Record Details

NHER Number:8384
Type of record:Monument
Name:Site of Hickling Augustinian Priory


The priory was founded in 1185 and dissolved in 1536. Above-ground remains include part of the church that was built soon after the foundation of the priory and part of the east cloister of the monastery. Cropmarks of other parts of the buildings, water management features and enclosures can be seen on aerial photographs. Fieldwalking, metal detecting and casual finds include a large number of medieval and post medieval objects. These include a medieval coffin containing a skeleton, a late medieval coin minted in Bologna, Italy between 1446 and 1506 and two medieval horse harness pendants. Both pendants depict the ceremonial arms of Robert de Ufford.


  • A plan of Hickling Priory drawn in 1922. The priory was founded in 1185 and dissolved in 1536.  © Norfolk County Council


Grid Reference:TG 4182 2494
Map Sheet:TG42SW

Full description

The ring ditch previous recorded under this number is now under NHER 45226. Some of the field boundaries to the northwest of the site are now recorded under NHER 45224.

Site of Hickling Augustinian Priory.
Founded 1185, dissolved 1536.

Last remaining priory window removed to Farm.

Two stone coffins were dug up - one broken other had skeleton 1.9m (6 feet 4 inches) long exactly fitting it; well carved, removed to Catfield.
E. Rose (NAU).

1922. Survey.
Column and tiles were found after (S1) was made. Attached shed made from wherry timber.
See (S1)
E. Rose (NAU).

Various antiquities picked up by new owner.
Carved stone tracery.
Glazed flooring tiles (some identified at V&A as early 16th century, Spanish).
Lead weight.
Iron keys.
Stained glass.
R.R. Clarke (NCM).

Stone trough (cut down coffin).
Stone mortar base.
Late medieval lava quernstone reconstructed from fragments.
R.R. Clarke (NCM).

April 1955. Listed, Grade II.
Flint and brick remains include undercroft of west range of cloisters, six bays with blocked arches to east and remains of vaulting. Probable parlour to north. Northwest are three vaulted bays now a farm building. Range returns south with string course and buttress. More substantial remains of cloister east walk include possible entrance to chapter house; 13th century jambs.
Information from (S3).
E. Rose (NLA), 21 June 1994.

12 September 1978. NAU aerial photographs.
Cropmarks of enclosures adjacent to site of Augustinian religious house.
D.A. Edwards (NAU), 12 February 1981.

29 July 1986. NAU air photography.
Reveals cropmarks also to north and northeast of farm, clearly of buildings; what may be a precinct boundary, or old field boundary; and within this a small circular mark - possibly a little small for a Bronze Age ring ditch.
E. Rose (NLA), 14 May 1993.

1988. Visit.
Buildings include remains of priory structures but are in poor condition. Stone coffin lids lie on side of drive to house. No
obvious area of earthworks.
Information from D.A. Edwards (NAU).
E. Rose (NAU), 5 July 1988.

12 July 1990.
Large rectangular cropmark east of farmhouse; various rectilinear enclosures to south, within precinct.
D.A. Edwards (NAU).

1991. Building Survey.
Study of site by RCHME.
See report (S2) for further details.

(S?) gives interpretation differing from that of 1922 plan which it states is imaginative. Also refers to 'small excavation' by owner inside ruins in 1992.
E. Rose (NLA), 4 November 1992.

20 December 1994.
One medieval unglazed, burnt, sherd found casual during visit with Agricultural Development Advisory Service, arable surface.
A. Rogerson (NLA), 27 February 1996.

28 June 1996. NLA air photography.
Cropmarks of priory buildings and boundaries still visible.
S. Massey (NLA), 28 September 2001.

20 April 1997. UEA extra-mural visit under supervision of [1]. From site of Priory church.
Two green and one 'yellow' Flemish tile fragments and one olive green probably English fragment.
All fragments of larger size tiles on site of ?chapter house, triangular fragment of totally opaque medieval window glass.
Found by [2].
A. Rogerson (NLA), 13 May 1997.

1998/1999. Fieldwalking of entire site on 25m grid.
Medieval roof tiles and floor tiles found also sparse prehistoric flints.
Late medieval to 20th century pottery but no Saxon material.
Several pieces of dressed limestone.
Cache of window stained glass uncovered by plough.
Details to come from NCM.
Information from [3].
See also (S14) and (S16). Full publication in progress (see S16 p 206 footnote 224).
E. Rose (NLA), 16 September 1998.

