Record Details

NHER Number:6349
Type of record:Monument
Name:Augustinian Priory of St Mary in the Meadow


St Mary's Priory was founded in 1216 by Margery de Cressy and was dissolved in 1536. The church and part of the cloisters are in ruins, whilst a monastic building survives having been converted into a house during the 16th to 19th centuries. Two fishponds remain and may once have been larger. The priory ruins are visible on aerial photographs, as are a medieval barn that was demolished in 1981 and earthworks that were probably associated with the priory. The earthworks include a possible hollow way, banks, ditches and ridge and furrow.


  • St Mary's Augustinian Priory, Beeston Regis.  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service


Grid Reference:TG 167 427
Map Sheet:TG14SE

Full description

1216 to 1536. Founded by Margery de Cressy.
Large remains of church with 13th century arcading and windows.
Scanty remains of other buildings.
House of various dates on site of south cloister range (outside schedule listed).
See (S1) in file.
E. Rose (NAU) 11 July 1983.

Architects drawings (pre 1992) as large rolled plans (S2).
E. Rose (NAU).

1984. Excavation.

1984. Geophysical Survey.
Resistivity survey of grassed area adjoining the ruined priory church.
This work sought to identify evidence of wall footings, particularly any associated with the chapter house.
The only feature of possible archaeological significance was a north-to-south aligned anomaly that may represent the footings of a wall; potentially one that had formed the eastern side of a range of building.
The lack of results across the rest of the site was surprising and it may be that less conspicuous features were being masked by a high water table (a possible consequence of the nearby ponds).
See report (S13) for further details.
P. Watkins (HES), 9 March 2017.

August 1991. Watching Brief.
Monitoring of minor groundworks associated with installation of display board.
No archaeologically significant features or deposits observed. Finds limited to animal bone and a modern tile fragment.
See notes in file.
P. Watkins (HES), 20 February 2017.

April 1998. Watching Brief.
Monitoring of removal of modern infill from pond adjancent to site of priory. No finds of any archaeological significance were recovered. The pond was probably once a fishpond associated with the priory.
See report (S12) for further details.
P. Watkins (HES), 26 February 2014.

Section 17 Management Agreement signed 24 October 2002.
See (S3) in office file.
H. Paterson (A&E) 26 October 2002.

Norfolk NMP, July 2003.
The remains of St Mary’s Augustinian priory can be clearly seen on Hunting Survey Limited 1969 aerial photographs (S4), Ordnance Survey 1967 aerial photographs (S5) and NLA images from 1984, 1992 and 1990 (S6 to S8). The buildings can be seen largely as the ruined external walls of the medieval church with very little remains of other buildings. Also there are two interlinked ponds visible. One is to the north of the church, the other to the east (and a short distance south) and there is a channel that links the two.
In addition to all these features a building towards the south end of and on the east side of the present drive (adjacent to the road), can be clearly seen especially on the early photography. It was a late medieval barn and stood there until 1981. As has been previously suggested it is likely that this was one of the priory outbuildings. It has also been suggested that the Abbey farmhouse may have originally been the prior’s lodging.
There are other features also evident on the Hunting Survey Limited and Ordnance Survey aerial photographs (S4 and S5). In the adjacent fields, which are within the likely boundaries of the original priory precinct, there appear to be earthworks that are probably related to the priory site. These features are likely to therefore be medieval in date. They are made up of an area of possible ridge and furrow, banks and ditches and some apparent enclosures (including possible building platforms).
The ridge and furrow is located at NGR TG1681 4290 and covers an area of about 75m by 30m. The largest of the linear ditches appears to run up to the northern pond, though it cannot be seen to reach it. There is a possibility that this is a hollow way or track, which might even predate the priory, alternatively it might be the ‘back entrance’ – considering it is much more irregular in appearance than the approach from the other side (see below). To the north of this there is a bank with other banks running from it at right angles, forming enclosures and possible building platforms in places. To the south of this ditch there appears to be a continuation of one of the narrow banks to the north and two short, narrow, linear parch marks running east-west. These parchmarks are likely to be either narrow banks or could be the remains of buildings. They are located at NGR TG1681 4281 and TG1682 4279. (Also in this area the land is fairly undulating in places. To the south of the ditch the land is higher than where the ridge and furrow is situated, however this may be entirely due to the underlying geology. Therefore this has not been plotted as a bank etc.)
There are further earthworks located to the west of the priory buildings. These comprise a series of linear (east to west) banks and ditches. The longest and most pronounced of these features is aligned on the presumed location of the gatehouse (gatehouse at its western end), thus suggesting it may be the remains of a roadway or driveway into the complex. This feature is fairly straight and regular. It appears to comprise a double ditch with banks running down the outside length of each (and there is the possibility that the central area is slightly raised as well, however, this is not certain and has not been plotted as such). It runs from NGR TG1658 4280 to TG1671 4281. At the western end of this feature there appears to be slight right angle ditch visible. To the south to the possible driveway further earthworks are visible, some of which appear to form possible enclosures or may be the remains of structures surviving as banks.
In addition to all these features, the cropmark of a linear ditch can be determined on the Meridian Airmaps Limited 1961 aerial photographs (S9). It is located in the field to the south-east of the priory buildings. Its origin is uncertain. It may relate to the priory complex, however it may be a later feature, perhaps a field boundary or a drain. (There is also a possible further additional linear visible on this photograph. This is located within the area to the north-east of the priory. However, it is fairly faint and indistinct and has therefore not been plotted. It is also potentially a more recent drain.)
(Although clearly visible in the late 1960s, the survival of these earthworks to the present day is hard to determine from the more recent photography).
H. Clare (NMP) 2 July 2003.

