The new English Heritage guidebook for the Cluniac priory at Wenlock adopts the new format for the series: a nearly square design that makes it easier to use on site than the previous tall format.
There are two main sections: the tour followed by a history. There are six ‘special features’ (what I would describe as information boxes) that include one on the Cluniac Order, and archaeology at the priory. The all colour guide includes a number of reconstructions, such as one for the chapter house, and an aerial view of the complex. (I miss the drama and atmosphere of an Alan Sorrell reconstruction!) The later history of the priory is included down to its placement in State Guardianship in 1962.
The guide by John McNeill includes a foldout plan inside the back cover, and a labelled photograph of the site on the folded out front cover. Both will help the visitor to understand the different parts of the monastic complex.
The first Ministry guide to the site was by Rose Graham and was entitled ‘The history of the Alien Priory of Wenlock’ (1965). This reproduced her essay from the Journal of the British Archaeological Association (1939).
The Cluniac order was derived from the abbey at Cluny. The order was introduced to England at the priory of Lewes by William de Warenne, the first Earl of Surrey, and his wife Gundrada.
Wenlock Priory, Shropshire. [EH] The Cluniac foundation was made from St Mary of La Charité that had been refounded in 1059; Wenlock’s foundation by Roger Earl of Shrewsbury was likely to have been between 1080 and 1082. The priory was on the site of a late 7th century Anglo-Saxon nunnery.
Castle Acre Priory, Norfolk. [EH] The priory is likely to have been founded by William de Warenne, the second early of Surrey, probably after his father’s death in 1088.
Thetford Priory, Norfolk. [EH] The priory was founded in 1103/4 by Roger Bigod. The monks came from the priory at Lewes.
Monk Bretton Priory, Yorkshire. [EH] The priory was founded in 1154 from Pontefract.
Crossraguel Abbey, Ayrshire. [HES] Crossraguel was founded as a result of an episcopal ruling in 1244. It was one of two Cluniac foundations in Scotland; the other was Paisley Abbey.
The Cluniac priory at Thetford was placed in State Guardianship in 1932. F.J.E. Raby prepared the first official guide in 1935. This was expanded by P.K. Baillie Reynolds (1956). The pair also prepared the guidebooks for Castle Acre Priory and Framlingham Castle.
The Thetford guide consists of three pages of History, followed by six pages of description. A plan of the priory was placed in the middle pages.
In 1979 the DOE guidebook was expanded to include a section on the Warren Lodge outside Thetford. S.E. Rigold prepared the new section on the lodge. In 1984 this booklet evolved into the English Heritage guide with black and white photographs and plans. David Sherlock had a section on the Church of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre (with plan), and Rigold on the lodge.
John Howard, the First Duke of Norfolk, was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 where he was commanding the part of Richard III’s army.
His tomb appears to be located in a tomb constructed on the north side of the aisle of the church at Thetford Priory, and adjacent to the north transept. The body may have been moved to St Michael’s, Framlingham.
The tomb of Thomas Howard (1443-1524), Second Duke of Norfolk, was placed at the east end of the original church (that had been extended). He defeated the army of James IV of Scotland at Flodden in September 1513.
The chapter house at Castle Acre priory is located on the east side of the cloister, and backs onto the south transept of the priory church. It dates to the mid-12th century. The original form had an apse on the east side, now marked out adjacent to the infirmary passage. (The Ministry of Works marked the eastern apse of the chapter house at Thetford in the same way.)
The chapter house was remodelled in the early 14th century, and a wall blocked off the eastern apse. Traces of the seating for the monks can be seen on the north and south walls.
Immediately to the south of the chapter house was the doorway that led to the dorter.
The priory at Thetford, Norfolk was founded in 1103, and moved to the present location in 1107. The 14th century gatehouse lies to the north-west of the priory (in the grounds of private houses). The property is in the care of English Heritage.