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pronto, On^ 




p . *.' ? CASTLEACRE, 












*&C. &C. &C. 


THE following pages were prepared for publication under 
the auspices of ONE, whose condescending kindness in my youth, and 
patronage in my maturer years, are deeply impressed on my grateful 
memory. To Him, by generous permission, would they have been 
inscribed, but "the huge oak has fallen that grew on the brow of the 
hill, and sheltered such an extent of ground." 

The recollection of the Father's favour, encourages me to seek, with 
respectful hope, the countenance of the Son, and to dedicate to your Lord- 
ship this humble description of a venerable portion of your Lordship's 

That the virtues and noble qualities of your revered Father will be 
illustrated in your Lordship's life, is the presage of all, of none, with 

more sure reliance, than of 

Your Lordship's 
Most humble and obedient Servant, 











THE PARISH . . . 303 


IT is the object of the succeeding pages to present the 
reader with a succinct account, historical and descriptive, 
of a locality which has for many years attracted the 
interest of the antiquary, and is still annually resorted 
to by considerable numbers during the summer months 
for the picturesque and peculiar character of its scenery. 
The accounts hitherto extant of the interesting features 
of which we are about to speak are, generally, not only 
meagre and unsatisfactory, (which may reasonably be 
attributed to the paucity of authentic materials,) but so 
devoid of method and in some respects contradictory, as 
to bewilder rather than to gratify the curiosity of the. 
inquirer. Much matter, also bearing on the subject, is 
diffused among scarce and voluminous tomes, and seems 
to have been altogether overlooked by former investi- 


gators, although so intimately associated with the matter 
under consideration. We have endeavoured to gather 
under one focus, from various and scattered sources, so 
much relating to the past history and present condition 
of the remains, as can be correctly authenticated, sup- 
ported by careful personal examination, and we have 
invoked the combined aid of pencil and pen in order to 
afford an additional proof that notwithstanding the just 
and admirable exertions of our travellers, in the investi- 
gation of the glories of ancient art abroad, there is still, 
within the scarcely known circle of some of our rural 
villages, very much to interest at home. 

A preface would hardly be complete without its share 
of apology, and surely never was there greater need of 
its exercise than in the present instance, for many 
insurmountable obstacles have intervened to frus- 
trate the original purpose of the Author in carrying 
out his plan. 

But if the severity of criticism (as we sensibly feel) 


requires to be deprecated with regard to the text, we 
entertain an assured hope that the accompanying 
illustrations will at once attain a position superior 
to such a contingency. We can vouch for their 
accurate fidelity, and it scarcely needs the assurance 
that our esteemed and generous coadjutor, Mr. Wright, 
is not a professional artist, to secure for them warm 
commendation as works of art. It is a happy circum- 
stance when the dry technicalities of one of the learned 
professions can be thus ably relieved by the exercise 
of so delightful a resource. The whole of the drawings, 
faithfully transferred by Messrs. Sly, Vizetelly, and 
Ninham, are the production of this gentleman's friendly 
pencil, and he must permit us to record this public 
tribute of our warmest thanks for his invaluable 

Our grateful acknowledgments are also due to several 
esteemed correspondents who have encouraged us in 
our pursuit and aided us by valuable suggestions ; and 
among them we cannot forbear to particularize the 


distinguished name of Dawson Turner, Esq., of Great 
Yarmouth, and that of the Rev. R. Jackson, some time 
curate of Castleacre, whose interesting memoranda and 
collectanea of matters connected with the site have been 
freely placed at our disposal. 

We can scarcely hope that our volume will possess 
much interest for the general reader, although per- 
chance he may glean therefrom somewhat to reward 
a patient perusal, but to future visitors to the spot, it 
will prove, we trust, a clear as it is a faithful guide. 
The want of such a guide has long been felt, and we are 
ambitious to supply the office. Visitors to the ruins 
during the last half century cannot fail to have formed 
some acquaintance with a curious but worthy character, 
a sort of Old Mortality, native to and resident on the 
spot, possessing an admiration for the ruins almost 
akin to idolatry, who has during the above period filled 
the post of cicerone to the several parties resorting 
thither. No passing visitor to Castleacre but will recall 
to mind old John Goate. With much of truth in his 

PREFACE. xiii 

descriptions, there has always been such an intermixture 
of strange conclusion, adhered to with all the pertinacity 
of garrulous age, that a smile has been the general 
result of his communications, to which nothing but the 
enthusiasm which he entertains for the attractions of 
his native parish could possibly render him unconscious. 
Our poor old friend still lives, but at such an advanced 
period of life, that we may venture, without impropriety, 
to supersede his services, and supply the visitor with an 
equally minute and more carefully digested account of 
the remains. 

