Sunday, September 09, 2012

St Osyth's Priory - To Marry a Duke

The Priory from inside.
St Osyth's Priory
To Marry a Duke  was inspired by an actual place, St Osyth’s  Priory, a few miles away from where I live. This is the best preserved mediaeval building inEurope. The Priory used to be open in the summer to members of the public but the current owners stopped all this about 25 years ago.

I was fortunate that the local historian allowed me to spend the day looking through original documents, letters and plans and then invited me to accompany her when she took a private coach party on a tour of the house and grounds. It would seem that in order to retain his grant the owner has to allow three coach parties a year to visit his home.

The descriptions and names of the rooms are accurate, they all existed in the Regency and indeed most of them still do. I made every effort to get the history correct so a reader is getting a true picture of the Priory as it was in 1812.

Unfortunately the Regency section of the building was demolished in the early 19th century and then parts of it rebuilt and this is what remains today. There is no longer a gatehouse and long drive and the ornamental lake has also gone.

However, as you will see from the pictures I've included, the Priory is still magnificent and well worth a visit if you're in the vicinity. The local church is also beautifully preserved from that time and is, as I described, no more than a stone's throw from the front of the Priory.

The Priory was surrendered to Henry VIII in 1539 by Prior Colchester and the King gave it to Thomas Cromwell, the Earl of Essex, and it never reverted to the Crown. Thomas Darcy bought the Priory and other estates for the princely sum of £3974. 9s 41/2d the same year he was created Lord Darcy of Chichester.

Queen Elizabeth was entertained here by Darcy’s son. After he died the Savage family inherited it and it was allowed fall into decay.

Front view of St Osyth's Priory
1768 the Earl of Rochford moved in and bought some Poplar treesLombardy and four or five of them are still growing in the park. These were the first to have been planted inEngland. George III went to inspect the camp at Colchester stayed at  St Osyth. Rochford was also a personal friend of George II and 111.

Lady Allegra Witherton and her brother, the Duke of Colchester, are not based on any historical figures. I always wanted to write a romance about an aristocratic woman and a hero who is in trade - most Regency stories have the roles reversed. Jago Tremayne and his daughter Demelza, my hero and his daughter, are from Cornwall somewhere I lived for two years and my children were small and still have a fondness for.

best wishes
Fenella  - link for To Marry a Duke

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you have any plans of the priory you could share with us??