- Friday, 15 June 2012
I was lucky enough to be invited to the re-launch of this beautiful historic site, resting in the depth of the stunning Sussex countryside, a few miles from Lewes.
Dame Vera Lynn, pictured here, a great fan of the Michelham Priory, was there to help celebrate the official re-opening of new exhibitions, events and exciting activities planned for this year.
Michelham has a fascinating 800 year history, from its foundation by Augustinian canons, through the destruction caused by the dissolution of the monasteries in Tudor times and into its later life as a country house, not to mention its WW2 involvement.
It is one of the best examples of a defended Priory with a 60 foot gatehouse faced with Eastbourne sandstone to project against French raids.The water filled moat boasts of being the longest in England, fed by the River Cuckmere, and is set in seven acres of grounds with a superbly kept kitchen garden, medieval herb garden, working watermill, replica Iron Age roundhouses and children’s play area.
My visit was made most enjoyable by the variety of activities and stories to discover.
It was interesting that it fell into disrepute 1440 as the Priory was found to be giving endowments to laymen, failed to keep adequate accounts and living too extravagantly not to mention chatting at mealtimes!
Later it was dissolved by Cromwell and turned into a family home and farm.
There is an exhibition to discover the part played during the Second World War as it was home to evacuees, British and Canadian forces as well as being a working farm complete with land girls.
It is now run by Sussex Archaeological Society and is very much alive in 2012. The Priory has an Elizabethan Barn used for weddings ceremonies, and impressive gift shop with a refreshing café offering wonderful views over the grounds.
Weekends are busy with a variety of events, including archery demonstrations.
Are there lovelier secrets in Sussex, if so I need to find them?
by Rowena Cooper - Mature Times travel writer
More information and up and coming events visit www.sussexpast.co.uk