We will only add* that the compilation of the ensuing 
pages has proved the alleviation of many a painful hour, 
and if they succeed in rescuing from oblivion some facts 
and peculiarities of interest connected with the by-gone 
events of our national history, they will not have been 
given to the world in vain. 




De Warrenne Or and azure cheque". 

Arundel Lions rampant argent quartered with De Warrenne. 

The architectural fragment to which these shields are affixed by the 
artist, represents a portion of the enriched front of the Conventual 
Church. The actual position of the above armorial bearings together 
with those that follow, is on the architrave of the gateway leading to 
the precinct. 





A cross, or and azure cheque, (relating to the founder,) between twelve 
cross-crosslets, fiche sable. The back ground represents the lo.wer 
interior of the south-western tower of the conventual church. 


Exhibiting the nature of the mouldings and tracery. 




This view is taken from such a position, that while it serves to retain the 
peculiar character of the fajade, the north front of the Prior's Lodge 
is also seen to advantage, terminating with a remarkable specimen of 
an early bay-window. 


Described, page 103. 
GATEWAY, TO THE PRECINCT . . . . . .119 

Described, page 181. Part of the remains of the Priory Church, 
and Lodge, seen through the entrance. 

DATE OF THE FOUNDATION . ..'.'.'. 125 



The designs upon this pavement are exceedingly various, but a few of the 
most striking examples only have been selected for illustration. 









HE local characteristics of an obscure 
country parish may not altogether be 
M deemed of sufficient interest to merit 
public attention. It requires the grace- 
ful simplicity of a Gilbert White, or the 
fascinating pen of -a Mitford, to invest the generality 
of our rural districts with that measure of attraction in 
which, it must be owned, they are frequently so deficient 
as to warrant the conclusion. 

But there are exceptions. There are localities, barren 
of interest in themselves, still presenting conspicuous 
traces of historical landmarks towering above the deep- 
ening current of the stream of time spots in our 
"merrie" land so intimately associated with recollections 
of the past, so fraught with the spirit, acquirements, and 


customs of a by-gone age, that an examination into 
their history will amply repay the curiosity of the 
inquirer ; whether, as an antiquary, he seek for traces 
of the labours and pursuits of former generations; 
or, as a moralist, he ponder over the instability of 
all earthly tenure ; or, as an eager reader, he skim 
their storied annals, to beguile the tedium of a vacant 

To this class, we would fain believe, belong the details 
which it is the purpose of the following pages to submit 
to the reader. Though now conspicuous for little but its 
scattered and picturesque ruins, the parish of Castleacre, 
in the county of Norfolk, has been the scene of feudal 
state and cloistered importance. The warder's horn has 
rung from bastion and battlement, the clank of mail- 
clad vassals has sounded in its castle courts, the 
deep-toned vesper-bell has flung its heavy booming far 
and wide along the sequestered valley of the Nar, and 
where is the lover of romance who will question the 
interest implied in the very association of Castle and 
Convent ? 

But fiction, however alluring the opportunity, is no 
part of our present purpose. The simple records we 
have to offer, are confined to plain matter of fact, and 


our history of the past as well as our detail of the 
present, in all that relates to the subject before us, will 
be strictly regulated by such authentic data as careful 
research and personal examination have enabled us to 

We invite the courteous reader, then, to divest himself, 
as far as possible, of those every- day associations which 
crowd upon his attention in this age of intellectual 
refinement and luxury. Let a veil fall between his 
mind's eye and the miracles of art and science which 
teem amid the onward progress of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, and let him in imagination travel back with us to 
a rude stern age when huge dark massy strongholds, 
bearing the very impress of the time, frowned restraint 
upon the subject land, and cloistered cells, the sheltering 
retreats of civilisation and science, welcome oases in the 
desert of darkness, reared their friendly portals in every 
district of the country. 

