Medieval Michelham Priory


I recently visited Michelham Priory, near Eastbourne, East Sussex. I discovered it many years ago on a school trip, and I fell in love with it as I was fascinated by its atmosphere.

Michelham Priory is a unique building as the original Priory was converted into a house.

piesSchoolMichCatinhatWikepedia says;

The Augustinian Priory of the Holy Trinity was founded at Michelham in 1229 by Gilbert de Aquila,[3][4] whose father had been a benefactor of Bayham Abbey in Kent and also had connections to Otham Abbey in East Sussex.[5] Michelham was a daughter house of Hastings Priory.[6]

All Gilbert’s lands and honours were forfeited in 1235 as punishment for his going to Normandy without licence from King Henry III.[7]

In 1278 and again in 1287, the prior was fined for exercising illegal privileges.[8] On 26 June 1283, John de Kyrkeby renounced his election as Bishop of Rochester at Michelham Priory before John PeckhamArchbishop of Canterbury.[9]

King Edward I stayed overnight at the priory on 14 September 1302.[10] In 1353, the prior was fined 40d because a bridge at Rickneywas broken and blocking the river.[11] By 1398, the priory was reported to be in a ruinous condition. Robert Reade, bishop of Chichester, granted the advowsons of Alfriston and Fletching to Michelham Priory in that year.[12]

Dissolution and later use


Family crests

The Priory was seized in 1537 under Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the monasteries. The priory and its possessions was then granted to Thomas Cromwell.[13] Following Cromwell’s execution in 1540, it was granted to Anne of Cleves. Part of it was leased to Thomas Culpeper, with the greater part of the site passing to William, Earl of Arundel.[14] In 1544, Henry, Earl of Arundel exchanged Michelham Priory with Queen Mary for other property.[15] In 1556, the priory was sold to John Foote and John Roberts for £1,249 16s 10d. Foote alienated the manor and hundred of Michelham Parkegate to Ambrose Smythe in 1574. In 1584, Smythe granted it to John Morely and Elizabeth, his wife. Morley granted the priory to Herbert Pelham in 1587.[2]

The church and some of the buildings were demolished and between 1599 and 1601. In the former year, the priory was made over in trust to Thomas Peirse, Thomas Pelham and James Thatcher to be sold to provide an annuity of £400 and pay off his debts. In 1601, the priory was sold to Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset (Lord Buckhurst) for the sum of £4,700.[16] On his death in 1608, the property passed to his son Robert Sackville, 2nd Earl of Dorset. In 1609, it passed to Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset. On Richard’s death in 1630, the priory passed to his wife, Lady Anne Clifford. On her death in 1675, the property remained in the Sackville family, passing down the Earls (later Dukes) of Dorset until the death of John Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset in 1799, then passing to his daughter Mary, Countess of Plymouth. She married William Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst in 1839.[17]

It was sold to James Gwynne in 1896 and was where his children RupertRoland and Violet grew up.[18] The property remained in private hands into the 20th century, when it was restored by the Sussex architect and antiquarian, Walter Godfrey. It was used as a base for Canadian troops during the winter of 1941-42 while they prepared for the Dieppe Raid. Later it was the East Sussex headquarters of the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

In 1958 Mrs R.H. Hotblack purchased the property with the aim of preserving it for posterity. With an endowment from Kenneth, Earl of Inchcape as a memorial to his friend John Fletcher Boughey who was killed during the Second World War, Mrs Hotblack gave the property in trust to the Sussex Archaeological Society on 1 November 1959.


The Priory looked stunning as we parked the car and walked towards it.  Flower beds full of daffodils surrounded it, with the traditional Herb Garden to the right.

We were greeted by the guide Linda de Fusco, who is in her 14th year of working there, and loves it!

piesSchoolMichCatinhatThe house has had a hard life, changing hands many times. Then in December 1927 an ember out of a fireplace caused a big fire that gutted a large area.

When the firemen arrived, they found that the moat was frozen over and they had a hard job to get any water out!

The moat is about a mile in circumference and is the longest in England.

piesSchoolMichCatinhatUp to 17 evacuees lived in the house during the war, gradually dropping to 13 as they returned home in 1940.

One of the rooms is made up to look like the evacuees’ room, with Vera Lynn songs playing, and 1940s childrens’ clothes laid out on the beds.

It must have been absolute Heaven to the children who had probably been brought up in London, with acres of Sussex countryside to play in!


