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General Background Information

Home / The Country House Hotel by the Sea / Hotel History / General Background Information
The house itself, once described by Queen Victoria as “The Gross Nash little cottage by the sea”, has all the charm and atmosphere of a building which has had lavished upon it the care of succeeding owners from the days when it was the monastery’s farmhouse. Added to room by room, wing by wing, it is now a fine mansion suitably sited amongst the magnolia trees and flowerbeds with fine lawns sweeping towards the sea.

The house itself inherits the name from St Helen’s Priory, which is believed to have been in a field behind the cottages. No remains exist of these original buildings. St Helen’s Priory became a cell for a Norman Abbey of the Cluniac Order in Burgundy, which was introduced into England soon after the Norman Conquest. The monks were granted extensive land in this part of the Isle of Wight, and built a Priory (owned by the Bishop of Portsmouth) a Church and a Farm.

The Farmhouse was constructed during Tudor times and now forms part of the main hotel (Rooms 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20). The large Tithe Barn (which sadly burned down) and the two Tithe Cottages (41 and 42) were previously outbuildings and were part of the original farm. Recently restored, the Tithe Cottage building has a magnificent hidden internal roof structure that indicates it was probably 11th century. While it cannot be claimed that every building dates back to the Norman Conquest (the modern cottages on the east end of the hotel were built in the 1980s), most of them are hundreds of years old and their foundations and farming traditions are around a thousand years old.