St Benet's Abbey

Join in the 1000th Anniversary Celebrations at St Benet's Abbey

St Benet's Abbey, owned by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, is celebrating its 1,000th anniversary in June 2019 with a series of events being led by the Friends of St Benet's Abbey and supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Fund.

Exactly 1,000 years ago King Canute gave a reed-fringed islet alongside the river Bure, to a group of monks where they built St Benet's Abbey between Ludham and Ranworth, surrounded by water.

The Abbey became a holy place for many centuries and it became rich, accruing gifts of land and property. Edith Swan-neck, wife of the last Saxon King of England was a donor and one of the greatest benefactors was 15th century Norfolk knight Sir John Fastolf, of Caister Castle (and the inspiration for Shakespeare's Falstaff) who funded a grand new aisle and is buried there, alongside his wife.
St Benet's Abbey

Less than a century later, St Benet's Abbey became the only monastery in England to survive Henry VIII's destruction. He gave the Abbot of St Benet's the position of Bishop of Norwich, in return for land held by Norwich Cathedral. It meant the was never officially dissolved and the Bishop of Norwich is the Abbot of St Benet's to this day.

Over time the abbey was abandoned and most of the buildings demolished, with just the gatehouse remaining. Today, St Benet’s is still attracting pilgrims and visitors, who visit the wooden cross that marks the site of the medieval high altar. There is free entry to the Abbey which is open daily. Visitors can arrive by boat (free 24-hour moorings) or path from Ludham and Ludham Bridge.

St Benet's Abbey

A summer of events will celebrate the Abbey's 1,000th anniversary:
On Sunday 9 June, a community play ‘A Time to Gather Stones’ will begin on the staithe at St Benet's Green in Horning, and conclude against a backdrop of the ruins of the Abbey itself, with the audience travelling by boat between the two acts. Performances begin at 11am and 1.15pm and are £10, including the return trip on the Mississippi Riverboat. Entry is free for people arriving by bike or foot. The play will also be performed, for free in Ludham, Horning and Neatishead at 7pm on June 13, 14 and 15.


Magnificent monks woven from willow, will watch over St Benet's Abbey from mid July until mid August. The larger-than-life-size monks, created by Withy Arts with the help of local people will be on display at St Catherine's church, Ludham. Visitors are invited to try willow weaving with Withy Arts at the abbey on July 31 from 10am to 3pm.

The St Benedict Trail runs through Horning from July 6-14 and includes competitions for adults and children. Pick up forms from the church, Post Office, newsagent, pub and church. Flowers, art and a model of St Benet's Abbey are part of the 1,000th anniversary celebrations at Horning church from 10am-5pm from July 6-14. 

An open-air communion service for St Benedict's Day at the Abbey, will be led by the Prior of St Benet's on Thursday July 11 at 6pm.

A free guided tour of the Abbey will take place every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 3pm until September 29 (excluding June 9 and August 4.)