February to March 2000. Metal-detecting.
Seven medieval objects.
See list and (S4) in file.
One late medieval/early post medieval silver grosso.
See list in file.
K. Hinds (NLA), 10 May 2000.

June to July 2000. Metal-detecting.
Lead ceiling mount.
See description in file.
A. Rogerson (NLA), 22 September 2000.

September to October 2000. Metal detecting.
Medieval seal matrix.
See list in file.
A. Rogerson (NLA), 24 November 2000.

2001. Metal-detecting Survey.
A gridded metal-detector survey was begun in conjunction with members of the East Norfolk Detectors Club. An area North of the causeway and priory church was covered before Foot and Mouth disease restrictions were imposed, recovering a scatter of medieval coinage and metal artefacts.
See (S13).
D. Holburn (HES), 21 October 2011.

October 2006. Norfolk NMP.
The NMP mapping of this site has provided additional features to those previously transcribed and has altered the interpretation of some of the structural components of the site (S5-S11). The aerial photographs reveal the location of many of the monastic building ranges, including the cruciform church, centred on [4], where the nave, aisle and chapels can clearly seen separated by the piers and arch bases, which showing as parchmarks. The nave and aisles are 18m wide and the overall length of the church is between 60-65m. To the south and east of the cloister are the remains of several other building ranges, including the possible chapter house at [5], at least 11m by 8m, with a possible tapered eastern end or angled east wall. The clearest of these parchmarks is the southern end of the east range, centred on [6], which shows a rectangular block, 26m by 7m, which several dividing walls and conjoined cells.

To the south of the main building ranges is a smaller rectangular building centred on [7], measuring 22m by 12m (S11). The foundation parchmarks indicate a number of individual cells or stalls within the interior, possibly with sunken areas in-between, suggested by darker, positive cropmarks. This building appears to be linked to a pair of leats or drains and this positioning would suggest it was the latrines or possibly the kitchens. The octagonal or circular features built into the walls may be large bread ovens or large hearths.

Many of the clearly defined linear features running into the main site from the precinct boundary and main drains are likely to be leats and drains providing the site with fresh water and to remove waste water from the site. Two large parallel channels surround the eastern end of the cloisters, linking with those thought to lead to the possible garden area. One main water management system can be seen to the southwest of the site, leading north from the main moat-like precinct boundary. This appears to have several channels and a possible structure associated at [8]. A number of small oblong sunken areas or ponds are visible within this southern area of the site and these may be fishponds or similar features.

To the immediate north of the Priory farmhouse is a series of parchmarks enclosing a rectangular area, centred on [9] and measuring 46m by 23m. This central area looks like a sunken feature on oblique aerial photographs from 1989 (S9), although this is not as apparent in 1954 (S6-S7). This parchmark, which is up to 7m across, is producing a clean or monotone parchmark, unlike the mottled appearance of the surrounding area, which has abundant natural pits and anomalies showing up as cropmarks. This suggests an artificial and levelled surface underlying this cropmark. It is possible that this is a compacted path or walkway, potentially surrounding an area of gardens or vegetable plots. In the northwestern area of the parchmark are four pits or slots. A pair of parallel ditches or leats lead into this area from the east. The ground in-between these two ditches also appears to be compacted in places.

To the south of this area in 1954 (S6-S7) are three extremely neat rectangular positive cropmarks, which the Scheduling entry refers to as possible fishponds. However these features do not appear on any other aerial photographs and the regularity and repetition of size and shape exactly gives the impression that they are of recent agricultural origin, possibly the result of fertiliser storage or temporary structures. These rectangular features also seem to overlie cropmarks following the pattern suggested by photography from later years. These features have therefore not been mapped. The areas surrounding these parchmarks have the appearance of having been subject to surface extraction or levelling, as the cropmarks indicate a series of angular and intercutting blocks (S9). Again this may indicate localised horticultural or agricultural practice or perhaps extraction. Similar areas are visible to the south of the main Priory buildings, in particular centred on [10]. These appear to be located on pockets of gravel and are likely to be the result of small-scale gravel extraction.

To the north of the main priory buildings are a series of field boundaries and and/or drains. These are consistent with those marked on the 1842 Tithe map (S12) and may represent a later layout of the precinct. An earlier set of enclosures and fields have been recorded separately under (NHER 45224).

