Blythburgh Priory, Blythburgh, Suffolk
Blythburgh Priory, Blythburgh, Suffolk
2011 – Year of consolidation

Whilst 2011 was fairly quiet on the archaeological and English Heritage front, whilst contract matters were wrapped up and final reports prepared, it was far from quiet at ‘The Priory’. The workshop needed finishing, the allotment setting out, rabbit fences installed, and fruit cages erected. We replaced our beloved but smoky old Esse for a wood burning Rayburn and added a thermal store into our heating system loop. We also attended to finally decorating and furnishing the Master Bedroom and the Seymour Lucas ‘Sitting Room’, now known as ‘The Snug’. We also undressed the ruins in the summer.
We also undressed the ruins for the summer enabling Bob Carr to carry out further recording work. See Bob’s 2011 Interim Report.
That was 2011 in a single paragraph!

A beautiful day

Interestingly, some 500 years after The Priory shut it’s doors and with the Phase 1 rescue works completed we were pleased to host a Christian Service on the 29th. July 2011 in the Ruins. Local Team minister Malcolm Doney put the idea forward; the sun shone brightly and attendance for this very special event surpassed expectation – it was indeed a very moving and spiritual time for all who were present; an opportunity to breathe life and soul once again into the stone walls, on ground which has been hallowed since the 7th. Century.

The social history after the suppression of the priory in February 1537 is very sketchy indeed and it is some 200years later that some further social threads are uncovered:

“A few yards from it [Priory Place] stood a small chapel, where it is said, mass was sung for Blythburgh mariners before they went to sea. In those days the town shared with Walberswick the title of a port, and brigs came up the River Blyth, now long silted up and useless for navigation.

“Among the title deeds of Priory Place are the wills of some of its earlier occupiers, farmers who still held shares in sea ventures. Robert Elmy, in 1784, bequeaths a sixteenth share in the brig John and Sarah to one daughter and the like portion in the brig Friendship, to another, and his relative John Spencer, mariner, “by reason of my sincere and firm attachment to the faith of the Dissenters of Southwold”, direct that £50, shall on his wife’s death revert to the Trustees of the Meeting.” Perhaps this attachment to Dissent prevented the mariner from living in the remains of a papistical chapel?

We know the ‘papistical chapel’, had been used as a dwelling; when Seymour Lucas bought ‘the cottages’ the chapel [or ‘mariners cottage’] had been home to a Mrs. Maria Hatcher, “devoted attendant on the church, which she served for forty years as clerk and sexton’.

Seymour Lucas’s flamboyant time at ‘Priory Place’ certainly breathed a new lease of life into a very run down property and placed it firmly into the limelight of the day. The family ownership, which followed, simply had a different agenda; granddaughter Margaret was an avid animal lover and soon filled the substantial grounds with pens and enclosures. She was also a very generous woman and not long after securing ownership of the Ruins, she leased the now Village Hall site to the W.I. and ended up gifting it to the village in 1993. Via her Trustees, she also gifted Forge Cottage to the daughter of her mother’s longstanding friend, Edna. ‘Abbey Cottage’, known previously as Abbey Villa, was disposed of in 1975, ‘Traverse Cottage’ in 1994 and ‘Priory Lodge’ in 1998.

…and then there followed the ownership of Nick and Susan Haward.