The ruins of Kirkham Priory are idyllically situated beside the River Derwent, just before it enters a gorge through Corallian limestone. The priory was founded in the 12th-century by Sir Walter l’ Espec, supposedly after the death of his only son after a fall from his horse. L’ Espec was prominent in Norman England, controlling most of the North. His father had come over with William the Conqueror. Kirkham was just the beginning of his piety. Within a decade he had also founded abbeys at Rievaulx and Wardon in Bedfordshire.
The family continued to be influential. Three centuries later, a member of the l’ Espec family (although not a direct descendant), Sir John Speke, was Esquire of the Body to King Henry VI. The Esquire of the Body was a personal attendant to the King and included accompanying him in his privy chamber. A weak link but I wanted to connect to Eton College which was founded this day 12th September 1440 by King Henry VI. Prefects were warned to look out for “ill-kempt heads and unwashed faces.” I wonder if today’s crop of alumni were subject to the same standard?