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Line drawing of the Priory, Caerleon 1838
Above, line drawing of the Priory from the sales particulars 1838.

In 1838 Thomas Hooper gave notice that he was to sell the Priory and move to Hardington Park. A sale notice reappeared weekly in The Merlin from the 16th of June until the 7th of July. Besides the Priory itself, the sale also included several plots of land, a boat-house and a yacht.

The sales particulars included phrases such as "beggars all description" and advised that opportunities to purchase such properties occurred "but once in a century."

The property was to be sold by auction at the (Kings Head?) Hotel, Newport on Saturday August 18th and interested parties were advised: "no person shall advance less than twenty guineas at each bidding."

Mr. George Robins, the auctioneer, had nothing to learn from today's estate agents. In the notices which appeared in the Merlin he stated:

"The Caerleon Priory may be traced, from Historical Records, as far back as the sixth century; there are still remaining outward and visible signs which indicate that the town was erected on the site of A Great Roman City - King Arthur's Round Table in the meadow upon the verdant lawns - skirting the lawn of the Abbey. - There are two approaches, the one through the Gothic Gates at the Lodge, the other passing through the Tranquil winding Cloisters. - The windows below are of ancient painted glass, shedding the 'Dim religious light' and are finely contrasted with the gay and lightsome appearance of those above. The bed-chambers are numerous and all the offices seem to harmonise well. The wavy and shaded walks which encircle this Elysium are enriched by shrubs and flowers-they are nothing in extent, but everything in grace and beauty."

But on the 21st of July the following notice appeared in the Merlin:

"Many of our readers will be glad to hear that the sale of the Priory and of the other estates in the Neighbourhood of Caerleon, belonging to Thomas Hooper, Esquire, which were advertised - is deferred 'sine die'. Mr. Hooper, it seems, has considered that the attractions of Hardington Park (great as they unquestionably must be to a staunch and zealous sportsman) will not afford perpetual compensation for the loss of the comforts and enjoyments which centre in 'dear delightful home'... Of Mr. Hooper's second thoughts we highly approve."

However, in January 1839 Mr. Hooper eventually sold the property to Sir Digby Mackworth of Glen Usk. The Merlin praised Mr. Hooper for "His kindness as a landlord, and his candour and affability as a gentleman" and went on to say he "invited the whole of his tenantry to the Priory, in order that they might dine and take a parting glass together."

John Edward Lee moved into the Priory as a tenant. He had come to the area from Hull to take up a partnership in the Dos Works, Newport. Lee was very interested in archaeology and probably the first person to apply a systematic study to the antiquity of Caerleon. It was largely through his efforts that the Museum was established to exhibit Caerleon's Roman artefacts.

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