Michelham Priory. One of the UK’s Most Haunted Buildings.

By Lyn Funnell

I discovered Michelham Priory near Eastbourne, Sussex, many years ago on a school trip, and I fell in love with it as I was fascinated by its strange haunting atmosphere.

Michelham Priory is a unique building as the original Priory was converted into a house. The Augustinian Priory of the Holy Trinity was founded at Michelham in 1229 by  Gilbert de Aquila. King Edward I stayed at the Priory overnight on the 14th September 1302, but by 1398 the Priory was reported to be in a terrible state of disrepair.

Family Crests at Michelham Priory

The Priory was seized in 1537 under Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monastries, and it was given to Thomas Cromwell. When he was executed in 1540 it was given to Henry VIII’s wife Anne of Cleves. After that the Priory was owned by various people, including the Sackville family until 1896, whose crest is displayed above one of the doors. Finally, Mrs Hotblack bought the property in 1958 and she gave it to the Sussex Archaeological Society, who still own it.

Canadian troops were based here in World War ll where they prepared for the Dieppe Raid.

The Priory looked stunning as we parked the car and walked towards it.  Flower beds full of daffodils surrounded it, with the traditional Herb Garden to the right. We were greeted by the guide who showed us round.

The house has changed hands many times. Then in December 1927 an ember out of a fireplace caused a big fire that gutted a large area. When the firemen arrived, they found that the moat was frozen over and they had a hard job to get any water out! The moat is about a mile in circumference and is the longest in England.

War Time at Michelham Priory

As many as 17 evacuees lived in the house during the war, gradually dropping to 13 as they returned home in 1940. One of the rooms is made up to look like the evacuees’ room, with Vera Lynn songs playing, and 1940s childrens’ clothes laid out on the beds. It must have been absolute Heaven to the children who had probably come from London, with the freedom to play in the acres of Sussex countryside!

Michelham Priory is now a lively working building, with groups of school children being educated and entertained by people dressed in Medieval costume, who get the children involved in all the activities. I had to laugh at them all, sitting on the ballroom floor in a huge ancient room eating their pack lunches. I couldn’t help wondering what the resident ghosts of the past owners would make of it all!

Dining room with chimney where ATS girl got stuck

The dining room table was laid out with copies of the food and drink of the time. But my favourite room was the kitchen. It was originally the Refectory and much bigger.

Kitchen spit & cauldron

There was a Spit Boy by the fire, dating from the late 1600s. The spit would turn the meat slowly as the chain dropped, watched by a young servant, who was treated as a slave.

A cauldron stands in front of the fire. Cauldrons were the 2nd largest cause of deaths for women after childbirth, which was the no 1 killer. They leaned over the top, stirring it. It would have been full of bacteria and lead poisoning.

Ghosts at Michelham Priory

Michelham was used for the first location of the TV programme Most Haunted, and it’s supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the UK. Yvette Fielding and her team gave a very generous payment to the Priory which was a great help to the constant overheads of renovations and repairs.

Thomas Sackville is one of many ghosts here. He was one of the previous owners and is supposed to torment another ghost, a young girl called Rosie who hides in the wood panelling at the top of the stairs to avoid him. A Grey Lady has often been seen by the bridge and the moat house. She stands near the moat staring into the water where her child drowned. She also stares into the faces of sleeping guests who suddenlt wake up, and then she floats away through the walls. There’s also a black hooded monk in the undercroft, a young lad in the kitchens, a maid in the hall, and a lady in Tudor clothes walking in the corridors.

Most Haunted captured some poltergeist activity. A chair moved by itself. There have been other reports of windows opening, and doors opening and banging shut. I don’t think I’d like to spend a night in Michelham Priory with all that company! Michelham Priory holds regular Ghost Hunts, plus other events all the year round.

Contact:  Michelham Priory, Upper Dicker, Hailsham, East Sussex, BN27 3QS.  01323 844224,

Michelham Priory is owned by The Sussex Archaeological Society  who also take care of The Long Man of Wilmington.

 

Author

  • Lyn Funnell

    Lyn is the co-owner of Unknown Kent and Sussex. She lives in Sussex. Lyn has been writing for most of her life, both Fiction & Non-Fiction. She loves cookery & creating original recipes. She's won a lot of prizes, including Good Housekeeping Millenium Menu & on BBC The One Show as a runner-up, making her Britain's Spag Bol Queen! She has had nine books published so far. History, Travel & Restaurant Reviews are her main interests.

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