Record Details

NHER Number:51707
Type of record:Building
Name:Nunnery Chapel: Conventual church of Benedictine nunnery of St George

Summary

This was the conventual church of the Benedictine nunnery of St George (NHER 5892) which was founded in the 11th century and re-founded around 1160. Following the Dissolution, the church was converted into a house and in the 18th century it served as a barn to Place Farm. By 1991 it had been altered once again to serve as a library and offices. The surviving structure is made of flint and clunch with ashlar dressings and now has gabled slate roofs. The nave, south transept and part of chancel remain but 20th century lean-to extensions have been added to the north and south. Several late 16th century limestone casement windows remain in the south transept, and a similar window has been masked by the southern extension. The south wall of the transept retains portions of a 12th century pilaster and fragments of the former barrel vault. The transept arch has been preserved in the interior and various other window embrasures and later barn door jambs survive embedded in the walling.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TL 87309 82301
Map Sheet:TL88SE
Parish:THETFORD, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

Nunnery Barn. Listed 1951, grade I.
Formerly known as: Remains of St George's Nunnery in grounds of Nunnery Place House. Conventual church of Benedictine nunnery of St George. C11, re-founded c1160. Turned into a house C16 and a barn to Place Farm C18. Library and offices 1991. Flint and clunch with ashlar dressings. Now with slate roofs. Nave, south transept and part of chancel remain. C20 lean-to extensions north and south, the latter masking 3 late C16 limestone 3-light cross casements with hoods on lozenge label stops. South transept with 2 similar but mutilated windows. South wall of transept with remains of C12 pilaster and fragments of former slype barrel vault. Various other window embrasures and later barn door jambs survive embedded in the walling. Gabled roofs.
INTERIOR: wide double-chamfered transept arch on compound piers and with scalloped capitals. C20 roof. C20 glazing closes east and west walls.
Information from (S1).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 28 August 2008.

September 1985. Site Visit.
Structural remains on the site were examined by A. Rogerson during a brief site visit. Two blocked arches which may date to the 13th century were noted in the south wall of the chapel (NHER 51707). The ground floor features small, possibly 15th century, straight headed windows with a clerestory above, suggesting that the chapel did not have aisles. The base of possible crossing piers was also identified.
SEE NHER 5892 FOR FURTHER DETAILS.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 31 October 2008.

1987. Revised Listing by S. Heywood.
Nunnery Barn. This was the former church of the Nunnery. Twelfth century and later, converted to a dwelling in the 16th century and to a barn in the 19th. Flint, clunch and ashlar. The south side nave has three 16th century windows, and the south transept has two similar west windows, and a 12th century pilaster and barrel vault to the slype. The north side nave has a 14th century archway, perhaps to a chapel. There are remains of 12th century crossing piers. Grade I.
Extracted from Listing by E. Rose (NAU), 7 April 1987.

February 1988. Casual observation.
A member of the public [1] observed two wall footings within a British Telecom trench located approximately 30 feet from the west end of the Nunnery Chapel (known as the Nunnery Barn). The footing were 18 to 24 inches thick and at least three feet deep, constructed of stone, flint, chalk and mortar. This suggests that the walls are a continuation of or an attachment to the chapel.
SEE NHER 5892 FOR FURTHER DETAILS.
See (S3) and note in secondary file for NHER 5892 further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 31 October 2008.

October 1988. Building Survey.
A detailed survey of the fabric of the standing buildings within the Nunnery grounds was carried out.
See note in secondary file for NHER 5892 (with references to S11) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 05 November 2008.

