I’ve been meaning to write a post about Conishead Priory since visiting a few months ago. What a fascinating place it is. Located close to Ulverston in South Cumbria the main building is a stunning country house in the Gothic revival style. The detailed carvings and ornate stonework are symbolic of its beginnings in 1836 as home to the wealthy Colonel Thomas Bradyll who demanded that the architect, P.W. Wyatt, build something extravagant and ostentatious. Inside boasts over 170 feet of cloistered corridor and a huge baronial hall, huge marble chimney pieces and vaulted hall. The house has had an interesting past; the family became bankrupt and was empty for some time. It then became a hydropathic spa and later a convalescent home for miners, it had lain empty for years, falling into near-dereliction before becoming home to an internationally renowned centre for the study of Buddhism in 1976. Close on one million pounds and thousands of hours of volunteering has restored the priory to its former glory.
The priory itself houses the delightful World Peace cafe selling the most enormous (and delicious) slices of chocolate fudge cake. Clearly they are not out to fleece their visitors. The bill for two of us was barely more than half the cost of similar in town-centre coffee shops. The priory also provides accommodation for the residents who might contribute to the community as cleaners, cooks, gardeners or running the gift and bookshop or cafe. Others organise and deliver courses, facilitate meditation sessions or weekend retreats or work in the offices or studios that are situated in the seventy acres of grounds. We met a gentleman who told us although he was just visiting, he and his wife had lived there as residents for twenty five years and had brought up their children there.
The grounds of the priory are home to the first Kadampa temple for World Peace, part of the International temples project which aims to build such a temple in every major city in the world. So far there are twenty of the temples with plans in hand for several more. Weekend retreats cost just £65 per person. What amazing value. To experience the Buddhist life first hand by attending prayers and spiritual activities, a full week’s accommodation with meals is available free of charge in exchange for 25 hours volunteering on a building project, cooking, decorating or office work.
TThe Priory’s website says: The spiritual community at Manjushri KMC is a modern day example of how putting Buddha’s teachings into practice creates a peaceful and harmonious environment that is a pleasure for all who visit.
That peace and harmony was evident all over the site and are keenly felt on the woodland walk leading to the shores of Morecambe Bay. The quiet tranquility is hard to describe but very much felt.
There is no charge to park, or to enter either the grounds or the house and visitors are welcome to attend services in the temple.