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. The Augustinian Priory of the Holy Trinity was founded at Michelham in 1229 by Gilbert de Aquila. King Edward I stayed at the Priory overnight on the 14th September 1302, but by 1398 the Priory was reported to be in terrible condition.
Family crests at Michelham Priory
The Priory was seized in 1537 under Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monastries, and it was given to Thomas Cromwell. When he was executed in 1540 it was given to Henry VIII’s wife Anne of Cleves. After that the Priory was owned by various people, including the Sackville family until 1896, whose crest is displayed above one of the doors. Finally, Mrs Hotblack bought the property in 1958 and she gave it to the Sussex Archaeological Society, who still own it.
Canadian troops were based here in World War ll where they prepared for the Dieppe Raid.
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!
The 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.
War Time at Michelham Priory
Up 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!
Michelham Priory is now a lively working building, with groups of school children 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!
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 Refectory and much bigger.
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. 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.
Ghosts at Michelham Priory
Michelham was used for the first location of the TV programme Most Haunted, and it’s supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings 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.
Thomas Sackville is one of many ghosts here. He was one of the previous owners and is supposed to torment another ghost, a young girl called Rosie who hides in the wood panelling at the top of the stairs to avoid him. A Grey Lady is often spotted by the bridge and the moat house. She stands near the moat staring into the water where her child drowned. She also stares into the faces of sleeping guests and then floats away through the walls. There’s also a black hooded monk in the undercroft, a young lad in the kitchens, a maid in the hall, and a lady in Tudor clothes walking in the corridors.
Most Haunted captured some poltergeist activity. A chair moved by itself. There have been other reports of windows opening, and doors opening and banging shut. I don’t think I’d like to spend the night in Michelham Priory with all that company! 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,
Opening Times and Prices
PRICES & OPENING TIMES 2019
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for a group booking form.