If you are a bit of a history/archaeology buff, you will have heard of Henry VIII, and how he wasn’t particularly liked by monks and the workers of the Church in Britain.
When Henry was told by the Catholic Church that he was not allowed to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, Henry decided that as King, he would basically accuse the Church of hundreds of sinful crimes, and begin to pull down the Churches to set up his own Church, one that would allow him to have the divorce that he wanted. This period of time was called the dissolution of the monasteries, and it began in 1536, all the way up to 1541.
Needless to say, the dissolution hit some of the Churches hard, and they pretty much disappeared, the stones used to build new Churches – but one, in Norfolk, survived pretty well even to this day.
Castle Acre Priory was partly destroyed in 1146, but even before then, it had a long and fascinating history. Archaeologists have worked on the site and found artefacts dating back to 1089, when it was founded by William de Warenne, the second Earl of Surrey.
The nave of the Church was built first (dating on the wooden timbers showed it was the oldest part of the whole Priory) and after a while, up to 30 monks lived there. Records show that even though their religion said they were not allowed to eat meat, they used fishponds to raise and eat fish, as they were not considered meat. Some monks actually took this further, saying that if an animal swam, it was allowed to be eaten, so ducks, geese and other water creature were on the menu!
As with most monks, the ones at Castle Acre Priory were also not allowed to marry, or own anything, including clothes, which belonged to the monastery. They also grew their own food in the Priory gardens, and spent their days praying, singing, and worshipping.
As you can see, the great West front of the building is in fantastic condition, with most of it complete, and the prior’s lodging is also well preserved. Thank goodness the dissolution didn’t hit this beautiful priory too badly!
Until next time,