A place of prayer since 1248

The Priory

Clare Priory is one of the oldest religious houses in England and is now a beloved retreat centre for many, situated in the beautiful countryside of Suffolk.

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About Clare Priory

Founded in 1248, Clare Priory was the first house of the Augustinian Friars in England and is now a parish and retreat centre run by the Friars and the Priory community.

The Priory community live according to the Rule of St. Augustine. The Rule of Saint Augustine emphasises the need to search for God together in order to achieve oneness of mind and heart.

As Saint Augustine writes, ‘Before all else, live together in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God.’

House & Grounds

Our house and church are set in large grounds and picturesque gardens which day visitors and retreat members are welcome to enjoy, or you may wish to visit the adjacent grounds of Clare Castle Country Park and the ruins of Clare Castle.

Alternatively, you may wish to visit the medieval town of Clare, which can be reached via the footbridge over the River Stour, just outside our rear gate -
5 minutes walk.

The House

The house contains a number of original features, including the Little Cloister with the Shrine, the vaulted porch and impressive stone and stained glass work throughout the house.

It was built in the 13th/14th century and remodelled in the 15th whereas the bays extending into the cloister are additions of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

The Shrine

The Shrine is dedicated to Mother of Good Counsel and is one of the oldest parts of the priory.

It contains a relief of the Mother of Good Counsel by the well-known religious artist, Mother Concordia OSB, which is based on the original fresco at Genazzano near Rome.

The New Extension

A freestanding contemporary extension has been built alongside and linked to the existing church.

The new building has been designed to avoid interfering with the fabric of the existing church and the archaeology of this special, historic site and to be in keeping with the peace and beauty of the setting.

Our facilities

Clare Priory offers excellent facilities for individual or group retreats.


The Priory can easily cater for small groups and families.

Accommodation available:
- 1 x 4 beds }
- 2 x 3 beds } with adjacent bathrooms
- 1 x 2 beds }
- 1 en-suite

The Stable House offers seven single rooms and one double room, all with en-suite.

Social spaces

The Priory library offers a unique collection of books for spiritual reading.

The large Dining Room is a popular social space and the large Cellarers Hall acts as a dining room for big groups, and is also another place to sit quietly.

Meeting and prayer rooms

Within the Priory, groups can use the large Parish Room which has great views of the courtyard garden and church and grounds. In the  Stable House, there are also two small meeting rooms and a small prayer room.

Groups can hold services within the Church or Oratory, and Mass is said each day at 10:00 in the Church. Individuals and groups are also welcome to join the Community in its daily prayer.

The church is always open during the day for services or private prayer.

A Brief History of the Augustinians at Clare

Founded in 1248, Clare Priory is one of the oldest religious houses in England, occupied by the order that founded it. The Augustinians came to Clare from northern France at the invitation of the Earl of Clare, Gloucester and Hertford, Sir Richard de Clare, to build their first foundation in the British Isles.

The size of the community was never more than about thirty friars and was suppressed by Henry VIII's agents in 1538. No one knows what happened to the friars, though another Augustinian friar, John Stone, was executed in Canterbury in 1539 for refusing to sign the Oath of Supremacy and is now numbered among the forty Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales.

After the suppression of the Priory, ownership of the buildings, goods, lands and revenues became the property of the Crown, and so passed into private ownership. The Augustinians returned to Clare in 1953 thanks to the generosity of the May family, who allowed the Order to purchase the house for only a fraction of its true value.

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