The owner of Reigate Priory in the 1890s, Lady Henry Somerset, travelled the world as president of the British Women's Temperance League which advocated abstinence from drink.

She met her counterpart in the American organisation, Florence Willard, and the two became friends, with Miss Willard coming to visit Lady Henry at the Priory.

the Priory was not neglected, because extensive alterations and improvements were made by Lady Henry, including the removal of the gates installed at the Bell Street entrance by previous owner, John Parsons, so none of her visitors or employees would have to pass the Castle public house!

Lady Henry ceased to be the owner when she gave her Reigate properties to her son shortly after his marriage.

She built a dower house adjacent to the west entrance to the Priory and in 1900 passed her Eastnor estate to her cousin.

Lady Henry had now established a colony at Duxhurst, just south of Reigate, that was dedicated to the rehabilitation of inebriate women and that was where she would spend much of the rest of her life.

Lady Henry's son, Henry Charles Somers Augustus Somerset, spent several years at the Priory with his wife and family.

He served in the Boer and 1914-18 wars but his marriage failed in 1919.

In this year he offered the Priory for sale but it remained unsold, although local resident Randall Vogan bought the Priory Park, that rising land to the south of the Priory grounds, and presented it to the council for the enjoyment of the public.

In 1921 Lady Somerset died and with it the driving force behind the Duxhurst Colony.

Her son decided to sell all of the family's Reigate holdings, which included many properties in the town as well as the Priory estate.

The Great Sale of Reigate transferred the deeds of many of the town's shops and businesses into the hands of those who had hitherto been renting them.

In 1922 the Great Sale culminated with the sale of the Priory to Earl Beatty. The era of the Somerset ownership was over.

The era of the Beatty family ownership will be the subject of the next article.

Article by Alan Moore, author of A History of Redhill Volumes 1 and 2. History website