Evacuees room

Michelham Priory is now a lively working building, with groups of schoolchildren being educated and entertained by people dressed in Medieval costume, who get the children involved in all the activities.

I had to laugh at them all, sitting on the ballroom floor in a huge ancient room eating their pack lunches. I couldn’t help wondering what the resident ghosts would make of it all!


Dining room with chimney where ATS girl got stuck

The dining room table was laid out with copies of the food and drink of the time.

But my favourite room was the kitchen. It was originally the Refrectory and much bigger.


Kitchen spit & cauldron

There was a Spit Boy by the fire, dating from the late 1600s. The spit would turn the meat slowly as the chain dropped, watched by a young servant, who was treated as a slave.


Typical food

A cauldron stands in front of the fire. Cauldrons were the 2nd largest cause of deaths for women after childbirth. They leaned over the top, stirring it. It would have been full of bacteria and lead poisoning.

piesSchoolMichCatinhatMichelham was used for the first location of the programme Most Haunted, and it’s supposed to be one of the most haunted building in the UK.

Yvette Fielding and her team gave a very generous payment to the Priory which has been a great help to the constant necessary renovations and repairs.

piesSchoolMichCatinhatHaunted Rooms says;

Ghosts at Michelham Priory

One of the many ghosts that have been reported here is that of Thomas Sackville. He was once the owner of the priory and still haunts the halls to this day tormenting the spirit of a young girl called Rosie. She is reported to hide in the wood panelling at the top of the stairs to stay clear of her tormentor.

One of the more regular hauntings is that of the Grey Lady, who has been seen on many occasions by the bridge and the gate house. She has also been seen near the moat staring into the water apparently mourning her child who drowned in there many years before her own death. She has also been reported to stare into the faces of sleeping guests and then float away through the walls.

Other hauntings include a black hooded monk in the undercroft, a young boy in the kitchens, a maid in the hall, and a lady dressed in Tudor clothing walking the corridors.

There has also been reports of poltergeist activity, with windows opening, doors banging shut and opening, and as captured on Most Haunted, a chair moving by itself.

Michelham Priory holds regular Ghost Hunts, plus other events all the year round.

Contact:  Michelham Priory, Upper Dicker, Hailsham, East Sussex, BN27 3QS.  01323 844224,

The Sussex Archaeological Society > Opening Times and Prices

Opening Times and Prices


Every day from 9th February 2019 to 20th December 2019
9th February to 28th February, 11.00am-4pm
1st March to 31st October, 10.30am-5pm
1st November to 20th December, 11.00am-4pm

Admission:       Gift Aid*           Standard

Adult                     £11.55              £10.50

Child (5-17)          £5.50                 £5.00

Student / Senior   £10.05                 £9.10

Carer                   Free                   Free

Family                   £29.70              £27.00 (2 adults and up to 4 children)

*Gift Aid your donation at Michelham Priory includes a voluntary donation of at least 10% – Click here for more details.

Free admission for Sussex Archaeological Society members and National Art Pass holders.

Groups of 15 or more receive a discounted admission price (£8.50 or child £4.25) when booked in advance.
 Guided house or garden tours can also be arranged prior to your visit at a cost of £3.50 per person. We are also able to pre-book meals or refreshments in the cafe.
Contact for a group booking form.




If you fancy a customised van, here’s a more cost-effective route to one


MS RT Connect

MS RT Connect

A South Wales-based tuning company is to launch a new van to sit alongside its Ford QVM-approved Transit Custom Conversion, writes Iain Robertson, and it looks like a real ‘bobby-dazzler’ by any reckoning, with a truly fine pedigree.

Recalling a one-off test example of the Ford Transit Connect, sent to me by Ford Motor Company a few years ago, I was gobsmacked by the performance of its full-house Ford Cosworth turbo engine (340bhp) and running gear. Created by means of a ‘Saturday Club’ by the firm’s technicians at Lommel, Belgium, it gave me a different perspective on light vans.

Although created as a strict one-off, with no aspirations to develop it as a road-going series, it was every inch a full-production machine. Its seats came from a Focus RS and most of the swappable cabin detailing was carried into the van. Not governed by ‘drive-by’ noise legislation, its exhaust was both slightly raucous and open enough to allow over-run flame bursts. While it rode on adjustable Bilstein springs and dampers, which took into account its nose-heaviness compared with a Focus RS, its most interesting feature was a lightweight tube reinforcing framework below its van body, which removed any body flex.

