Binham Priory Church & Monastic Precinct, North Norfolk

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About

Binham Priory was founded in 1091 and was home to a Benedictine community of monks for over 400 years. Its history is one of almost continuous scandal. Many of its priors proved to be unscrupulous and irresponsible, and by the time of the priory’s suppression in 1539 the community had been reduced to just six monks. The nave of the priory church, with its striking 13th-century west front, remains in use as the local parish church.

The Priory was founded by the Norman baron Peter des Valoines, on land given by Peter’s uncle, William the Conqueror (r.1066–87). The construction of the church spanned close to 150 years, starting in the 1090s. The Priory was built of mortared flint rubble, with dressings of Barnack limestone brought from Northamptonshire. The buildings were adapted and extended throughout the medieval period. Prior Richard de Parco (1227–44), one of Binham’s more diligent priors, was probably responsible for beginning the magnificent west front of the church.

The monastery was closed in 1539 as part of the Suppression of the Monasteries under Henry VIII (r.1509–47). The priory was given to Sir Thomas Paston, a local man and an important royal servant, who dismantled most of the buildings in order to build a new house at Wells. Stone from the priory was sold and reused in many local houses, particularly around doors and windows. Thomas Paston’s grandson, Edward, began to carry out further demolition works, with the intention of building a new house on the site. These plans were brought to an abrupt end when a workman was killed by falling masonry. This was considered a bad omen, and the project was abandoned.

The seven western bays of the nave were later sealed off from the rest and continued in use as Binham’s parish church, which with the support of the local community has survived to the present day. The remains of the monastic buildings are extensive. They were arranged around the central cloister, a garden court that was enclosed on all four sides by covered walkways. These gave access to the principal rooms used by the monks in their daily life, including the chapter house (where they met daily to discuss business) and refectory or dining hall.

Binham Priory is one of the few monastic foundations in Norfolk where the precinct surrounding the priory buildings remains essentially intact, including part of its boundary wall. The ruins of the gatehouse, dating mostly from the 15th century, still serve as the main entrance to the site.

South of the cloister are the earthwork remains of the priory’s surviving agricultural buildings, including what was probably a large barn or granary. The outer court may have contained other buildings such as storehouses and workshops. Beyond these earthworks, bordering the stream, is the site of the priory’s mill and fishponds. The monks’ cemetery lay beyond the east end of the church.

Guide Prices

Donations for the maintenance of the Priory are sought from all visitors.

Facilities

Accessibility

  • Disabled access
  • Disabled toilets
  • Facilities for hearing impaired

Catering

  • Picnic site

Children

  • Baby changing facilities
  • Children welcome

Groups

  • Facilities for educational visits
  • Facilities for groups
  • Guided tours for groups

Property Facilities

  • Dogs Accepted
  • Gift shop
  • Guided tours for individuals
  • Public toilets
  • Smoking not allowed

Site Features

  • English Heritage Property

Target Markets

  • Accepts groups
  • Coach parties accepted

Map & Directions

Road Directions

By Road:
Binham Priory is in North Norfolk. It is situated five miles south east of Wells next the Sea, a turning off the B1105
Binham Priory is 5 miles SE of Wells next the Sea in NW Norfolk. A turning off B1105 (between Wells and Little Walsingham), to Warham and Binham.  ​​​​​There is a small car park accessed through the priory gatehouse. Please be aware that this entrance is narrow.

From the car park enter the gate to the Priory Church of St Mary and the Holy Cross. There is a path to the ruins on the right and up three steps onto a gravel path. For step-free access, stay on the path towards the church and go through the archway on the right of the west front of the church and this leads straight into the ruins. Once within the ruins, there are some gravel paths but most access is across closely mown grass. It is mainly flat but can be a little uneven and may be slippery in wet weather.

Public Transport Directions

By train:

The nearest railway station is Sheringham, which is 13 miles away.

Binham Priory Church & Monastic Precinct

Type:Religious Site

Binham Priory Church & Monastic Precinct, Westgate Road, Binham, Fakenham, Norfolk, NR21 0DQ

Tel: 01328 830362

Opening Times

* Binham Priory is open every day of the year. The monastic ruins are open any reasonable time during daylight hours. The adjacent Priory Church of St Mary and the Holy Cross is open daily from 10am to 5pm during summer and from 10am to 4pm during winter.


Regular services are held every Sunday morning and Tuesday evening to which visitors are welcome.
Wedding and funeral services are also held throughout the year.

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