Foundation of Prittlewell Priory
Early in the Twelfth Century the monks of the Cluniac order were endowed with Prittlewell manor and other lands by Robert Sweyn, a son of the previous landowner, for the purpose of founding a monastery, a subordinate institution of the great house at Lewes. The Cluniacs sprang from the Benedictines, taking their name from Cluny, in Burgundy. The brethren celebrated service with much liturgical splendour and were subject to serve regulations respecting the observance of fasting and silence. Robert Sweyn’s endowment was stated, in a deed produced in the reign of Henry IV, to have been granted “for the salvation of my soul and of my wife and my father and mother, and of Beatrice, my grandmother, and of all those whose care it may be to maintain and increase that place.” As a token of subordination to Lewes, it was ordained that the Prittlewell monastery should pay one mark of silver annually thereto on the feast of St Pancras. It rapidly increased in wealth for some years and was, for so small a foundation, unusually rich in ownership of church livings. The Number of monks who should have been in residence was fourteen, but from various causes, possibly the exactions of the monarchy, the monastery at times was reduced to direst straight, and the number of monks very greatly diminished. Of the building situated on a gentle elevation on the north side of Prittle Brook, only the Rectory and the Priors Chamber remain; a country mansion having been erected upon this site when it was passed into private ownership. Part of the building was incorporated therewith. The inventory prepared at the order of Henry VIII was long the only evidence possessed of its extent, but restoration of the building has led to interesting discoveries in this connection. The priory comprised of six bedchambers, with hall, pantry kitchen, butler’s and porter’s rooms, with a small chapel and prior’s room. There was also a church with a choir (in which there were altars to St John and St Thomas), lady chapel, rood chapel and a vestry, with a burying place near, in which several skeletons have been unearthed. Milton manor being in the ownership of Holy Trinity, Canterbury, the infant monastery attracted the patronage of the celebrated Thomas à Becket, and he was described as “a great favourer thereof.”

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