The most striking feature of Priory Park is of course the one which gives the Park its name – the Priory of St James. The Priory was originally built in the 1150’s by Gervase Paganell, the then Baron of Dudley. It was occupied by Cluniac monks until February 1535, when it became a victim of King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.
Although the Priory is now only a ruin, it is still an impressive sight, and the recent improvements made as a result of the HLF project, including new paved and tiled features, and an ornamental herb garden, make it a very attractive feature in the Park, and of course very popular for wedding photographs, being situated so close to the Registry Office in Priory Hall. Two stone plinths were added in 2013 near the entrance to the Park in Paganel Drive, one based on the seal of Gervase Paganell, and the other including a quill, ink pot and a medieval tile design. Other improvements to the Priory Ruins which were implemented in 2013 include a new herb garden, paved paths and some very attractive tiled features which describe various parts of the building, and represent some of the ties which were originally present in the Priory.
Priory Hall is a substantial building within Priory Park, although fencing separates it from the rest of the site (the fencing was installed some years ago after serious vandalism). It currently serves as a Registry Office, and is very popular for weddings due to the surroundings. Another page on this web site will provide more information and photographs of the Hall.
The arbour was originally constructed in 1959, but was restored in 2013, re-gaining the roof which had been missing for many years. A new garden area – a ‘rock-scattered slope’ – was also created in front of the arbour at that time, and actually implements a feature of the original design of the Park by Edward Mawson in the 1930’s, one which was never implemented before.
Although there has been a pavilion in the park since the 1950’s, it was originally quite small, and had minimal facilities. The HLF project in 2013 kept the original part of the pavilion, but extended it on both sides with toilet facilites, and also at the back, where there is now a substantial meeting area which is in regular use by school groups, adult learning activities and a meeting place for other local groups. There is also a good display of information about the Park and Priory.