PLB : PLB helps deliver one of the countrys greenest museums- Creative design and consultancy for cultural and natural heritage

PLB helps deliver one of the countrys greenest museums

A former monastery and Grade 1 Listed Building, which has undergone a number of transformations over its 900-year history, has been restored and refurbished as one of the country’s greenest museums.

Prittlewell Priory in Southend-on-Sea has a fascinating history spanning nine centuries. Originally built as a medieval monastery for the Cluniac monks in the 12th Century, it was converted into a private house following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1500s. The house was bought by a local businessman in 1918, gifted to the people of Southend-on-Sea and opened as a museum in 1922.


Prittlewell Priory


The museum is managed by Southend Borough Council, who instructed heritage design consultancy, PLB, to develop an interpretation plan for the site in support of a Heritage Lottery Fund bid to fund its restoration.

The bid was successful, and has enabled the Grade 1 Listed Building to be restored and a brand new visitor centre to be built, alongside displays telling the story of the Priory’s history and those of the people connected with it.

PLB creative director Jamie McCall says: “Southend Borough Council’s commitment to sustainability was the key project driver. The local authority works to a strict ‘green’ agenda across all areas of its operations, and the team decided from day one that its core principles of ‘preserve, conserve and protect’ would sit at the heart of the Prittlewell Priory restoration.”

Southend Borough Council group manager for culture improvement and development, Peter Vadden, says the council appointed PLB and The Facility Architects on the basis of their ‘green’ credentials to help provide a sustainable solution:

“PLB’s ‘greener design’ initiative sets out a series of project criteria linked back to museums’ individual sustainability principles. Project designs are regularly assessed against the overall vision and against a range of criteria including materials, travel and transportation, running costs and energy efficiency, durability and flexibility, reuse and recycling.

“The Facility Architects specialise in retrofitting design solutions and technologies to existing building stock. Both organisations demonstrated exactly the vision and environmental credentials we were looking for to deliver this project.”

The result is a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rated project, combining a new visitor centre alongside the refurbished and restored Priory building.


Prittlewell Priory


The visitor centre, which houses an education room, shop and facilities, incorporates a range of sustainable technologies that allow it to act as a ‘battery pack’ for the Grade 1 Listed Building, and materials used in the project include timbers from local managed woodland, which is likely to have been the source for much of the original priory building.

The new interactive displays in the main building take visitors back in time to learn about the different communities who have lived at the Priory and read clues to the past in the remaining building, landscape and objects interpreted to bring the different eras to life.

Says Peter: “The Priory is a significant resource for the people of Southend-on-Sea, many of whose family history is inextricably linked with the building in one of its many guises. This restoration project has focused on sustainable building, drawing on both materials and labour from the local area, and takes our museum service to a new level.

“Our aim was to create the ‘greenest’ solution possible, and we’re confident that this is one of - if not the - country’s greenest museum.”

Its aim to be amongst the country’s greenest museums has been recognised by the prestigious Green Apple Awards, having received Silver in the building conservation category.

Posted 10th December 2012

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