St Osyth's Priory, Tithe Barn adjoining the west range of Gatehouse


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
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.

Tendring (District Authority)
St. Osyth
National Grid Reference:


Barn, built in the latter half of the C16, with later C19 and C20 modifications.

Reasons for Designation

The Tithe Barn at St Osyth's Priory is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: the barn is of more than special interest for the quality and intactness of its timber construction, retaining details of techniques specific to the period, as well as the unusual combination of stone and timber, the former providing an aesthetically acceptable appearance within the domestic sphere of Lord Darcy's inner court; * Historic interest: the barn forms a significant part of the post-Reformation remodelling of the Priory by the first Lord Darcy; * Group value: the building has group value with the other designated buildings and structures on the site, particularly those built or remodelled by the first and second Lords Darcy, as well as the Scheduled Monument and the registered Park and Garden.


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 indicates 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.

In the C20 the property passed through a number of owners. From 1948 the house was used as a convalescent home, and remained so until the home closed in 1980. In 1954 the estate was bought by Somerset de Chair, and it was he who converted the Gatehouse into a separate residence. De Chair died in 1995, and in 1999 the property was sold.

The surviving buildings on the site range in date from the C12 to the C19, and are complimented by buried archaeological remains pertaining to the Priory. All of the buildings have a chequered history of alteration and change of use reflected in their fabric. Although the inventory drawn up at the time of the dissolution includes a barn, the great barn, known as the Tithe Barn, appears from structural evidence to date to the second half of the C16, and therefore forms part of the 1st Lord Darcy's remodelling of the estate and its buildings. The three eastern bays were converted into a residence in the mid-C20.


Barn; later C16, the east bays converted for residential use in the mid-C20. The north and west walls are built of septaria and limestone with flint galleted mortar and with limestone quoins, the south wall timber framed and weather boarded, the roofs covered in red plain tiles. The floors are partly brick and partly concrete.

PLAN. The barn is of 14 bays, the three to the east converted into a dwelling, with three porches to the south elevation, with additional lean-to structures attached.

EXTERIOR. The north elevation has a chamfered plinth and band at roughly two thirds of the full height of the wall. The stonework contains squares of limestone randomly distributed, an echo of the chequered work of Lord Darcy's buildings. The C18 stable is attached to the west end, set at a right-angle, immediately to the east of which is a double width opening under a brick arch. Three other doors have chamfered limestone surrounds with Tudor arches and label-moulds. At the east end are three windows, two to the first floor of the converted three bays, and one to the ground floor. The pattern of stonework of the west gable is similar to the north elevation.

At the west end of the south elevation is an inserted opening with double doors, above which is an inserted domestic window. To the east of this, in the 4th bay, is the first of three wagon porches, the entrance of which has been boarded over. There are lean-tos against the barn to both east and west of the porch, which has a pitched roof. The central porch, in the 7th bay retains its full height wide opening, with knee braces from outer posts to tie beam, but the doors are missing. The opening of the east porch in the 11th bay has been reduced in height by weatherboarding placed across and below the gable, and there is a lean-to structure against the barn on its west side. To the east of this porch is the house conversion, with painted brickwork to the ground floor and weatherboarding above, the first floor with modern Georgian style windows to the first floor and iron-framed casements to the ground floor.

INTERIOR. The barn's fourteen bays are defined by posts braced to tie beams, although to the north not all posts survive, and only two stand to full height within the eleven open bays, the remainder missing the lower portion, with only the braced section surviving. The posts to the south are slightly jowled, those to the north are not, with the exception of the first two posts to the west. The rafters are coupled, the principals with collars below the upper of two purlins; the principals also have short, straight wind braces to either side. Between each pair of principals are four common rafters running behind the purlins. The south wall consists of studs and mid rail. Most of the sill beam survives, resting on a brick plinth.

At the west end a partition with platform above separates the three end bays from the main body of the barn. The platform creates an upper floor or loft, with access between this and the C18 stable to the north. There is a brick fireplace in the west wall at the south end of the platform. The 11th bay to the east is also divided from the rest of the barn by a timber partition. Opposite each of the three wagon porches, in the north wall, is a smaller door set within a splayed opening under a brick arch. Both sides of the central porch have studs and a mid rail; the roof has coupled rafters with collars clasping a single purlin to each side.

Few structural details are exposed within the three converted bays to the east. Visible elements include the severed upper section of the north wall posts braced to tie beams, and some studwork.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Bettley, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Essex, (2007)
Page, W, Round, JH, The Victoria History of the County of Essex: Volume II, (1907)
Robinson, M, The Geography of Augustinian Settlement in medieval England and Wales: Volumes 1 and 2. BAR British Series, (1980)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , St Osyth and Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, (1922)
Robinson, DM, 'Monastic Research Bulletin no. 18' in The Augustinian Canons in England and Wales; Architecture, Archaeology and Liturgy 1100-1540., (2012)
Archaeological Solutions Ltd, The Tithe Barn and Brewhouse, St Osyth Priory, Essex, 2006,
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

Images of England

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Date: 14 Sep 2002
Reference: IOE01/06712/22
Rights: © Mr Alistair F Nisbet. Source: Historic England Archive
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