Record Details

NHER Number:2029
Type of record:Monument
Name:St Mary's Priory, Walsingham


This Augustinian priory was founded in the 12th century but there has been a chapel on the site since the 11th century. The site became an important pilgrimage centre. Existing remains include fragments of 13th to 15th century buildings including the chancel, refectory, precinct walls and gates. There are also two Holy wells east of the abbey (NHER 56856). Parts of these remains were revealed after excavations in 1961. After the dissolution of the priory in 1538 some of the ruins were built into a new mansion (Abbey House) that was built on the site. A landscaped park was built around the house and ruins in the 19th century. A medieval pottery sherd was recovered as a stray find in 2010.


  • Excavation of a skeleton at St Mary's Augustinian Priory, Walsingham.  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service
  • The surviving part of St Mary's Augustinian priory church, Walsingham.  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service
  • Excavation at St Mary's Augustinian Priory, Walsingham.  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service


Grid Reference:TF 935 367
Map Sheet:TF93NW

Full description

This is the site of an 11th/12th century Augustinian priory with 'Holy House' attached.

The chapel or Holy House was said to have been constructed in 1061 or 1100 by Richelde of Fervaques following a vision of the Virgin Mary. The Chapel was said to have been modelled on the house in Nazerath where the Annunciation took place; it was replaced in the the mid 13th century by a larger chapel. The Augustinian Priory was begun sometime after 1153 and funded by Richelde's son Geoffrey; it was set next to the chapel and became one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in England. The priory became properous in the middle ages and was patronised by the Royal family. The refectory appears to have been built in the 13th century and the undercroft in the 14th century. A large new priory church with a gatehouse and prior's hall was built in the 14th-15th centuries.

This prosperity came to an end with the dissolution of the monasteries and the priory had been dismantled by 1539. It was gifted to Thomas Sidney who appears to have sold much of the fittings and stonework. Evidence from excavations on the site indicate the Holy House was destroyed by burning.

The priory came into ownership of the Lee Warner family in the 17th century and it was they who built Abbey House (NHER 56858) around the ruins and transformed the estate. The arch forming the eastern end of the church has been the focus of the Abbey House gardens (NHER 56859) since the 18th century. The area is currently maintained as garden and was recorded as being in good condition in 2008 although some vegetation was growing in the masonry and birds roosting in the towers.
Information from (S7).

(S8) suggests the refectory was built c 1300. The west window is almost intact, including tracery.
The undercroft is said to be 14th century although its purpose is unknown.
K. Powell (HES), 20 March 2012.

For scheduled monument information see (S10)
For illustrations see (S11) to (S16).
For map see (S17).
For slides and photographs see (S18) to (S19).
For aerial photographs see (S20) to (S21).
For press articles see (S22) to (S32).
For articles and other published works see (S33) to (S40).

Abbey House NHER 56858
Abbey park NHER 56859
Wishing Wells NHER 56856
The Knights gate NHER 56857
Pack Horse Bridge NHER 56860
South Gates NHER 56861
Stiffkey Bridge NHER 56862
Bridge and Lodge Remains NHER56863
Former Lake NHER 56864
Location of former fishpond NHER56865
South East piers and gate NHER 56867
The Gatehouse NHER 56877
The Walled Garden NHER 56878
Boundary Wall Holt Road NHER 56879
Boundary Wall Church Street NHER 56880

Pre 1740. Dug up among the ruins of the priory.
Pilgrim badge found.
See (S1).

1853. Excavations.
Excavated by Lee Warner and Harrod.

July 1955. Sewer trench dug. Across east end of Priory church.
Cut through rubble walls and floors and revealed human burials. Wood piles were found each side of the precinct wall. Late Saxon pottery.
R. R. Clarke (NCM), 15 July 1955.

1961. Excavation.
Exposed a late 14th century structure foundations tallying with the measurements of the Holy House as given by William of Worcester 1479. Below and around the chapel were earlier coffins and human remains provisionally dated to AD 650 to 800, many have been disturbed by early post-holes and the building. A fragment of Samian ware, animal bones and Early Saxon sherds were also recovered.
See (S43) for published report.
See (S2), (S3), (S41) and (S42) for preliminary excavation reports, notes, and photographs.
See (S9) and (S44) for short summaries.

30 April 1980. Visit.
Fragments of 13th/15th century buildings remain including chancel, refectory, undercroft, also reset Norman arches. Precinct walls, gates, packhorse bridge (perhaps rebuilt). Holy Wells. Post Dissolution mansion, all now set in landscaped park (Full description in file).
E. Rose (NAU), 30 April 1980.

