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Access to these buildings, all within the inner precinct of the Priory, would have been via a Gatehouse, which was probably situated to the west of the Priory church, possibly underneath the present tennis courts.
Rich had accumulated vast estates over the whole of Essex, his family home being at Lees Priory. Neither Audley nor Rich would have lived at the Priory, although the latter gentleman did build or rebuild Rochford Hall (probably using stone from the demolished Priory buildings). He also acquired Southchurch, Leigh, Hadleigh and Rochford.
Pritlewell Priory remained in the family of Rich, the Earls of Warwick, until 1678 when the last heir died. The Priory was then purchased by Daniel Scratton. Various Scratton family members lived there until the late 19th century, and then again in the early years of the 20th century. The Scrattons also owned the manor and manor house of Milton Hall, now in the centre of Southend.
Extensive changes were made to the Priory in the 17th century possibly by the first of the Scratton owners. A two storey porch entrance was built to make it more fashionable and in the 18th century, floors were inserted into the vast Refectory and Prior’s Chamber to create more bedroom space. In the early to mid 19th century the two storey brick wing was added to the south west corner. On the ground floor of this wing were the dining room and sitting room, with bedrooms above.
We know that by the mid 19th century (and probably long before), the grounds had been laid out as pleasure gardens for the family and to the north of the Priory buildings a brick walled kitchen garden had been laid out. Very detailed descriptions of what was being grown in the kitchen gardens survive.
In 1917 the Priory came up for sale, and was purchased by local businessman, Robert Arthur Jones. He presented it to the town and it became the town’s first dedicated public museum. After extensive restoration and refurbishment the Priory opened as the town’s first museum in 1922.
In the outer precinct would have been the monastic barns, the stables, cow sheds, smithy and other workshops. There would probably have been guesthouses and an infirmary. There would have been fields for crops beyond these buildings, and almost certainly a Priory garden, for medicinal herbs, and an orchard. All of these would have been within the boundaries of the current park.
Prittlewell Priory had a maximum of 18 monks, but usually no more than 12. It continued to function as a religious house until 1536 when, as a result of the Act of Supremacy, the Priory, along with all the ‘lesser monasteries’ was closed. The Priory was the richest of all the Essex monasteries and the last Prior, Thomas Norwich was given a pension.
The lands and possessions of the Priory were taken into the King’s hands, and then sold off. The first private owner was Thomas Audley, brother of the Lord Chancellor. He purchased the Priory from the King for £400.
In 1548 Lord Richard Rich, at one time chancellor of the Court of Augmentations, purchased the Priory, and all of its estates, for the sum of £800. It was probably during these years, in the second half of the 16th century, that many of the Priory buildings that were not required for conversion into a country house, were demolished.