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St Osyth's Priory: The Abbot's Lodging and South Wing, the Darcy Clock Tower and C18 House (formerly listed as the Convalescent Home).

A Grade I Listed Building in St. Osyth, Essex

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Latitude: 51.8001 / 51°48'0"N

Longitude: 1.0752 / 1°4'30"E

OS Eastings: 612128

OS Northings: 215747

OS Grid: TM121157

Mapcode National: GBR TQW.2N9

Mapcode Global: VHLD3.L07V

Entry Name: St Osyth's Priory: The Abbot's Lodging and South Wing, the Darcy Clock Tower and C18 House (formerly listed as the Convalescent Home).

Listing Date: 21 February 1950

Last Amended: 20 March 2014

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1337158

English Heritage Legacy ID: 120031

Location: St. Osyth, Tendring, Essex, CO16

County: Essex

District: Tendring

Civil Parish: St. Osyth

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: St Osyth Saints Peter and St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

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The Abbot's Lodging and South Wing of 1527, the latter extended and remodelled in the mid-C16 by Lord Darcy who also built the Clock Tower to the east, and the C18 house by the 3rd Earl of Rochford to the west, all remodelled and extended by Sir John Johnson in the 1860s.


The Abbot's Lodging and South Wing of 1527 built for Abbot Vyntoner; the South Wing was extended and remodelled in the mid-C16 by Lord Darcy who also built the Clock Tower at the east elevation. Attached to the west of the Abbot's Lodging is the house built by the 3rd Earl Rochford probably in the 1720s. The Abbot's Lodging, South Wing and C18 house were remodelled and extended by Sir John Johnson in the 1860s.The C18 house was used as a convalescent home from 1948 and housed the art collection of Somerset De Chair until his death in the 1990s. In 2012 the C18 house is vacant, but the Abbot's Lodging and South Wing are in use as dwellings.

Red brick, with black brick diapering and stone and brick dressings to the Abbot’s Lodging, red brick with septaria and ashlar chequer work to Lord Darcy’s extension to the South Wing and the Clock Tower to the east. The C18 house is of red brick. The roofs are slated; that to the C18 house is tiled.

An evolved ‘T’ plan. The Abbot’s Lodging comprises an east/west range and extended South Wing. Attached to the east of the South Wing is the octagonal Clock Tower. The mid-C19 service wing is attached to the east of the Abbot’s Lodging and the C18 house is attached to its west.

A two-storey building which, with the exception of the principal south elevation, was entirely rebuilt in 1866. The hipped, slated roofs have pairs of tall, moulded brick stacks; 2 chimney stacks break through the parapet and band, each with 2 ornately moulded and capped shafts and there is a similar shaft to east wall. The moulded parapet has a band of cusped brick panelling below it. In the middle of the ground floor is a broad and deeply moulded, stone 4-centred archway with stop-moulded jambs and defaced, cusped and carved spandrels each with a shield, that on the west apparently features a beast with a scroll. The main archway contains a moulded, segmental pointed doorway with carved spandrels and a double panelled door. The archway is flanked by doorways, modern to the east but that on the west is contemporary, with a tun and crown carved in the spandrels. Above the doorways are 2-light windows under square heads with hood moulds. Above the main archway is a large oriel window of 16 lights, much repaired externally in the C19, except for the moulded and carved head and the panelled and carved base and corbelling. The head has a band of early Renaissance ornament with foliage and small nude figures. The base has two bands of panelling; the upper consisting of cusped squares enclosing shields and trefoil-headed panels with Tudor roses. The shields have: crossed keys and sword of SS. Peter and Paul, with a papal tiara in chief; three crowns and a sword palewise, for St. Osyth; a crowned heart pierced by three swords and encircled by a crown of thorns; a crowned monogram of the Virgin; a dimidiated rose and pomegranate, crowned; a stag supporting a scutcheon charged with three crowns; a rebus of Abbot John Vyntoner and Bouchier. Below this, the lower band has lozenge-shaped, cusped panelling with a carved flower in the middle of each main panel. The moulded corbelling has two bands of carved foliage each with shields; the upper band contains six shields all defaced except a crowned M and a dolphin with a mitre in chief. The lower band has running vine ornament with remains of lettering intertwined, apparently the name Johannes Vyntoner, but much broken, and five shields: Saints Peter and Paul: three crowns: chalice and host: vine and tun, for Vyntoner: three combs, for Tunstall, Bishop of London.

