Much is often said of Halnaker Windmill and the tunnel of trees that lead to it. But you don’t often hear about another significant landmark nearby, namely the ruins of Boxgrove Priory. A short drive east from Chichester and with a backdrop of the Tinwood vines and the South Downs, this is a particularly tranquil and picturesque corner of Sussex and a little piece of our Sussex history.
The ruins are now owned by English Heritage but are free to visit. The Benedictine priory of St Mary the Virgin and St Blaise was founded in about 1117. It was part of the abbey at Lessay in Normandy and, when founded, had only three monks. At its height, there were 19 monks here and it was an important community. Boxgrove became an independent abbey in 1339. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, the buildings and land were granted to Baron de la Warr and their life as a priory came to an end.
These days, what you see is the ruins of the lodgings. The Prior would have entertained here and where travellers could stay. The lodgings would have been a two-story building and would have had a cellar. One wall of the chapter house remains, attached to the church. This is where monks would have gathered daily.
The ruins won’t take you long to visit but they are very charismatic.
Close to the ruins is the church of St Mary and St Blaise. From Domesday book records, it’s clear that there was a church here before the Norman Conquest and parts of the current church date from the early twelfth century with Norman (Romanesque) and Early English (Gothic) architecture. There is a model of the monastic buildings inside the church although The church is not part of English Heritage.
While you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit nearby Halnaker Windmill and Tinwood Vineyard.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, you can find details of a walk that includes Boxgrove Priory and the windmill in our free magazine:
Sussex Exclusive Magazine
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