Record Details

NHER Number:4096
Type of record:Monument
Name:Castle Acre Priory


The substantial remains of a Cluniac Priory, founded in 1089 and dissolved in 1537. The impressive and important Romanesque façade of the 12th century church survive almost to full height, and the ruins include the remains of the 12th century claustral buildings, as well as the earthworks of other monastic buildings and enclosures.


  • The ruins of Castle Acre Priory showing the Prior's lodgings and the cloisters  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service
  • The ruins of the church at Castle Acre Priory  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service
  • The Prior's Lodgings at Castle Acre Priory  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service


Grid Reference:TF 814 148
Map Sheet:TF81SW

Full description

Cluniac Priory from 1089 to 1537.
Impressive remains including standing buildings, earthworks and cropmarks.
Cruciform stone and flint church with an early 12th century Romanesque tripartite façade.
Remains of 12th century nave, with claustral buildings to south, including the chapter house, dormitory, with undercroft and stairs, reredorter over stream.
12th and 14th century infirmary.
12th century refectory and kitchen.
12th century Prior's Lodgings, altered in the late 15th or early 16th century, with a flint chequerwork and timber gabled 2 storey porch. 15th century first floor stone oriel window. Interior has 15th century scissor braced roof, with original paintwork.
Various other monastic buildings are visible as earthworks, as well as enclosures which are probably the remains of the monastic cemetery and gardens.
See (S1) and (S2).

Excavations by Blomefield.

Medieval seals found.

Medieval seal found, bearing the name 'Edmund the Miller of Castle Acre'.

Finds from Castle Acre Priority preserved at Holkham Hall:
Medieval green-glazed waster jug and six other similar but smaller jugs including green-glazed waster pipkin and unglazed storage pot.
Recorded for Norwich Castle Museum by N. Moore, see drawings (S11)-(S13).
P. Watkins (HES), 7 August 2018.

1964. Excavation.
Carried out by J.K Knight for M.P.B.W, excavation of the apses of the 17th-century chapterhouse revealed natural subsoil which contained several large irregular pockets of soft material. At the end of the 14th century the apse was replaced by a rectangular end, this was done to prevent substance. All of the burials had been translated before the rebuilding began.
Information from (S8)

1972 to 1976.
Excavation of 15th century monastic barn and lime kiln.
Roman, Early Saxon, Middle Saxon, Late Saxon and medieval sherds.

Further excavations.

Finds of medieval to post medieval metalwork.

1985. Excavation.
Carried out in the Lady Chapel beneath 15th century stone coffin slab, this revealed the upper surface of the late 12th century foundations of the junction of the north quire aisle and the flanking apse of the north transept. There was no underlying burial.
See published article (S9), in which drawing (S17) is reproduced. The results of this work are also summarised in (S18).
The associated archive has been deposited with the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 1998.91.2)
M. Langham-Lopez (HES), 14 June 2013. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 13 November 2015 and 29 April 2019.

29 June 1993. NLA air photography.
Ruined remains of nave, tower, dorters, frater and infirmary.
Earthworks of further, now demolished, wings or the priory can be detected to the east of the main site.
S. Massey (NLA) 29 January 2001.

1995. Building Survey.
Condition audit of wall paintings within Prior's Chapel (14th-century scheme) and Prior's Lodgings (16th-century scheme).
The chapel paintings were generally fragmentary, although some fine passages of decoration remained. Emergency flake fixing, minor repairs and recording was recommended.
It was not possible to access the ceiling beams within the Prior's Lodgings but the painted decoration appeared to be stable.
For details see report (S19), which was generated from information in the English Heritage Wall Painting Section database.
P. Watkins (HES), 22 August 2019.

1995. Earthwork Survey.
Survey of various sub rectangular enclosures, banks, ditches and building platforms. Shallow features on the flood plain may be simple post medieval water meadows.
Roman, Late Saxon, medieval sherds and tiles found.
See report (S3) for plan and further details. This site was included in (S4) and the survey is also noted in (S15).
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 16 February 2014.

February 1998. Watching Brief.
Monitoring of excavation of electricity pole footings.
No archaeologically signficant features or finds observed.
No report produced.
P. Watkins (HES), 8 February 2017.