The treatment of the C19 phase is consistent with that of 1527; red brick, black brick diapering, stone dressings to square and pointed-arch window openings, some with hood moulds. The parapets and bands of the south elevation follow through to the mid-C19 garden (north) elevation, dominated by a projecting two-storey and buttressed bay which has a central two-storey bay window designed in imitation of the oriel on the south elevation, repeating the carved stone bands with shields and cusping. There are tall windows on the return walls. Attached to the west is the C18 house (see below) and to the east the parapeted, two-storey service wing built of machine-made bricks with Gothic style tracery to the vari-light, stone mullion windows with hood moulds.

The fittings and fixtures are largely mid-C19 and comprise timber, richly decorated dado panelling, architraves, a main staircase, doorcases and fireplaces. The large ground-floor room of the Lodging has a painted ceiling and plain wooden fittings, but the first-floor room is more ornate, lit by the oriel window to the south and bay windows to the north. The apparently wooden cross beams, with their ornate wooden brackets, presumably hide the iron girders which span this broad space. The panels within the ceiling were painted with flowers by Edward Ladell. The elaborately decorated wooden fittings, all in the Gothic Revival style, include dado panelling, pointed-arch doorcases, shutter boxes and an exuberant chimney piece. The room also retains a set of fine Gothic Revival-style wall gasoliers. Some early-C16 fixtures remain, principally the reveals and rear-arch of the oriel window which have rich cusped panelling in stone with 88 small shields. These shields bear the various devices of Abbot Vyntoner, St. Osyth, Tunstall bishop of London, Henry VIII, the later arms of the Abbey—parted cheveronwise, in chief a ring between a mitre and a crozier and the arms of Bourchier, Tunstall, Henry VIII, France, etc. There are also monograms of the Virgin, Vyntoner, the five wounds and two small standing figures, probably of canons. A series of four shields on each side give the date 1527, one in Roman and one in Arabic numerals.

The interior of the service wing was extensively remodelled in the mid-C20, most of the fixtures and fittings dating from that period.

The South Wing incorporates the northern end of the C13 cellarer's range and part of the frater wall of the Priory, reconfigured by the first Lord Darcy after the dissolution. The façade faces west onto the court, and comprises two sections; a lower two-storey section of 1527 to the north that was part of the Abbot’s Lodging, and a taller two-and-a-half storey, mid-C16 section to the south. The 1527 phase has a stone-coped parapet to a slated gable roof, with two pediments and moulded brick chimney stacks with fluted pots. The roof is of the mid-C19, rebuilt by Sir John Johnson. On the ground floor are two, four-centred arch door openings with moulded brick surrounds, trellis-carved timber doors with stone-mullion lights above. The ground-floor, stone-mullion windows are set in partially blocked four-centred arch openings with moulded brick heads. On the first floor, there are four, square-headed window openings with stone-mullion windows and hood moulds. Above the left-hand door is a blocked window opening. The mid-C16 bays has a round-arched doorway set in a straight stone head and another in a stone, pointed-arch head to the ground floor, the latter leading down into the C13 cellarer's range. On the first and attic floors are vari-light windows with stone mullions and surrounds. Two gables project at the attic storey, each with three-light mullion windows. There are moulded brick and carved stone, chimney stacks to the roofs: the north end stack is built of septaria and ashlar chequer work typical of the Darcy building phases. The south elevation comprises a stone section with a gable and parapet in the distinctive Darcy chequer work and two contemporary, carved-stone chimney stacks. The gable has two narrow, shouldered, angled buttresses in between which is a projection with an embattled top, with stone-mullioned windows above and to the left.

The east elevation has been much patched and altered, but retains C13 fabric of the cellarer's range and frater on the ground floor; the first floor is multi-phased, mid-C19 brick at the south end and, at the north end, C13 and mid-C16, randomly coursed septaria and ashlar with stone quoins and mullioned windows with stone surrounds and hood moulds.

At the ground floor, at the south end, is a mid-C16 doorway with double hollow-chamfered jambs and a four-centred arch with a square head and a hood-mould. To the right, the medieval fabric is patched. A second part-glazed, part-trellis-carved with a rebuilt four-centred, brick-arch head, has relict stone quoins to the jambs. Projecting immediately to the right is the square base of the mid-C16 Clock Tower (see below), partly built across a chamfered archway at the west end of the C13 frater.

The interior plan-form, fixtures and fittings of the South Wing are mid-C19 with the exception of the two C13 vaulted cellars, roofed with barrel-vaults and divided into five bays by chamfered ribs; the wall between the cellars has an archway with jambs and segmental-pointed head of two chamfered orders. A similar archway in the south wall has been blocked on the outside.

