This post is not quite chronological – our visit, with friends Bob and Alison, was before our trip to Bristol. Back then (it seems ages ago now…) the weather was still hot and sunny. Hard to believe…. We had a lovely day in this beautiful, peaceful place.
Michelham Priory is just by Hailsham, one of those places where we have passed the signs loads of times but never been.
It was originally an Augustinian priory – a daughter house of the Augustinian priory in Hastings. At first, in the thirteenth century, it was quite important – the substantial gatehouse and moat show this. Edward 1 and the Archbishop of Canterbury even came to stay, but over time the priory fell into disrepair and dissolute ways, and was a prime candidate for disposal during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. Initially, it passed to Thomas Cromwell, then to Anne of Cleves, and after several more changes of ownership, to the Sackville family. By this time, it was overlooked, half-forgotten and somewhat dilapidated.
|The gatehouse (from the website)|
Even though, over the years, the place has changed from monastery to Tudor manor house to farm to modern leisure destination, it still retains a gentle, slightly other-worldly air. The day we went, it was very quiet – hardly anyone around. It is now owned and managed by the Sussex Archaelogical Society.
Talking of quiet and peaceful, Michelham is actually supposed to be one of the most haunted places in England, positively teeming and seething with unrestful paranormal activity….. look at this for example! Battleaxe is usually quite adept at picking up eerie vibes but I didn’t sense a single thing out of the ordinary here… on the contrary, it was wonderfully restful…
The garden is massive, with some great old trees. This yew looks as though it dates from before the dissolution of the monasteries…
|Massive old pine|
It is also slightly wild, surrounded by the moat, now largely overgrown and very muddy. We saw many dragonflies and these beautiful blue damsel-flies. There are bridges across the moat leading to further areas, but we did not investigate….. We also, fleetingly, saw a green woodpecker…
We agreed it would be a fantastic place to enjoy a quiet picnic.
They have a good cafe – one water-side sitting-out area is ruled by friendly, greedy ducks. We made the mistake of dropping a few bits of scone and next thing they were waddling briskly towards us from every direction, quacking madly. Bob said they pecked his toes, but I really like ducks – they have a lot of character.
Then we looked over the house – very higgledy-piggly, but some nice old Tudor rooms. In the kitchen, we saw how the spit operated – by winding up a weight which then slowly dropped to turn the spit for about 20 minutes. There was also a mechanism to operate the spit from a fan in the chimney. No turnspit boys or dogs. I was interested because a few years ago I wrote a story for the Hastngs Writers Group about a turnspit boy who accidently invented first bacon sandwiches and then chips…..
|Kitchen – from the internet|
Finally, we looked at the water mill, which is all up and ready to go except that the moat is so silted up there is hardly ever enough water…
Battleaxe would recommend Michelham Priory – choose a sunny day, though.