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Burford Priory

Image copyright English Heritage

Built by the lawyer and politician Sir Lawrence Tanfield in the 1580s on the site of a dissolved medieval hospital, this is the grandest of Burford's houses. The building today is only a fragment, having been halved in size in 1808. Even so its only rivals are the much later Great House on Witney Street, and the Jordan family mansion (now the Methodist church) on High Street. Both are town houses squeezed onto cramped sites, whereas The Priory stands in secluded grounds on the town's western edge.

The house was called The Priory by Tanfield's time. In 1603 it was grand enough for James I to stay there three nights on his journey from Scotland. Surviving remains and later drawings show that the mansion had an imposing three-storeyed front made up of seven tall gabled bays. The Tanfields were succeeded here by the lawyer Sir William Lenthall (1591–1662), whose family owned the house until 1828. Lenthall's chief addition was a handsome freestanding private chapel just south of the house, connected by a gallery with a covered walkway.

The Priory was a country house until the 19th century, occupied by the Lenthalls or by aristocratic tenants. In 1808 John Lenthall reduced it from seven bays to three with a simple rectangular plan. The family sold their estate in 1828, and by the late 19th century the house was semi-derelict. It was restored in two stages, first from 1908 (by Colonel J B de Sales la Terrière) and second c.1922 (by Emslie J Horniman). In 1941 it became the Priory of Our Lady.


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