MS RT Connect

MS RT Connect

Of course, the modified/customised van market has grown like Topsy in the past few years. We covered the launch of the full-size Transit model last year on BCingU, so the new van will hardly come as a surprise, even though it is based on the smaller version of Ford’s popular commercial vehicle.

MS-RT, which uses styling and technology pioneered by Ford’s works rally team that is run by Malcolm Wilson, has revealed the first images, pricing and specification details of the new MS-RT Transit Connect, developed, designed and built in-house at its factory in Pontypool, South Wales. The new model complements the MS-RT Transit Custom, introduced in 2018 to massive acclaim. The compact van features a styling kit designed and manufactured by the company at its Welsh factory. The conversion consists of a full MS-RT plastic injection-moulded body kit that includes an uniquely styled front bumper, grilles, front diffuser, side skirts, rear bumper, rear diffuser and spoiler.

In addition, it receives a quad-outlet, stainless steel, sports exhaust system, 18.0-inch diameter OZ Racing alloy wheels (like that one-off original), Michelin tyres, a carbon inlay sports steering wheel and a hand-made Nappa leather and suede interior. Customers will also be given an exclusive MS-RT ‘gift pack’, consisting of a special logoed bag containing products to help keep their cherished van in tip-top condition. The conversion has been designed to pass QVM approval with Ford, which is already a key feature of the MS-RT Transit Custom.

MS RT Connect

MS RT Connect

Priced from £23,995 with a six-speed manual gearbox, or £24,995 with automated-manual (Twin-Clutch) transmission, it is set for a summer 2019 launch. MS-RT has also announced a limited run of 40-only Launch Editions. Finished in Magnetic Grey (as pictured), the Launch Edition will include upgraded alloy wheels as standard, along with a unique Launch Edition interior, sticker pack and ‘Limited Edition’ numbered plaque. They will be built during the summer for delivery to the first 40 customers in September 2019, with standard production vans available for registration from October. MS-RT is offering the Launch Edition for the same price as the standard van, which seems like a conspicuous bargain to me.

All MS-RT Transit Connects will come with a three-year, 100,000-mile warranty. A long-wheelbase version will join the range in 2020. They are all equipped with LED loadspace lighting, a premium infotainment pack (with sat-nav and a reversing camera), bi-xenon headlights and twin side loading doors. Options will include an upgrade to bronze alloy wheels, a Maxhaust tuned exhaust system, a rally sticker pack, black exhaust tips and a full carbon steering wheel option.

MS-RT founding director, Edward Davies, told us: “We’ve enjoyed unprecedented success with the MS-RT Transit Custom, with the order books completely full since launch. Our customers absolutely love their vans and the uniqueness of them, so we expect that the Connect will develop a similar following among those who want a commercial vehicle with genuine motorsport heritage, fantastic sports styling and a full manufacturer-backed warranty. We can’t wait to deliver the first Launch Edition models later this year.

MS RT Connect

MS RT Connect

All that remains would be an engine swap for a truly complete, tuned package. Interestingly, no details are given about the engine line-up, which we have to presume (at this stage) will be the same as the standard production van: three turbo-diesel engines are available, with 72, 97 and 117bhp power outputs. Naturally, being based on a regular production van, the full package of driver and electronic safety aids is included from the van’s well-equipped standard specification. The list of cabin upgrades will mirror what Ford already offers on the Transit Connect.

Conclusion:   It is my belief that a customised Transit Connect will fire up the imaginations of potential customers fed-up with the choice of different makes and models of car. If you opt for a passenger carrying variant, you could have all of the benefits of a people-mover, with bags of storage space.

Welsh Witterings:   Do you see what I see?



The task of moving home and business has found me riding on a wave of memories. Each time I have emptied a drawer or cupboard memories have been churned up and it has made me rather reflective.  Finding cards I made at nursery school,  photographs of  times and people long gone; discovering trinkets that my eldest daughter made in her early years and discovering my childhood collection of shells, have all made me reflect over how fast and fragile life is.  In many respects I believe that the emotional elements to moving are harder than the physical aspects, but I must say I’ve been very happy to be re-united with some of my long lost belongings that have been in storage for years and I’ve had some lovely memories (rose tinted of course) come flooding back.

