Blantyre Priory was likely founded in the middle of the 13th Century. We see the seal of Blantyre Priory for the first time in history in 1290 on the document titled “The Articles of the Treaty of Brigham” which was signed by the Guardians of Scotland, clergy, and barons. This treaty outlined that Scotland was to remain separate from England, something that enraged the English King Edward. A few years later in 1296 the English King had Scotland at it’s knees, promoting the rise of William Wallace. Amongst Wallace’s supporters was William of Blantyre, the first Blantyre prior who quickly defended Wallace’s campaign and rejected the English King. The Priory itself was a religious building where Prior William would pray and construct manuscripts. However, priors in those days were not the peaceful men of today. They were known to take up arms to defend the cause and this is what William of Blantyre did. Sadly, he didn’t succeed. As Wallace gathered strength, the English King won the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 and on his return imprisoned people who had turned against him, including Prior William, who was placed in Lanark jail. Six long years later, William of Blantyre was still rotting in jail and the King in an act of compassion wrote to the Sherrif of Lanark asking for funds to be raised as a sum to release William of Blantyre. The Sheffif of Lanark was Robert de Burde, none other than Robert the Bruce. It is recorded that “items of worth” were removed from Blantyre Priory and sold to raise the sum for Prior William’s release.
The Priory is steeped in history and several centuries later in the mid 1500’s was the casualty of the reformation during Elizabethan times when Catholics were forced to change religion. The prior at the time, fearful for his life turned his back on Catholicism and left the building he could no longer worship in. Actually, he moved to the opposite end of Blantyre at Kirkton and formed the first Church there with a different religion as the first Protestant minister.
The poor priory was abandoned and for over 450 years crumbled and was forgotten about. In 1945 a tunnel was rumoured to have been found linking the priory to the Castle across the water. It’s also said that Wallace once visited the priory and had to leap into the water to escape his pursuers. Another legend of the Priory grounds concerns the trees. It’s fabled that the monks were buried under each new young tree, as their life naturally ended and would still be there today! The stones were stolen, recycled and deteriorated, more so in the last century. This rarely seen photograph shows how grand the priory still looked as recently as 1920. Today, all but a handful of stones remain and nothing that resembles a building.