HISTORY

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THE PRIORY'S
HISTORY 

Arundel Priory or “The College”, as it was originally known, was founded in 1380.

The new Priory was built as a quadrangle surrounding an open court.  The new chapel to the north formed a chancel to the new Parish Church (St. Nicholas) with the refectory and the kitchens located to the east.   The Master’s house was placed against the southeast corner of the chapel with the rest of the quadrangle given over to accommodation of the secular canons, deacons, clerks etc.   The entrance into the quadrangle was through a gateway located in the south west corner which still provides access to the existing buildings today. 

The College flourished for one and a half centuries until the reign of King Henry VIII, when he instigated the dissolution of many religious houses. Although the College was surrendered to the Royal Commissioners, the 12th Earl of Arundel was granted the site of the College for a consideration of 1,000 marks.  The Earl thus regained possession for himself and his heirs.

However the civil war saw damage to the chapel walls which lay in ruins for nearly three centuries.

It was the 11th Duke of Norfolk who took it upon himself to restore  what  was  left  of  the  College  and  he  set  about repairing the existing buildings with the intention of providing a public Oratory for the local Catholic population and for his family, using the west end for this purpose.   The section of the buildings used for the Oratory is today transformed into a theatre (Priory Playhouse).  The Oratory possessed a gallery which can still be seen today.

The 14th Duke turned part of the College into a convent for Carmelite  Nuns,  later  to  be  succeeded  by  Sisters  of  the Servite Order in 1861.  Apart from running  a laundry to serve the requirements of the Castle and the Oratory, the Sisters also ran a small school which became known as ‘The Priory’.

In 1960  the  Servite Sisters closed  down  their  school  and vacated  the  college  buildings,  having  occupied  them  for nearly 100 years.   After a short vacancy the building, now known as the Arundel Priory, was used as a children’s home.

The lease expired in 1974 when the family of the 16th Duke decided to use the buildings as a home for the elderly.  At the same time the Chancellor of the Sovereign and Military Order of  Malta  was looking  for  historic  buildings  to  convert  into Almshouses for the elderly and following an agreement with the  Norfolk  Family the  Order  of  St.  John returned  to  the College as the new tenants.

 

THE ARUNDEL PLAYERS

 

The “Arundel Players” were established in 1959. In the early days the plays were performed at St. Mary’s Hall aligned to the then St. Philips Catholic church in London Road. When St. Philips became a Cathedral in 1965 St. Mary’s Hall was no longer available for hire.

Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk, who was President of “the Arundel Players” at the time, instigated the use of the almost derelict Oratory in the Priory for the benefit of the Arundel Players. 

With the help of Sponsors, and the support of many others, the Oratory was transformed by the Players in 1977 to become the intimate and lovely theatre that you see today.