And, as a suitable introduction to the bulk of that 
which follows, it will be necessary to take a brief glance 
at the monastic system in its origin and as it was subse- 
quently exercised ; a subject so fertile in inquiry, that the 
difficulty is how to condense the innumerable points for 
discussion to which a detailed examination of it must 

B 2 


give rise, but which we have only space very hastily and 
imperfectly to touch upon. 

" Monachism," observes Fosbroke, " was an institution 
founded upon the first principles of religious virtue, 
wrongly understood and wrongly directed. If voluntary 
confinement, vegetable eating, perpetual praying, wear- 
ing coarse clothing, and mere automatical action 
through respiration, be the standard of excellence, 
then the best man is only a barrel-organ set to 
psalm-tunes. Sleep, according to this plan, ought to 
be virtue." 

It must be admitted that a survey of the general 
features of monastic life will furnish ample material to 
justify the somewhat caustic definition of this able and 
diligent antiquary, but it were unfair to infer that 
defects which would seem to have ripened from cir- 
cumstance are wholly attributable to the unsoundness of 
the system in its origin. Undoubtedly, monachism is 
justly chargeable with many and heavy abuses, but 
surely we should not argue its utility or advantages from 
such adventitious grounds as these. It is, perhaps, 
peculiarly difficult for the professor of a reformed faith 
so entirely to divest himself of a natural prejudice as to 
examine with strict impartiality the merits or demerits 


of a system which is only generally known to him in its 
connexion with a church from many of whose opinions 
and practices he so widely differs, but it should be 
carefully borne in mind that the principle of seclusion 
from the world and religious retirement, in short, mona- 
chism, obtained to a considerable extent long before the 
Papal church attained its predominant ascendancy, or 
even that its temporal head was recognised by a pliant 
hierarchy as Universal Bishop. Monachism, then, per se, 
is not identical with Popery, and in its origin must be 
viewed apart from that creed. But to the lamentable 
perversions of the Roman church may be referred that 
nascent departure from primitive simplicity and com- 
parative purity which in after ages issued in gross abuse, 
blind superstition^ and imperious bearing, and obtained 
for the monasteries the scorn and indignation of every 
reflecting mind. The change, though gradual, has been 
sure, and monachism has lost for ever probably the 
respect and consideration which its simple and unas- 
suming character obtained for it at its institution. For 
our present purpose, therefore, we can only contemplate 
monachism in its association with a church with which for 
centuries it has been connected, and within whose pale 
it still exists, shorn indeed of its ancient glories. And 


what monachism has been for centuries, there is too 
much reason to apprehend she still continues to be, in 
spirit, at least, if not in fact, although the well-informed 
Romanist of the nineteenth century would unhesitatingly 
repudiate much of that which distinguished the principle 
and practice of ancient monachism as repugnant to 
common sense and the solemn character of religious 
responsibility. Doubtless many gross absurdities and 
revolting practices have given place to habits and 
practices of a more reasonable nature, but if we only 
bear in mind the immutability which ecclesiastical Rome 
assumes as her. prerogative, we may readily conceive 
that, so far as monachism is concerned, our inference 
is justifiable. 

Whatever may be thought of the matter now, it is 
certain that for several centuries monastic institutions 
obtained considerable favour at the hands of the devout, 
both lay and clerical. Not only were religious houses 
among the first works of the wealthy and powerful, but 
new orders multiplied with a rapidity which will be 
remarkably illustrated by an examination of the fol- 




A. D. 

Monks of St. Anthony ...... 305 

Knights of St. Constantine ... ... 313 

Monks of St. Pachomius . . . . . .314 

Cross-bearing Eremites . . . . . . 323 

Order of St. Helen 335 

Ancient regular Canons . . . . . . 355 

Monks of St. Basil 358 

Monks of St. Ambrose . . . . . . . 385 

Regular Canons of St. Saviour, or St. John of 

Lateran ...... (about) 440 

Regular Canons of St. Genevieve . .51] 

Monks and Nuns of. St. Benedict . . . . . 516 

Monks and Nuns of Monte Casino . . (before) 526 

Monks of St. Gregory 595 

Monks and Nuns of St. Columba .... 524 

The Cluniacs . 912 

Camaldule Monks 1012 

Valombrosa Monks ....... 1040 

Regular Canons of St. Lawrence .... 1050 

Regular Canons of St. Denis . ... 1067 

Camaldule Nuns ..... . 1073 

Grandmont Monks . ..... 1076 



Carthusian Monks 1084 

Knights Hospitalers 1092 

Regular Canons of St. Anthony . . . . 1093 

Friars of St. Anthony . 1095 

Cistercian Monks and Nuns ... . . . 1098 

Order of St. Sepulchre .1100 

Fontevrault Monks and Nuns 1100 

Valombrosa Nuns . . . , . . . . 1100 

Fratres Grisei ........ 1105 

Regular Canons of St. Augustine, (in England about) 1105 
Tyron, or Reformed Benedictines . . . . 1109 

