We visited Southend Prittlewell Priory for the first time in December 2015, and were most impressed.
The Priory was originally founded by Clunic Monks of St. Pancreas in the 12th century.The Grade 1 listed Priory was given to the people of Southend by the family of the Southend jeweller RA Jones, and there’s an impressive set of park gates at the main entrance to the park to mark this.
The Priory is set in a very attractive park, even in December there was a lot to look at, particularly in the formally laid out gardens to the side of the Priory, where you can also see the original walls of the priory marked out in the lawn. There is a cafe and visitor centre selling gifts and guide books in a new building next to the Priory. The cafe appeared to be very popular with those out for a stroll in the winter sunshine on the day we visited.
Inside the Priory we were very taken by a slice through of a recently felled oak tree, overlaid with a video showing the history of Britain over the lifetime of the tree – whoever had the idea for that deserves a pat on the back.
There are a number of rooms that tell the story of the Priory and those who have lived in it. On an impressive scale was the Refectory – a Medieval Hall complete with beams, banners and a Minstrels Gallery. From the same period are the Cellars, where the monks kept their wine. I found these rather fascinating, connecting me to the early life of the building.
A far more recent period in the Priory’s history is interpreted in the recreated Victorian parlour – giving us an idea of how the Priory was decorated and lived in when it was the home of the Scrutton family. It was very light and pretty.
The priory is free to visit, although donations are always welcome. On the same day we also visited Southchurch Hall, Southend Central Museum and the Beecroft Art Gallery.