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CASTLE ACRE PRIORY

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The remains of Castle Acre Priory are located south west of the village of Castle Acre, Norfolk. It was founded in 1089 by William de Warenne, second Earl of Surrey, as a dependency of Lewes Priory.

The entrance to the precinct is through a gatehouse on the north side. Built in the late 14th or early 15th century, the gatehouse is of two storeys and rectangular in plan. The ruins of the church and conventual buildings stand to the south and south east of the gatehouse. The church was the first building to be completed and retains many original features of late 11th and early 12th century date. It was extended in the 14th and 15th centuries. The conventual buildings, mostly dated to the mid-12th century, are ranged around three sides of a cloister which abuts the south side of the church. The western claustral range included a food store, guest hall, prior's chamber, outer parlour, prior's chapel and the kitchen. It was altered extensively in the late 12th, mid 14th and late 15th centuries. The southern range contained the refectory and the eastern range comprised the monk's dormitory and chapter house. A latrine block stood to the south of the east range and the infirmary, altered in the 14th century, was located to the east. Also within the monastic precinct are agricultural and domestic service buildings, an extensive complex of rectilinear earthwork enclosures and the remains of medieval water management features, including a series of fishponds. It may have also included the monastic cemetery, as well as a garden and orchards.

The priory was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1537 and granted to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. By 1558 the buildings were being demolished, however the prior's lodgings were retained for use as a house. In 1615, after several owners it was acquired by Sir Edward Coke, in whose family it remains. In 1929 the priory was taken into guardianship by the Ministry of Works and is currently opened to the public by English Heritage (2009).

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