The earthworks surrounding the sub-rectangular pond located within the southeastern area of the precinct are now proven to be a relatively modern creation; post-1946. Although it is possible that a fishpond did exist at this location. In 1946 (S5) a narrow banked boundary is visible running along the line of boundary marked on the Tithe map (S12). Along the side of this enclosed area on the Tithe map is a strip of rough vegetation and possibly wetter ground, up to 14m wide. This appears to link up with another slightly sunken area to the immediate southeast of the Priory (NHER 43707), which has been interpreted as a possible turf or peat extraction site. Although it is possible that this represents a fishpond or similar feature associated with the Priory, which would indicate a monastic feature cut by what has been traditionally been interpreted as the southern precinct boundary.
S. Massey (NMP), 31 October 2006.

Monument Types

  • CHAPTER HOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DRAINAGE DITCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • EXTRACTIVE PIT (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • FIELD BOUNDARY (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • FISHPOND (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GARDEN FEATURE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • KITCHEN GARDEN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LEAT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PRIORY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PRIORY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PRIVY HOUSE? (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • RECTANGULAR ENCLOSURE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Finds

  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Lower Palaeolithic to Late Iron Age - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • ANNULAR BROOCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COFFIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FLOOR TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FURNITURE FITTING (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HARNESS FITTING (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HARNESS PENDANT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • KEY (LOCKING) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MORTAR (VESSEL) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PLAQUE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • QUERN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ROOF TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SEAL MATRIX (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STAINED GLASS (WINDOW) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STRAP FITTING (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WEIGHT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WINDOW GLASS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COIN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • FLOOR TILE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument
  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TG4124 H-J,N-AS; TG4125 A-C,D.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TG 4124AT - ABE.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TG 42 SW 1 [2].
---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. p 551.
---Illustration: Pestell, T.. 1997. Hickling Priory. Details from 1885 OS. Details from aerial photographs..
---Publication: Knowles, D. and Hadcock, R. N. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales. pp 141, 160.
---Correspondence: 1827. Woodward Correspondance. vol.III p.67.
---Leaflet: The Story of Hickling Priory 1185-1536.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Hickling [2].
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Photograph: 1988. ELB 11-28.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1990-2013. English Heritage Scheduling Notification. Notification. DNF347.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1994? -2011?. English Heritage Digital Designation Record. Record. DNF347.
---Designation: NCM Staff. 1950?-1960?. Data submitted with sheduling request. NHER 8384.
<S1>Illustration: Colman Green, G.. 1922. A Survey of Hickling Priory. 'Norfolk Broads'.. August.
<S2>Unpublished Contractor Report: Brodie, A., Burgess, R. and Donald, A. 1991. Historic Building Report. Hickling Priory, Hickling, Norfolk. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.
<S3>Designation: Historic England. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1049387.
<S4>Illustration: Finds Illustrations.
<S5>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 2100-1 09-JUL-1946 (NMR).
<S6>Oblique Aerial Photograph: CUCAP. 1954. NMR TG 4124/3 (CUCAP OH38) 23-JUN-1954 (NHER TG 4124ABF).
<S7>Oblique Aerial Photograph: CUCAP. 1954. NMR TG 4124/5 (CUCAP OH42) 23-JUN-1954 (NHER TG 4124ABH).
<S8>Vertical Aerial Photograph: BKS. 1988. BKS 2054-5 29-AUG-1988 (NCC 4277-8).
<S9>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1989. NHER TG 4124AH-AL (NLA 231/DQY9-12) 30-JUN-1989.
<S10>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. NHER TG 4124AW-ABA (NLA 365/JFB15-16, JFC1-2) 28-JUN-1996.
<S11>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. NHER TG 4124ABC-ABE (NLA 365/ JFC4-6) 28-JUN-1996.
<S12>Map: Pratt & Son, Norwich. 1842. Hickling Tithe Map.
<S13>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 2002. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk, 2001. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIV Pt I pp 162-177. p 167.
<S14>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 1999. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1998. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIII Pt II pp 369-387. p 375.
<S15>Photograph: Norfolk County Council. Hickling Priory, Norfolk. Print, b&w.
<S16>Monograph: Pestell, T.. 2004. Landscapes of Monastic Foundation: The Establishment of Religious Houses in East Anglia, c. 650-1200.. pp 203-207; Plate 9; Figs 47-48.

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