisborough Priory Project

In 2003 the sub-committee became a separate company (number 4684000), Gisborough Priory Project (GPP). In 2005 GPP became a registered charity (number 1109285).

Meanwhile, by 2004, in agreement with Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, volunteers began looking after the flower borders in the Priory. This is a task we continue to this day and volunteers are always needed!

At the same time background research and discussions with the landowner, Gisborough Estates, began. In 2007, a lease was signed with Gisborough Estates allowing work to start on 2.5 acres (1 hectare) of the gardens, mostly woodland. The initial work, funded by a grant from the Local Heritage Initiative, included:

  • An archaeological investigation. This looked at the effect on any unknown archaeology and gave background on garden features such as the Monks’ Walk. You can read the report here.
  • A tree survey to assess the current state of the numerous trees in the area leased.
  • The services of a landscape architect and landscape historian to review the historic features and make plans for the future use of the gardens. See the report on significant trees here.
  • Recruitment of volunteers who worked on clearing the undergrowth and opening up the gardens, particularly the Monk’s Walk, to visitors on guided tours

The photos show how much work has been done, since we started in 2007.

Gisborough Priory Project Volunteers in Action

In 2008, GPP volunteers worked with English Heritage staff to clean, catalogue and photograph the stone collection, at the east end of the Monks’ Walk. Between them they cleaned and recorded 970 items of stonework.

Volunteers and EH staff recording stonework, July 2008

Since then, Gisborough Priory Project volunteers have cleared and replanted many areas in the Woodland Gardens. The aim is to represent each of the major phases of the site somewhere in the garden.  We have created a picnic area, along with a story telling area and a children’s play area. We are also pleased that the garden is home to much wildlife.

Working with English Heritage

In 2015, Gisborough Priory Project signed a local management agreement with English Heritage, to provide volunteers to open and manage the site, the first time English Heritage had worked with a voluntary organisation in this way.  This required a whole new class of volunteer – the site guides, responsible for opening the site and welcoming the public. If you are interested in becoming a site guide you can find out more here.

Special events are held throughout the year including Snowdrop Sunday, an Easter Funday, a Teddy Bears’ Picnic (featuring the Teddy Bear zip wire and storytelling) and a Halloween event.

Volunteers also recycle wood from the garden, making wooden items which can be bought from the Gisborough Priory shop. Volunteers give talks and presentations and lead guided tours of the site, underpinned by the continuing research that is unravelling the fascinating history of the priory and gardens.

Needless to say, the volunteers continue the unending work in the Woodland Gardens, on the Gisborough Priory flowers borders, at events and welcoming visitors – new volunteers are always welcome.