Some Famous Priory People

All these people have a link with Bridlington Priory and could be used as the basis for factual or creative work. They are listed in chronological order.

ROBERT THE SCRIBE (died c 1180)

Robert of Bridlington or Robert the Scribe, theologian, was a canon regular of Bridlington Priory , and became fourth prior of that house about 1160. He died before 1181. John Leland (1506-1552) says that he was buried in the cloister of his monastery before the doors of the chapter-house, his tomb bearing the inscription ‘Robertus cognomento Scriba quartus prior’(Robert called the Scribe, fourth prior). He owed his name of Scribe to his many writings (all in Latin). His works were chiefly commentaries on various portions of the Bible. This means that even in the first fifty years after the Priory was founded, it was already established as a place of serious learning. Leland says he saw the manuscripts of Robert’s works in the library at Bridlington (which he could have done, before the library was destroyed in 1537, at the Dissolution). Some of these manuscripts have survived , in college libraries in Oxford and Cambridge and in York Minster. Leland says he saw a copy of Robert’s commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul at Queen’s College Cambridge.

A page of the Bridlington Breviary – not one of Robert’s manuscripts, but it shows the skills of the Bridlington scribes

PETER LANGTOFT (died c 1307)

Peter Langtoft (Peter from Langtoft) was an Augustinian canon at Bridlington Priory who wrote a history in verse of England ,in Anglo-Norman (the language used at court), popularly known as Langtoft’s Chronicle. The history narrates the history of England from the legendary founding of Britain by Brutus to the death of King Edward I. Much of it is translated from earlier works by other authors, but the third part is widely considered to be original work by Langtoft, and he includes in it details not recorded elsewhere such as the fate of Gwenellian, daughter of Llywelyn the Last, Prince of Wales. On the whole , the Chronicle is fiercely anti-Scottish and famously contains nine ‘songs’ in both Anglo-Norman and Middle English, supposedly capturing the taunts between English and Scottish soldiers during the Anglo-Scottish conflicts of the late -13th and 14th centuries.


George Ripley became a canon at Bridlington Priory where he devoted himself to the study of the physical sciences, and especially alchemy. The best known goal of alchemy is the search for a way of turning base metal into gold, but it also included many other aspects of the study of metals. However, alchemy could also involve a wide range of strange ‘philosophical’ and arcane ideas. To acquire fuller knowledge he travelled in France, Germany and Italy, and lived for some time in Rome, and there in 1477 was made a chamberlain by Pope Innocent VIII. In 1478 he returned to England and wrote his work ‘The Compound of Alchymy; or The Twelve Gates of leading to the Discovery of the Philosophers’ Stone’ dedicated to King Edward IV and highly appreciated by him. He pursued his alchemical work, and is reputed to have given vast sums to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem at Rhodes to defend them from the Turks. But his labours becoming irksome to the abbot and other canons, he was released from the order, and joined the Carthusians at Boston, where he died in 1490.

Being particularly rich, he gave the general public some cause to believe in his ability to change base metal into gold.

WILLIAM KENT (1685-1748)

William Kent’s only connection with the Priory was as a parishioner. But he became so nationally famous that it seems right to include him here. There are plenty of pictures of his many works on Google.

Bridlington’s most famous son, William Kent, the great 18th Century architect and designer of interiors, furniture and landscapes, was born in 1685. His father William Cant, joiner, built or rebuilt 45 High Street, in 1693. Here the future architect must have spent part of his childhood. Showing talent as a painter he went to London where in February 1709, as William Cant, limmer (Painter) , he witnessed three deeds by which Susanna Prudom, widow of a Bridlington merchant, and her eldest son Robert Prudom of London mercer conveyed land in Bridlington.

Three months later, using his newly adopted surname ‘Kent’ he was taken to see the Secretary of State by Sir William Hustler of Acklam, North Riding. Hustler, who had property in the high St Bridlington was the grandson of William Hustler, the wealthy draper who endowed the grammar school , brother-in-law of Sir Richard Osbaldeston of Hunmanby, and uncle of Sir William Wentworth of Bretton, Kent’s first known patron. It was almost certainly these three , who helped Kent get to Italy in 1709.

Kent spent ten years in Italy, returning with Richard, third Earl of Burlington, whom he had met in Rome. Burlington the great patron of the arts and a skilled architect, first promoted Kent as a ‘history painter’ and interior designer securing him commissions from the king and other members of the Court. From 1730 Kent, who had become a member of Burlington’s household, turned his attention to architecture and here he excelled. He was also a highly accomplished furniture designer, but his greatest contribution was as one of the founders of English landscape gardening.

GEORGE SYMONS VC, DCM (1826 – 1871)

George Symons is buried on the north side of the Priory churchyard. He was recognised as a brave soldier who won the most famous award for gallantry, the VC or Victoria Cross during the Crimean War against Russia. (Picture to be added)


The Queen has been graciously pleased to signify her intention to confer the Decoration of the Victoria Cross on the under-mentioned Officers and Non-Commissioned Officer of Her Majesty’s Army, who have been recommended to Her Majesty for that Decoration,-in accordance with the rules laid down in Her Majesty’s Warrant of the 29th January, 1856,-on account of Acts of Bravery performed by them before the enemy during the late War, as recorded against their names, vis
Military Train, 5th Battalion(late Sergeant, Royal Artillery)
Lieutenant George Symons
Date of Act of Bravery, 6th June 1855 at Inkerman, in the Crimea.

For conspicuous gallantry on the 6th June 1855, in having volunteered to unmask the embrasures of a five-gun battery in the advanced Right Attack, and when so employed, under a terrific fire, which the enemy commenced immediately on the opening of the first embrasure, and increased on the unmasking of each additional one; in having overcome the great difficulty of uncovering the last, by boldly mounting the parapet, and throwing down the sand-bags, when a shell from the enemy burst, and wounded him severely.


Henry Barnes Lawrence became the rector of Bridlington Priory in 1849. He became very concerned about the fate of seabirds on the cliffs, as a result of the traditional practice of the egg-gathering or ‘climming’ and even more about the wanton destruction of birds by shooting parties; one ‘sportsman’ boasted that he had killed 4,000 kittiwakes with his own gun. A professor had denounced the people of Bridlington ‘as atrociously cruel in their treatment of the birds’. But Mr Barnes-Lawrence thought this was not fair, arguing that ‘the blame lay, not with his parishioners but with “cheap trippers” from a distance’ – for example in boats from Scarborough. Summoning a meeting at Bridlington Rectory in October 1868, he helped to found an Association for the Protection of Sea Birds. Another local clergyman and bird expert, Francis Morris, joined in the campaign, writing letters to The Times and petitioning MPs. In 1869 the Act for the Preservation of Seabirds was passed – although at the last minute the section forbidding climming was left out, and climming went on till 1954. The Act only stopped shooting in the breeding season, and was not fully enforced, but the numbers of birds did begin to recover.

So as a result of the Rector’s efforts, sea birds gained protection through an Act of Parliament. He could be seen as the forerunner of the RSPB – now working to PROTECT birds on our cliffs!
Look at the article about Barnes-Lawrence on the BBC Humberside Web site.

JAMES ‘GINGER’ LACEY (World War II) (1917 -1989)

James ‘Ginger’ Lacey was born in Leeds. His main link to Bridlington and the Priory came much later, when he settled here after leaving the RAF, who provided the account below. There are even more details of his wartime exploits on the internet.

Ginger Lacey was one of the highest scoring NCO pilots flying in the Battle of Britain. Like other successful fighter pilots, he was blessed with natural talent