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Beeston Regis Priory

A Scheduled Monument in Beeston Regis, Norfolk

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.9384 / 52°56'18"N

Longitude: 1.2236 / 1°13'25"E

OS Eastings: 616718.956025

OS Northings: 342750.302515

OS Grid: TG167427

Mapcode National: GBR VBG.XW3

Mapcode Global: WHLQX.RDWQ

Entry Name: Beeston Regis Priory

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1925

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1004021

English Heritage Legacy ID: NF 110

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Beeston Regis

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Beeston Regis

Church of England Diocese: Norwich

Summary

Augustinian Priory of the Order of Peterstone founded in the early C13 by Margaret de Cressy, her daughter-in-law Isabel de Rye is also credited with the foundation.

Source: Historic England

Details

Beeston Regis Priory is situated in a low lying area to the east of the town of Sheringham, bounded by the North Norfolk Railway (Poppy Line) to the north, Cromer Road to the south (although a small area of the precinct lies to the south of the Cromer Road), Beeston Common to the west and fields to the east. The priory survives as a series of standing and buried remains; the standing remains being roughly central to the area under assessment. The ruins of the church are considerable in scale; the chancel, north transept and north and west sides of the nave survive almost to full height, only the east wall of the south transept and the north-east crossing pier are not evident above ground. The plan of the church provides evidence of an aisleless nave, a regular crossing of which one originally freestanding pier survives, a north transept with an eastern aisle and one projecting square-ended chapel and a large square-ended chancel. In the angle between the north transept and the nave is a rectangular porticus accessible from both the nave and the transept. Although the south transept is less visible above ground, the architectural detailing of the standing fabric indicates the original south transept was in most respects similar to that to the north. Both transepts had eastern aisles although there is no visible sign of a chapel having projected from the south-east aisle, as in the case of the north transept, but there is significant archaeological potential for below ground remains here.

Part of the cloister and the chapter house were excavated in 1984 (Davies 1989) which established the positions of the cloister walks and uncovered the footings of the same range. The size of the chapter house was also established. The cloister area now lies in the garden of Abbey Farmhouse and measures approximately 30m by 20m. A farm building to the east and a wall to the west now join the cloister to the farmhouse. A small, square, flint and brick shed, with pantiled roof and an entrance to the west has been constructed in the north-west corner of the cloister. The cloister walls within the existing walled garden have mainly been removed, although the footprint of these are exposed in many cases and fragments of standing fabric within the existing walls are evident. The potential for significant archaeological deposits to survive beneath the ground is extremely high.

Archaeological evidence beyond the church and cloister is both extensive and diverse in terms of its form. The earliest phase of Abbey Farmhouse is believed to be one of the priory buildings possibly the prior’s lodging, and one of several buildings within the precinct which would have served the priory. In addition, a building towards the southern edge of the scheduled area, on the east side of the current (2017) drive can be seen on aerial photographs. The late-medieval barn, believed to be one of the priory outbuildings, was demolished in 1981 but the footprint is evident in the terracing of the front garden of a second barn, now converted to a dwelling, known as Priory Farm. On the western boundary of the priory complex, adjacent to a field boundary and what is understood to be the precinct boundary, is the site of the gatehouse, currently visible as a small terraced area within the grounds of Priory Maze and Gardens with evidence of stone rubble exposed on the surface. This controlled access to the complex from the west and is understood to lie at the western end of a roadway or driveway running east to west towards the priory church. South of this driveway, further earthworks are visible in areas of lawn to the south of landscaped ponds and gardens, some of which appear to form enclosures or the earthwork remains of structures. The precinct boundary on the western side takes the form of a bank up to 1.5m high and 1.25m wide with an inner ditch approximately 1.5m wide. Flint and stone rubble is evident in eroded patches along its length. The boundary bank extends south of the Cromer Road, curving around to the east following the northern edge of a lay-by track (formerly the line of the road), eventually linking back with the Cromer Road directly opposite the entrance to the Priory Maze and Gardens. This stretch of the bank and ditch is exposed in sections, displaying a mortared, cut-flint wall standing up to 1m in height with an inner ditch c1.5m wide. It is unclear where the line of the precinct boundary runs around the south-east corner and east side of the priory complex but this may have been lost to post-medieval changes in land use.

The priory church ruins and Abbey Farmhouse are bounded around the north-east corner and east side by two ponds which are interlinked by a narrow channel and a sluice. These are understood to be part of the original priory complex, and fishponds are generally common on such sites, providing a vital food source. Water lain organic silts, identified during the excavation of a drainage trench along the eastern garden wall of Abbey Farmhouse, mark the site of a third pond lying south of the farmhouse and have potential to preserve significant organic artefacts within waterlogged deposits.

