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FRIENDS OF THE PRIORY NEWSLETTER AUTUMN 2002
Patron: Sir Stanley Odell
President: Brigadier Peter Everson
Chairman/Historian: Roger Ward
Treasurer: Ron Skinner
Secretary: Lt Col Glenn Harwood
We have now come to the end of our Open Season, with our last tour being scheduled for 20 October, 2002. What an excellent season we have enjoyed though. Perhaps we have not had the amount of people that we would have liked going round the Priory this year, but they have certainly been enthusiastic and very appreciative of what they have seen - and also for the refreshments which were served in the Gilbertine Centre afterwards by out Catering Team of Eileen, Jeff and Denise.
Our Tour Guides (Roger, David, Doreen, Angela and Jan) and Ushers (Sally, Angie, Rhona and Mandy) have, to date shown some 500 people round.
Then of course we have had our BBQ - more of that later.
We have donated a substantial sum to the renovation in November, of the inscription on the Peace Obelisk, situated near the Priory. It looks superb.
This is always a regular spot in the newsletter - really to be an aide-memoire for you. You should have received a Membership card by now, on which is the date of your renewal, so, if you need to - the cheques should be made payable to:
The Friends of Chicksands Prioryand sent to our Treasurer, Mr Ron Skinner at:
17, Wellingham Avenue, Hitchin, Herts. SG5 2UJ.
We have gathered a few more Friends over the year, to whom we gave a very warm welcome, but we have also had some sad news of Friends having died, while others have not renewed their membership.
This was held on Saturday, 31 August in the delightful Walled Garden and what a wonderful event it was! There were some 74 of us enjoying the beauty resultant of the hard work of the gardening club in the Garden. The weather was very kind with sunshine and clouds (but the wind could have been turned down a notch if we were going to be picky). The food was, once again excellent - and of course the company was superb.
For a change this year, we held a raffle, which was fun and one of our members, who is part of the Y service, donated a bottle of Champagne for auction. That was a bit of fun too - and it raised a goodly sum for our funds. Thank you everyone - those who donated items to the raffle, those who bought tickets and those who bid for the Champagne - and those who bought it. Your efforts are all very much appreciated.
We now have another £180, some of which will probably go towards the Museum and to other expenses we have to make over the year. If you were unable to come this year, try to make it next time. As was said in the last newsletter, It really is a lovely occasion, very gentle - yet full of fun and meeting like-minded folk; where friends of long standing can meet, chat and catch up with news over a glass of whatever you bring along!
A Divining Presence at Chicksands
The last Open-day of the season saw the Friends gather for a somewhat unusual meeting which was the first if its kind to be held at Chicksands; at least in this twenty-first century. We were there to witness a talented man from Hertfordshire dowsing but it was not, I should add, to locate water. It was to attempt to find out what other hidden treasures could be buried beneath the green grass surrounding the Priory.
The weather was not the customary bright day with sunshine but one of overcast skies and falling rain. This did not, however, dampen the spirits of the group eagerly anticipating&ldots;&ldots;&ldots;&ldots;.. To be honest, we were not sure what we were going to experience. Such was the interest that we were joined by our President - and Chris Holtom had journeyed from his Lincolnshire home to witness the adventure.
Beginning at the burial ground, east of the Priory, the group followed dowser and archaeologist, Tim Marwood across the lawn to the southern side of the Priory. Thence to the car park, west of the Priory and into the Stable courtyard, ending the walk in front of the north wing on the eastern side of the Priory cloisters. At various strategic points en route, a commentary was given by Brigadier Peter (who, in military fashion kept the group together).
There was much enthusiastic discussion while enjoying refreshments afterwards in the dry of the Gilbertine Centre. It is believed that a monastic burial ground is sited between the point where human remains were found by the Time Team in May 2001, the spot where six skeletons were found (1969) and to the south of the Priory.
It is on record that when the present Kitchen gardens were established in the 1790s, human remains were found. This would suggest that there were, in fact, two places of burial - not an uncommon feature in monastic circles. These remains perhaps would have been of the monks and lay brothers, while the burials on the eastern side of the complex were of the nuns, with the community burials to the west. (It is known that during the 1969 building project for the housing area west of the Priory, more remains were found immediately south of the cloisters, near to the site of the summer house*).
Tim also was aware of traces of wall south of the Priory between the lake and the South front of the building. Traces of other buildings, thought to be 16th or 17th century, were found beneath the site of the car park.
Possibly as much as fourteen feet below the present ground level of the cobbled Stable courtyard, it is believed traces of the elusive second cloister may be hiding!
Very close to the eastern front of the Priory and under the North Wing projection near the archway (which was the Housekeepers rooms with the Day and Night nurseries above) traces of two altars were found, with a date for one of 1180.
At the time of writing, a second visit by Tim is planned, when it is hoped that after further dowsing experiences inside the North Wing and at some of the other strategic places already mentioned, confirmation of some details will emerge. These will then be plotted for further research.
A complete, illustrated record of this project will be available as part of the Priory archive in due course.
The model of the Priory is under construction. One of the main problems was to decide how the Priory looked when the northern cloister was in existence. The Time Team drawing (page 43 of the Time Team book - "Digging the Dirt") was our original guide. However, having watched with amazement the "findings" of the Diviner, it may well be that the church stood midway between the two cloisters and not adjacent to the existing South Cloisters north wall as shown in the picture. Still no news about the Time Team artefacts. Chris Holtom has chased them. The model will need substantial funds to get it finished, though what has been done will give a good indication of the scale and standard that we will achieve.
Since the last newsletter, we have had a quiet time in the garden. The highlight of the season was the harvesting of the fruit form the vine that produced more than 80lbs of Black Hamburg grapes. The majority of the crop was donated to the St. Johns Hospice at Moggerhanger and the rest was distributed amongst volunteers and Friends.
As with all gardens at this time of the year, we are trying our best to tidy up and prepare for winter. The lavender bushes have been pruned; we have cut the grass for the last time and generally cleaned up the greenhouse.
A good friend and volunteer in the garden is Major Keith Price who is a US Army exchange Officer working at Chicksands. Keith has spent many hours working on the cloister garden but recently he has organised the partial refurbishment of the Obelisk that stands outside the Priory, to improve the lettering and inscriptions. Keith has done a marvellous job on this project and if he can raise the funds, during the next six months he will be arranging further work to clean and tidy up the memorial.
This has been arranged for 8 February 2003, 7.00pm for 7.30pm.
We shall gather in the Bar, where you can enjoy an inclusive drink, before being called to dine in the beautiful surroundings of what was the Library, there to enjoy a delicious meal.
Squadron Leader (Retd) David Pownall has agreed to be our Guest After Dinner Speaker. David has the honour of holding Friends membership card number 1- thus denoting that he has a long and enthusiatic association with us.
David was based at Chicksands during the 70s and he, with Bill Grayson was instrumental in getting the Peace Monument moved to its present site. As it happens, the inscriptions on the Obelisk have been restored very recently (under the eagle eye of Major Keith Price, as mentioned earlier). David was also instrumental in getting the Priory clock mechanism refurbished.
We have had to raise the price just a little this year, to £27.50 per head, but we feel that it is still a very reasonable cost for a seven-course meal in unique surroundings, with friends of similar enthusiasms. [If you want to bring guests who are not themselves members of The Friends, that is fine - they may even wish to join afterwards!] All you have to do is to return the enclosed form to reserve your place/s. As last year, we will be holding a raffle to raise funds for the Museum.
We would like to wish you, the Friends of Chicksands Priory a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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