Regular Canons of St. Victor ..... 1113 

Regular Canons of St. Sepulchre 1114 

Bernardino Monks . . . . . .1116 

Knights Templars 1118 

Premonstratensian Canons and Nuns . . . .1120 
Knights of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem . . 1135 

Monks of La Trappe . . . . .1140 

Canons of St. Mary de Mertune . '. . . 1146 
Gilbertine Canons and Nuns . . . . 1148 

Friars and Nuns of St. Augustine . . . ..1150 
Knights of St. James of Compostella . . .1158 

Carmelite Friars . . '. 1160 

Friars of St. Lazarus and Magdalen .... 1160 

Freres Humili^s . . . . . . " ''-. . 1166 

Cross or Crouched Friars . . .1169 



Porte-Epees ', ' , . . 1186 

Monks of the Order of Humility .... 1190 

Teutonic Knights . .'_... . . . 1190 

Regular Canons of St. Mark of Mantua . . . 1194 

Canons of the Holy Trinity for the Redemption of 

Captives . 1198 

Regular Canons of the Holy Ghost .... 1198 

Dominican Friars and Nuns . . . . . . 1206 

Eremites of St. Augustine . . . . . 1 209 

Franciscan Friars and Nuns . . . . . . 1209 

Regular Canons of the Holy Cross .... 1211 

Eremites of St. Paul 1215 

Freres de Sacco, or Bons Hommes . . . 1216 

Freres of the Order of Mercy for the Redemption of 

Captives 1218 

Freres of St. Mary 1218 

Third Order of Penitents 1221 

Nuns of Chartreuse 1232 

Servants of St. Mary 1232 

Celestin Monks 1244 

Female Eremites of St. Augustine . . . .1256 

Regular Canons of the Order of Penitents . . . 1 257 

Flagellants ' .' 1260 

Freres of St. Alexis 1300 

Les Frel-es Unis 1328 

Friars and Nuns of St. Bridget . . . . . . 1363 



leronimites ........ 1366 

Eremites of Mont Bel 1380 

Franciscan Friars of the Strict Observance . . . 1402 
Friars of St. Ambrose . . . . . .1431 

Carmelite Nuns 1452 

Minims, or Freres of St. Paul . . 1452 

Nuns Minims ........ 1495 

White Penitents .... . 1503 

Indian Monks .... . 1506 

Capuchin Friars ....... 1528 

Barnabites ..... . 1530 

Jesuites ....... . 1534 

Ursuline Nuns . 1537 

A glance at the foregoing enumeration will suffice 
to show how surprisingly monastic institutions were 
multiplied between the fourth and the sixteenth cen- 
turies, the mania for such establishments apparently 
being at its height during the eleventh and twelfth cen- 
turies, in the course of the former fifteen and in the 
latter no less than twenty-seven new orders making their 
appearance. An interval of nearly four centuries occurs 
between the years 595 and 912, when no distinct order 
of religious was established ; but, with this exception, no 
century elapses during the long period first mentioned, 


without witnessing the organization of some one or more 
societies whose ramifications spread far and wide over the 
face of the Christianized world, according to the extent 
of their respective merit, influence, or wealth. The list 
of fresh claimants upon the zeal and devotion of the 
religious community closes only with the sera of the 
Reformation, when the order of Ursuline Nuns appears to 
terminate the series. 

