Friends of Ware Priory
History of Ware Priory
The Town Council, however, quickly found that it now had a big problem - the Charity had no funds or endowment but as Trustee, the Town Council was responsible not only for the Priory building itself but also a seven acre estate which included a swimming pool . By this time English Heritage had also listed the building and part of the grounds closest to it as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
It was clear that the building (now some 650 years old) was in need of a great deal of repair and refurbishment.
As Trustee of the charity, the Town Council was legally and morally bound to deal with this which meant the cost would fall on the people of Ware via the local Parish Rate.
In the late 1980's the District Council moved to new offices in Hertford and the Town Council then had to decide what to do with the building.
Many meetings and discussions took place and a professional team of advisers was employed. A scheme was finally agreed and in the spirit of the original bequest from Mrs.Croft this included a mixture of both commercial (i.e. rentable office suites) and and public rooms which could be hired on a one-off basis for conferences, parties, weddings etc.
A new conservatory was also built on the footprint of the original Victorian conservatory and is used as a banqueting venue.
Fund raising for this £1m plus project included the sale of two small portions of land owned by the Town Council, grants (including English Heritage and District Council), donations and events such a dances, raffles etc. and a bank loan.
The Friends of Ware Priory was formed in 1993 with a view to fostering public interest Ware Priory and, initially, to help with fund raising for the Priory refurbishment. The Friends continue to be very active in their support for the Priory.
Work started in October 1993 and many interesting finds were uncovered (some of which have been left
exposed to view). A major point of interest was that far more of the original 14/15th century structures
remained than had previously been thought.
The building was closed for a year and the Town Council continued its work from the "old timber annexe" in the Priory grounds.
In November 1994 the building was officially reopened by H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester.
It was, therefore, a wonderfully restored and refurbished Priory which entered the 21st century with far more of the building available for public use than ever before.
The next major chapter in the history of the Priory estate began in 2001 with the collapse of the old stable block roof, quickly followed by the demolition of the rest of the block (which was being used at the time by the Town Council for storage). This was the catalyst for the Trustee to give serious consideration to the future use of that whole area on the eastern side of the estate - which still included the old timber annexe, a temporary buiding which had been erected in the 1950's and was still in use!
Again, many meetings and discussions ensued and it was finally agreed that the opportunity should be taken to enhance and improve that part of the park/estate by demolishing the timber annexe and erecting a new community building on the site.
Fletcher's Lea (named after John Fletcher, Ware Town Clerk 1978-1990) was officially opened in March 2006. The Priory Trustees were delighted that the Duke of Gloucester again graciously agreed to perform this duty for them.
This modern building sits proudly alongside the ancient Priory and complements the facilities that the Priory charity is able to offer.
The story is not over. The Priory park/estate continues to evolve and the next chapter awaits. Plans have been dicussed for a major refurbishment of the grounds, including some of the former Victorian features.
Watch this space!