Prittlewell Priory in 2008 – cloister area and claustral buildings
|Town or city||Southend-on-Sea|
|Construction started||c.1110 AD|
Coordinates: Prittlewell Priory is a medieval priory in the Prittlewell area of Southend, Essex, England. It was founded in the 12th century, by monks from the Cluniac Priory of St Pancras and passed into private hands at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. The last private owner, R. A. Jones, gave the priory and the grounds to the local council. The grounds now form a public park, Priory Park, and the Grade I listed building is open to the public. Priory Park is located adjacent to the priory.
Prittlewell Priory was founded by the Cluniac Order as a cell to the Priory of St Pancras at Lewes, Sussex. It was one of the lesser monasteries housing not more than 18 monks. In 1536 much of the building was destroyed and what remained was much altered during the 18th Century. Alterations were made again in the early 20th Century, when the Refectory was restored and partly rebuilt. A number of original features do survive, including a 12th Century doorway with chevron and dog tooth ornamentation.
After the Dissolution the Priory was a private residence. According to William White, in his 1848 Directory of Essex, on the dissolution "...[the Priory's] revenues were valued at £194.14s.3d. per annum, and it was granted to Lord Chancellor Audley, who conveyed it to Robert, son of Lord Rich. It afterwards passed with the manor to various families". The last family to live there, the 19th Century Scrattons, are explored in an exhibition inside the house. In 1917 the building was purchased by Robert Jones, and in May 1922 it opened as Southend's first museum.
In 2011 works began on refurbishing the existing buildings and the construction of a new Visitor Centre. The £2 million works were in part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Cory Environmental Trust in Southend-on-Sea and were undertaken by The Facility Architects and Ibex Interiors. Works were completed in the summer of 2012 and the Priory re-opened in the June of that year. The new Visitor Centre, adjacent to the Priory, opened in February 2013.
Conflict with Lewes Priory
Lewes, holding dominion over the monastery at Prittlewell, were responsible for electing the prior who would rule there. In 1311, this post was granted to William le Auvergnat. Two years into his rule, however, he was accused of corruption, and the prior of Lewes attempted to remove him.
This led to a prolonged conflict between the two priories, with Lewes promoting the ascension of James de Cusancia, and William steadfastly opposing his displacement.
Due to this unrest, the prior of Prittlewell was summoned before the King in 1318. During this audience, William outwardly resigned his position, only to return to the monastery and forcibly occupy it with his supporters.
In 1321, the monks of Lewes armed themselves and launched a counterattack, invading the priory as Mass was being said. Captives were seized and spirited away to face punishment, and William himself was struck a fatal blow at the altar, his death finally allowing James de Cusancia to succeed him as prior of Prittlewell.
The Scratton Family
In 1842 Daniel Robert Scratton inherited the Priory. Together with his wife, Maria, he renovated the buildings to provide a comfortable home. However, the couple moved to Devon in the 1860s and it was only when William Howell Scratton purchased the Priory in 1887 that it truly became a family home. The family created a walled kitchen garden, which originally had hot houses and a melon pit. This was on the site of the monks' burial ground. Today, it is an ornamental garden.
The Victorian extension of the Priory, which once housed the bedrooms, now hosts an interactive display on the local wildlife.
Other collections at the Priory include Daniel Robert Scratton of Prittlewell Priory, Essex by Stephen Pearce (1867) and Mrs Scratton of Prittlewell Priory by an unknown artist.
When R A Jones purchased the Priory, he also purchased a large tract of the surrounding land, which he donated to the town for the creation of Priory Park. The Park was formally opened on 14 July 1920 by the Duke of York.
Gates to Priory Park, Prittlewell, Southend-on-Sea. The plaques on the gateposts commemorate the presentation of the park to the people of Southend, as a gift from local jeweller and benefactor R A Jones.
The memorial stone outside Prittlewell Priory, Southend-on-Sea, commemorating donation of the priory and surrounding park by local benefactor R A Jones in 1917.
- English Heritage. "British Listed Buildings (Prittlewell Priory)". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- White, William (1848). History, directory and gazetteer of the county of Essex. Sheffield: Robert Leader.
- "£1.8 million restoration of Prittlewell Priory is complete". Echo. 17 June 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- Southend Museums Service (2012). Prittlewell Priory: a brief guide. Norwich: Jigsaw Design and Publishing Ltd.
- http://www.hlf.org.uk/news/Pages/PrittlewellPriory.aspx hlf.org.uk. Retrieved 23 May 2012
- "Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Prittlewell | British History Online". www.british-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 2015-12-16.
- "Your Paintings (Prittlewell Priory)". BBC. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- Commemorative plaque (commemorative plaque). Priory Park gates. 1920.