February 2004.
Scheduled Monument Consent has been applied for for repairs to masonry and also the 'shed' structure to south.
H. Paterson (A&E) 18 February 2004.

July 2004. Visit.
Site of gatehouse probably identified in maze gardens. Area shows some mortared masonry under scrub and garden rubbish.
H. Paterson (A&E) 20 July 2004.

[1] reports that the eastern pond has been filled up with rubble by the landowner.
E. Rose (NLA) 21 March 2005.

However, P. Walker (English Heritage) found no evidence for this and notes that the pond was only cleared in 2003.

Gatehouse site cleared of vegetation and dumped soil by land owners as proposed above.
E. Rose (NLA) 1 July 2005.

Casual observation confirmed that both ponds are still open and in good condition. Ruins however filled with litter, information boards faded.
E. Rose (NLA) 18 April 2006.

February 2008.
Section 17 agreement for ruins renewed, backdated to October 2007.
See (S10).
D. Robertson (NLA), 5 March 2007.

July 2010.
Section 17 management agreement for gatehouse renewed.
See (S11).
D. Robertson (NLA), 11 August 2010.

Monument Types

  • LINEAR FEATURE (Unknown date)
  • BANK (EARTHWORK) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BUILDING PLATFORM (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DITCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ENCLOSURE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FISHPOND (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LINEAR FEATURE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • OVEN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PRIORY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PRIORY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • RIDGE AND FURROW (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WALL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CISTERN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • FARMHOUSE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument
  • Management Statement
  • Listed Building
  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Photograph: General: CLQ 7-11, CLJ24-31, Excav: CPZ, CQA.
---Designation: [unknown]. Ancient Monuments Form. SAM Record. DNF7.
---Designation: Coad, V.. 1977. AM7 [Generic Record].
---Designation: [Unknown]. [unknown]. Ancient Monuments [scheduled monument recording form]. Ancient Monuments Recording Form.
---Article in Serial: Heywood, S., Ashley, S. and Davies, J. 1989. The Priory of St. Mary in the Meadow of the Order of Peterstone, Beeston next the Sea, Norfolk. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XL Pt III pp 226-259.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TG 14 SE 2 [3].
---Correspondence: Department of Environment. 1979. Letter from Department of Environment to County Planning Officer regarding change to scheduled area.. 15 January.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Illustration: Willins, E.P.. [unknown]. The Ruins of Beeston Regis Priory, Norfolk.
---Unpublished Document: Reeve, J.. 1991. Beeston Regis Priory watching brief form.
---Illustration: Denny. [unknown]. Drawing of the demolished barn by the road.
---Illustration: Engravings of Beeston Priory, Norfolk.
---Illustration: Engravings of Beeston Priory, Norfolk.
---Publication: Messent, C.J.W.. [unknown]. The Lesser Known Monasteries of Norfolk. No.2 Beeston Regis. No 2.
---Unpublished Document: Heywood, S. 1983. Abbey Farmhouse, Beeston Regis.
---Unpublished Document: Walker, P.. 1991. Beeston Regis, Norfolk Public Local Inquiry Proof of Evidence.
---Article in Serial: [Unknown]. 1967. [Auction advertisement for Abbey Farm House]. Country Life. 17 August, p 9.
