Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Michelham Priory - East Sussex

Sometimes on our days out we have a plan. On others we just drift until something catches our eye.

On a spring day down in Hove, we went for a drive eastwards along the coast road and then saw a sign that indicated there was a bluebell wood to explore. I love bluebell woods. They are evocative and bring back memories of some of the best days of my childhood. So we went.

What we found was the Arlington Bluebell Walk, very popular in April and May. It was one of the better woods that we have found to date. We walked around and took photos all over the shop, and then decided to drift back, but not the way we had come.

There in front of us was Michelham Priory, a most blighted place historically.

An Augustine Priory was built in 1229. It blossomed for a while and then began to fall foul of the authorities. There were so many run-ins that life in the priory became very difficult and by 1398 it was mostly ruined. There was an effort to rebuild, but then along came Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537, and that was the end of the resurgence.

The church belonging to the priory, plus several buildings, were demolished in 1599. That should have been the end, but somehow the ruins survived and were passed from hand to hand for a couple of hundred years. Then, early in the 20th century a man called Walter Godfrey decided to restore as much as he could.

Godfrey did quite a good job and the buildings were once again habitable. Then came the Second World War and Canadian troops were barracked at the priory during 1941/42. It never recovered from that experience and was left to languish until the Sussex Archaeological Society took over in 1959.

Now it is a pleasant place to visit, and the watermill on the grounds has been restored and is open to visitors.

Arlington Bluebell Walk

BN26 6SH

Michelham Priory
BN27 3QS

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