Blythburgh Priory, Blythburgh, Suffolk
Blythburgh Priory, Blythburgh, Suffolk

“It is said we are only ever custodians for future generations.
In the case of a house that is 100 years old, a decade of custody is 10% of the building’s current lifespan; in the case of an ancient monument a decade can be a very small fraction of this percentage. Such a fraction though can either be very important in the long-term to that monument, or it can simply be a further passing of time which allows nature to gradually continue on it’s course, which ultimately retreats the monument into obscurity and ruination”.

2005 - The Simple Truth:

To be honest, when my wife and I bought The Priory, at Blythburgh, the appeal and our sole aspiration was to take a very old and quirky, yet run-down Grade II Listed building and make this rambling and individual property our home. Of the 17 rooms, it had less than a handful, which were barely habitable; it had water coming in through the roof; no heating; a Baby Belling and a sink unit and a very, very overgrown garden.

Whilst the usual legal searches turned up the obvious, I have to again be honest in admitting to rather skating over the Grade II Listing of the ruins, [pointed out quite clearly by our solicitor] in our enthusiasm to secure the property. Prior to purchase, we had been to the property a number of times, and whilst the extent of obligation [and potential] became ever closer and slowly into focus, the Priory Ruins remained firmly out of sight and hidden away under brambles, scrub and ivy; the only pointer to their existence being the EH Listing - definitely a case of out of sight, out of mind!

The penny slowly begins to drop ...

December 16th. 2005 was finally agreed as the purchase completion date and the usual moving-in chaos ensued. A ‘round-robin’ to all neighbours apologising in advance for the inconvenience of removal vehicles, coupled with a softening ‘open-invite’ on the 22nd. to join us for a festive drink and ‘house-warming’; [I use the latter phrase used very loosely as the house was far from warm in an unseasonably cold December and with only three wood burners trying to heat 3,500 sq.ft, it was of little surprise most guests kept their coats on]!

What we didn’t know was that the house had been rather ‘off-limits’ by our predecessors for many years and this was, for many, an opportunity to finally see inside ‘The Priory’, so it was no wonder the coats kept on coming through the front door.

Of course, we had no idea of the ‘recent’ family or social history of the site, but what seemed to come out of these first brief discussions with our new neighbours and fellow villagers was that the house had been in the same family for around 100 years and that after the Arts and Crafts revamp by John Seymour Lucas RA., RI., into an ‘artists residence’ the house and gardens had been largely neglected by following generations.

Whilst, it was all very interesting the penny still hadn’t dropped and we were still unbelievably oblivious to the depth and multi-layered history of our new home; we were barely at the threshold of what laid ahead and we were going to need help and advice, not only to guide us through the rules but to mentor our personal development as we stumbled through these very early stages of what was now very apparently set-out as our inevitable course.