The Priory church of St Mary and the Holy Cross in Binham, is a village parish church, but its ruins, precinct walls and gatehouse tell a different story. This was the site of a Benedictine monastery, founded in 1091 as a cell of St Albans Abbey by Peter de Valoines, a nephew of William the Conqueror.
The Priory has had an amazing history. Its priors were often unscrupulous and irresponsible, quarrelling with the abbot of St Albans Abbey, selling the Priory silver for the pursuit of alchemy, and wasting money on expensive lawsuits. In 1212 the Priory was besieged and the monks only saved from starvation by the intervention of King John himself.
The monastic precinct built on the Benedictine plan was a glorious collection of buildings, built around the open garth and its cloisters. It would have been a smaller version of Norwich Cathedral. Great wealth was lavished on these buildings, with the master masons perhaps coming from Normandy.
The Binham Priory Access and Conservation project, funded primarily by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has made these buildings and their history accessible to everyone. The permanent exhibition in the church and north aisle uses graphics and interactive activities to tell the story of Binham Priory, its history, and the lives of the monks, religious and political change over the years and how these all affected worship in this building. There is tangible evidence within the church of these years of tumultuous change. Artefacts excavated in the precincts in the 1930s have been returned and are now displayed.
For the first time the Priory is able to welcome parties of schoolchildren.
Heritage site, Sacred space