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Castle Acre Priory

Visited June 2017

Location Castle Acre, Norfolk
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby No 
Parking Yes
Facilities Gift Shop,Toilets



Founded by the de Warren family in 1080, the priory was built close to the family stronghold of Castle Acre Castle






The Cluniac monastry would have been a symbol of the wealth of the family, and a way of showing religious devotion which would help in the after-life. The priory grew in both number of monks and wealth in the next few generations, in fact the final financial gift to the priory was made in 1315 by the de Warren family.  


Like all the other holy houses in England, Castle Acre Priory was closed during Henry VIII's reign, and the site of the priory and castle was given to Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. The buildings were partially demolished and the stones plundered for new builds in the nearby area. From the 17th century onwards the priory site was used for farming and grazing of animals.  


By the 1850's the then owners had done some repairs and started to remove the animal pens. This coincided with the railway arriving at King's Lynn and bringing visitors to  the area. The priory's role as a tourist attraction had begun.





Luckily for us, there is a lot still standing at the abbey today for modern day tourists to enjoy. The impressive west front of the priory church is one of the best preserved Norman facades in the country. The intricate decoration of multiple arches is typical of the Cluniac order.


The prior's lodgings right next to the west front are still complete and the rooms upstairs show the degree of comfort available to the prior. Large fireplaces and beautiful leaded windows, along with decorated ceilings would have made for a pretty luxurious lifestyle. 





There are also the remains of the latrine block, which was two storeys high and discharged the waste out into the stream below. This is similar to the one found at Muchelney Abbey in Somerset. So perhaps it was standard issue monastic plumbing!


There is plenty of space around the priory to take a walk after your visit. There are picnic tables at the site, but on the day we were there a huge group of teenagers were there playing football across the picnic area using the tables as goal posts. This made it a tad difficult for anyone else wanting to use the tables for the purpose of picnicking.The staff were aware but seemed reluctant to ask them to move, so it appears that ball games are allowed on site. We had a picnic in the adjoining field in the end which was actually very pleasant.


The site has a  gift shop which also sells hot drinks and snacks, but no actual cafe. Castle Acre village has several places to eat in though. The toilets are right at the entrance to the site, you drive past them to get to the car park, so you have to walk back through the gatehouse towards the exit in order to find them. 





More info:  English Heritage Castle Acre Priory

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