Priory Park Wellbeing Walking Tour

Priory Park Wellbeing Walking Tour

Use the interactive map to navigate around Priory Park to learn more about its historic features. Click on the pins to see old photographs and read about what makes each location so special.

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Tour Map

Prittlewell Pump

Prittlewell Pump

Prittlewell Pump
(Location 1 of 11)

The site of this corner between Priory Crescent and Victoria Avenue was originally the site of a bridge crossing the brook, and Prittlewell Pump, an early 19th century village water pump which is currently undergoing restoration. Priory Crescent was constructed in the mid-1920s alongside other major transport works which improved access into the town.

The bridges over Prittle Brook were flattened following the First World War and the brook was later to become straightened through man-made channels. This was part of many major road improvements which saw the construction of Victoria Avenue, which ran through the historic Prittlewell village.

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Priory Park gates

Priory Park gates

Priory Park gates
(Location 2 of 11)

The entrance to Priory Park is through these magnificent gates which were commissioned by R.A. Jones in 1920 in time for the formal opening of the park. The architect Philip Johnston designed the gates whilst a local firm J. Starkie Gardner constructed the gates. HRH The Duke of York, later to become King George VI, attended the official opening of the park and the occasion attracted crowds of well-wishers.

These gates were lovingly restored and in 2017 and continue to welcome visitors into the park all year round.

Image shows R.A.Jones local philanthropist overseeing the construction of Priory gates.

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Bandstand

Bandstand

Bandstand
(Location 3 of 11)

This magnificent Bandstand was originally positioned along the Cliffs overlooking Southend seafront, as shown in the photo. It was a popular venue with holidaymakers and hosted many concerts and Big Band performances.
Due to dangerous cliff slippage the Bandstand was relocated to Priory Park in 2008 and has since become a recognisable landmark in the park.
Free live music performances are staged at the Bandstand every weekend from 3pm – 5pm from the beginning of May to the end of September: http://www.southend.gov.uk/events/event/3265/southend_bandstand_performances

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Prittlewell Prince

Prittlewell Prince

Prittlewell Prince
(Location 4 of 11)

This park was the site of the 2003 discovery of the 'Prittlewell Prince'. During a road-widening scheme, excavation trenches were dug to investigate the heritage of the area of expansion. A decision to move one of the trenches slightly led to the discovery of the "earliest archaeological evidence for Christian belief known for Anglo-Saxon England". The site was known to have revealed an Anglo-Saxon/Roman cemetery with only a few burials and grave goods. This was discovered during the construction of Priory Crescent in the 1920s. However, even with this knowledge, nobody was prepared for the extraordinary finds that were made in 2003.

Museum of London Archaeology who excavated the site found a collapsed 7th Century Anglo-Saxon burial chamber, filled with objects distinctive of a high-status burial. A mixture of religious artefacts present in the chamber suggested that the individual (whose body was sadly not preserved) lived his life as a pagan, but died as a Christian.

An in-depth study of the finds has been undertaken by Museum of London Archaeology over the last 15 years, which will be published into a report and popular book.

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Nature Conservation Stream

Nature Conservation Stream

Nature Conservation Stream
(Location 5 of 11)

Priory Park provides important habitats for wildlife and over 300 types of insects, 92 kinds of birds and 6 species of bat have all been spotted here.

This conservation stream was created in 1999 to follow the path of an original water course in the park, its rich soils and water provides a home for plants such as yellow irises and waterlilies and insects such as damselflies and dragonflies.

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Walled garden

Walled garden

Walled garden
(Location 6 of 11)

This flower garden was once a walled kitchen garden created by the final owners of the Priory in Victorian times. The Scratton family grew fruit and vegetables here for the household and greenhouses were built to grow exotic fruits such as melons, apricots and cucumbers. Originally this was the site of a burial ground when the land was used as a Monastery and many skeletons were unearthed.

Many generations of the Scrattons leased or occupied the house from the late 1600s until 1917. During their time the original Priory cloisters became domestic buildings and the grounds surrounding the building had stables, carriage sheds and greenhouses.

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Garden

Garden

Garden
(Location 7 of 11)

This enclosed garden was also used by the Scratton family. It is laid out in a traditional parterre pattern with pergolas for climbing plants such as wisteria and trailing roses.