That such a multiplicity of societies, having one prin- 
ciple in common, though differing from each other in 
details, possessed considerable attraction at the respective 
periods in which they originated, cannot be doubted, and 
the piety and zeal of the great and powerful of the earth 
were conspicuously displayed in their foundation and 
endowment. It has already been remarked that the 
heavy abuses which subsequently so conspicuously per- 
verted these establishments cannot justly be charged 
upon the principle of their foundation, which was 
uniformly a sound and benevolent one, however their 
benefactors may have been influenced by superstition or 
the pride of wealth. Seclusion from the world, bodily 
mortification, and active benevolence were, at least, the 
ostensible motives which prompted their establishment ; 
and however imperfectly these objects were carried out 


in the end, the feeling which actuated the attempt cannot 
be amenable to censure. At the present stage of the 
Christian dispensation, we contemplate the like results 
under a more spiritual light, and we have abundant proof 
that a saving measure of personal sanctity, through grace, 
is attainable by the faithful soldier of the Cross amid 
his daily intercourse with the world, to the full as 
effectually as by the pale ascetic in the gloom and 
austerity of his cloister, however fervent his zeal or 
unaffected his devotion. 

But, let it not be forgotten that if monachism be not 
indispensable to a due attainment of the Christian cha- 
racter, it has other and less questionable claims upon our 
veneration and respect. 

To monastic institutions we owe, in a very great 
degree, the preservation of much we might say all that 
is valuable and instructive in science, literature, and art 
during a long night of intellectual gloom and mental 
torpidity. But for its monasteries, the civilized world, 
there is little room to doubt, would have lost all trace of 
those valuable records of a bye-gone age to which the 
scholar turns with ever-new delight; the master-spirits 
of Greece and Rome whose deeds and words still fill us 
with admiration might have descended to us as a dreamy 


name, and the as yet unsurpassed glories of ancient art 
might, as they were occasionally brought to light, have 
been to us an inexplicable riddle. In short, the scholar, 
the lover of art, and the man of science owe a debt to 
monastic institutions which can never be forgotten. 

Nor is it in reference to such results alone that these 
establishments have a claim upon our regard. The 
benevolence which formed a part of the monastic pro- 
fession was not an empty vaunt, but practical, liberal 
and extensive. It were hard to say what might have 
been the fate of thousands of the indigent at a period 
when no public provision was made for them in seasons 
of need and suffering, but for the monasteries ; nor can 
the cotter of the nineteenth century, humble as his cir- 
cumstances may be,, form an estimate of the bitter pri- 
vation which too generally fell to the lot of his peers in 
the middle ages. Degraded to the lowest station of 
social existence, neglected and spurned by his superiors 
in rank, the pauper of that time, when no longer able to 
slave for the miserable pittance extorted for him at the 
cost of the severest toil, borne down by sickness and 
infirmity, or the pressure of adverse fate, might perish, 
miserably perish, unnoticed and unknown ; but at the 
gates of abbej^s, priories, and myncheries, his tale of suf- 


fering met unquestioned credence, his necessities a kindly 
sympathy, and food, raiment, or medicine, as the case 
might be, were amply furnished to supply his want. 
The same liberal spirit pervaded all the intercourse of 
monastic inmates with the world around them : the rich 
wayfarer was received with gorgeous hospitality ; the 
poor, however lowly, reaped the full advantage of their 
profuse benevolence. No wonder, then, that on this plea 
alone so strong a feeling should predominate among the 
humbler classes in favour of religious houses at the 
period of their indiscriminate suppression. Enormous as 
were the revenues generally accruing to such establish- 
ments, it were unjust nay untrue, to say that they were 
wholly devoted to purposes of selfish ease and luxurious 
enjoyment ; and it is a question whether a tithe of the 
wealth accumulated from a tyrannous and wholesale 
spoliation was ever again directed into so unexceptionable 
and beneficial a channel. 

Thus far monastic institutions are entitled to, and 
must ever be regarded with consideration ; a sentiment 
which cannot so freely be extended to a review of their 
internal economy, so far as we are acquainted with it. 
Indeed, the very requirements of monastic life seem 
to bear the impress of an ostentatious " pride that apes 


The general duties which applied to the profession 
may be stated in a few words, humiliation, prayer, 
bodily mortification, and active charity ; but to attain to 
pre-eminence in the fraternity eight things were indis- 
pensable; namely, a rigid observance of appointed 
duties, silence, implicit obedience, no worldly substance, 
mutual love, no repinings, regular confession, and strict 
adherence to the cloister. Whoever could succeed in a 
punctilious conformity to this standard, was regarded as 
a character of no common order, and to such distinction 
we shall readily allow him to be entitled if we only 
glance at the ordinary routine of every-day duty which 
devolved in common upon the professors of monastic 
vows. Briefly, thus it was. 

