When it comes to history, Butley Priory has it in spades. Formerly home to Augustinian monks, dating back to the 12th century, all that remains of the monastery today is its Grade I-listed gatehouse, which offers a window into the past – and has been turned into a peaceful countryside retreat.
The gatehouse is surrounded by eight acres of forest in east Suffolk and was built under prior William de Geystone (1311-1322). It boasts features from every century to the present, thanks in part to the preservation efforts of Dr Montague Rendell, a scholar and former headmaster who bought the gatehouse in 1926. With the help of architect W D Caröe, the pair cut-away Victorian partitions to the medieval building, revealing its gothic vaults and archways.
In addition to its medieval stonework, the pair uncovered Elizabethan panelling, a Georgian staircase, and heraldic elements of the building’s inhabitants.
Fast-forward 100 years and these bones have been gently updated with modern amenities by present custodians, the Cavendish family, who have lived there since 1987. Whitewashed walls and floorboards, exposed stonework and leaded glass windows feature throughout Butley Priory’s surprisingly light-filled volumes.
The countryside home has been used for yoga retreats and as a whimsical wedding venue and location. It is also available to rent in its entirely via Airbnb as a holiday retreat, sleeping 18 guests across eight bedrooms.