On my return to the UK, one of the first places I visited was Thetford in Norfolk. When I arrived at the train station, I headed straight for the priory, which was the only thing I knew about the town. As ruins goes, the priory is pretty spectacular because the site is huge, which makes it all the more impressive and perfect for this week’s Foto Friday.
According to what I have read, this is one of the most important East Anglian monasteries.
Thetford Priory was a Cluniac monastic house, founded in the 12th century by the first Earl of Norfolk. If you’re wondering what on earth Cluniac means, it refers to the Cluniac Reforms that were introduced during medieval times to restore traditional monastic life. The movement started within the Benedictine order in Cluny, which is located in Burgundy, France.
Thetford Priory was dedicated to Our Lady because, in the 13th century, the Virgin Mary is thought to have appeared to locals. Then, at some point, relics of saints were found inside an old statue of the Virgin Mary, and the Chapel of Our Lady became famous as it was thought to have miraculous healing powers. As a result of all this, the priory became a place of pilgrimage.
This magnificent priory finally closed its doors in 1540 as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. This was when Henry VIII disbanded Catholic monasteries, priories, convents, and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland, and sold off a lot of it to fund his military campaigns. He also became the head of the Church of England around this time.
Today, as you walk around the site, you will see the remains of the lower walls of the church and cloister, the shell of the priors’ lodging, and a 14th century gatehouse. Thetford Priory is thought to be haunted and featured in a TV show called Ghosthunters. I didn’t see any ghostly goings-on while I was there, but that doesn’t mean to say you won’t.
If you don’t have a car, as I didn’t, Thetford has a mainline train station, so it’s easy enough to get to. The priory is within walking distance of the station and the town centre.
Thetford Priory is an English Heritage site. It’s free to enter, and definitely worth having a wander about if you find yourself in or near Thetford.
Have your say
Do you have any other information on Thetford Priory that you’d like to share? Have you been there and experienced any ghostly goings-on?