29 April 1981.
Gatehouse now restored and repaired.
E. Rose (NAU), 29 April 1981.

July 1981. Inside the Abbey House.
Medieval masonry including a door and original roof timbers with painted beams. These must be part of a monastic building encased within the more recent house. Foundations of a medieval precinct wall running southeast from medieval foundations of Knight's gate towards the bridge suggest the bridge is really the base of the wall carried over the river on arches.
Information from J. Denny (North Norfolk District Council).

23 September 1981. Visit. Outbuildings.
19th century brick and flint with no traces of Dissolution mansion, but see NHER 17566 for possible traces of this.

26 March 1982.
[1] notes that against north side gatehouse is a stone gable mark showing that this house must at one time have had a higher roof than its present thatched one.

(S4) illustrates two seals belonging to the priory one showing the central tower of the priory.
R. Rickett (NAU).

[2] states that the bridge is not on the line of either the precinct wall or the original road line. He believes the bridge was moved north when a large lake (now infilled) was made in the park in the 19th century.
E. Rose (NAU), 6 December 1993.

5 July 1994. NLA air photography.
General oblique view of Little Walsingham Priory in shot, with service in progress.
M. Brennand (NLA), 12 February 2001.

[2] also reports the J. Denny (north Norfolk District Council) has discovered monastic domestic office foundations to the south of the present mansion.
E. Rose (NAU), 5 October 1994.

Summer 1996.
[3] reported that an apsidal cropmark appeared on the site of the chapter house.
E. Rose (NLA), 30 August 1996.

April 1997.
Fragments of medieval floor tiles have been cemented around the base of the piers of the undercroft.
E. Rose (NLA), 1 April, 1997.

The area has been extended to include the whole of the park of the mansion, which is a good example of an 18th to 19th century landscape park. This includes Highgrove House and park (NHER 15508), an icehouse (NHER 2059) and a bridge formed of reused medieval masonry.
E. Rose (NLA), 7 April 1997.

(S5) states that two candlesticks from the priory were given to the Holy House at St Mary's Roman Catholic church, King's Lynn in 1897. It may mean two candlesticks from Abbey House.
Information from [4].
E. Rose (NLA), 16 May 1997.

26 August 1997. NLA air photography.
Remains of St Mary's Priory, Abbey House and park all visible.
H. Clare (NLA), 29 Mar 2001.

The 19th century outbuilding at the rear of the Bull Inn along the road to Knight's Gate incorporates a stretch of precinct wall. See NHER 16063.
E. Rose (NLA), 22 October 1997.

1998. North of site of church.
Late Saxon/early medieval sherd found.
Identified by W. Milligan (NCM), August 1998.
K. Sussams (NLA).

August 2007.
During groundworks at this site a section of wall was unearthed. Black deposits were visible on both sides of the chalk lump wall.
See (S6) for further information.
A. Cattermole (NLA), 18 May 2009.

Before 29 October 2010. Stray surface find.
Medieval pot sherd.
See description in file.
A. Rogerson (HES), 16 March 2011.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Unknown date)
  • FINDSPOT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Saxon - 410 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FLOOR (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GATEHOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PRIORY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PRIORY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WALL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Undated)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • COFFIN (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FLOOR TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PILGRIM BADGE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SEAL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building
  • Scheduled Monument

