Clare Priory is one of the oldest religious houses in England; situated in the shadows of Clare Castle on the banks of the River Stour, Suffolk. Established in 1248 at the invitation of Richard de Clare it was the 1st house of the Augustinian (or Austin) Friars in England.
Following its suppression on 29th November 1538, the house passed through many hands and uses. Henry VIII gave the land to a local family, the Barnadistons, and their successors the Barkers were in residence for most of the following four centuries.
When, in 1953, the Augustinian order returned to Clare Priory after a period of 415 years, they decided to convert this former infirmary (which for, at least 300 years, had been used as a barn) into their parish church. The far larger original priory church was to the north, across the modern garden. It is mostly today ruined. A north porch can be seen below.
The brand-new church is dedicated to Our Lady of Great Counsel, a memory of the marriage at Canaan, where Mary advises the servants at the feast to ‘do whatever he tells you’. This episode is central to the rule of St Augustine, which is followed by the residents of the Priory; they provide the clergy for the Catholic parish.
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