Nostell Priory was named after a twelfth-century Augustinian priory dedicated to St Oswald, the slain seventh-century King of Northumbria. It was converted into a private residence following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and acquired by George and Rowland Winn in 1650. The present house, designed by a local gentleman-architect, Colonel James Moyser, was built for Sir Rowland Winn (1706–1765), 4th Bt, and was further modified by James Paine between the mid-1730s and mid-1760s. Sir Rowland Winn (1739–1785), 5th Bt, commissioned Robert Adam to complete the interior, with plasterwork by Joseph Rose the younger, inset paintings by Antonio Zucchi and the furniture by Thomas Chippendale. Nostell Priory now contains one of the most important collections of pieces by the eighteenth-century English cabinetmaker to remain in the setting for which it was designed.
Having completed his education in Switzerland, the 5th Baronet married Sabine d'Hervart, the daughter of Baron Jacques Philippe d’Hervart, Governor of Vevey. Numerous paintings from the Swiss family’s collection were sent to Nostell following the death of Sabine's mother, Baroness d'Hervart in 1779. The picture valued most highly by the Winn family over the centuries, however, was Rowland Lockey's large painting, signed and dated 1592, of 'Sir Thomas More and His Family', a copy of Hans Holbein the younger’s destroyed group portrait.
These were purchased in 2002 subsequent to Nostell Priory having been given to the National Trust in 1953 and after the furniture and some of the paintings were transferred in lieu of tax in 1986. More recently the rest was acquired through private treaty sale with Lord St Oswald in 2010. One of only a small number of signed and dated versions of the 'The Procession to Calvary' (1602) by Pieter Brueghel the younger was purchased in 2011 with the generosity of the Art Fund, its members, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and donations from the public.