Michelham Priory is a hauntingly beautiful place set against a backdrop of fine Sussex countryside, splendidly surrounded by a moat. It was founded in 1229 as an Augustinian order by Gilbert de I'Aigle, and it is his emblem that flutters in the wind above the 14th century gatehouse.
Late in the 16th century the house was adapted as a Tudor farmhouse but fortunately some of the original building can still be seen within. Originally, there was a Church with a cloister, a Chapterhouse, Kitchen, Refectory and dormitories. The moat, which is now a haven for wildlife, was only added in the 14th century at the same time as the gatehouse. Both were built to protect against invasion by the French. The moat, is the longest surviving medieval moat in England.
The priory was closed down at the time of the Persecution, at this time the church and other parts of the building were pillaged for their treasures and building materials. The ravaged building stood idle until it was purchased by John Foote, a local man in 1556. For a time the Priory was subjected to a bit of a chequered history, until it was bought by Thomas Sackville, Ist Earl of Dorset. It remained with the Sackville's for over 300 years, however mostly, it was let out on lease to tenant farmers, and its fluctuating fortunes continued. Again the Priory fell into decline, and passed through a series of owners. Richard Beresford-Wright was responsible for much of the 20th century restoration and improvements, and its last owner Mrs. Stella Hotblack bought the Priory for no other reason than to preserve it from further desecration - she gave it to Sussex Archaeological Society in 1960. They continue to care for the building, and have embellished it accordingly, so that it makes an interesting and exciting visit for people of all ages and from all countries.
Visitors can see a working watermill from the medieval period which still produces stone-ground flour, the exceptional moat inhabited by swans and other creatures of the wild, restored barns and a working forge. Once inside, the house takes on the warm, easy feel of a home, where quite possibly the owners have popped out for an hour or so - all the rooms are laid out as if it were still in use by the family. The range of rooms runs from a children's bedroom to the Michelham Priory Room on the first floor where visitors see detailed displays recalling the history of the Priory, and an atmospheric 13th century Priors Chamber with a medieval fireplace and fine decorative tapestries.
Michelham Priory makes a super day out for all the family. There is lots to explore and much to do. In the Iron-Age centre, children can experience what life was like in Iron-Age Britain, and everyone can follow the Sculpture Trail in the garden. The gardens are a joy and offer peaceful walks amongst fragrant plants, lovely old trees and colourful flowers. An exploration of the medieval moat with its rich wildlife is not to be missed.
For tired feet there is an excellent restaurant where you can relax over a refreshing drink and a meal. The restaurant is open for most of the day.
There is a year long list of special events, and at Christmas, Michelham Priory hosts an enjoyable Christmas Fair, presenting an ideal opportunity for visitors to purchase gifts not normally available in the High Street.
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Complete A to Z of attractions in England
in the county of East Sussex(8.8 miles, 14.2 km, direction SW)
Best known for its cross channel ferries and for its fort built in the 1860's as part of Britain's coastal defences, but which is now a fascinating museum offering visitors the opportunity to experience a massive fortress at first hand...All towns in East Sussex
Where he comes from nobody knows, nor does anyone know the identity of this 240 foot figure of a man carved into the side of a.....
Amongst the treasures of this town is the first house to be acquired by the National Trust, this is the magnificent Priest's, or.....
The 15th century red brick Herstmonceux Castle with its magnificent gatehouse, was built in the romantic era when splendour and.....