St Osyth's Priory ornamental steps flanked by urns in courtyard approximately 100 meters north of gatehouse
Heritage Category: Listed Building
List Entry Number: 1111463
Date first listed: 04-Jul-1986
Date of most recent amendment: 20-Mar-2014
Statutory Address: The Priory, St. Osyth, Clacton-on-sea, CO16 8NZ
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Statutory Address: The Priory, St. Osyth, Clacton-on-sea, CO16 8NZ
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Tendring (District Authority)
Parish: St. Osyth
National Grid Reference: TM1210515724
Ornamental steps flanked by urns.
Reasons for Designation
The ornamental steps and urns are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Artistic interest: these garden ornaments are of special interest for their elegant classical design; * Historic interest: they form part of the late-C19 garden designed by Sir John Johnson, and therefore of his wider restoration and embellishment of the Priory and its setting; * Group value: the structure has group value with the other designated buildings and structures on the site, particularly the urns to the south, as well as the registered Park and Garden and the Scheduled Monument.
The settlement now known as St Osyth is recorded as Chicc in the Domesday Book of 1086, and is said to be the location of a C7 convent founded by Acca, Bishop of Dunwich. Its first Abbess Osyth, daughter of the Mercian king Frithwald and wife to Sighere, the first Christian king of Essex is purported to have been brutally martyred at the hands of Danish marauders in 653. Her name was later commemorated by the renaming of the village as St Osyth, although it continued to be known also as Chich into the post-medieval period. The location of the convent is unknown although Nun’s Wood to the north of the Priory may be relevant. Within Nun’s Wood a possible moated site and a series of fish ponds may relate to pre- or early Priory occupation of the estate.
Archaeological finds of the C8 to C10 indicate a settlement of that date at or near to the present village. The Church of St Peter and St Paul is thought to be the site of St Peter’s Minister mentioned in a document of c.1050. The Domesday Book records that there were three Manors at Chicc in 1066.
The Priory was founded shortly after 1120 by Richard de Belmeis, Bishop of London, as a house for Augustinian canons from Holy Trinity, London. The Priory was dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, and St Osyth and became an abbey before 1161. It is most likely that a park was associated with the abbey, possibly from 1268 when a charter was granted to the abbey allowing some hunting rights. Of the monastic buildings, the earliest remaining work is the sub-vault of the Dorter range which is of the period of the foundation; the still existing portions of the walls bounding the Cloister on the east and west are possibly also of this date. The fragmentary upstanding remains of what was probably the Kitchen are of the early-C13; to the same period belong the remains of the early gatehouse. In c.1230–40 the Frater was rebuilt with the vaulted passage to the east of it; at the end of the C13 the vaults in the former west range were built. The Great Gatehouse and the ranges flanking it and projecting south from it were built in the late-C15; the eastern of these ranges incorporates the earlier gatehouse. In about 1527 extensive additions were made by Abbot Vyntoner who built the Abbot's Lodging, aligned east west on the north side of the court, with an adjoining range running north-south (known as the South Wing in 2012). These abbey buildings survive to varying degrees of intactness, the most prominent today being the gatehouse and the Abbot’s Lodging, both reflecting the abbey’s wealth in the late medieval period.
The Abbot and Canons took the Oath of Supremacy in 1534 and received pensions after the surrender in July 1539. Post-dissolution, the Priory was bought by Thomas, 1st Lord Darcy, Lord Chamberlain of Edward VI’s household in 1553. It was Darcy and his successors who, in the mid-C16 and after, transformed the abbey into a substantial house. At this time the conventual church, which flanked the cloister to the south, was destroyed together with the major portion of the east and west ranges of the cloister quadrangle; the ends of the remaining portions of these ranges were faced with chequer-work, the Abbot's and Clock Towers were built and the upper part of the dorter range rebuilt to form a residence. In the early years of the Civil War, when it belonged to the 3rd Lord Darcy’s daughter, Countess Rivers, the Priory was sacked.
It remained in the ownership of the Countess Rivers's heirs until 1714, but during this period it was largely uninhabited and ruinous. It then passed by marriage to Frederic Nassau de Zuylestein, 3rd Earl of Rochford. In the 1720s he built a new house on the north side of the precinct and restored the gatehouse. His son added the surviving C18 range and laid out the park. The Nassau family remained in possession of the Priory until 1858, when it passed to Charles Brandreth, only to be sold to Mr (later Sir) John Johnson, a London corn merchant, in 1863. Brandreth demolished Lord Rochford’s house. Johnson began the restoration of the Abbot’s Lodging in the 1860s and went on to restore the south range and embellish the gardens and park.
The property passed through a number of owners in the C20. The house was used as a convalescent home from 1948 until the 1980s. Between 1954 and 1999 the Priory was the home of Somerset de Chair who converted the gatehouse to a residence. His extensive art collection was displayed in the C18 house.
The gardens immediately surrounding the house retain the essential structure laid out in the first half of the C18 by the Earls of Rochford, with lawns, drives and paths to the south of the C18 house, and formal walled gardens to the south of the ruinous Darcy ranges, partly overlying the priory cloister and church. The 1874 Ordnance Survey (OS) map shows an informal arrangement of trees on the south lawn, as well as a circular flower bed, towards the centre, containing a sundial. A post card of about 1907, when the priory was still in the ownership of Sir John Johnson, shows this bed in a prominent position with the steps and flanking urns behind. The flowerbed and trees are no longer there (in 2013), and steps and urns stand exposed in the middle of lawn.
Ornamental steps flanked by urns, approximately 100 metres north of gatehouse. C18/C19, and made of stone and plaster. A flight of three steps rising up a slight bank is flanked by low concave walls with low plinth terminals to the south topped by ball finials. To either side of the top step are bulbous urns with eight foliate side panels, topped by moulded lids with knobs, and with moulded stems supported on square plinths with moulded tops.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 120029
Legacy System: LBS
Books and journals
Page, W, Round, JH, The Victoria History of the County of Essex: Volume II, (1907)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , St Osyth and Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, (1922)
Pete Smith, St Osyths Priory: Historic Buildings Report, 2011,
Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England, Part 15 Essex,
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
End of official listing