Reigate Priory

Reigate Priory


South Front of the Priory

Reigate Priory, a Grade I listed building, is a set in 65 acres of open parkland, with gardens, lake and waterfowl and good recreational facilities.

The Priory was originally founded in the early 13th century and was converted to a mansion in Tudor times following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In June 1541 Henry VIII granted the Manor and Priory of Reigate to Lord William Howard, uncle of Catherine Howard, Henry's fifth wife.

Reigate Priory became the family home and the old monastic buildings were converted to become a comfortable Tudor mansion.

Holbein Hall Fireplace

Holbein Hall Fire Place

A stone fireplace was built into the north wall of the great hall with the Howard arms carved in the pointed arch, a lion rampant carved at each corner. On the outside a hugh chimney stack was constructed with three Tudor brick chimneys.

In the early 17th century a magnificent carved oak fireplace surround was installed at Reigate Priory around the Howard stone fireplace. It was said to be designed by Hans Holbein and was originally commissioned by Henry VIII for Nonsuch Palace in Ewell. Later the fireplace surround was installed at Bletchingley Place, possibly for the divorced Queen, Anne of Cleves, and moved to its present position at Reigate Priory by 1655.

Holbein Hall Staircase

18th Century Staircase

Sir John Parsons, a wealthy brewer, purchased the manor and lands in 1681 as a home for his large family. On his death in 1717 Humphrey Parsons, his son inherited the building and held the estate until 1741.

In the early 18th century during the Parsons ownership, the beautiful staircase with fine parquetry was commissioned. The staircase which was restored in 2005 is said to be 'the best of its date in Surrey and, in its combination of painting and architecture into a homogeneus and satisfying space, one of the best in England'.
'Pevsner, Buildings of England' 1971.

The Paintings

The ornate wall and ceiling paintings which adorn the staircase are of major historical significance in this Grade I listed building. In 2005 conservators carried out repairs to the murals and removed discoloured layers of varnish to reveal the original colour and detail of the paintings.

The murals show scenes from classical mythology and were originally ascribed to Antonio Verrio, the famous Italian painter who introduced this baroque style of painting and worked at Hampton Court, at Chatsworth and at Burghley.

The heraldic cartouches in the corners of the ceiling at Reigate Priory indicate that they cannot have been painted until after the marriage of Humphrey Parsons to Sarah Crowley in 1719. Verrio died in 1707 and therefore this means that some other accomplished artist undertook or completed the work. Louis Laguerre, who at one time worked with Verrio and survived him, is a possible choice.

On the ceiling above the staircase gods and goddesses gather together for the marriage of Juno and Jupiter. On the south wall, Pluto can be seen abducting Proserpine. On the north wall Hercules is choosing between Wisdom and Folly.

Reigate Priory is now home to Reigate Priory School and Reigate Priory Museum. The Museum normally presents exhibitions on a wide range of subjects, designed to appeal to both adults and children.

Artefacts concerning local history, social history and costume from the Museum collection are displayed often in room, shop and street settings to portray life in earlier times. Unfortunately th Museum is closed at present because of essential structural repair to the building.

Visit Reigate Priory Museum and the Holbein Hall with its Tudor fireplace, 18th century staircase and murals on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons (2.00pm - 4.30pm) during term-time.

Reigate Priory

Another view of Reigate Priory

If you want to know about the Friends of Reigate Priory Museum, then please progress to our next page which you can go to by clicking here.