Exham Priory is a fictional building of the Cthulhu Mythos created by H.P. Lovecraft in his story The Rats in the Walls. Exham Priory has been the site of temples, and churches since before man can remember. It is situated near the village of Anchester, Wales, England.
The site of the Exham Priory is so long standing that almost every possible architecture for it's location is present. Most of the upper building is Gothic, especially the towers, but underneath there is Roman and Saxon structures, the foundations and cellars are almost purely Roman, though there are even Drudic and native Cymric, and possibly older ruins as well.
The Priory began to fall into ruin in the 1600s, and was restored between 1921 and 1923. In 1923 the site was destroyed.
The site of Exham Priory has been inhabited by the earliest recorded inhabitants of the British Isles, up until the last de la Poer, Walter de la Poer, fled after supposedly murdering the entire household during the reign of James the First. The Priory was allotted to the estates of the Norrys family. In 1918 it was purchased by a Mr. Delapore. In 1921 after the death of Albert Delapore, Mr. Delapore's son, the Priory was restored to its old state.
Without a doubt the site housed a Druidic or ante-Druidic temple. Rites there would have included orgiastic ceremonies and cannibalism or necrophagy. These rituals were absorbed by Roman cults to Cybele, the Magna Mater, during the occupation by the third Augustan legion. After the fall of the cult the rituals did not cease but were continued by the new faith that took its place. In the year 1000 the first actual Priory was recorded, inhabited by a large and feared monastic order. The order declined after the Norman Conquest, and the land was granted to Gilbert de la Poer by Henry the Third in 1261. A castle was built on the site of the Priory by the First Baron Exham.
Little is actually known about what rituals really went on under the Priory. It has been hinted that the cultists and the later de la Poers "farmed" human captives for meat, and sacrificed victims to Nyarlathotep.
The site and the many buildings there always have excited fear in the villagers of Anchester. In 1307 one of the de la Poer was called "cursed of God." In legend the Barons Exham were characteristically the worst, leading the family cult, and often murdering their first-borns who did not seem inclined to join their evil ways. Several others also excited sagas and legends in their name. Lady Margaret Trevor wife of Godfrey de la Poer was said to be especially evil, and many stories are told of her to children. A Lady Mary de la Poer married the Earl of Shrewsfield and was later murdered by him and his mother.
Many more occult legends also sprang up. The barren valley that the Priory overlooks is especially writhe with grave stenches and disembodied howls. Sir John Clave's horse apparently killed a "squealing white thing" one night in the field. To explain the large amount of vegetables grown at the priory, a legion of bat-winged devils keeping Withces' Sabbath was created.
Three months after Walter de la Poer's flight from the Priory, a tale says, that a horde of rats broke free from the Priory and swept over the country side devouring everything, including two people, in their way.
The Last de la Poer
Mr. Delapore, later changing his name to the ancestral de la Poer, was the last of the American Delapores. He is the cousin of Randolph Delapore. Before moving to the Priory he lived in Bolton, Massachusetts.
With the help of Capt. Edward Norrys, who had been a friend of Alfred Delapore during the Great War, Mr. Delapore restored the Priory to a modern, but appropriately medieval looking state. In July 16, 1923 Mr. de la Poer moved into the Priory with servants and nine cats. On July 22, the cats and Mr. Delapore began complaining about the sound of rats scurrying down the walls. No one else could hear them.
Several nights after this Mr. Delapore and Capt. Norrys spent the night at the lowest point in the house, an almost purely Roman vault. During the night they discovered that a central stone, possibly an altar could be moved aside. Deciding to be careful with any exploration they recruited several archaeological and occult minded investigators to join them. This group included Sir. William Brinton, Dr. Trask and Thornton a "psychic investigator."
The expedition soon managed to open the altar stone and revealed steps into a large cavern. In the cavern are several buildings, ranging from Saxon, Roman, and early English dwellings. These buildings were used as jails, and butcheries. Large enclosures also appeared to have been used to hold herds of animals.
The whole cavern, and even the stairs under the altar were covered with bones. Many of the skeletons had been gnawed by rats (and many rat skeletons were around as well), but others seemed eaten by their fellow humans. The skeletons all showed human attributes, though some where more ape like, or even more like a herd animal than modern day humans. Others, in jail cells appeared as normal humans.
During this exploration Mr. de la Poer became excited and fled into one of the dark caves opening off of the cavern. The explorers found him screaming over the half eaten corpse of Capt. Norrys.
"Why shouldn't rats eat a de la Poer as a de la Poer eats forbidden things?... The war ate my boy, damn them all... and the Yanks ate Carfax with flames and burnt Grandsire Delapore and the secret... No, no I tell you, I am not that daemon swineherd in the twilit grotto! It was not Edward Norrys' fat face on that flabby, fungous thing! Who says I am a de la Poer? He lived, but my boy died!... Shall a Norrys hold the lands of a de la Per?... It's voodoo, I tell you... that spotted snake... Curse you, Thornton, I'll teach you to faint at what my family do!... 'Sblood thou stinkard, I'll learn ye how to gust... wolde ye swynke me thilke wys?... Magna Mater! Magna Mater!... Atys... Dia ad aghaidh's ad aodann... agus bas dunach ort! Dhonas's dholas ort, agus leat-sa!... Ungl... ungl... rrrlh... chchch..."
Afterwards Mr. de la Poer was taken and locked up at Hanwell. After the incident the Priory was destroyed.