The Foxearth and District Local History Society

Local group - events and information.

Meetings and activities, announcements and notices for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, and associated organisations. For more information on recent events and current programme, please email or contact Clare Mathieson 01787 311337 or Lynda Rumble 01787 281434

Tour of Clare Priory Tuesday 9th August 2022

 Many of our older buildings are palimpsestic, allowing us glimpses and hints of past lives and multiple layers of previous use (writes Andrew Le Sueur of Borley Lodge). Clare Priory, more than most, has been a site of adaptation and re-use, as more than 20 members of the FDHS found out on an expertly guided tour by Fr David Middleton OS A. The interiors of the church and priory house provided cool respite to the blistering sun as Father David, who last year celebrated 50 years as an Augustinian priest, painted vivid images of the early -, years of the holy order.                                                                                 *

We started in the shrine, the oldest part of the buildings dating to the late 1200s, dedicated to Our Lady, Mother of Good Counsel, before moving to the church and into the priory house.                                         

Father David's talk emphasized the global connections of this site. While in France, Clare's thirteenth century feudal baron Richard de Clare met Italian Augstinian friars - who traced their origins to St Augustine of Hippo in Roman North Africa — and invited them to create a religious community on the banks of the Stour, which was established by 1248. The friars' way of life ended abruptly in 1538 with Henry VIIIs suppression of monasteries and the confiscated site became a farm in private hands. The house served as a boys' school in the mid-Victorian period and at the turn of the 20th century the home to a former colonial administrator after his service in Bermuda and Hong Kong (who added a billiard room with its distinctively shaped roof). After a four century absence, the Augustines were able to purchase part of their original estate in 1953 and re-establish a religious community.                                                          

The priory's church is a striking mix of  old (medieval) and new (2011-13). Many of us were surprised to learn that the older part became a church only in the 1950s, having previously served as the community's infirmary and an agricultural building.

The priory house now provides accommodation for members of the community and, in the ground floor rooms, space for modern-day monastic life.