November 1988 - January 1989. Excavation.
A small trench was excavated adjacent to the southwest crossing pier of the Nunnery Chapel (now a barn) in order to expose the base of the crossing pier and allow it to be displayed following conversion of the building for the British Trust for Ornithology.
The lower edge of the crossing pier was marked by a mortar apron and rested on natural sand. This was overlain by levelling material and a layer of compacted crushed mortar which was likely the original chapel floor. To the east of the pier, this was overlain by a medieval tiled floor predominantly composed of worn Flemish green and 'yellow' glazed tile. This medieval floor extended beyond the excavated area to the south and east, but had clearly been robbed to the north where several bricks, tiles of English manufacture, and a flat-topped piece of limestone had been incorporated into the floor and several large Flemish tile fragments appeared to have been re-set. To the west of the pier, a small area of another floor consisting of a tile and a brick set on mortar was identified. This was at the same level as the tiled floor and both were likely constructed in the 14th or 15th century. At some time during the use of this floor, the church was burnt. The burning of the ashlar surface of the pier was found to stop abruptly at the level of the floor. However no ash or charcoal deposits were found on the floor, indicating that it was likely cleaned before a clay layer was deposited, forming another floor. Within the south transept, post medieval bricks and tiles and several substantial flat-topped pieces of limestone were set into this clay floor. This in turn was overlain by a further chalky clay floor and a bituminous floor, a brick floor, and the modern concrete floor.
See note in secondary file for NHER 5892, (S4) and (S5) for further details.
See (S6) for further details of building conversions (in file for NHER 5892).
See also press cuttings (S7-S10) for details of conversion in file for NHER 5892.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 31 October 2008.

January 1989. Building Recording.
The walls of the Nunnery chapel (now known as Nunnery Barn) were stripped down prior to conversion for use by the British Trust for Ornithology and recorded in detail.
See (S4) as well as preliminary description by E. Rose and plans in file for NHER 5892.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 03 November 2008.

April 1989. Site Visit.
Further inspection of the chapel (NHER 51707) confirmed that all the ground floor domestic windows in the south wall of the barn are false, but those in a similar position in the south transept west wall were originally open.
The brick stack inserted in the window in the transept east wall has a blocked upper fireplace.
SEE NHER 5892 FOR FURTHER DETAILS.
E. Rose (NAU), 20 April 1989.

February 1991. Field observation.
Excavation of a gas pipe trench west of the Nunnery Barn (former chapel) revealed the same features observed in 1988 (see above). These were again identified as brick and chalk footings including some dressed stone. The remains were observed by Oliver Bone of the Thetford Museum.
SEE NHER 5892 FOR FURTHER DETAILS.
See sketch plan in file for NHER 5892.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 03 November 2008.

January 1994. Site visit.
The buildings are now the headquarters of the British Ornithological Trust. The house (NHER 51708) has been converted to offices and a link portico made to the former church (NHER 51707). The south transept now has an upper floor - the lower east fireplace is still exposed, the upper one covered. The base of the spiral stairs is open, but the top covered. All the walls are rendered internally. The brick and tile pavement excavated at the southwest crossing pier has been conserved and left open. The crossing arch is open, and the north crossing arch exposed. The west half of the church was not accessible. The roof has been retained.
SEE NHER 5892 FOR FURTHER DETAILS.
E. Rose (NLA), 27 January 1994.

Monument Types

  • CHURCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HOUSE (16th Century to 17th Century - 1540 AD to 1700 AD?)
  • BARN (17th Century to Late 20th Century - 1700 AD to 1991 AD?)
  • LIBRARY (Late 20th Century to 21st Century - 1991 AD? to 2100 AD)
  • OFFICE (Late 20th Century to 21st Century - 1991 AD? to 2100 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, W. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 709-710.
<S1>Designation: English Heritage. National Heritage List for England.
<S2>Illustration: Various. Various. Architectural plans.
<S3>Correspondence: Percy, G.. 1988. Letter regarding Planning Applications nos. 3/87/1672 and 3/88/0110. The Nunnery, Thetford.. 25 February.
<S4>Article in Serial: Andrews, P. 1993. St. George's Nunnery, Thetford. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLI Pt IV pp 427-440.
<S5>Photograph: EQL 7-10, EQT 1-20.
<S6>Illustration: Various. Various. Architectural plans.
<S7>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1986. £ 1/4m slice of history. 31 January.
<S8>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1986. Nursing Home. 24 December.
<S9>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1987. Homes for land deal offered. 31 October.
<S10>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1991. Award for 'stunning' nunnery redesign. 19 November.
<S11>Illustration: Wilkinson. 1822. Illustrations of Thetford.

Related records

5892Part of: St George's Nunnery (Monument)
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