From a medieval friary, where weary travellers including Royalty stayed en route to London, to an Ancient Monument used by a town council to serve a modern town – that is the briefest history of Ware’s Priory.
The original friary was founded in 1338 (no one knows the story of how it came to be known as The Priory). After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1530s, the building has undergone many phases of construction and alteration during its 650 year life. Being in private ownership, a hospital during the first World War, and then in 1920 the owner, Mrs Anne Elizabeth Croft, daughter of Mr. Henry Page, one of the most influential maltsters of Ware in the 18th century, gave the Priory, then valued at the huge sum of £10,000 to the town. Ware Town Council as Trustee of the Priory Charity is now the freeholder.
Taking the Priory into the 21st century has been a major conservation project. Much remains of the known Friary buildings. The original back walls of the cloister are probably indicated by the main beam that runs the length of the present hall and by the heavy west wall of the entrance hall. Much of the main wall structure almost certainly survives from the 15th century, and a very strong indication of this is the roof construction. One of the crown posts is now restored and exposed in a beautifully appointed room. After this major program of restoration and refurbishment, providing function rooms, offices and a new function room on the site of the old Victorian conservatory at the rear, the building was officially re-opened by HRH the Duke of Gloucester in November 1994.
The seven acres of riverside grounds are open to the public and include gardens, playground, tennis courts, basketball court and access to a bowling green and putting green. A heated open-air swimming pool is open during the summer months; it is one of the few remaining Lidos in the country. A bandstand on the Ware Priory Island is the site of regular summer concerts and of the annual ‘Rock in the Priory’, the final event in the Ware Festival.
In 1995 Ware Priory was one of the first venues in East Herts to be licensed for civil marriage ceremonies. This led to Ware Priory now being recognised as one of the most sought after Wedding venues in the County.
Based on the successes of Ware Priory as a functions venue, a plan was formed by Ware Town Council acting as the Trustee to the Priory Charity to further develop the site by demolishing some unsightly timber annexes and sheds and creating a new purpose designed building for community, social and commercial hirers. It was named Fletcher’s Lea and opened, as with Ware Priory, by HRH the Duke of Gloucester in March 2007.
The name is in memory of John Fletcher, a former Town Clerk of Ware, and the site’s proximity to the wonderful river Lea.
Fletcher’s Lea was constructed in conjunction with Carbon Trust to ensure its green credentials. It does, however, benefit from state of the art presentation equipment, and allows for an increase in guest numbers up to 220.
The unique and historic qualities of Ware Priory, linked with the contemporary style of Fletcher’s Lea, ensures the ability to cater for virtually any function or event. All rooms have their own character and enjoy access to the beautiful riverside gardens and their abundance of wildlife.
The first class catering service ensures that both hosts and guests are assured of happy, memorable and successful events at Ware Priory.
The Ware Priory team will be delighted to send details and to show you around when you need an extra special venue to ‘Get Together’.