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Mausoleum and Gothic Ruin at The Priory

A Grade II Listed Building in Louth, Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.3689 / 53°22'8"N

Longitude: 0.0039 / 0°0'14"E

OS Eastings: 533427

OS Northings: 387655

OS Grid: TF334876

Mapcode National: GBR XYGH.N1

Mapcode Global: WHHJT.1L45

Plus Code: 9F529293+HH

Entry Name: Mausoleum and Gothic Ruin at The Priory

Listing Date: 18 February 1974

Last Amended: 10 December 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1063220

English Heritage Legacy ID: 194959

Location: Louth, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire, LN11

County: Lincolnshire

District: East Lindsey

Civil Parish: Louth

Built-Up Area: Louth

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Louth

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln

Tagged with: Ruins Mausoleum

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Mausoleum and Gothic ruin in the grounds of The Priory, designed by Thomas Espin c.1812-18.


Mausoleum and Gothic ruin in the grounds of The Priory, designed by Thomas Espin c.1812-18.


MATERIALS: the mausoleum is stuccoed and has stone dressings. The pitched roof is clad in stone slates laid to diminishing courses.

PLAN: the building has a rectangular plan. It is situated on the east side of the large lake in the grounds which are laid out to the north of The Priory.

EXTERIOR: the mausoleum is a small building in the Gothick style, similar to The Priory. The façade, which faces west over the lake towards the ruin, has angle buttresses with stone plinths and off-sets, and a parapet with stone-capped crenellations behind which the roof is hidden. The parapet is surmounted at each end by weathered turret-like moulded stone finials. The façade has a deeply moulded pointed arch opening with a hoodmould and stone headstops, and double-leaf timber doors which have delicate and ornate open Gothic tracery. The north and south elevations have a centrally placed shallow projection surmounted by a wide octagonal chimney stack capped with terracotta crenellations. The north projection corresponds with the position of the fireplace inside but the south projection is pierced by a rectangular window without glazing bars, and was perhaps included for symmetry. The window glazing is not original. The rear (east) elevation has a stone-coped parapet at the gable, and is lit by a similar window under a Tudor hoodmould.

INTERIOR: this contains a stone memorial on the floor, inscribed with ‘hic jaret (here lies) Thomas Espin FSA’. It is surrounded by hexagonal stone tiles decorated with a floral motif, and at its foot is an octagonal stone plinth. This has a moulded base supporting a shaft with recessed, cinquefoil headed arches, a frieze embellished with stylised foliage motifs, and a crenellated cornice. On the north side of the room is a hob grate with a Gothick surround, painted white, which has a shallow pointed arch opening, attached pilasters on each side, and a mantelpiece with billet moulding. What appear to be the original timber two-light windows with cusped ogee arch heads are propped up in the window openings.


Opposite the mausoleum on the west side of the lake is the ruin that Espin constructed out of salvaged Gothic masonry from Louth Park Abbey. It principally consists of a Gothic window with geometrical tracery which has two trefoil-headed lights (missing the central mullion) and a trefoil in the window head. This is flanked by ashlar blocks laid to roughly the same height and round piers with scalloped capitals. The south end has a low masonry wall which incorporates a small cusped ogee arch opening and is surmounted by some fragments of moulded trefoils. The west (rear) side of the ruin, which cannot be seen from the lake, is built up with red brick. Other fragments of moulded masonry are gathered at the foot of the ruin.

The asset was previously listed twice also at List entry 1359905. This entry was removed from the List on 6 July 2016.


The town of Louth in Lincolnshire, often referred to as the ‘Capital of the Wolds’ has Saxon origins, and at the time of the Domesday survey was one of Lincolnshire’s 7 market towns, with a population of 600. Its medieval core is still discernible in the town’s street pattern, and was bounded by the River Lud, the streets of Gospelgate and Kidgate to the south and Church Street to the east. Street names including the suffix ‘gate’ abound in the medieval core, which is signed from a great distance in every direction by the spire of St James Church, completed in 1505, the tallest such spire of any parish church in England. Louth’s medieval prosperity was derived from exporting wool and grain, and its magnificent parish church is testimony to the wealth generated by agriculture in the region, and by Louth’s relative proximity to the east coast.

