History of Ware Priory - 1338 to 1980
1338 - 1543
The story starts when Lord of the Manor of Ware granted seven acres of land to an order of Franciscan monks (Ware Greyfriars) to build an oratory and associated buildings. They remained in peaceful occupation for the next 200 years until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.
1544 - 1912
Henry VIII conveyed the property to Thomas Byrche, a Yeoman of the Crown, and his family, who first were the first to occupy it as a private house.
For the next 368 years it remained a private house for various families, each of whom left their mark on the building.. It remained in the hands of the Byrche family until 1628. The Hadsley family occupied it from 1685 to 1868. Robert Walters owned the house from 1881 until his death in 1912.
1913 - 1973
In 1913 the property was put up for sale by auction and was purchased by Mrs Elizabeth Croft, a member of one of the major malting families of Ware, who proved to be a great benefactor to the town.
During the 1914-18 Great War she loaned the property to the Red Cross for use as a hospital for wounded soldiers. In 1920 she in effect gave the property to the people of Ware by leasing it to Ware Urban District Council (WUDC) for 999 years at a rent of three shillings (15p) per year.
Mrs Croft wished the grounds to be used as a public park and the main building and outbuildings to be used by the Council for its offices, workshops and stores, any spare space to be used for the benefit of the people of Ware.
The Council made full use of these facilities and soon turned the grounds into a public park and in the 1930s built the Priory Lido and Tennis Courts. They also converted part of the ground floor into the main hall to be made available for use by local organisations etc.
1974 - 1980
In 1974 local government was reorganised and the Ware Urban District Council was wound up and combined with other nearby authorities to form the new East Herts District Council.
As part of this reorganisation, the Priory and its grounds passed over to the new District Council who occupied it as their Housing Department Offices and the Ware Town Council formed as a Parish Council occupied two rooms as their tenant.
This upset many people in Ware who were very proud and protective of their Priory and did not like the idea of its being controlled by people from Bishop's Stortford/Hertford etc.
Eventually the Charity Commissioners decided that the lease was in fact a charitable one and should be registered as a charity.
The effect of this was that the Priory and its grounds came under the control of the Ware Town Council as Trustees of the Charity