The stated periods/or daily prayer when each fraternity 
was required to assemble in the conventual church for 
that purpose were seven in number : 

Mattins ..... commencing at 3 a. m. 

Prime . . . . . . . . 6 a. m. 

Tierce . . . . . . . . 9 a. m. 

Sext . . . . . . . . Noon. 

Nones . . . . . . . . . 2 p. m. 

Vespers . . . . : 4 p. m. 

Compline, or Second Vespers ". .'; . . .7 p. m. 


This was the usual order of social duty for every day, 
the monks retiring to rest at eight o'clock in the evening, 
and rising about two hours after midnight. But this 
was only a portion of their allotted business ; private 
prayer, penances, reading, and meditation, both in the 
retirement of the dormitory and of the cloister, were 
strictly required ; and when to these we add the extra- 
ordinary increase of devotional exercise demanded upon 
the occasion of every solemn fast, high festival, and 
holy day, we may form some conception of the ceaseless 
occupation of their time. The wonder is how and where 
they could find opportunity of relaxation from these 
engrossing pursuits, to apply to those studies and engage 
in those employments which we are aware they never- 
theless successfully cultivated. 

The remarks in which we have hitherto engaged apply 
to the monastic profession generally, and relate to duties 
which, in a greater or less degree, were incumbent upon 
all who took the vows upon them, although doubtless 
they varied in intensity according to the peculiar 
tenets and regulations of different orders of religious. 
The very essence of austerity would seem to have been 
concentrated in the habits and practices of that pecu- 
liar order to which the foundation at Castleacre was 


appropriated, and of these we shall now proceed to 
give a sketch. 

That distinct branch of ihe Benedictine order of monks 
known as the Clnniacs, originated, as it appears from 
the preceding table, in the year 912, and derived its 
appellation from a large and powerful establishment at 
Clugny, in Burgundy, a foundation which proved the 
parent institution of a numerous and wealthy fraternity, 
branching out over various portions of continental Europe, 
and obtaining considerable favour in our own country. 
A certain Abbot of Gigni, himself a member of the 
distinguished family of the Earls of Bourgogne, and 
subsequently canonised as St. Bernon, in a laudable 
zeal for the purity of the monastic system, which even 
at that early period began to manifest symptoms of 
corruption, was the originator of this specific order. 
Conforming generally to the rule of St. Benedict, the 
Cluniacs were nevertheless separatists from that body, 
had peculiarities of their own, and were distinguished 
by an augmented measure of austerity and formal 

Then* characteristic costume consisted in a long and 
ample tunic of very coarse material, over which was 
worn a large full-sleeved cowl, a hood falling as low as 



the elbows, and a rochet or tabard extending from the 
chin to the feet. 

Their devotions were regulated with extreme strictness 
and formality. Two solemn masses were celebrated 
every day; and during the hours of service no labour 
whatever was permitted within the precincts of the 
establishment. Even should a monk be about to leave 
the monastery upon any labour of love or necessity, and 
his foot were in the stirrup, should the bell toll for 
prayer, he was compelled temporarily to forego his 
purpose, and to repair to join his brethren in the church. 
Silence was absolutely required, as far as possible, 
throughout the day, and so rigidly enforced after com- 
pline until prime, that it was almost death to violate it. 
In consequence of this stern regulation, the employment 
of manual signs was generally substituted for words 
among the brethren. Reading and meditation followed 
every stated interval of prayer, the fasts were observed 
with rigid severity, and for three consecutive days before 
Easter the communion was extended to all. To such an 
extent was carried the prohibition of social intercourse, 
that whenever any of the brethren were occupied by 
manual labour in the garden or grounds of the precinct, 
they were required to sing psalms somewhat lustily, in 


order to guard against protracted conversation. There 
were seasons, however, when this rigid enactment was 
relaxed, as we shall have occasion to notice presently. 
The alms-giving and benevolence of the Cluniacs were 
exercised to an extraordinary extent. By a fundamental 
rule of the order, they were required to feed eighteen 
poor persons daily, who regularly attended at the almonry 
and hostel for that purpose, whilst the remains of the 
bread and wine used daily in the services of the church 
were regularly distributed to wayfarers, paupers, and 
pilgrims. But during the whole of Lent, and upon all 
occasions of special mortification and humility, the cus- 
tomary largess of these bountiful monastics was doubled 
and trebled in amount, and the necessities of an incredible 
number were suitably relieved ; nor was the bounty so 
dispensed restricted to the indigent residing in the imme- 
diate neighbourhood of the monastery, but was extended 
alike to the stranger and the wayfarer without question 
or partiality. 