What packing and moving has made me realise is how little we really look, I mean really look. Yes, we observe things in our day to day lives and around us, but we miss many intricacies and small works of beauty and I believe this is because we don’t take the time to truly look.  As I have been packing up belongings my children have been helping and my seven year old has come across many things in drawers , many of them quite mundane,that she has termed as ‘pretty’ before commenting on more detailed intricacies and snippets of beauty that I believe as adults we become too busy to do. We notice things quickly, observing the seasons, the rain, the snow, the sun and the moon, without much thought. Perhaps we are all just too busy and wrapped up in our busyness to really look beyond casual observation and this seeing without looking and living without being fully present is so common in today’s society, especially in such a digitally governed society. I see so many people viewing the world through the camera of their phone and I wonder how involved or truly conscious they are in the activity they are avidly recording.



I can’t help thinking that today we record more events and moments in photographs than ever before, but I am not sure whether we are capturing memories or just producing an inventory of life events. It is in the details we get lost and I know that I can be guilty of not focusing on the moment because I am focusing on the grand picture and leading a busy life can make me want to skip through tasks as quickly as possible in order to tick everything off my list, but when you take time and remember to see the detail inside the beauty of an event or object; after all the stories, detailing, memories and hopes and history of a moment or item are what create quality memories and experiences and what give meaning to life beyond a social media status.

When life is hectic it is hard to sometimes take time and practice patience, because when pressed for time we are always thinking ahead…thinking what is next, what needs doing next, how will I do that, how will I get there and a trillion other stressful and mind-filling questions that can easily result in a head full of chatter and them garnering much more attention than they deserve. What deserves our attention is the details, the moments, the sometimes hidden at first glance beauty that make life worthwhile. So perhaps we need to forget the grand plans in life and start noticing and embracing the small moments and cherish the sound of crisp leaves under foot, observe the patterns in the morning frost, take notice of buzz of the bees and see beyond their initial beauty, but instead take time to really look.

Perhaps, if we all took more time to be patient, still and observant the world would be a better place. There is so much emphasis placed on social media followings and status that it is as if we are living a false reality and perhaps a daily dose of mindfulness could be a good remedy.



A crime wave heading for Harrogate!

Superstars of crime fiction are descending on Harrogate, Ann Evans looks at what’s to come.



Pic JAMES PATTERSON credit Rankin

Pic JAMES PATTERSON credit Rankin

If you’re a crime fan – and I mean crime fiction, film and TV, then the place to be this summer is Harrogate when The Theakston old Peculier Crime Writing Festival takes place once again at the Old Swan Hotel.

This is the world’s biggest celebration of the crime genre. Agents, publishers, publicists, readers and authors attend from all over Europe and the world. This year’s Programming Chair is the award-winning author Mari Hannah, who will be bringing true icons of the crime genre to the Festival. This includes ones of the biggest-selling authors of all time, James Patterson, who will be making his first appearance at the Festival. Patterson has sold more than 375 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers.


Pic Mari Hannah This years Programming Chair

Pic Mari Hannah This years Programming Chair

James Patterson said: “I’m really looking forward to coming to Harrogate this year and meeting my UK fans.”

Other top names coming to the 16th Festival include Jo Nesbo. The UK launch of his much anticipated new Harry Hole thriller, Knife, will also take place at the Festival. The Scandi-noir climber, rock star and former professional footballer has sold over 40 million books in 50 languages.

MC Beaton, author of Agatha Raisin adapted for Sky TV starring Ashley Jenkins, will be in conversation with the #1 Sunday Times bestselling author of the Logan McRae series, Stuart MacBride.

And former attorney Jeffery Deaver who has sold over 50 million books with The Bone Collector adapted to film starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie, will introduce his new series, The Never Game at Harrogate. 


Pic Ian Rankin

Pic Ian Rankin

A trio of powerhouse authors, Belinda Bauer, Eva Dolan and Erin Kelly, will share a stage. Bauer rocked the literary world when she was longlisted for the 2018 Booker Prize for her novel, Snap. Eva Dolan’s standalone, This is How it Ends, is one of the most critically acclaimed thrillers of the year. Erin Kelly’s novels have been adapted for TV and dominated the bestseller lists, with her latest, Stone Mothers, an irresistible novel of psychological suspense.

Master of the suburban thriller and Netflix collaborator, Harlan Coben, is the perennial #1 New York Times author of 30 novels. The American will be in conversation with Rebus creator, Ian Rankin.


