You are in [Places] [The Priory]

The area of Hungerford lying to the south-east of the town, near the John o'Gaunt School, is littered with references to "The Priory". There is Priory Road, Priory Avenue, and the "Priory" estate. Why is this?

Lying in its own much reduced grounds opposite the school is a large Victorian house which is called "The Priory". But is this why the street names are associated?

A look at the 1819 Enclosure Award Map shows no sign of the large house - which was indeed built at a later date. However, it does mark "Priory Lane" leading to Sanham Green, and the land either side of this road is labelled "St. John's Priory". This land relates back to land associated with the Priory of St. John the Baptist (in modern-day Bridge Street).

On the same 1819 map, it is clear that the land where the Victorian "Priory" was built belonged to Charles Child.

The Priory does not appear on the 1819 map, and the style of the building is heavy mid Victorian, perhaps 1850-1880. The 1882 Ordnance Survey Map does mark The Priory.

We do not yet know who had The Priory built, or when.

We do know that Mr Goulter sold it to Mr George Platt (of the local brewing family) in 1901: The Reading Mercury of Sat 18 May 1901 recorded that "Mr G Platt, of the South Berks Brewery, has privately purchased The Priory, lately occupied by Mr Goulter. The Hungerford people will be glad to know that Mr Platt will continue to be a resident in the town."

The Platt family was a large one. In the 1841 census John Platt junior (40 years) was recorded as "Brewer, employing 20 men" living in Willow Lodge [in Bridge Street, with an adjacent malthouse].

His son, George Platt lived at The Priory for some years after the business closed - he is in the 1920 Kelly Directory.

George Platt died in 1928. The Scotsman of Thu 6 Sep 1928 recorded: "George Edmund Platt, of The Priory, Hungerford, Berks., district manager of the South Berks. Brewery Co., now absorbed in Messrs H & G Simonds (Ltd.), of Reading. Net personally £15,124; Gross £20,771."

By the 1939 Blacket Directory, The Priory was in the ownership of J. Arthur Palethorpe,

In 1952 the NWN reported "Hungerford District Council is proposing to buy The Priory. The council intends using the land for housing and the house for council offices."

In the 1970s the building was converted into residential flats.

The Priory building was demolished in 2011, and the site of The Priory was redevelopment by Sovereign Housing in 2012-2013.

The Giant Redwood in the old Priory grounds:

It is interesting to note that one of the largest trees in Hungerford stands in the grounds of the old Priory.

It is a Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum, otherwise known as Giant sequoia, Wellingtonia or Californian redwood). These wonderful trees were introduced into the UK (by William Lobb) in 1853.

A similar tree stands if St Saviour's churchyard, Eddington. It was probably planted when the additional two acres was added to the St Saviour's churchyard in 1891.

Both Giant Redwoods are huge, and it is likely that the "Priory" redwood was planted when John Platt built The Priory around 1860.

This beautiful giant tree gave the name to Redwood House, of course.

The protected woods around this redwood tree are occupied by a colony of 50 long eared bats and a series of bat houses have been attached to the trees. These woods also contain the only rookery to be found in Hungerford.

[With thanks to Dr Jimmy Whittaker, Jan 2018, for help with this section].

Redwood House and Lindley Lodge:

Following the demolition of The Priory (and Platt Court) in 2011, Sovereign Housing redeveloped the area (of 1.09 acres) into two new apartment blocks which were opened in August 2013.

These were named Redwood House and Lindley Lodge, and together they provide 74 affordable homes. See "Revealed - new names for 74 homes for the elderly", NWN 22 Aug 2013.

Redwood House offers a total of 46 one- and two bedroom extra-care apartments over four floors, with a number of extra-care communal services provided on the lower ground floor including a restaurant, shop, hairdresser and laundry. Incidentally the restaurant in Redwood House is open to the public for breakfast and lunches at moderate prices and is run (Jan 2018) by Alan Carr and his wife Jan, who used to run the Lamb Inn back in the late 1990’s.

Photo Gallery:

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- Platt's Brewery Building post 1908 as The Hungerford Laundry

The Priory, Aug 2001.

The Priory, Feb 2011.

- The gatepost at The Priory, Feb 2011

- Detail of staircase, The Priory Feb 2011

The Giant Redwood, May 2017 (by Dr Jimmy Whittaker)

The Giant Redwood, showing a bat box, May 2017 (by Dr Jimmy Whittaker).

Redwood House, May 2017 (by Dr Jimmy Whittaker).

Entrance to Redwood House, May 2017 (by Dr Jimmy Whittaker).

See also:

- Platt Family History

- The Priory of St John the Baptist (Bridge Street)

- The Laundry

- "Revealed - new names for 74 homes for the elderly", NWN 22 Aug 2013.

- "Sale of Priory Lands" (south of Sanham Road), Reading Mercury, 20 Jul 1795.