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St Osyth's Priory boundary walls

A Grade II* Listed Building in St Osyth, Essex

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Latitude: 51.7984 / 51°47'54"N

Longitude: 1.0737 / 1°4'25"E

OS Eastings: 612037

OS Northings: 215552

OS Grid: TM120155

Mapcode National: GBR TQW.88V

Mapcode Global: VHLD3.K2H5

Entry Name: St Osyth's Priory boundary walls

Listing Date: 21 February 1950

Last Amended: 20 March 2014

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1337160

English Heritage Legacy ID: 120038

Location: St. Osyth, Tendring, Essex, CO16

County: Essex

District: Tendring

Civil Parish: St. Osyth

Built-Up Area: 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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Saint Osyth


Boundary walls to west south and east, including the wall running south from the Gatehouse. Possibly C12 in origin, early fabric mainly C14 – C17 with later repairs and rebuilding.


Boundary walls to west south and east, including the wall running south from the Gatehouse. Possibly C12 in origin, early fabric of mainly C14 – C17 date, with later repairs and rebuilding. Built of limestone, septaria, flint and brick with some flint galletted mortar.

To the west, the wall starts to the north at TM1201115766 and travels south to the road, where it turns east, travelling c.127 metres before turning north towards the gatehouse. To the east of the gatehouse the wall travels east, turning north-east when it reaches the east end of The Bury where it turns north-east to follow the road to the crossroads, where it turns north. The wall continues up to the turning to Garden Cottage, opposite No.28 Colchester Road. There is no wall marking the northern limits of the precinct.

From the north, the fabric of the east face of the west wall is similar to that of the large late-C16 barn, with a slightly random, chequered pattern of limestone blocks against a matrix of limestone and septaria, with brick capping. An arched entrance has been cut through this section in the area of some large modern sheds. About 160 metres to the south the face of the wall has been removed to reveal the rubble core. This section is short, and is followed by brick. The south and east wall to the south west of the priory buildings are similarly much patched and repaired, alternating brick and limestone rubble, the upper courses brick.

To the south of the gatehouse the wall was formerly part of a C15 building. It has four two-light windows with cinquefoil heads under labels, two to either side of an arched doorway with moulded jambs, now with an inserted window over the blocked lower part of the door. A string course runs over the windows for this length of the wall, above which are crenellations. To the south is an inserted, C14, wide entrance with a round arch of three moulded orders with moulded label and head stops. The double gates date to the C20. To either side of the gate the wall is buttressed on its east side.

To the east of the gatehouse the precinct wall continues, constructed of septaria with some limestone, roughly coursed, buttressed at regular intervals and standing about two metres high, with a stone coping. A gateway, constructed of limestone and filled with brick, is aligned with the Darcy tower, and has a round arch with raised parapet above. To the east is a smaller stone doorway with an arched opening under a square label.

As it turns north-east, continuing beside The Bury, the wall is slightly taller, the upper part with a pattern of flintwork panels. Turning the corner onto the Colchester Road this pattern is reversed; the upper part of the wall is of fine flintwork with stone panels, and is divided from lower half by a stone band. The lower half is constructed of stone rubble with some ashlar, patched with brickwork. The stone band is continuous up to a point opposite No.8 Colchester Road, after which is a short stretch of wall (up to the Kings Arms, opposite) constructed of flint above brick, and later wholly brick, or brick faced, with brick coping. Between the Kings Arms and No.28 Colchester Road the wall is constructed of early brick, with later brick coping. The wall ends at the turning to the entrance to Garden Cottage.


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' 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. Since the dissolution of the abbey the precinct walls have evidently been repaired, rebuilt and probably extended to create the boundary walls of the evolving C18 and C19 house and garden. The stonework of the north-west wall suggests that it may be contemporary with the great barn, but in other areas the sequence of repair and rebuilding is less clear. A section at the north end of the east wall was repaired in 2003.

Reasons for Listing

The boundary walls to St Osyth's Priory are designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: although the fabric is of varying quality and date, all sections of the wall are of more than special interest for their retention of monastic and later fabric. There are sections displaying finely executed detailing and craftsmanship of both medieval and post-medieval date, the latter including fine flint and brickwork, and all will contain evidence of evolving methods of construction. The wall to the south of the gatehouse, originally part of a C15 monastic range, retains architectural features relating to its former use, and incorporates a fine, inserted C14 entrance, while evidence of post-Reformation entrances survive in the section to the east of the gatehouse. As the public face of the post-Reformation mansion and later country house, the later work displays evidence of changing tastes in the use of materials and styles of construction;
* Historic interest: the walls are of more than special interest for their association with the monastic buildings of the Augustinian order, which individually and collectively played a significant role in the religious, economic and social life of medieval England. Their continued remodelling, repair and rebuilding is also part of the post-Reformation history of the abbey and its development as a significant country residence by nationally significant historic figures such as the Darcy family and the Earls of Rochford;
* Materials: the materials and construction of the walls chart different phases of the abbey into the post-Reformation and beyond;
* Group value: the walls have group value with the other designated buildings and structures on the site, and also with the Scheduled Monument and the registered Park and Garden.

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