Evening Echo
March 17, 2006

Put king in the priory

Robert Hallmann in
Priory Park
Right place - Robert Hallmann in Priory Park near the Camp Bling protest site Picture: ROBIN WOOSEY

Historian campaigns to keep relics at museum

A HISTORIAN is campaigning for a museum in Priory Park, Southend, to showcase the gold-encrusted remains of the Prittlewell Saxon king.

Robert Hallmann, of Hadleigh, believes the most appropriate place for a museum is at Prittlewell Priory inside the park with an underground viewing area showing a relica of the Saxon king's body and his treasures.

The priory was built in the early 12th century and is a short distance from the Saxon king's grave off Priory Crescent.

He said: "Priory Park seems to me to be a very good place for a museum.

"It is next to where the burial ground was found, and its buildings go back to about the same time as the Saxon king.

"There could in fact be a direct connection to the priory. Both sites date from when Christianity came to Essex.

"An underground viewing area showing the actual grave with replicas of the finds, and if the actual relics were exhibited in the park, I think it would be big enough to attract national or European funding."

However, council leader Anna Waite said the park would not be able to cope, and visitors should instead be encouraged into the town centre to spend their money there.

She said: "If we get it right, the numbers of people that would want to visit it could not be accommodated in Priory Park.

"We have been told it could be as popular as Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.

"If we are going to bring that number of people to the town, let's get them into the town, spending their money in our shops, restaurants and pubs.

"You need to milk the tourist pound as much as you can."

She added: "There has been a suggestion that if we have to rebuild the cliffs, a very small part could be used as a museum for the Saxon king. That is currently being explored, but no plans have come forward."

The rich heritage of the Saxon king's burial site, currently occupied by the anti-road Camp Bling protesters, is still coming to light as the Museum of London examines the relics.

More of the priory's history has been unveiled with a ground survey which has shown the probable locations of where its outbuildings were. Based on its findings, an artist's impression of what the buildings could have looked like has been produced.

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