For about 150 years prior to 1800 the building was referred to as the

Manor House of Dame Sayers’ Manor Kensworth and Dunstable.


1540 onwards

After the closure of the monasteries it was certainly a private house or place of business.


The building is purchased by Richard and Elizabeth Ames (Aves).


Elizabeth Ames leaves two thirds of the income from the property to her daughter for the schooling of her son William and one third to the Queen during his minority to ensure the Queen’s future interest in the boy.


Zachary Symmes, Rector of Dunstable leases the building from Thomas Sheafe, Doctor of Divinity for 18 years at £17 annual rent. He later emigrated to Charlestown, Massachusetts.


On the death of Robert Crawley his wife Joan inherits his “manor house in the South end of Dunstable called Dame Sayre’s”. She left it to her son Doctor Crawley whose great interest was in the treatment of insanity.


On the death of Dr. Crawley the property is left to his cousin Rev. John Lord.


Thomas Vaux, a wealthy landowner, purchases Dame Sayers’ Manor House (Priory House) from Rev. John Lord but never lives there. A wealthy man he owned the Hall Farm now the site of Whipsnade Zoo.


Thomas Cooke purchases Priory House from Thomas Vaux.


John Gresham and family move into the house. He is a master at Chew’s School, a gifted musician and composer of church music.


Colonel Maddison buys Dame Sayers’ Manor House and lives there until his death in 1806. He is the first person to call the building Priory House (in his will).


Executors of Colonel Maddison (died 1806), sell it to William Frederick Brown for £1,800.


Artist Thomas Fisher paints a view of Priory House which now hangs in the Mayor’s Parlour in Grove House and a second picture of the interior of the undercroft.


Mr Page-Turner of Battlesden visiting the owner was impressed by the “vaulted stone roofs groined”.


Advert – Freehold family residence called Priory House to be sold.

When William Gresham dies it is bought by Robert Thorp as an investment.


Mr. . —An Estate, comprising the Priory House, Dunstable. Beds, with suitable domestic offices, lawn, and pleasure grounds, a field of meadow land, and shrubbery walks; in all about four acres; quit rent 5s. per annum.

Priory House – To be let—A good family residence, with suitable Offices, Lawn, Pleasure Grounds, and Meadow Land, pleasantly situated, and surrounded by  handsome Shrubbery Walks, comprising together about Four Acres fronting the London-road. Coaches pass every hour.

The  Premises have been arranged with every attention to domestic comfort, and contain nine large bed-chambers, three dressing rooms, large drawing room, capital dining-room and breakfast parlour, entrance hall; principal and second staircases, domestic offices, excellent wine vaults and cellaring, large yard and convenient out-buildings. Apply to Mr. A, Small, Dunstable (If by letter, post-paid).


Messrs. Munt & Brown, straw hat manufacturers, lease Priory House which becomes the manager’s residence.


Marriage of Thomas Wild to Sarah Thorpe, daughter of Robert Thorpe, Esq., late of the Priory House, Dunstable.


A fire breaks out but due to a fire proof ceiling in the room where it started, this probably saved the remainder of the building.


Priory House purchased by Munt and Brown, straw hat manufacturers. During their ownership a small extension at the north end of the building was added and a narrow back staircase leading, from what is now the kitchen, to the top floor.  A third storey was added to the extension for the factory premises.


Messrs. Munt & Brown treat their employees a tea in the house and it ends with the Misses Hunt singing the National Anthem.


John Burgess an ostler employed by Munt & Brown, is found dead in the Priory House stables. Verdict deceased died from the visitation of God.


David Cookson becomes the 4th manager of Munt & Brown living in the house, but his first wife died after a year and he had already lost several of his children.


The first edition of the Ordnance Survey Map incorrectly shows an underground passage in Dunstable between the Priory Church and Priory House. (An archaeological survey in 1987 confirmed that the passage had never existed).


The second Mrs Cookson advertises the furniture for sale as she is leaving the area. The next manager living there is Edwin Lester his wife and 5 children.

