Binham Priory

castles, ruins and priories in north norfolk

During the 10th and 11th century period of the Norman Conquest, Norfolk formed part of the earldom of Harold I of England. Offering no active resistance to William the Conqueror, castles and churches were subsequently built. When Norwich became a prosperous port during this time, more than 20 castles were built in Norfolk. The castles and ruins you can see dotted around north Norfolk date back to the Norman times, and therefore play an important part in English history. Today, you can see the amazing stonework and get a real feel for what it must have been like to live in a medieval castle.

Castle Acre. Castle Acre near Swaffham is a planned Norman settlement comprising the castle, bailey gate, church, village and priory. The castle was founded after the Norman Conquest in the 1070s by William de Wavenne, who was awarded the land by William the Conqueror. Although there is not much built stone left, the earthworks are still very impressive and together with the priory and walled town of Castle Acre, comprises one of the best examples of Norman estate planning in the country.

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Baconsthorpe Castle. Visit the extensive ruins of Baconsthorpe Castle, a moated and fortified 15th century manor house, that are a testament to the rise and fall of a prominent Norfolk family, the Heydons. Over 200 years, successive generations of this ambitious family built, then enlarged, and finally abandoned this castle. Sir John Heydon probably built the strong inner gatehouse during the turbulent Wars of the Roses period, and his son Sir Henry completed the fortified house. In more peaceful times, their descendants converted part of the property into a textile factory, and then added the turreted Elizabethan outer gateway, inhabited until 1920.

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Creake Abbey. In a meadow of forty acres, a house of Austin Canons was founded in 1206, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, by Alice, widow of Sir Robert de Nerford, governor of Dover Castle. You can now see the remains of the abbey church dating from 13th century, including presbytery and north transept with chapels. Within the grounds you can find Creake Abbey Café Food Hall & Courtyard Shops, home to many Norfolk artisans.

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Walsingham Priory. Walsingham Priory was a monastery of Augustinian Canons seized by the crown at the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII. The priory is perhaps best known for housing a Marian shrine with a replica of the house of the Holy Family in Nazareth. Visitors can enjoy the tranquil atmosphere surrounding the Priory ruins, wildflower meadows, 18 acres of woodland carpeted with seasonal flowers, and quiet river walks alongside the Stiffkey. Walsingham Abbey Grounds and ruins are open throughout the year.

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Binham Priory. Binham Priory is among the most complete and impressive monastic ruins in Norfolk. This Benedictine priory was founded in 1091 by Peter des Valoines, a nephew of William the Conqueror. Many of its priors were unscrupulous and the history of the priory is one of almost continuous scandal. The nave of the priory church, with its splendid 13th century west front and fine tiers of Norman arches, is now the parish church, and displays the former rood screen with medieval saints overpainted with Protestant texts. The extensive ruins reveal the footprint of the original the monastery.

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Castle Rising. Castle Rising was built in 1140 by William D'Albini as a way of showing his increased importance after marrying Alice of Louvain, the widow of Henry I. The Keep is set in 12 acres of grounds, ideal for exploring and picnics, and has some of the largest ramparts in Britain, in some places, 120 feet from top to bottom. The beautifully preserved village of Castle Rising features a fine Norman church and an important 17th century Almshouse.

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