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

Reading about The Priory [Alan Mackley]

The knowledge that has been gained in the last few years about the house and the ruins will take time to seep into books about Blythburgh. We hope that this account will help future authors to produce their own evidence-based work. You may be interested to read what James Bettley has included in the East Suffolk volume of his update of Pevsner’s Buildings of England series, published by Yale University Press in April 2015.

‘To its E THE PRIORY, where Crofts’ friend John Seymour Lucas R.A. did a similar but more elaborate job from c. 1901. All rendered or roughcast. The core is a C17 timber-framed lobby-entrance house, on to which he built, on the E side, an extension (including jettied and gabled two-storey porch) reusing a C15 timber frame from Saffron Walden, Essex. Further extension E after 1911, the first floor probably his studio. He also added three-storey gabled bays to the front of the original house, and at the back various additions to improve circulation as well as a tower that serves no very useful purpose. Interiors with much imported panelling etc. At the W end a chapel-like flint and brick extension with brick Y-tracery windows; some of the walling appears to be medieval in origin. It is hard to imagine that Frank Jennings, who was associated with Lucas’s son Sydney Seymour Lucas, was not involved (cf. Walberswick). N of the house, scant remains of the AUGUSTINIAN PRIORY: a portion of the S wall of the nave, with flints laid herringbone-wise, and parts of the crossing piers, including some ashlar facing.’

A few penultimate words – for the Record [Nick and Susan Haward]

As I explained at the outset, the appeal and our sole aspiration when we bought ‘The Priory’ was to take a very old and quirky, yet run-down Grade II Listed building and make this rambling and individual property our home, but as you can see it has ended up being so much more.

I have tried to keep this record tumbling along, yet historically accurate in both distant and recent history, dwelling only long enough to paint sufficient colour to each picture and facet. Both Susan and I are most grateful to the wealth of expertise and assistance, which we have benefited from along the way. Through the various links and identified records, there is, of course, more detail available to review.

This Record should only be considered finite from our own ownership perspective, our personal record of events from our moment in time; the historical details are most certainly not finite and I am sure as skills at interpreting evidence improve our collective knowledge about the site will continue incrementally. Undoubtedly, those of a historical bias and research background will be able to build on this data [and likely correct where I may have made errors or omissions in interpretation]. My apologies, in advance, for my historical naivety [but, then again, history was never my strongest point]!

When we first bought ‘The Priory’, the ruins were not even on the radar, yet they have become an integral part of our life now and I suppose, whilst the challenge, learning curve and subsequent workload probably paralleled the renovations of the house, the stimulation of dealing with them, which involved us in many areas of life that we had never even considered is surely reward enough. But there is more…

Epilogue – The Ruins

“Having been firstly robbed of their dignity, material and form in the 1780’s, then abandoned in a farmer’s field for 100 years or so; then only to be abandoned again to ivy and brambles for much of the 1900’s, to finally now be upstanding, back into full focus, colour and understanding. Now, that is the icing on the cake…

“Blythburgh Priory is a very special place; what we didn’t know when we embarked on our journey was just how special it would turn out to be.

Nick and Susan Haward, ‘The Priory’ – January 2015

Lastly, a few words of thanks:

Susan and I take this opportunity to offer our sincere thanks to everyone involved with the project over the last 10 years, in particular, John Ette and his team at English Heritage Eastern Region; Tim Buxbaum, Chartered Architect; Archaeologist, Bob Carr; Stuart Boulter and his team of archaeologists at SCC, [now Suffolk Archaeology CIC] and Alan Mackley, historian. I have tried to accurately credit all contributions to the project and within this document correctly. If there are any errors or omissions, it is solely an oversight on my behalf. In my experience any successful project is wholly a result of teamwork rather than singular effort and on behalf of Susan and myself we are gratefully indebted to all for the collective expertise, guidance, effort and enthusiasm from which The Priory and Ruins has benefited.