When the Lester’s leave it became the property of Arthur Munt, youngest son of one of the founders of the hat factory.


The straw hat factory closes suddenly as its work force is down to 60-70 hands where once 450 people had been employed.


Luton Creditors Conference – Liabilities are said to be £lOO,OOO.

Harry Brown trading as Munt & Brown Co finds himself unable to continue the business after close on 120 years. Messrs Munt Brown  Co. are the owners of the historic Priory House at Dunstable, Their straw hat manufacturing premises are perhaps the most extensive in Dunstable and for many years been one of the leading and most stable firms in the straw hat industry.


Arthur Munt now the owner of Priory House arranged for the demolition of the factory next door leaving only the gateway and front wall standing.


Mr Arthur Munt, now living there, submits an application to build a wall to prevent flooding but it is rejected.


Mr Munt died but his widow outlived him for 15 years or more but with her death and WW2 the house ceased to be a home.


Dunstable Town Council acquires Priory House and Gardens, converting the house into council offices to accommodate the Department of Housing, Parks and Allotments, Civil Defence, a caretakers flat and for 40 years residents paid their rates in a medieval undercroft.


Priory House Gardens open to the public.


Darby and Joan Club established at Priory House.


The town’s war memorial to be an inscribed plaque in an alcove in Priory House Gardens.


A Dunstable Peace Association was formed after a heated debate at Priory House.


Dunstable & District Aquarists Society hold a monthly meeting.

A free demonstration of dressmaking, patternmaking, tailoring was held by Mrs. E. Bower.


A joint brains trust organised by the Manshead Archaeological Society and the South Beds Preservation Society held.

A half yearly meeting of the Council was held here.


Citizens’ Advice Bureau opens.


On a tea survey the Priory House tea was the best but rather expensive at 5d a cup, the Milk Bar, High Street North served the hottest but one place served tea with froth on it.

Priory House sold to a commercial company when the town becomes part of the South Beds District.


Excavations by Manshead Archaeological Society prove there was never an underground passage between the Priory and Priory House.


Priory House, High Street South, for sale again at £400,000.


The Town Council acquired the building from a commercial company for use as a Heritage Centre. Restoration funding was secured from the National Lottery.


A survey of the house described it “high status domestic construction”


During restoration signs were found of a doorway leading from the upper floors of the main house to the extension at the rear.

Priory House Heritage Centre, after restoration, opens including an exhibition area and Tourist Information Centre.

Nationwide donate the Jacobean wall paintings 1600, previously displayed in their building in High Street North.


The History of Priory House by Joan Curran is published.


Friends of Priory House and Gardens formed.


Friends of Priory House awarded Lottery Fund grant to preserve Jacobean wall paintings.


The Jacobean wall paintings preserved in Priory House inspire “1600s and All That” on the history event held in the gardens.


Exhibition at Priory House on history of tea officially opened by High Commissioner for Sri Lanka, Ms Amari Wijewardene.

Dunstable Croquet Club formed and matches are played on the lawn in front of the building.


The charity Wayne’s Fund donates a Defibrillator to raise awareness of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.

The Meeting Room in Priory House receives a makeover and is renamed the Jacobean Room after the wall paintings.

War Memorial in Priory Gardens is refurbished and a new Roll of Honour completed.

New gates at the entrance to Priory Gardens, by the side of the house, formally opened by town Mayor Gloria Martin.


Dunstable History Society leaves for new Research Rooms in Grove House.

Priory House approved as a venue for wedding ceremonies and Registrar’s office moves from Grove House to Priory House and the Citizens Advice Bureau to the Leisure Centre.


Corona Virus causes the building to be closed to the public for an indefinite period.


Leading Ladies Exhibition, started in 2019, finally opened in the exhibition room after a long delay caused by the Corona Virus.



Dunstable Gazette

History of Priory House by Joan Curran

British Newspaper Archive

Dunstable Timeline Books