Holystone : The Place Name
Ironically, perhaps the firmest indication that Holystone was a site of some religious significance prior to the foundation of the nunnery is provided by its very name, which is first attested in 1242 in the form 'Helistan' (Liber Feodorum II, 1121). A parallel for this type of name is offered by Falstone ('Foustan' - 1318, 'Faustane' - 1371, 'the Fawe stone' - 1541), in upper North Tynedale.
The latter is thought to signify the 'multicoloured stone' or 'speckled stone' and it has even been suggested that this may refer to a natural feature - a distinctive rock outcrop perhaps - which acquired a religious significance (Barrow 1974; Charlton 1987, 27). Fragments of 8th - 9th century carved stonework have been recovered from Falstone and there was a chapel there by 1318. It is possible that Holystone's place name might have a similar origin, although no early medieval carved stonework has been found there. It may be significant however, in the light of the preceding discussion of the Lady's Well, that the site is not named Holywell.
In other words, some tradition of an earlier Christian presence, perhaps even supported by tangible evidence - a holy stone (a prehistoric standing stone?, early medieval cross? or a natural feature?) may have been one of the factors which contributed to the foundation of a priory at this spot. This tradition could in turn have been 'explained' and embellished over the centuries by the nuns and others, by attaching various early medieval saints and significant events to the site.
Picture : View of Holystone