Michelham Priory is a very beautiful historic property nestling deep in the Sussex countryside and offers much to interest visitors – history, exhibits, superbly kept gardens, art exhibitions, wildlife, working watermill. There is a well-stocked Gift Shop and a self-service restaurant.
We welcome visits from individuals, families and groups. If there are fifteen or more in your party, email us for details of preferential admission prices and special menus in the restaurant.
Disabled access is good for most of the site. The upstairs floors of the main house are only accessible on foot, but the ground floor is disabled-friendly. The main grounds and restaurant are accessible with a wheelchair, apart from the area outside the "moated island", access to which is over a small bridge; wheelchairs are not recommended in this area. We have a dedicated disabled toilet in the catering complex, next to the Great Barn.
Boasting England's longest medieval water-filled moat, Michelham Priory's "Island of History" reflects its nearly 800 year existence. The house dates back to 1229 when the Priory was founded and was lived in by Augustinian canons until the Dissolution in 1537. After this time, the Church of the Holy Trinity was destroyed and the house underwent various transformations including the addition of an extensive Tudor wing. The range of furniture and artefacts on display trace the property's religious origins through its life as a working farm and its development as a country house. Exhibits include tapestries, furniture (including some made in the 1920's/1930's specifically for the then owner), kitchen equipment and a fully furnished 18th Century child's bedroom.
The annual Garden Sculpture Trail features works by local artists and are specially selected for their merit and their ability to complement the garden.
The Watermill on the property was refurbished with the assistance of grants obtained from the Heritage Lottery Fund, East Sussex County Council and The Friends of Michelham Priory.
The earliest documentary evidence shows there was milling at Michelham from 1434. It was probably going on before this, but we have no written proof of it. Monasteries and Priories built alongside a water course would invariably incorporate milling into their structure of self-sufficiency where possible.
The Mill at Michelham has been restored twice in the last century, both times financed in the main by donation and volunteer help. The most recent restoration was completed almost 8 years ago and was part Lottery funded. Volunteers undertook a lot of the work and the Mill is now operated by a team of volunteer staff who are justly proud of the fine flour they produce from organic grain. During the open season, as long as a minimum of three volunteers are on duty, milling takes place every afternoon from 2.00 pm until closing. As well as milling, bagging and selling the flour, the volunteers are on hand to guide visitors over the three floors of the building. They also man a stall on the first Saturday of every month at the Lewes Farmers Market where the flour, and the Priory-baked bread and cakes, are proving ever more popular.
If you are interested in mechanics, the history or dietary aspects of milling - or even if you think you aren't! - you cannot fail to be intrigued by the way this age-old method outshines the modern when it comes to flour production - a delicious additive-free product from a non-polluting, renewable energy source.
Just standing in the building when the mill is running is a thrilling experience and children particularly enjoy trying their hand at grinding some flour for themselves in our Quern and many are now so taken with it that they regularly revisit.
We look forward to guiding you through our much-loved Mill in the coming year, when you might like to purchase some REAL flour and take home one or two of our tried and tested special recipes.
Elsewhere can be found:
- The Forge, a working forge that occasionally is worked by a blacksmith demonstrating his art.
- The Rope Museum celebrating an important feature of the industrial history of nearby Hailsham.
- The Elizabethan Great Barn – an agricultural storage barn dating from 1597/1601. This is an impressive structure and is frequently used for wedding ceremonies, receptions, corporate dinners, conferences and other functions.
- The Iron Age Centre – a replica Iron Age roundhouse and other replica buildings built by east Sussex Archaeology and Museums Project (ESAMP). The centre is used from time to time for courses in experimental archaeology and to celebrate ancient crafts at the May Day Festival.
- The Picnic Site & Play Area can be found near the Iron Age Centre. There is a Picnic Area for the Disabled behind the Gift Shop.