Pic Val McDermid photo credit Charlotte Graham

Pic Val McDermid photo credit Charlotte Graham

Val McDermid, who co-founded the Festival with literary agent Jane Gregory and arts charity Harrogate International Festivals in 2003, will also be in conversation with Scotland’s First Minister, and bookworm, Nicola Sturgeon.

Programming Chair, Mari Hannah, said: “Announcing James Patterson in my year as Festival Chair is a huge honour. Harrogate has a reputation for its powerhouse Special Guests. Every year, the programming committee work hard to attract the very best crime writers to the festival from around the world. The response to 2019’s line-up has been incredible. I’m looking forward to welcoming readers in July.”

Alongside the starry headline names, the Theakston Old Peculier is renowned for supporting emerging talent, with Val McDermid’s annual New Blood panel and a day-long creative writing workshop, Creative Thursday.


Pic Jo Nesbo

Pic Jo Nesbo

It is also a hotbed of debate. Famed for its no barriers approach, fans, fledgling writers and established superstar authors mingle in the hotel bar. Around 90 authors take part over four days of panels, late night events, and author dinners. The full programme of events will be announced in April. Tickets are currently on sale.

The 2019 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival takes place at the Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate 18-21 July.

Rover Tickets are now on sale. Weekend Rover: £236, Friday Rover: £93, Saturday Rover: £105. Box office: 01423 562 303, or Book online





Trevor’s Wildlife Week for 7th March 2019

Release Toad

Release Toad

We had a handsome little toad  come into care in January which had a nasty wound on its back. It was treated very carefully in our first aid room and this week has been returned back to the wild just in time for this years taod migration season.  The wound had healed very well leaving just a small scar that hasn’t showed to effect him in any way.

Yes its that time of year again when toads are waking up and migrating out of gardens and woodland and making their way across land to their historic spawning grounds.  At night thousands of them are moving around heading back to the same water in which they were born.   So at night when it is wet and not too cold they will move in large numbers.  You will notice big and small toads, the large ones are females and at almost half the size the small ones are the males.  Often the males will stop on the warm tarmac of our roads and wait for  a female to cross. They will them climb on her back and hitch a ride down to the water and be first in line to fertilise the eggs during spawning.

Some of the key sites where they cross road in East Sussex are the back lane from Litlington to Exceat, the Harlands Estate Uckfield, Hempstead Lane Uckfield, Knowle Lane Halland, Ersham Park Hailsham, the A275 Offham Road Lewes, Spithurst Road Barcombe, Church Road Barcombe, Town Little Worth, Beechwood Lane Plumpton, Plumpton lane Plumpton,  Hundred Acre Lane Ditchling Common, South Road Wiveslfield Green and Beresford Lane near Plumpton Green.  These are certainly not the only roads they cross in East Sussex so please be careful.  If you are interested in helping at a toad crossing then head to Frog Life’s website to find out more about Toad Patrols at Please be careful if you stop to move a toad from the road, please stay safe, wear a hi-vi tabard or jacket, use a torch and wear gloves. The male toads will frequently pee on your hands as a defence mechanism so gloves are needed.

Other casualties we have dealt with this week have included another gull entangled in discharded fishing gear.  Yet again another gull from Sovereign Harbour ion Eastbourne. This young Gull was found with a large fishing hook through his beak which had to be carefully removed.

Heathfield Bunny

Heathfield Bunny

We have had a little baby Bunny rescued in Heathfield. Caught by a Cat he has a small wound on his hind foot that required suturing. He was soon bedded down and tucking into some healthy spinach.   They has also been a young Hedgehog underweight and suffering with a broken back leg, he has been given first aid and being assessed by our vets.

WRAS rescuers have also attended to a swan on a river near Magham Down. Reports were of the swan struggling in the water. Two rescuers on one bank used long poles and torches to frighten the swan to the other side of the river where two rescuers crouched in the darkness. As the swan got closer and blinded by the torch light from the other bank rescuers managed to catch the swan by surprise and safely secure it on the bank. The swan was soon on its way to our Hospital at Whitesmith. It was assessed and after advice from the Swan Sanctuary, first aid was given and the swan transported up to their specialist vets for treatment.

Magham Down Swan

Magham Down Swan

Other calls last week included a collapsed fox in Eastbourne, injured rabbit at Sussex Downs College, poorly frog in Seaford, a hedgehog found out during the day at Plumpton College and multiple pigeons from Bexhill, Heathfield, Brighton and Burgess Hill.