---Article in Serial: [Unknown]. 1967. Priory Ruins. Country Life. 7 September.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1971. [Letters to the editor on the priory remains].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1971. Talks today on idea for buying Beeston Priory. 9 December.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1979. [Photograph of Abbey Farm, Beeston Priory]. 23 November.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1981-1982. [Articles on the purchasing of Abbey Farm, Beeston Priory].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1991. [Articles on the proposed museum of gardening and recreation ground near Beeston Priory].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1991. Sunshine blessing for priory. 16 August.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1998. A great place for visitors to get lost. 13 June.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1997. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 383-384.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, B. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 200-201.
---Article in Serial: Rose, E. J. 1990. Beeston Regis Priory: A Note on the Ponds. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLI Pt I pp 93-95.
---Unpublished Document: Heywood, S. [unknown]. The Priory of St. Mary in the meadow of the order of Peterstone, Beeston Next the Sea, Norfolk. [Publication Draft]. Publication Draft.
---Photograph: 1987. Photographic record of Beeston Regis Priory. Print.
---Photograph: 1987. Photographic record of Beeston Regis Priory Farmhouse. Print.
---Photograph: Photographic record of Beeston Regis Priory. Print.
---Photograph: Photographic record of Beeston Regis Priory. Print.
---Recording Form: Heywood, S. 1997. Norfolk County Council Site Record - Augustinian Priory of St Mary in the Meadow.
---Recording Form: Heywood, S. 2004. Norfolk County Council Site Visit Record - Augustinian Priory of St Mary in the Meadow - Shed.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Beeston Regis.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---*Rolled Plan: Large Plan Exists.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2013. Makeover has revealed a hidden treasure in all its glory. 29 October.
---Unpublished Report: [Unknown]. [unknown]. Lesser Secular Monuments Report: Priory Farmhouse. RCHME Report.
---Designation: Department Of The Environment. 1882-1984?. Department of the Environment Scheduling Notification. Notification. DNF7.
<S1>Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
<S2>Drawing: Various. Various. Architectural plans.
<S3>Unpublished Document: H. Paterson (A&E), MPP. Section 17 Management Agreement.
<S4>Aerial Photograph: Hunting Surveys Ltd. 1969. HSL UK/69/949 0116-7 20-NOV-1969 (Norfolk HER TG 1643B-C).
<S5>Vertical Aerial Photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1967. OS/67053 026-7 24-APR-1967 (NMR).
<S6>Aerial Photograph: 1984. SMR TG1642 A-G (NLA 157/AXX9-15) 31-JUL-1984.
<S7>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D. A. (NLA). 1992. NHER TG 1642J-K (NLA 309/GLT5-6) 09-JUL-1992.
<S8>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D. A. (NLA). 1990. NHER TG 1642L-M (NLA 268/GBV3-4) 29-JUN-1990.
<S9>Vertical Aerial Photograph: Meridian Airmaps Limited. 1961. MAL/94110 25-JUL-1961.
<S10>Unpublished Document: Norfolk County Council. 2007-2008. Section 17 Management Agreement.
<S11>Unpublished Document: Norfolk County Council. 2009-2010. Norfolk Monuments Management Project Section 17 agreement.
<S12>Unpublished Contractor Report: Hobbs, B. 1998. Report on a Watching Brief at St Mary's Priory, Beeston Regis. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 332.
<S13>Unpublished Contractor Report: Bartlett, A. D. H. 1988. Resistivity Survey at St. Mary's Priory, Beeston Regis, Sheringham, Norfolk, 1984. Ancient Monuments Laboratory. 132/88.

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