Record Details

NHER Number:2396
Type of record:Monument
Name:Crabbs Abbey, Crabhouse, site of St John's Nunnery


The remains of a nunnery, occupied between 1181 and 1536, are thought to be on this site. Medieval pottery sherds and roofing tile, metal work, carved stone and human remains were all recovered in the 18th to 19th centuries. The present house on this site dates to the late 18th century.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TF 6013 0782
Map Sheet:TF60NW

Full description

"Crabb's Abbey" or "Crabhouse"; St John's nunnery, Augustinian. Founded c1181, dissolved 1536. Information from (S1)

The nunnery was founded for nuns of Fontrevault, who were later driven away by floods except for one who became an anchoress in Wiggenhall Magdalen churchyard. It was afterwards given to a house of canons who became attached to Castle Acre.

Tom Martin's Church notes from 1772 (S2) give a drawing of a crenellated abbey gate marked "Crabhouse" with the text "?Magdalen church, Part of ye steeple and piece of south wall standing. The old man that lives here says he has found a brass plate and several bones. The plate he gave to the minister of Magdalen (Mr Beeston) who has a leidger (sic) of the Abbey as I'm informed from Sir Ralph Hares written in Latin and French…They dig much brickearth on the south side of the church and there bones are daily found." Despite the strange opening words "?Magdalen church," this almost certainly refers to Crabhouse and not to St Mary Magdalen's.

Bryant states that "urns and a bronze blade have been found here," (S3) but this could be confusion with other sites.
E. Rose (NAU), 1 October 1980
Updated by H. White (NLA), 1 April 2009

Many carved medieval fragments of stonework built into present house, used to edge flowerbeds and generally lying around. The owner states that in digging holes for horse tethering posts in front of the house he often hits foundations.
R. Silvester (NAU), 24 July 1984

August 1984. Site visit by A. Rogerson.
No trace of nunnery in home or garden except for some ?plinth mouldings in the east wall of the house, some limestone and carstone in the garden including 2 similar limestone jambs probably from an archway. See sketch in file. Thirteenth century (?) human burials reportedly found by previous owner few yards east of the east wall of the eighteenth century house at shallow depth. See plan in file.
A. Rogerson (NAU), 31 August 1984

Plan of part of the nunnery is given in (S4).

August 1998.
Medieval sherds and roofing tile found.
See notes in file.
E. Rose (NLA), 16 September 1998.

For the present house on the site (late 18th century, altered 19th century not listed) see (S5) in file.
E. Rose (NLA), 28 May 2004.

March 2009.
It is possible to re-create the layout of the priory based on information recorded in 1557 (S6). The precinct contained two large courts or yards to the west and north of the original cloister. Entry to the courtyard was from a gate to the east, through a passage with eight-foot high walls. The west range and cloister of the original priory were retained after the Dissolution. The range was ordered as a hall with upper and lower ends. The outbuildings in 1557 included an old mill house and storehouse. The Parson's lodgings are described as a chamber, kitchen and buttery, adjoining the old steeple. The church formed the south range of the cloister.
Information from (S7)
H. White (NLA), 1 April 2009

Monument Types

  • INHUMATION (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • NUNNERY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HOUSE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • POT (Undated)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ROOF TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status


Sources and further reading

---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 60 NW 12.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Article in Serial: Bateson, M. 1892. The Register of Crabhouse Nunnery. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XI pp 1-71.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
<S1>Publication: Knowles, D. and Hadcock, R. N. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales. pp 278, 279.
<S2>Documentary Source: Martin, T. c. 1700-1799. Collections of Church Notes. Norfolk Records Office. 1772.
<S3>Serial: Bryant, T. H.. 1898-1915. The Churches of Norfolk. Vols 1-19. Vols 1-19..
<S4>Article in Serial: Gilchrist, R.. 1994. Religious Women in Medieval East Anglia.. The Annual. No 3, p 34.
<S5>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2004. A handsome pair. 28 May.
<S6>Article in Serial: Dashwood, G. H.. 1859. Notes of Deeds and Survey of Crabhouse Nunnery, Norfolk. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol V pp 257-262.
<S7>Monograph: Gilchrist, R & Olivia, M.. 1993. Religious Women in Medieval East Anglia.. Studies in East Anglian History. Vol 1.

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