The town’s population was reduced by three-quarters by outbreaks of plague in the 1630s, and by the early C18 economic prosperity had understandably waned considerably. However, the opening of the Louth-Tetney canal in 1770 heralded a new era of prosperity, and the growth of industries related not only to the region’s agriculture such as malting and grain processing, but also activities such as tanning, boatbuilding and warehousing. Much of this development took place around the canal terminus at Riverhead, and the growth of the town eastwards, along Eastgate, James Street and Walkergate. In 1848, the East Lincolnshire Railway came to Louth, extending trade and communication links beyond those of the canal, and further enhancing the town’s economic strength. An expanding population stimulated the development of terraced housing and villas, churches, chapels, schools and a range of public buildings all graphically captured in the remarkable ‘Louth Panorama’, a two section painting produced by a local man, William Brown in 1844. The Panorama presents a view of the town from high in the spire of St James’ Church. It portrays Louth at the height of its development and prosperity, shortly after the arrival of the railway, set in its surrounding rural landscape, with the east coast seascape in the background. The structure of the town has changed remarkably little since the Panorama was created, and Louth has mercifully escaped the large-scale post-war redevelopment experienced by many communities in England. Louth remains a thriving historic market town with a high proportion of well-preserved C19 buildings.

The Priory was the home of Thomas Espin (1768-1822), an accomplished topographical artist and draughtsman, amateur architect and mathematician. He was born at Holton Beckering and received his education in Wragby before moving in 1790 (with his brother John) to Louth where he became a schoolmaster at Dr Mapletoft’s free school on Northgate. Thomas travelled all over Lincolnshire making drawings of cathedrals, churches and ruins which were much admired on publication. He also produced a plan of Louth in 1808 and supervised the rebuilding of the belfry windows of St James’s Church in 1805. In the same year Thomas bought a plot of land called Brick’s Close on Eastgate, and from 1812 to 1818 he built The Priory to his own designs, naming it after his childhood home. He transferred the school there, which became known as a Mathematical, Nautical, Architectural and Commercial Academy, and after his death in 1822 it was run as a classical commercial boarding school under Alexander Tallents Rogers. The Priory was then used as a retirement home from 1955 to 1977 when it was converted into a hotel.

In payment for designing a new town hall (since demolished), Thomas had been given salvaged masonry and material from the former Town Hall and from the ruins of the C12 Louth Park Abbey. The Cistercian Abbey, situated about a mile from Louth, had been founded in 1139 by Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln but all that now remains are extensive earthworks, the ruined walls of the chancel and the base of a nave pillar. Thomas is said to have incorporated the salvaged materials in The Priory, and he used them to create the Gothic ruin at the side of his new lake in the grounds. The Gothick summerhouse, located on the east side of the lake, was also built to Thomas’s designs, and at his request it became his mausoleum. This building was restored in the 1980s or 1990s.

Reasons for Listing

The mausoleum and Gothic ruin in the grounds of The Priory, designed by Thomas Espin c.1812-18, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architect: the ensemble of The Priory, mausoleum and ruin is the very personal creation of its architect and owner, the notable scholar and antiquarian Thomas Espin, whose presence is especially felt in the mausoleum which he designed as a summerhouse but, at his request, became his final resting place;

* Architectural interest: the mausoleum and ruin, situated picturesquely around the lake, form important elements in Espin’s Gothick idyll. The mausoleum, which contains Espin’s stone memorial tablet, is a little essay in the Gothick style, echoing the design of the main house with its stepped buttresses and turret-like finials;

* Historic interest: the ruin, constructed of salvaged Gothic masonry from Louth Park Abbey, provides important evidence, albeit fragmentary, of the superstructure of a C12 Cistercian Abbey;

* Group value: the mausoleum and ruin have considerable group value with The Priory, listed at Grade II.

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