From 1675 to 1917, before the Park came into public ownership, the Priory and its lands were occupied by the Scratton family. Not only did the Scratton family own the Priory, they also held an estate called Milton Hall. This wealth gave them considerable power and influence in the community of Southend; they were instrumental in the development of the town. Daniel 'The Major' Scratton had promoted the building of the 'New Town' (including the high street and Royal Terrace) and Daniel Robert Scratton leased land to build the first housing estate: Clifftown.

This photo shows the Priory staff in 1900 who were employed by William Howell Scratton and his wife Edith who lived in the Priory from the early 1890s. At this time the Priory had thirteen bedrooms to accommodate the servants and William and Edith's six children. Three of the children can be seen in this photo, Peggy and Muriel are seated on the ground and baby Barbara is in the arms of her nurse. The children and their parents were all very creative and created their own annuals called the 'Priory Times' which were filled with drawings and stories.

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R.A.Jones memorial/cross

R.A.Jones memorial/cross

R.A.Jones memorial/cross
(Location 8 of 11)

This memorial was commissioned by R.A.Jonesin remembrance of the Monks who once lived at the Priory. R.A. Jones and his son Edward Cecil Jones were later buried here.

This image shows R.A.Jones and HRH Duke of York at the official opening of Priory park on the 14th July 1920.

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Priory refectory

Priory refectory

Priory refectory
(Location 9 of 11)

This image depicts the Refectory Hall of the Priory undergoing extensive renovation in the early 1920s when it was purchased by R.A Jones. During restoration the whole of the South and East walls of the Refectory Hall were rebuilt using original bricks in order to return it to its original size. The Hall was where the Monks would gather to eat.

Residents of the Priory following its dissolution as a Monastery had converted the building for domestic use and made many additions to the building with added floors, chimneys and partitions. During the restoration many of these post-medieval additions were removed and part of the Hall had to be rebuilt.

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Priory (front)

Priory (front)

Priory (front)
(Location 10 of 11)

The Priory has undergone many changes over its long life. By 1577, it is likely that all of the buildings not required for conversion into a private house had been demolished. In the mid to late 17th Century, a double-gabled facade was added to the west front and the floor level was raised. During the 18th Century, upper floors were added above the Refectory and Prior's Chamber.

In the second half of the 19th Century, a new two-storey wing was added to the Priory, which made room for a library and dining room on the ground floor and bedrooms on the first floor. In 1869, the Prior's Chamber was being used as a fancy Drawing Room connecting to a conservatory built on the west front, which is now a flat roof. A staircase connected the conservatory to the gardens.

Image of priory c.1880

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Ponds

Ponds

Ponds
(Location 11 of 11)

Prittlewell derives its name from the Saxon for a spring or brook, and Prittle Brook runs through the park. A natural spring also exists in one of these ponds, which are an important habitat for the wildlife.
These ponds were a source of fresh fish for the Monks in the time of the Priory. Fish was a crucial element to a Monk's diet and there was special 'fish-days' when it was eaten. A record of all the fish in the ponds and other produce farmed from the Priory lands was recorded by the Monk-cellarer who was responsible for the storerooms and any incoming goods.
These ponds are still used for fishing and are a fantastic place for spotting the diverse flora and fauna that make the park their home.

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My Priory Park Wellbeing Walking Tour Notes

Priory Park Wellbeing Walking Tour

Priory Park Wellbeing Walking Tour

Use the interactive map to navigate around Priory Park to learn more about its historic features. Click on the pins to see old photographs and read about what makes each location so special.

Southend Museums Service have developed this self-guided walking tour of Priory Park as part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018. Using information and photographs from our social history archive we have devised a historic walking tour of the park for visitors to learn about its different features including the gates, bandstand, walled gardens and ponds.

Prittlewell Priory started life as a monastery of the Cluniac order in the 12th Century. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th Century, most of Prittlewell Priory was destroyed and the land was sold. In 1548, Sir Richard Rich purchased the Priory for £800 and it remained in the Rich family for the next 100 years. The next owners were the Scratton family, the first member of whom purchased the Priory as a home in 1675. The family lived in the house until 1906.

After the family left, Priory Park was bought for the town of Southend by R.A.Jones, who was a local benefactor and philanthropist. He oversaw the renovation works that took place on the Priory in the 1920s. Between 1918 and 1922 it became Southend's first town museum.

In the early Noughties, the building was closed to the public after structural problems were identified, leading to its restoration with Heritage Lottery Fund money from 2011. The 45 acres of parkland and priory itself are both free to enter, with information available from the Visitor Centre.

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