There are further earthworks in the surrounding fields including possible ridge and furrow, banks and ditches and some apparent enclosures, including possible building platforms. The ridge and furrow, centred at NGR TG1681 4290, covers an area of approximately 75m by 30m. The largest linear ditch appears to run up to the northern pond and is thought to represent a hollow way or track, which may predate the pond and therefore the priory too. Alternatively the track may represent an eastern entrance route.

Priory Maze and Gardens has been established in the western half of the precinct, between the church and the precinct wall and gatehouse. The landscaped gardens incorporate some of the earthworks, previously identified through aerial photographs. Two ponds are situated between Abbey Farm and Priory Maze but these are not shown on earlier Ordnance Survey maps and are therefore of relatively recent date, having been created from the natural spring fed stream which runs through the precinct. Planting of trees within the Priory Maze and Gardens may have caused limited root damage to the monument in these areas but earthworks are still evident. The café associated with the gardens is a timber structure sitting on a concrete base, the construction of which will have had minimal impact on the buried archaeology. Tarmacked areas of the car park, paths and sales areas will again have required minimal disturbance to the below ground archaeological deposits.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: along the east and south-east boundary, crossing the Cromer Road to the south, the area of protection includes a 10m buffer between the field boundary (and earthwork remains of the precinct wall) and the edge of the monument which was felt necessary for the support and preservation of the archaeological remains. North of the Cromer Road the line follows the northern edge of the road before turning north again 10m east of the field boundary fence marking the eastern edge of the property known as Abbey Farm and Priory Farm. It continues 10m east and then south of field boundaries. The area north and north-east of the priory ruins is included to incorporate the earthwork and buried archaeological features identified from aerial photographs during the National Mapping Programme (NMP). Along the extreme north-eastern edge the line follows a field boundary; along the northern edge it runs across the field before turning south to meet the southern edge of the track leading to the Priory ruins. The scheduling does not include the property known as Priory Pebbles.

EXCLUSIONS: within the area of protection all modern field boundary fences, path and road surfaces, hard standings, drain covers, signage, Priory Maze and Gardens Café, Abbey Farmhouse, Priory Farm, Priory Cottage and Granary Cottage, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Beeston Regis Priory, an Augustinian Priory of the Order of Peterstone founded in the early C13 by Margaret de Cressy or her daughter-in-law Isabel de Rye, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: although some 225 Augustinian houses are known in England the Order of Peterstone is very localised, with Beeston Regis being one of only four known examples;

* Survival: for the standing, buried and earthwork remains which depict the form, plan and architectural detail of the priory;

* Potential: for the stratified archaeological deposits which retain considerable potential to increase our understanding of the physical characteristics of the buildings. Buried artefacts and sediments will also have the potential to increase our knowledge of the social and economic functioning of the Augustinian community within the wider medieval landscape;

* Diversity: for the range and complexity of features such as the church, gatehouse, cloister, ponds, priors lodgings and precinct wall which, taken as a whole, provide a plan of the priory and retain significant stratified deposits which provide details of the evolution of the monastic site;

* Architectural importance: the standing remains of the church, which retain some architectural detailing, demonstrate medieval masonry and craftsmanship, and incorporate very early use of brick;

* Group value: for the strong group value with the Grade I listed priory ruins and the Grade II listed Abbey Farmhouse.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Heywood, S, Davies, J, 'The Priory of St Mary in the Meadow of the Order of Peterstone, Beeston Next the Sea, Norfolk' in Norfolk Archaeology, (1989), 226-259
Rose, E. J, 'Beeston Regis Priory a note on the ponds' in Norfolk Archaeology, , Vol. XLI, (1990), 93-95
Websites
Norfolk Heritage Explorer - NHER 39778, accessed 20th January 2017 from http://www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk/search-results?Parish=0&Period=1066|1539|Medieval&SearchTxt=Beeston%20Regis%20Priory&NHER=&FirstRec=1&LastRec=20
Norfolk Heritage Explorer - NHER 6349, accessed 20th January 2017 from http://www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk/record-details?MNF6349-Augustinian-Priory-of-St-Mary-in-the-Meadow&Index=2&RecordCount=2&SessionID=1503479e-56ca-4c6c-84b8-a2f23a68e094
Other
Norfolk National Mapping Programme 2003

Source: Historic England

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