The last person to occupy the building as a private residence was the daughter of Sir George Digby Barker and the widow of Sir Henry May, Helena Augusta Victoria, who died in 1945.
Before her death Lady May and her children had decided that the conditions to be expected after the Second World War would make it financially prohibitive for the Priory and its grounds to be maintained as the family's private property.
Although not a Catholic, Lady May desired that, if at all possible, the Priory be bought back by its original owners.
This was made possible in 1953 by the heirs of Lady May, through which the Order of Saint Augustine acquired the property for only a fraction of its true value.
The prime mover in this had been the daughter of Lady May, Stella de Fonblanque, who now lies at rest in grave near the church, the first Catholic to be buried there since the Reformation
In 1970 when an Augustinian Province was officially re-established in the United Kingdom after a gap exceeding four hundred years, Clare Priory again became the venue of a Provincial Chapter.
Clare Priory is one of the oldest religious houses in England. It is situated in the shadows of Clare Castle on the banks of the River Stour, Suffolk, England.
The present Parish, created in 1953, is dedicated to Our Mother of Good Counsel, and encompasses the villages of Clare, Cavendish, Glemsford, Hundon and Stoke-by-Clare.
It is "twinned" with the Augustinian parish at Baba Dogo
in Nairobi, Kenya. Part of this commitment involves raising funds for Baba Dogo annually.
In the first half of 2006, for example, 3,525 pounds sterling raised through Clare Parish and Priory was used in Baba Dogo to pay school fees, and to provide medical care and rent assistance for the unemployed.
Sunday parish Masses are celebrated in the Priory Church of Mother of Good Counsel, and in the Chapel at the Sue Ryder Care Home in Cavendish. Mass is celebrated daily in the Oratory at Clare Priory.
Although the Priory itself is the home of the Augustinian community, the parish church in the grounds is open to the public, and so is a shrine, established in 1998 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the first arrival of the Augustinians in Clare.
The shrine is dedicated to Mary as the Mother of Good Counsel, a reference to the wedding at Cana when Mary asked the servants to 'do whatever he tells you'. This philosophy of always putting oneself out to serve is central to the Augustinian spiritual tradition.
As well as being the worship centre of the local Catholic parish, Clare Priory (i.e., the actual house on the property) is now an Augustinian retreat centre, as well as the dwelling place of the resident Augustinians.
The building was a development from the original Priory that was destroyed and demolished in the Reformation era. The building that stands is referred to as the Prior's house, as guests (and possibly the Augustinian Prior himself) stayed there.
Today the building is entered through a massive fourteenth century door, and its magnificent ceiling is probably late fifteenth century.
Between the Priory dining-room and its kitchen is a small lobby with a vaulted floor; its windows have some of the original glass and there is a part of the fourteenth-century stairway leading to the upper rooms.
Upstairs is a finely panelled room and on the carving is the date, 1604, and the initials of Thomas Barnardiston, who died in 1618. (For further details, the web page of the Priory is mentioned on the next page.)
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