On our way home from our week in Norfolk we stopped off at the breath-taking village of Castle Acre. The other day I told you about our visit to the ruins of Castle Acre Castle which was the perfect place for my children to run off some energy. We also explored Castle Acre Bailey Gate, the Norman planned streets of Castle Acre village, as well as the ruins of Castle Acre Priory. There is so much to see and do in Castle Acre that it is well worth a visit.
Castle Acre Priory
Castle Acre Priory was a Cluniac priory, dedicated to St Mary, St Peter, and St Paul. It is thought to have been founded in 1089 by William de Warenne the son of the 1st Earl of Surrey (who had founded England’s first Cluniac priory at Lewes in 1077). Originally the priory was sited within the walls of Castle Acre Castle, but this was too small and inconvenient. About a year later the priory was relocated to the present site in the castle grounds. The priory was dissolved in 1537, and its ruins are in the care of English Heritage.
Castle Acre Priory covers a vast area of land and there is a lot to see and do. We picked up a free audio guide (included in the ticket price) and the children were given a Children’s Trail to follow. We headed through a small museum showing the history of the site alongside some of the items discovered, and into the Priory ruins. Sited alongside the river Nar it’s a really beautiful location. As well as the Priory you can explore the Prior’s lodging as well as the outlying buildings of the farm and estate.
The west front of the Priory is almost complete so you get a great sense of how imposing the Priory would have been. It reminded me of the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral in St Andrews, where I spent 5 happy years as a student. The children were happy to run around (again!), my son loved his first audio guide and kept repeating all the facts he was learning. The ruins are really extensive so you gain a great understanding of the Priory and how it worked. We especially loved the latrine block, the fish pool and spotting the carved grotesque faces on the west front. On a nice day it would have been a great place for a picnic.
Top reasons to visit Castle Acre Priory:
home of the first Cluniac order of monks to England
one of the largest and best preserved monastic sites in England
Cluniac love of decoration is everywhere
I would love to hear if you have you ever visited this part of the country before?