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The Priory, Isle of Wight


The original house at The Priory dates from about 1799, and was altered in the late 1920s by Edwin Lutyens, who also designed a sunken garden.

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

The Priory Bay Hotel is situated in an elevated position overlooking coastal woodland and the sea to the east. 1 kilometre to the south east is the site of the former Cluniac priory of St Helens.

Though it has been suggested (Brown 1982 'Gardens of a Golden Afternoon') that work planned by Lutyens in 1927 was never carried out, there is evidence on the ground for architectural alterations and hard landscaping in the style of Lutyens.

Gardens and Pleasure Grounds

The main features of this work appear to have been as follows:

A line of lime trees defining the southern boundary of the space forming the entrance courtyard on the south side of house may have been planted at this time. Beyond the limes is a wall constructed of large stone slabs and with a gateway flanked with stone piers giving access to a sunken courtyard garden by means of four semicircular steps.

The sunken garden is divided into two halves by stone terraces running north-south. The west half consists of a grassed area flanked by two rectangular rose beds. Along the sides of this area are stone flagged paths with flanking yew hedges. In the east half a stone flagged path leads diagonally from the steps to the stone barn. In this half of the garden is an outdoor swimming pool with a blue plastic lining of mid 20th century date, which is not part of Lutyens' design.

Other features of the late 20th century garden included: a former lawn between the east front of house and coastal slope (now a golf course). A ha-ha lies to the north-east and a garden platform to the east. There are grass terraces to the north. Individual mature oaks and beeches in woodland to the north of the ha-ha probably date to the 19th century, as does a single mature oak on the lawn to the east of the house. There is also a wooded coastal strip. The north and south brick walls remain to the former kitchen garden, though the west wall does not survive.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

The following historic detail is taken from information supplied by the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust, with references used by them.

20th Century

In 1927, after the death of Mrs Spenser Edwards (the last member of Grose family to own The Priory) the estate was sold to a Mr George Bennett. He sold off the farm of 90 acres (36 hectares) and two years later sold the house and grounds of 30 acres (12 hectares) to Mrs Evelyn St George, an American millionaire, who lived until 1936. She was certainly responsible for the ornate stone doorway to The Priory and also for the clock tower. She employed six gardeners, grew exotic plants in the hot house and kept highland steers and peacocks which roamed the grounds ('Twelve Hundred Years in St Helens', David Low and Sheila White, 1977).

Proposals by Lutyens for alterations to The Priory, dated 1927, exist in the Reef Point Collection (the papers of Gertrude Jekyll, acquired by the University of Berkeley, California). They consist of coloured elevations and sketches for extensive alterations to the existing house with an elaborate garden added. In 'Gardens of a Golden Afternoon' (1982) Jane Brown states that 'the present garden bears little resemblance to the plan and the house is certainly not Lutyens. Seemingly the commission was never carried out'.

However, evidence on the ground recorded by members of the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust suggest that some work at least was carried out..


The Priory is shown on the following maps:

  • A tree planted area is shown to the north-east, a formal garden to the north, a pool to the north-east, a kitchen garden to the north-west, and a parkland area to the east. Avenues lead from the south and west, and there are greenhouses (OS 1866 25").
  • The occupier named as Nash Grose Esq. (Andrews 1769).
  • (Worsley 1781).
  • Shown as parkland, with a tree-planted area to the north-east, a formal garden to the north, and a pool to the north-east (Ordnance Survey (OS) 1793).
  • (Clarke 1812).
  • (Brannon 1824). Illustrated (Brannon 1823, 1835).
  • Shown as "Park" (OS 1866 6" map).

Features & Designations


  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: Kitchen garden, though the west wall does not survive.
  • Sunken Garden
  • Description: Sunken garden is divided into two halves by stone terraces.
  • Path
  • Description: Stone flagged paths with flanking yew hedges.
  • Outdoor Swimming Pool
  • Description: Outdoor swimming pool with a blue plastic lining of mid 20th century date.
  • Boundary Wall
  • Description: Lime trees defining the southern boundary.
Key Information





Principal Building



Part: ground/below ground level remains



Civil Parish

Nettlestone and