Earls Colne: Priory buildings

Page 92

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.

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Colne priory's con- ventual buildings were completed in the earlier 13th century and little changed thereafter. (fn. 1) The church, on the north of the complex, comprised choir or chancel with north and south chapels, central tower, transepts with apsidal chapels in their east walls, nave with north and south aisles, and north-west and south-west towers; the west front probably resembled that of St. Botolph's, Colchester. The church was extensively dam- aged c. 1356, (fn. 2) probably by the collapse of the central tower, and much of the nave was rebuilt or remodelled. In the 15th century the Lady chapel on the south side of the chancel was rebuilt and considerably enlarged. At the Dissolution (fn. 3) the choir contained the high altar and another altar, presumably in the north-east chapel, in addition to the Lady chapel; St. Peter's chapel and the 'Redd' chapel were per- haps in the transepts, and the Rood chapel at the east end of the nave. 'Earl Richard's altar', recorded in 1500, (fn. 4) was presumably a chantry altar in one of the chapels or the nave. Among those buried in the church were all but two of the medieval earls of Oxford. The tombs, except for three which were removed to the parish church, were neglected in the 17th century and destroyed with the remains of the priory build- ings c. 1736. The three tombs were taken from the church and reassembled in the Priory in 1825; they were moved to the chapel at Bures (Suff.) in 1935. (fn. 5)

The cloister lay south of the nave, with the chapter house and the dorter on its east side and the frater on the south; the infirmary block was presumably further east. A tiler repaired the dorter, the dormitory, the prior's chamber, and the sacristan's hall c. 1425; the prior's chamber was reroofed in 1441. (fn. 6) At the Dissolution (fn. 7) the rooms included the hall, a parlour with a chamber over it, a chamber next to the court, the servants' chamber, the kitchen, and a pantry. The site was surrounded by a precinct wall which was at least partly rebuilt in brick in 1440 and 1441; part survived in 1998. St. Mary's chapel, in the wall in Holt Street, was recorded in 1510. (fn. 8)

At the Dissolution the priory was granted to the earl of Oxford, and the buildings were adapted as the manor house of Earls Colne and Colne Priory manors. (fn. 9)


  • 1. 98Description based on Archaeologia, lxxxvii. 275-6; V.C.H. Essex, ii. 102.
  • 2. 99Cal. Close, 1354-60, 391.
  • 3. 1E.A.T. n.s. ix. 330-5.
  • 4. 2P.R.O., PROB 11/13, f. 182.
  • 5. 3B.L. Add. MS. 71449, ff. 5-35; Archaeologia, lxxxvii. 288-94; E.A.T. 3rd ser. vi. 90-8; xvi. 53-64. Stone coffins from other graves were found on the site of the church in the 1730s: B.L. Add. MS. 5811, ff. 29, 37; E.R.O., T/P 195/11.
  • 6. 4E.R.O., D/DPr 14; D/DPr 15; D/DPr 18.
  • 7. 5E.A.T. n.s. ix. 330-5.
  • 8. 6E.R.O., D/DPr 17; D/DPr 18; D/DPr 71, rot. 1.
  • 9. 7Below, this par., Manors.