The sale details for the Priory stated that it is a 13th century house with a 14th century tower. There is also a 1950’s gite in the garden. All are surrounded by a high, stone wall. Each building is in its own garden and, from the crosses on the entrance to a field nearby, it once owned much more land than simply the gardens it has today.
Whether the house and tower are that old has yet to be officially established, but the stories that go along with the house are manifold. The Tower, a later addition (by about a hundred years!), has vicariously been described as an addition built to house nuns and a place to house the female serving staff. Whichever, they had the best accommodation in the building as the large baking ovens set into the walls are in a room below the tower and it would, in winter, have been the cosiest place in the house! The Tower and the main house have now been separated, but there were once doors connecting the two on two floors – accessing the main house directly onto the spiral staircase! No heath and safety in those days!
A historian, who brought a party round last year on his French holiday to look at the building, believes that the massive fireplace in the sitting room in the tower dates from the 14th century. That room has, in modern times, become smaller as a spiral staircase to a bedroom that was once probably part of the main house has been added, as has a downstairs bathroom. The room is still spacious and the chimney has been opened and looking up, it’s possible to see the stars through the opening at the top. It really throws out the heat. It is lovely on cooler spring and autumn evenings to sit in front of the massive log fire!
Stepping outside the tower is the terrace which, on closer examination is a building that has been long demolished, the walls having being used as infill to form the terrace. From the lane outside, the original doors and a window, with stone lintels and frames can clearly be identified. There are, apparently, two tunnels leading from the house. One can be clearly seen at the base of the tower, where it apparently leads to the church. The second apparently leads from the building that now forms the terrace and, I have been told, was once the refectory for the monks. That would make perfect sense as it is next to the room that houses the ancient ovens and is on the same floor level.
Closer inspection of the main building shows a number of windows that once existed, where the stone frames and ancient lintels can still be seen in the walls. At the left end, there is a small turret where sadly, the lovely original circular, pointy roof has been removed – another job on the list of things to do or be replaced, though I fear that is somewhat down the line! It would seem that, before the tower was built, there were once two buildings, perhaps the house and a barn, separated by a four or five foot wide passage. At some date, the two buildings were joined and now, one of the passages forms the hall and one a bathroom to the master bedroom for our French holiday guests. The original front door was on what is now the rear of the building and would have been on the side of the house closest to the church.
The wall that now separates the kitchen from the dining room is brick, and relatively new. There is a massive fireplace in the kitchen, begging for an Aga. The historian dated it as 17th century.
And then there is the story to cap all the others. On my final meeting with the last owner, I was told that, under massive stones that were excavated when the pool was constructed and which now form a small alter or bench, are two skeletons. Over both hang the branches of two box trees and the bust of a Greek lady sits on the altar. It is an idyllic little bower. But who are the bodies? I itch to find out and, in the meantime have named them Albert and Matilde. I think they might have been a naughty monk and nun, but that’s pure conjecture!!