Wedding venue among new owner's plans for historic priory

Robert Haslam has a vision he hopes will improve Great Yarmouth's reputation - starting with the rescue of historic buildings

The new owner of Great Yarmouth's Priory Rob Haslam is planning a range of uses for the Grade 1 listed building as well as a community cafe in the vicarage next door. - Credit: Arnolds Keys/Rob Haslam

A 900-year-old landmark building has been bought by an Essex-based businessman who remains a champion of the town he was "lucky" to grow up in.

Rob Haslam, an architect and strategic business consultant, is the  new owner of the 12th century former Priory Centre in Great Yarmouth - and the vicarage next door - after the collapse of the Community Trust at the end of 2019.

Robert Haslam is the owner of Great Yarmouth's 12th century priory.

Great Yarmouth Priory has been sold to Robert Haslam, a champion of Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Arnolds Keys

Mr Haslam said the purchase was part of his desire to give something back to the town where he spent his formative years.

The building was put on the market for £150,000 by property agents Arnolds Keys in September, last year.

Rob Haslam has bought Great Yarmouth Priory.

Rob Haslam, who hails from Great Yarmouth but is now based in Essex, is the new owner of Great Yarmouth's historic priory and the vicarage next door. - Credit: Rob Haslam

Mr Haslam is planning to offer the Priory’s 2,500 sq ft Great Hall for wedding receptions and other community events, with office space in the building being made available for local start-up crafts and artisan businesses. 

He is also looking to open a community café in the vicarage next door.

“I was so lucky growing up in Yarmouth,” he said. “I don’t think I realised until much later just how much I gained from my time in the town.

“There has been a lot of bad press about Yarmouth, and it’s so wrong. 

"My aim is to make Great Yarmouth the most sought-after seaside resort in the UK, within five years. 

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"And a part of that is getting these historic old buildings back into use for the town.”

Mr Haslam left the town to study architecture in London.

The priory in the heart of Great Yarmouth

The Priory in Great Yarmouth is set to host weddings under a plan by its new owner Robert Haslam to secure its future and ensure it remains accessible to the public. - Credit: Arnolds Keys

He has since built up a successful business based in Essex, which has worked with the BBC, Legoland Windsor, Tesco and TUI.

Guy Gowing, managing partner at Arnolds Keys, said: “We are delighted that this landmark historic building right in the centre of Great Yarmouth has been successfully sold, to someone who will ensure the building continues to play a useful role in the public life of the town,” said 

Founded as a Benedictine priory in 1101, Great Yarmouth Priory was enlarged in 1260 and the hall was rebuilt in 1300. 

It was home to 15 monks until it was dissolved in 1539, and played host to King Richard II in 1382. 

It was significantly refurbished in 1978, and again at the turn of the millennium, and has been at the heart of the community for generations.