Just over 500 years later, in 1189, Cartmel priory was founded by William Marshal for the regular canons of St. Augustine. William was in charge of the Cartmel Peninsula having been granted it by Henry II two years earlier.
William, when founding the priory, stated that the holy site must remain always as a priory and never become an abbey to avoid the crown taking advantage of certain privileges that came with it. This was a clever move on his part as it inevitably saved the priory from the dissolution some 400 years later. At the time of the dissolution the priory was being used by the parish so King Henry VII ordered "that it stand still', this was a direct result of Williams wishes. If it had been elevated to the level of abbey then it would have suffered the same fate as many around the country and be left a ruin today.
The monks that ran the priory came from Bradenstoke Priory in Wiltshire where William's father was buried.
The whole Priory site was also almost fully surrounded by water. To the northeast and southwest there were small lakes with a river running between them. There was also another larger water course running from the southeastern lake past the priory. Both lakes have long dried up but the river that ran between them is still roughly in situ and is known as the River Eea. With the priory being surrounded by water like this must have made it a perfect location, easily enclosed by walls and water.
Many of the monastic buildings associated with such religious houses were set to the south side of the church, as was typical. Buildings like the chapter house, refectory and the dormitory were built here with some, in the case of the dormitory, linking directly to the church. In the south transept you can see evidence of where the dormitory once was. Part way up the west wall of the transept is a blocked up doorway with some stone steps heading down in the direction of the floor. These were the night stairs from which the monks would walk down from the dormitory above to attend their nightly services. Although the stone stairs end some way from the floor a wooden stair case most likely would have joined to them. Some years later in the 1400s it seems that there was a subsidence problem to the south which meant that all the buildings had to be moved to the north side of the church. If you take a look in the west wall of the north transept you can see a window which, as in the south, has some stone steps at its foot. This is where the night stairs would lead from the new dormitory.