December 1998 and March 2000. Dendrochronological Survey.
Tree-ring analysis of oak timbers from the present roof and ceiling of the Prior's House. This work indicated that the lower roof ceiling is late 14th century - suggesting that its decorative scheme (thought to commemorate the wedding of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York in AD 1485) was applied to an earlier structure (unless the timbers had been reused). The upper roof contained timbers of a slightly later date and may have been have been erected over the lower structure when it began to leak, evidence for water damage being noted when the timbers were sampled. It is possible that timbers salvalaged from the priory church or another monastic building were used.
See report (S16) for further details.
P. Watkins (HES), 16 February 2014.

Medieval sherds, flints found.

For full details, excavation reports, photos, press cuttings and schedule sheet, see file.
E. Rose (NLA) 6 September 1999.

August 2007.
Scheduled monument consent granted regarding a first floor extension, works to the facing brickwork and the taking down of a cart shed.
See (S5) for further information
H. White (NLA), 23 January 2009

Article missing from file [J. Yates, 18 November 2010].

February 2011.
Section 17 management agreement signed (covering surveys of the precinct wall).
See (S6).
D. Robertson (HES), 10 March 2011.

April 2011. Building Survey.
Condition survey of precinct wall.
See report (S7) for further details.
S. Howard (HES), 25 July 2011.

March 2012. Monitoring of test pit excavated by structural engineer adjacent to precinct wall.
D. Robertson (HES), 20 April 2012.

2013-2014. Recording
Revelation, repair and consolidation of the priory precinct wall took place in the frost periods. A report on the wall has been written with information gathered during the repairs and other research. There are two sections which survive to full height with oversailing triangular flint copings and of which one section has two courses of plain tiles supporting the oversailing coping. The flint work is of high quality random bond with some galletting to tightly pack the masonry. Blomefield's plan of 1734 greatly assists the understanding of the site and the former extent of the wall . For report see (S14).
S. Heywood (HES), 3 December 2014.

Monument Types

  • LINEAR FEATURE (Unknown date)
  • AISLED BARN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BANK (EARTHWORK) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BARN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BUILDING (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CEMETERY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DOVECOTE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DRAINAGE DITCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FISHPOND (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FLOOR (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GARDEN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HOUSE PLATFORM (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LIME KILN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PRECINCT WALL (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • PRIORY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PRIORY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • RECTILINEAR ENCLOSURE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DRAINAGE DITCH (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WATER MEADOW (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • BLADE (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • FLAKE (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • POT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BRICK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COFFIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FLOOR TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • KEY (LOCKING) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ROOF TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SEAL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STAINED GLASS (WINDOW) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HARNESS (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • ROOF TILE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument
  • Listed Building
  • Listed Building
  • Higher Level Stewardship

