Step back in time to witness authentic Tudor living! Built in 1087 by the Monks of Battle for William the Conqueror, St. Nicholas Priory is now richly furnished as an Elizabethan town house and an outstanding site for visitors. The Priory is a hidden gem, tucked away up a lane off Fore Street, but located only a short walk from the city centre and is reasonably well signposted. It is usually open one afternoon a week.
This building is the 900-year-old guest wing of a former Benedictine Priory and offers a great way for families to experience Tudor life in the heart of Exeter.
Much work has gone into making the history of the Priory accessible and interesting for all visitors including children. Replica furniture can be used and touched, and children will enjoy the chance to put on period costumes and try their hand at Tudor games and toys, and listen to stories. A highlight is a mischievous character called Robert the Rat!
St. Nicholas Priory is presented as the 1602 home of the wealthy Hurst family, with great displays of Elizabethan items from the city’s collection. There are many different rooms to explore with children, including a Norman cellar with two massive supporting pillars, a Tudor parlour with stunning original decorated ceiling and recreated period oak panelling that has been carefully painted in a rare original pattern from that time. Other rooms include an Elizabethan kitchen, and the Great Chamber.
When Henry VIII dissolved the monastery in 1536 most of the monastic buildings were destroyed, including the chapter house range, cloisters, and the church. The domestic buildings survived, however, and were sold into private hands by the Crown. During the following century, part of the domestic quarters was converted into a fashionable Tudor townhouse.
The Tudor Parlour – Over time the Tudor building was subdivided and altered, serving both as a dwelling and as shops. In 1913 the city government bought the Priory and restored it as a public museum. Highlights include the medieval kitchen, rebuilt in the 15th century but now laid out as it would have been during the Tudor period. Then there is the parlour, still with its original plasterwork ceiling.
While the plasterwork is original, the reproduction oak panelling uses an authentic Tudor pattern and hand-made paint. The lobby also retains its original plaster ceiling, where you can see the initials M, W, and H, for William and Mary Hurst. The Hurst family arms can be seen in the centre panel of the window.
The Norman entrance on The Mint – The oldest part of the Priory is the vaulted cellar, built around AD 1100 and used to store food. The cellar is supported on 2 huge Norman pillars, which rise to diagonal ribs, one of the earliest uses of this type of vaulting in England.
The Priory is administered as part of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.