Priory House History

This Grade 11 listed Elizabethan Longhouse has been endowed with a certain enigmatic charm by a former inhabitant of Priory House. Some time between 1900 and 1910 Sir Francis Younghusband, a renowned mystic thinker and writer brought back an intricately carved padouk wood screen from Karachi and installed it in the Brewhouse as part of major Edwardian renovations. He rescued it from dereliction and converted it into a very important addition to Priory House, the “games room”. There the gentlemen would play billiards, probably smoke their pipes and drink port after dinner. The ladies would sit in the drawing room with their needlework and household accounts. But I don’t think they had to do the washing up!   

It was the first house to be built on this site probably during the 1500’s. It would have been thatched using reeds from nearby fens. It retains the typical configuration of an original Lincolnshire longhouse. One half was devoted to their animals, some cows sheep and horses. Chickens ducks and geese would undoubtedly have had free reign. The other half was the living accommodation, divided by a passage way with a door at each end.  The large inglenook fireplace is a later addition, dated around 1640. Before that there was a hole in the thatch in the centre of the roof. You can still see one of the brackets on a beam where the cooking pot hooks hung over the fire. And the ash was swept out through the little arched sweeping hole.

When Priory House was built next to it in about 1640 it was used to brew the ale and bake the bread for the household and its servants.  The animal shelter became the stables for the family’s horses. A large coach house was built in the grounds, but it was sadly separated from the property in 1985. Due to the very bad condition of the stables they were renovated and now used as a fashion studio.

When the Younghusband family converted it from a brew house into a games room  they built a dividing wall to create a cloakroom and anteroom and covered it with the Indian screen. It must have been quite cosy as there were the remains of the under floor heating pipes covered by cast iron grills. We had to dig up the old concrete floor so that we could insulate it. Then we found some wonderful ancient looking medieval style terracotta tiles from Fired Earth in London. Some of them even have animal footprints! You would never guess they have only been here since 1990.

  During the 20th century it was used by the villagers for girl guides, scout meetings and amateur dramatics. The minstrel’s gallery must have made a great stage. There are still folks who can remember those times when they were children. In the summer they would play under the walnut tree.

Izambard Kingdom Brunel was a great friend of the Wilkinsons who lived here in the 1880’s. He is reputed to have fallen from a branch into the duck pond while on a visit here.

Priory House was for sale for a couple of years. It just happened to be the distant view from my design studio window. If you are an artist or writer you will know there are many distractions you can employ when you need an excuse to prevaricate!  But I realised it would make a fantastic atelier or fashion house. My business was very successful and we were running out of space. It took a while to persuade Roger to view it.  He soon changed his mind and fell under its spell, as I already had.  We bought it in 1986 and promptly realised it was far too precious and wonderful to use as a work place. All those employees scraping their chairs and sticking tape to the walls!  No!  We wanted to live here!

The Masquerade Ball in July1986 was our first party here before we started the renovations and redecorations. I did feel a cold draught when I was washing the scullery floor. But was disappointed when nothing materialised. Half the village came, all wearing fancy dress and even their wedding dresses!  Unfortunately I lent my new Betamax video camera to a farmer, David Baggaley who used the on/off button the wrong way round! There were some great shots of the 1950’s lino on the floor and my glamorous sales person Lynne, wearing a gold dress cut down to the waist. The camera randomly swung upwards and caught a brief glimpse of her cleavage. It sadly didn’t reach her face!

 The drab decorations took two years to obliterate. The new colours were dictated to me by the House. It really does have its own personality and tells me what it wants. It told me it wanted marble floors. And it got them!
The Brewhouse became the epicentre of our teenage kid’s punk parties. Sid Vicious and strobe lights ruled OK.

A few parties later, in 1994 we were invited to take part in a Sunday Express Magazine feature for my daughter Dahlia’s 19th birthday party. We shared it with Doddington Hall, now a very successful stately home and wedding venue. An excerpt from Helen Pickles article wrote “Eastern bazaar meets western kitsch via Louis XV and the Addams Family” I don’t know whether this is a description we should broadcast but it’s probably true!

Edwardian painted washbasin remains but the toilet had been removed so we replaced it with a Heritage reproduction.  We lent our interior designer friend a book called Indian Style and he created the fitted kitchen in the anteroom using the typically Mogul motifs and patterns.