The Prior's House, Penmon, Anglesey

by Max Pemberton

The second in a series on Penmon researched and written by Max Pemberton whilst living in Priory House (formerly his mother's home)

The private dwelling house that adjoins the south transept, forming the west range of the cloister, is frequently alluded to as the Prior’s lodging or the ‘Priory House’.

Naturally the Prior would have had a habitation apart from the monks, and no trace is to be found of any other building compatible with that purpose.

Its present appearance, but with mullioned windows, probably results from the improvements in the late 17th and early 18th centuries by the Bulkeley family of Beaumaris.

It now consists of three storeys with cellars. The exact date of the building is uncertain owing to many subsequent alterations, including major work between 1709-11 by the Bulkeleys, and also much later in 1923, when it was also re-planned, and when major restoration work was also carried out on the west gable of the Refectory building.

Some of the walls may be contemporary with the Refectory building, the lower part of the rear wall containing two windows (one of which is now sealed externally) that correspond generally with those in the dormitory of the Refectory building, including the wide interior splays.

Another window has also been traced behind one of the huge chimney stacks, which are probably of the Tudor period and certainly as old as the year 1637.

The window in question must, therefore, be of still greater age, and the cellar and foundations, by their very nature, must be at least as old as the existing monastic buildings themselves.

With the addition of the Dovecote and various farm buildings, the former Prior’s lodging was converted into a country retreat and altered accordingly.

It became a favourite retreat for Lady Bridget Bulkeley, who appreciated it as a safe haven for her children during local epidemics (most likely cholera, prevalent in Beaumaris at that time, and which, in 1832, also led to a curtailed visit by the then Princess Victoria to the town, and the eventual installation of the town’s two water fountains, funded by the Bulkeleys, in 1876.

The Priory of course had it’s own, and to this day inexhaustible, fresh water supply via St. Seiriol’s Well). Within the house, still, is a parlour panelled throughout in oak, in a style corresponding to that of the first half of the 18th century, with a panel over the fireplace belonging to the ‘William and Mary’ period at the close of the 17th century.

The staircase has been altered and patched frequently, and totally relocated in 1923, but still retains sections appertaining to the 18th or late 17th centuries.

The entrance hall contains some refixed panelling of the early 17th century which originally formed a partition on the top floor, and is possibly made up of pewing taken from the church. This panelling was removed during the restorations in 1923 and the initials and date H T W 1711 were found on the plaster behind it.

According to Lady Bridget’s accounts the improvements were carried out by the masons Hugh Jones, William Jones and Thomas Lanshaw and these letters may well be the initial letters of the Christian names of these three artisans.

The only other remaining early feature is a stone fireplace on the top floor which is probably not later than 16th century and possibly moved to this location from elsewhere during the 18th century alterations.

Lady Bridget also adapted the monastery cellars as a makeshift stable and erected the mounting stone that is evident today.

The wall surrounding the steps leading up to the Prior’s House bears the initials R B B surmounted by a coronet and the date 1709, indicating the involvement, and commitment to the house, of the Bulkeley family, and specifically (Sir) Richard and (Lady) Bridget Bulkeley (RBB).

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