Prittlewell Priory was founded by the Cluniac Order in the early 12th century as a cell to the Priory of St Pancras at Lewes, Sussex.
It was one of the lesser monasteries housing not more than 18 monks. In 1536 much of the building was destroyed and what remained was much altered during the 18th Century. Alterations were made again in the early 20th Century, when the Refectory was restored and partly rebuilt. A number of original features do survive, including a 12th Century doorway with chevron and dog tooth ornamentation.
After the Dissolution the Priory was a private residence and it was granted to Lord Chancellor Audley, who conveyed it to Robert, son of Lord Rich. It afterwards passed with the manor to various families. The last family to live there, the 19th Century Scrattons, are explored in an exhibition inside the house. In 1917 the building was purchased by Robert Jones, and in May 1922 it opened as Southend's first museum.
In 2011 works began on refurbishing the existing buildings and the construction of a new Visitor Centre. The £2 million works were in part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Cory Environmental Trust in Southend and were undertaken by The Facility Architects and Ibex Interiors. Works were completed in the summer of 2012 and the Priory re-opened in the June of that year. The new Visitor Centre, adjacent to the Priory, opened in February 2013.