The habits of these religious were not less conspicuous 
for their singularity. The monks were usually restricted 
to one good meal per day, with a slight and hasty 
refection at an early hour in the morning ; yet even this 
one meal, except unto special occasions, was ordinarily 

c 2 


of the simplest, nay coarsest kind, a standing dish with 
them being a not very inviting mess of black beans and 
salt; an article of diet tersely commemorated in the 
following lines : 

Esse niger monachus si velim forte Cluniaci 
Qua fabasque nigras cum sale saepe dabunt. 


Upon occasions, however, of festival, and on the octaves 
of Christmas and the Epiphany, they were allowed to 
partake of two full meals, with a larger variety in the 
nature and quality of " the creature comforts " than 
ordinary. On the feasts referred to, also, they were 
permitted to assemble in the refectory after dinner, 
nones, and reading in the cloister, (which observances, 
whatever might be the occasion, were strictly maintained,) 
for the purposes of social refreshment and intercourse ; 
these privileges never being allowed on common occasions 
until after vespers, and then for a very limited period. 
After refection came reading again, and this was followed 
by a spiritual lecture which lasted until compline. 

Although every religious establishment had an ample 
proportion of servants for the discharge of menial offices, 
the regular members -of a Cluniac fraternity were not 
exempt from some share in such service, either as matter 


of penance, duty, or inclination ; and accordingly specific 
regulations were framed, to be observed by them when 
occupied in those employments. When engaged in the 
kitchen or other offices, they usually wore additional 
sleeves over their tunics, that they might not be defiled 
by contact with the several vessels; and in shifting 
the cauldron on the fire, they were careful to protect 
the hand by a substantial glove. They were scru- 
pulously particular in sweeping the kitchen clean 
every Saturday immediately after vespers, and, at the 
ringing of a bell, they repaired to the lavatory to wash 
and comb. 

But perhaps the most striking peculiarity of this order 
was the extraordinary form and ceremony employed by 
them in preparing the wafer for the celebration of mass. 
Four monks, ecclesiastics, assisted by one layman, were 
usually appointed to this duty. Their first care was to 
select the wheat, grain by grain, from a quantity of the 
finest and purest quality that could be procured. Having 
thus obtained a sufficiency for their purpose, the selected 
wheat was carefully washed, and then enclosed in a bag 
reserved expressly for that purpose. Thus it was sent 
to the mill by the hands of the layman, whose character 
and general disposition for piety were matters of scru- 


pulous observation. It was then his duty to wash 
the millstones, and to surround them on every side 
with linen curtains reserved for that purpose, that 
no particle of the precious meal might escape. During 
the process of grinding, the attendant was to be veiled 
from head to foot, the eyes only appearing; and in 
the subsequent preparation of the flour the same cere- 
monious care prevailed. At length, when all was 
in readiness, the ecclesiastics, clothed in albs, after 
stated devotions, proceeded to manufacture the wafer, 
which was done with the most punctilious washings 
both of face, hands, and the metal moulds in which 
the wafer was to be baked, so that no extraneous 

matter could wilfully be introduced into the purified 


In short, the habits of th6 Cluniacs were characterised 
in every department by precise singularity; and an 
ancient author sums up their peculiarities in the fol- 
lowing not very attractive terms. " When you wish to 
sleep," he says, " they awake you ; when you wish to eat, 
they make you fast. The night is passed in praying in 
the church ; the day, in .working ; and there is no repose 
but in the refectory ; and what is to be found there ? 
Rotten eggs, beans with all their pods on, and liquor fit 


for oxen ; for the wine is so poor that one might drink 
of it for a month without intoxication *." 

