THE two-year refurbishment of Prittlewell Priory has unravelled a wealth of history about the 900-year-old building, as well as revealing quirky stories about the many families who called it home.
A team of restorers, crafters and builders have carefully and lovingly restored the building in Priory Park – which includes a Victorian wing, a 12th-century refectory and a wildlife room – to its former glory.
The £1.8million project now has an environmentally-friendly visitor centre with toilets, a shop and multi-use function room.
Clare Hunt, head curator for Southend Museums, said: “What is so special about it for me is that for many years it was a museum of Southend and so many people did not know anything about the building or the grounds.
“It contained the history of the whole of Southend.
“Now it can really shine and tell its own story, from the cellars used by monks in the 12th century, to profiling the Victorian Scratton family, who were the last people to live here.
“It is so important for us to be able to bring it back to life.”
Built in 1110 by Robert FitzSuen, the Priory of St Mary first housed the Cluniac monks.
For hundreds of years it housed many families as a private residence, before being bought in 1917 by Robert Jones, who had it refurbished and turned it into a museum.
It was closed to the public in 2009 before restoration work started in August 2010.
Claire Fox, marketing and events officer at Southend Museums, said: “This historical building can now document the people who lived here, using artefacts which have not been on display before.”