Sources and further reading

---Unpublished Document: Jones, D. 1987. The Pilgrimage to Walsingham. Norfolk Museums Service Information Sheet.
---Article in Serial: Warner, J. L. 1856. Walsingham Priory - a Memoir read at the Meeting of the Archaeological Institute in Cambridge June 1854: with an account of recent discoveries. The Archaeological Journal. Vol XIII pp 115-133.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 93 NW 7 [11].
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1997. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 590, 593.
---Article in Serial: Hart, R. 1864. The Shrines and Pilgrimages of the County of Norfolk. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol VI pp 277-294. 285-294.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2011. It's 1061 and all that again in Walsingham. 30 May.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2011. Fight corner for the most vulnerable, pilgrims urged. 31 May.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Roman. Walsingham (Little).
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Early Saxon. Walsingham (North).
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Late Saxon. Walsingham.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Walsingham (Little) [3].
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Publication: Knowles, D. and Hadcock, R. N. 1953. Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales. p 157.
---Article in Serial: Green, C. and Whittingham, A. B. 1968. Excavations at Walsingham Priory, Norfolk, 1961. The Archaeological Journal. Vol CXXV pp 255-290. pp 255-290.
---Monograph: Longcroft, A.; Brown, S.J.; Brown, M.; Barr, D. and Hinton, I. (eds). 2015. Little Walsingham: A study of historic buildings in a medieval pilgrimage centre. Journal of the Norfolk Historic Buildings Group. Vol 6. pp 240-241.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
<S1>Documentary Source: Martin, T. c. 1700-1799. Collections of Church Notes. Norfolk Records Office. c. 1740.
<S2>Unpublished Document: Green C.. 1961. Excavations at Walsingham Priory 1961 Preliminary Report..
<S3>Photograph: Green, C.. 1961. Photographs of excavation of Walsingham Priory, 1961..
<S4>Monograph: 1901. The Victoria History of Norfolk. The Victoria History of the Counties of England. Vol 1.
<S5>Monograph: Baxter, D.. 1934. Walsingham: England's National Sanctuary of our Blessed Lady. Revised Edition..
<S6>Correspondence: Wells, J.. 2007. Letters from J.B. Wells.
<S7>Unpublished Contractor Report: Historic Landscape Management. 2008. Walsingham Abbey Grounds. Landscape Conservation Strategy. Historic Landscape Management.
<S8>Monograph: Baker, E.M.. 2011. Walsingham Abbey..
<S9>Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. and Hurst, D. G. 1964. Medieval Britain in 1961. Medieval Archaeology. Vol VI-VII (for 1962 and 1963) pp 306-349. p 316.
<S10>Designation: English Heritage. Scheduling Report.
<S11>Illustration: Badeslade. 1720. Badeslade's View of Walsingham.
<S12>Illustration: Unattributed. 1736. Abbey Garden.
<S13>Illustration: Buck, S. & N.. 1738. The East View of Walsingham Priory in the County of Norfolk.
<S14>Illustration: 1923. Northern portion of Walsingham and ground plan of the conventual buildings..
<S15>Illustration: Green, C.. 1961. Reprint from Walsingham Story. Walsingham Augustinian Priory..
<S16>Illustration: The Augustinian Priory of The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Little Walsingham. View from the North West..
<S17>Map: Unattributed. 1800-1845. Plans of Walsingham Abbey Grounds and Park.
<S18>Slide: Various. Slide.
<S19>Photograph: BPE 3A, 4A and 5A. Knight's Bridge, refectory and priory church remains..
<S20>Aerial Photograph: TF9336 F-G,M-N,Z,AU-AW,AY-ABF,ABH-ABK,ABP-ABY,ACA-ACN,ACT-ACY.
<S21>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1997. TF9336/ADA - ADG.
<S24>Newspaper Article: The Catholic Times. 1961. Excavations at Walsingham. 1 September.
<S25>Newspaper Article: The Times. 1961. Norman Chapel found at Walsingham. 24 August.
<S27>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1961-1962. [Articles on the archaeological work undertaken at St Mary's Priory, Walsingham in 1961].
<S29>Newspaper Article: Mid Norfolk Advertiser. 1987. [Photograph from St Mary's Priory, Walsingham]. 23 July.
<S30>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2009. Historic house is glorious setting for period drama. 19 November.
<S31>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2010. The second Norman invasion. 28 July.
<S32>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2010. On the trail of fascinating church history. 18 October.
<S34>Monograph: Harrod, H.. 1857. Gleanings among the Castles and Convents of Norfolk.
<S35>Publication: Mitchell and Hughes. 1901. The Life of John Warner, Bishop of Rochester. pp43-45.
<S36>Article in Serial: [Unknown]. [unknown]. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXXVII, p 203. p 357.
<S37>Article in Serial: Pettigrew, T. J. 1880. Walsingham Prory. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. First Series Vol XXXVI pp 129-136.
<S38>Article in Serial: Whittingham, A. 1980. Walsingham Priory. The Archaeological Journal. Vol 137 pp 330-331.
<S39>Monograph: Pevsner, N. 1962. North-East Norfolk and Norwich. The Buildings of England. 1st Edition. pp 187-188.
<S40>Article in Monograph: Coleman, S. and Elsner, J. 1999. Archaeology and Christian Sacred Space at Walsingham. BAR International Series 755. Case Studies in Archaeology and World Religion. Insoll, T. pp 128 - 138.
<S41>Unpublished Document: Green, C.. 1961. Walsingham Priory. Notes for Finds Report..
<S42>Illustration: Green, C.. 1961. Walsingham Priory. Interpreted Excavation Plan..
<S43>Article in Serial: Well, C. 1963. Excavations at Walsingham Priory, 1961. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 1 No 14 (for 1961 and 1962) p 4.
<S44>Article in Serial: 1963. Archaeological Discoveries in Norfolk, 1961. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 1 No 14 (for 1961 and 1962) pp 1-3. p 3.

Related records

56857Parent of: The Knights Gate, Walsingham Abbey (Monument)
56856Parent of: Walsingham Abbey Wishing Wells (Monument)
56877Parent of: Walsingham Priory Gatehouse (Building)

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