Sources and further reading

---Correspondence: Allfrey, M.. 1989. Correspondence regarding ironwork recovered from Castle Acre Priory. 22 November.
---Unpublished Document: Margeson, S. 1989. Find descriptions for a display of ironwork recovered from Castle Acre Priory. Find Description.
---Aerial Photograph: TF8114 A,ACJ-ACM,ACP-ACV,ACZ-ADK,ADQ-AER,AES,AET.
---Serial: 1975. Council for British Archaeology Group 7 Bulletin of Archaeological Discoveries for 1975. No 22. p 5.
---Designation: [unknown]. Ancient Monuments Form. SAM Record. DNF185.
---Aerial Photograph: TF 8114 AFD-AFH.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1994. TF 8114AEX, AFA.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). TF 8114/AFL - AFM.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TF 8114AFJ - AFK.
---Article in Serial: Wilcox, R. 2002. Excavation of a Monastic Grain-processing Complex at Castle Acre Priory, Norfolk, 1977-82. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIV Pt I pp 15-58.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 81 SW 4 [9].
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Publication: HMSO. 1947. Castle Acre Priory.
---Publication: Knight, C.. 1900. Old England: A pictorial museum of regal, ecclesiastical, municipal, baronial and popular antiquities..
---Serial: 1840. The Penny Magazine.. 24 October.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1955. [Photograph of Castle Acre Priory]. 19 February.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1970. Priory site extended. 2 December.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1975. Latest dig at priory reaches new levels. 8 August.
---Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1999. Sadness at mindless attack on historic priory. 11 June.
---Monograph: Dutt, W. A. & Pennell, J.. 1923. Highways and Byways in East Anglia..
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2006. Norfolk priory gets a facelift. 16 May.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, W. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 244-248; Pl 7.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. 1962. North-West and South Norfolk. The Buildings of England. 1st Edition. pp 112-113; Pl 4, Pl 49b.
---Leaflet: English Heritage. Welcome to Castle Acre Priory.. English Heritage.
---Monograph: English Heritage. 2008. Castle Acre Priory and Castle.. English Heritage Guidebooks.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2010. The second Norman invasion. 28 July.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1990. [Photograph of Castle Acre Priory]. 27 November.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2010. Explore west to find our treasure. 1 November.
---Photograph: 1990. Castle Acre. Print.
---Article in Serial: Wilcox, D. 1980. Castle Acre Priory Excavations, 1972-76. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXXVII Pt III pp 231-276.
---Article in Serial: Hope, W. H.. 1895. Castleacre Priory. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XII pp 105-157.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Castle Acre [2].
---Article in Serial: Faulkner, P. A. 1964. A Model of Castle Acre Priory. Medieval Archaeology. Vol VI-VII (for 1962 and 1963) pp 300-303.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2013. Work to save medieval priory precinct starts. 29 August.
---Photograph: CBH27,14, JM1-2, BDF19-23, CBY20,24, ELE9-18, ELJ9-15, ELK1-7, ELN1.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1990-2013. English Heritage Scheduling Notification. Notification. DNF185.
<S1>Designation: Historic England. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1342389.
<S2>Designation: English Heritage. 1994? -2011?. English Heritage Digital Designation Record. Record. DNF185.
<S3>Unpublished Report: Cushion, B. 1995. Castle Acre Priory SMR 4096. Earthwork Survey Report.
<S4>Monograph: Cushion, B. and Davison, A. 2003. Earthworks of Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology. No 104. p 136.
<S5>Designation: DCMS. [?]-2016. Scheduled Monument Consent. SAM Consent. DNF185.
<S6>Unpublished Document: Norfolk County Council. 2010-2011. Norfolk Monuments Management Project Section 17 agreement.
<S7>Unpublished Contractor Report: Selby, J. 2011. Preliminary Condition Survey. Castle Acre Priory, Precinct Wall. John Selby.
<S8>Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. and Hurst, D. G. 1966. Medieval Britain in 1964. Medieval Archaeology. p 181.
<S9>Article in Serial: Ashley, S. 1986. An Unfinished Coffin Lid at Castle Acre Priory. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXXIX Pt III pp 328-330.
<S10>Illustration: Unknown. Unknown. Drawing of the Great Barn of The Grange, Castle Acre Priory.. Paper. 3:16.
<S11>Illustration: Moore, M. 1962. Drawing of an unglazed medieval storage pot. Paper. 1:2.
<S12>Illustration: Moore, M. 1962. Drawing of a medieval green-glazed pottery pipkin (waster). Paper. 1:2.
<S13>Illustration: Moore, M. 1962. Drawing of a medieval green-glazed pottery jug (waster). Paper. 1:2.
<S14>Unpublished Document: Heywood, S. 2014. Castle Acre Priory Precinct Wall.
<S15>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. (ed.). 1996. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1995. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLII Pt III pp 397-412. p 400.
<S16>Unpublished Contractor Report: Tyers, I. 2000. Tree-ring analysis of oak timbers from the Prior's House, Castle Acre, Norfolk. Ancient Monuments Laboratory. 46/2000.
<S17>Illustration: Ashley, S. 1985. Drawing of an unfinished medieval stone coffin lid from Castle Acre. Paper. 1:5.
<S18>Article in Serial: Youngs, S. M., Clark, J. and Barry, T. B. 1986. Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1985. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XXX pp 114-198. p 158.
<S19>Unpublished Contractor Report: Davies, J. 1998. Wall Painting Condition Audit, Castle Acre Priory, Prior's Lodgings, Norfolk. Ancient Monuments Laboratory. 19/97.

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