The Clock Tower was built by Lord Darcy in the mid-C16. Faced with chequer-work in septaria and ashlar with flint galleting. It has a square base with buttresses, but is octagonal above in two stages. The windows are of two, four-centre arched lights in square heads with mullions. The tower is surmounted by a late-C18 octagonal wooden cupola with arched openings and a leaded, domed roof topped by a finial. The cupola has C18 copper clock dials on the south and west faces.

The room in the first floor has a mid-C16 fireplace. The cupola is accessed by ladder; the late-C18 clock mechanism remains at the second stage.

A two-storey range with a parapet and a tiled, gable roof with ornately moulded brick chimney stacks. The south façade has two, brick bands and a central two-storey bow window with French windows at the ground floor and 8-over-8, hornless sash windows with straight brick heads above; the windows at the first and ground floors are the same. Further to the east (right) is a modern inserted French window. The parapet and banding continuous to the north (garden) elevation which has an off-centre, two-storey porch on its garden (north) elevation. The entrance door has a four-centred arch, stone head with carved spandrels and a hood mould; above is an arched sash window. The ground and first floors have 8-over-8 hornless sash windows with straight brick heads. The west elevation is mid-C19 and has a bow window.

The plan of this building consists of a corridor and stair on the north side and a range of rooms to the south. The building has been much altered internally. Two C18 chimney pieces survive; one room has dado panelling made from C18 box pews, probably introduced in the late C20, when the rooms in this section of the house were radically redecorated. One of the windows contains four C18 painted glass panels depicting various female occupations. In the rear corridor and lobby, lit by a skylight, is the reset early-C16 timber panelling removed from the Abbot’s Lodging. These carved oak panels have vine ornament and double ogee enrichment, and a large number have shields with the initials N, I, H, V, O, A, S and T, various animals and other symbols.


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.

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 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 and a late-C18 to C20 designed landscape. All of the buildings have a chequered history of alteration and change of use reflected in their fabric

The Abbot’s Lodging was originally built by Abbot Vyntoner in 1527; the south wall defined the north edge of the court. It comprised a principal east-west range and had a projecting South Wing, the southern part of which was rebuilt in brick for Lord Darcy in the mid-C16, incorporating the C13 fabric of the Priory’s cellarer range. Darcy also added the tall, octagonal Clock Tower on the east side of this wing. The Abbot's Lodging and South Wing were damaged in the Civil War. Sometime after the 3rd Earl of Rochford (1682-1738) made St Osyth’s Priory his principal residence in 1721, he added a 2-storey brick range, with sash windows, to the west of the Abbot’s Lodging. The range was extended across the north side of the court, probably by William Henry Nassau de Zuylestein, the 4th Earl (1717-1781). The western section of this range, which probably contained the most impressive reception rooms, was demolished in 1859, necessitating the construction of the west elevation of the present, C18 house with bricks from the demolished range. The Abbot's Lodging was largely rebuilt in 1866-69, apart from its south wall, for Sir John Johnson. Johnson also added a service wing onto the east end of the Abbot’s Lodging in the 1860s ( the site of the Priory’s kitchen), remodelled the interior of the South Wing and re-roofed the 1527 phase.

Reasons for Listing

The Abbot's Lodging and South Wing, the Darcy Clock Tower and C18 house, St Osyth’s Priory, Essex, are listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: this evolved structure has exceptional interest for the retention of medieval monastic fabric, including the remains of the cellarer's range, C16 south wall and oriel window of the Abbot's Lodging, the C17 Darcy Clock Tower and later fabric of the C18 and C19. The structures survive well and are finely executed, including window and door details, and are constructed with craftsmanship;
* Historic interest: the medieval monastic buildings of the Augustinian order individually and collectively played a significant role in the religious, economic and social life of medieval England. The post-Reformation evolution of the structures by nationally significant historic figures, such as the Darcy family and the Earls of Rochford, contributes to the unique character and overall architectural and historic interest of the site;
* Materials: the materials used in the construction are handled with dexterity, reflecting the wealth of the Priory and subsequent owners, in particular the Darcys whose distinctive use of septaria and ashlar chequerwork with galleting contributes to the exceptional interest of the buildings;
* Interior: the survival of high quality interior fixtures and fittings such as the C16 panelling in the C18 house, the C16 sculpture to the Abbot's Lodging’s south window and C19 Gothic fixtures in the Abbot's Lodging further add to the architectural distinction of the buildings;
* Group value: this group of structures form the focus of the Priory complex and has group value with the other designated buildings and structures on the site, the Scheduled Monument and the registered Park and Garden.

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