Norfolk Mini-Series: Castle Acre Priory

This is the 6th instalment of our Norfolk series.  If you’ve missed the last one, click here to read.   FYI.  This post will be heavy with pictures.   

I don’t know about you, but standing in front of a building thousands of years old is mind-boggling to me.  The fact that it still exists.  I keep thinking if I stand just in front of it and by sheer mind-power, could it take me back to the past? Well, that’s exactly what it felt like as we stood in front of Castle Acre Priory, which dates back all the way to 1090.

What happened in the year 1090 across the globe? According to Wikepedia:

In Africa, Béjaïa became the capital of the Hammadid dynasty in Algeria.  Apparently they ruled an area roughly corresponding to north-eastern modern Algeria around that time.

And in Europe, a third expedition of the Almoravid army is launched in al-Andalus designed to subdue the Taifa’s Kingdoms, Códoba, Seville, Grenada, Málaga, Almería and Ronda fall to the troops of Yusuf ibn Tashfin (leader of a Moroccan empire).

It was the Song dynasty then in Asia, where Chinese author writes the Can Shu (book of Sericulture), which describes a silk reeling machine that has the world’s oldest known mechanical belt-drive.

Closer to home, it was King William II who was then the ruler of England (1087-1100) and in 1089, a certain William de Warenne, son of the 1st Earl of Surrey who had founded England’s first Cluniac priory in Lewes in 1077, also founded another priory in the village of Castle Acre, Norfolk.  Apparently the order originated from Burgundy.  The priory was said to have started out as part of the Acre castle but the monks found it too small and that’s when they were moved to its current site.

Fast forward to 2017, a little Cornish Pixie roams the ruins of this majestic priory.

I’m not sure the monks approved, because as we explored further, the clouds became more ominous, as if warning us if we desecrated holy ground, they’d  unleash their fury on us.

She means no harm really.  She’s just a little country mouse who likes to climb and explore old ruins.

We later found out that little T actually just emerged and ran through a medieval toilet block.  This didn’t seem to bother her at all and found it “cool”.

T and I went up these ancient steps which led to the monk’s quarters.  The priory was home to 20-30 monks.

I told her to imagine that the floor was still there but she was more interested in exploring a part of the building that miraculously stood the test of time and was still standing as if the monks has just vacated the building.

T was impressed with the carved human faces found protruding in corners of the room.

The next room was obviously a chapel, and when I sat to have a little rest, I noticed the ceiling and marvelled at how intact they still were.

And as I zoomed in my lense, I discovered this:

There were faded painted red roses on the ceiling.  I called my husband and he was pleasantly surprised too.  Obviously, this was painted on the ceiling later on, during the War of the Roses around 1455-1487.  The House of Lancasters were the red rose and the House of York used the white rose as a symbol.  Does that mean then that the English Cluniacs were supporters of the Lancasters?  I don’t really know, but this little discovery of mine really pleased me.  I was amazed on how clear, although fading, how clear the painted roses were.

We decided to explore the grounds more before the rain fell.

As we walked around, I was pleased to see a small patch of poppies growing by the side of the fence.  I loved the sudden burst of colour amidst all the greyness and concrete.  It was just beautiful, even though it wasn’t a poppy field.

On our way back, I noticed something protruding in front of the building.  Again, I zoomed in and saw this small monk’s head.

This monk’s head I found a bit spooky though.  It just shows that when visiting these historical places, if you don’t look closer, you might just miss all these interesting details.  If you blink, you might just miss them!

Castle Priory is English Heritage.  If you’re in the area, this is definitely a must-see.  I find it really amazing how much of it is still standing.  We went to Tintern Abbey in Wales years ago, which was also magnificent, but I think this is more well-preserved than the Abbey, although I think Tintern is bigger, I could be wrong of course.

What’s the most preserved and oldest priory you’ve visited?

Country Kids

25 Comments

  1. Growing up in Norwich I have fond memories of school trips to Castle Acre. It’s good to see it’s still the same as I remember it lol

  2. Coombe Mill

    I’m really enjoying your insights in Norfolk as I know so little about the area. I did think the pictures looked strangely familiar as I stated to read the post. It all became clear when I reached the part about similar Priory locations. I’m very familiar with the one in Lewes as this is where my Mother in Law lives. I was reading the boards about it there when I last visited, I’ll have to check for any connection with Norfolk next time I go. I must say this one has so much detail, as you say you have to look for it or you miss it but some fascinating construction here.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids

    • Would love to visit the one in Lewes. This actually reminded me so much of Tintern Abbey in Wales 🙂

  3. We are lucky to have such wonmderful historical places in our world. Despite some being in ruin they are still beautiful. #CountryKids

  4. Castle Acre Priory looks like such an interesting place to explore. I love the real sense of history that you get from visiting places like these and it is quite mind boggling when you think of just how old they are and all the different periods of time that the priory has survived (albeit in ruins for part of it) through. I love how some areas are so well preserved and the little details like the painted roses. So fascinating. T looks like she had a wonderful time exploring too 🙂 #countrykids

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