On Sunday, 11th May 2003 the Augustinian Prior General, Robert Prevost O.S.A., was a special guest when the fiftieth anniversary of the return of the Order of Saint Augustine to Clare Priory was duly celebrated.
The present church is the former infirmary of the pre-Reformation Priory, and probably escaped demolition because it easily served as farm storage space.
In 2006 plans reached finality for a new church in the Priory grounds. Because of heritage laws, the development of plans satisfactory to heritage regulations took five years.
The plans are for a separate church beside the present one, built on the south side between the present church and a neighbouring farm. The new church will be linked to the present one by a passageway.
The new church will have a square shape, with the altar positioned near one of its corners. The isle will fan out, such that the congregation will be on three sides of the altar, but nowhere facing each other
At the parish meeting on Sunday, 14th November 2010, progress was reported on the building of the church extension. Conditional permission to build had been granted by the various planning authorities in mid-2008. All conditions have now been complied with, except two which will be dealt with during construction work.
Many agencies have been involved in the fourteen years since the start of the project. The site is Grade 1 Listed. It is an ancient site and a site of historical importance. English Heritage authorities saw nowhere within the Priory grounds for a stand-alone church to be built.
Earlier in the negotiations, these English Heritage authorities hinted that the south side of the church would be out of view of the ancient and historical site and close to a boundary. Over the years, re-arranging pews or building a platform or mezzanine gallery in the present church was given consideration, but one or more additional agencies connected with fire and safety regulations were against such schemes. To them, aisle width and speed of exit in an emergency were major considerations.
On the other hand, the future clustering and merging of nearby parishes could lead to more attending the Priory. Proper liturgy requires adequate space.
Construction of the new church will commence in July 2011, with the hope for its completion by Easter 2012. The cost estimate is £1,159,000 to £1.5m. About £360,000 has already been raised, the Augustinian Province has donated £360,000, and the remainder still has to be raised. In June 2012 it was reported that the construction of the new church was progressing, with the concrete foundatyions laid and work about to commence on the delicate task of breaking into the wall of the old church. The contracted construction company suddenly went into receivership, and a new company has to be located. Unfortunately, costs increases are anticipated therein, and also because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has revoked VAT exemption from heritage buildings, hence a second additional cost of 20% in now expectected in that regard.
Tel: 01787 277326
Fax: 01787 278688
Photos (at right)
Taken in 2010 at the tenth international Augustinian Youth Encounter, held in London, England.
The House of the Austin Friars, Clare. A comprehensive coverage, this time by the local tourist authority.
Clare Priory. This is a very comprehensive history in PDF format. Twenty eight pages.