The picture of the Cluniac profession which we have 
thus endeavoured to embody from the scattered records 
of received authorities, will serve to show that the career 
of a monk of this denomination, if a strict observer of 
the rules of his order, must have been one of severe 
deprivation and austerity ; and we should be at a loss to 
imagine what there could possibly be in the system to 
conciliate the favour of its numberless adherents, did not 
experience teach us that some degree of singularity is 
congenial to the human breast, and that a profession of 
unusual self-denial and mortification, real or affected, is 
often wont to obtain for its professors a greater measure 
of credit for superior sanctity than a searching examina- 
tion might in the end justify. At all events, the issue 
does not appear to have fulfilled the purport of the 
means ; for eventually the Cluniacs acquired a reputation 
for laxity, both of discipline and morals, completely 
opposed to the self-mortifying nature of their original 

In this respect, however, they were amenable to censure 
in common with the greater part of other monastic orders, 

* Guy de Provins. 



upon whom a sort of judicial infatuation seems to have 
fallen, to accelerate their ruin and extinction. A gradual 
relaxation in the rigour of their respective rules by 
degrees gave place to indifference, and, intoxicated by 
the uninterrupted enjoyment of successive years of pro- 
sperity and increasing power, the monasteries engaged 
heart and soul to promote the purposes of that Church 
whose " pious frauds " are not amongst the least of her 
inexplicable and crying offences. The sagacity of Rome 
readily perceived in these establishments a powerful 
engine for the extension of her influence, and, yielding to 
her fatal ascendancy, the result may be easily foreseen : 
they were among the first to encounter the outburst of 
the storm directed against her and all connected with 
her. It is only requisite to scan the melancholy record 
of opinions promulgated and practices encouraged under 
the direct authority and sanction of the Church of 
Rome of which the conventual churches of abbeys and 
myncheries were usually the scene, and where warm 
supporters of the profanity were always to be found, 
to form some estimate of the outrages perpetrated against 
all that is sacred and venerable under the desecrated 
guise of religion. An example or two, from, unfor- 
tunately, an ample field of abuse, will suffice to illustrate 


the nature of those monstrous perversions to which the 
monks were wont to lend themselves. We must premise 
that these solemnities were enacted annually under the 
direction of bishops, abbots, priors, and other dignitaries 
of the Roman Church, with all due seriousness and 

" The Feast of Fools " was celebrated in various mas- 
querades of women, lions, players, &c. They danced and 
sung in the choir ; ate fat cakes upon the horns of the 
altar, where the celebrating priest played at dice ; put 
stinking stuff from the leather of old shoes into the 
censer; ran, jumped, &c. through the church!* 

Upon what plea is it possible to justify absurdity so 
revolting as this? Could it in any way serve or promote 
the awfully responsible ends of religion, or add dignity or 
weight to its ordinances ? We are at a loss to define the 
infatuation which could sanction such miserable folly ; 
and yet, wretched as it is, it is fully equalled, or rather 
surpassed, by another performance with which the devotee 
of that day was also periodically regaled. 

" The Fool Bishop, at mattins, high mass, and vespers, 
with his chaplain, was to preside for three days pontifi- 
cally on the episcopal throne, properly adorned ! from 

* Fosbroke, p. 81. 


whence, on the introit of the said hours, he was to be 
clothed in the vestiary with a common silk cope, and 
adorned with a mitre and silk gloves. The chaplain was 
to be clothed likewise in a common silk cope, carrying on 
his head a little cushion instead of the cap. Incense- 
bearers and the apparitor preceded the Fool Bishop to the 
episcopal throne. There, with his chaplain sitting at his 
feet, having always a cross in his hand, he sat as long as 
the above hours were celebrating. The sub-deacon who 
was to sing the epistle, or the deacon the gospel, with one 
knee bent, made him a supplication, whom he marked with 
his right hand!"* 

Comment is superfluous. It may readily be imagined 
to what all this inane ribaldry would eventually lead ; 
the contempt naturally engendered by the idle buffoonery 
of the mock prelate was in process of time transferred to 
the real one, and the consequences recoiled with addi- 
tional force upon the system which originated and could 
sanction such proceedings. Other cases of a like nature 
might be cited, such as the Boy Bishop, the Festival 
of the Ass, &c., equally calculated to bring ridicule 
upon the rites and ordinances of religion, and to fill 
every reflecting mind with unmitigated disgust. And 

* Fosbroke, p. 80. 


these were the exhibitions tolerated and encouraged 
in the palmy days of monachism, and of which their 
cloistered precincts were not unfrequently the arena. No 
stronger proof than this can be required to mark the 
degeneracy of monastic institutions, and their departure 
from the very purport and principle of their foundation ; 
and whatever might have been the popular enthusiasm 
in their favour in their earlier years, it was not long 
before a visible reaction displayed itself. No sooner had 
the twelfth century drawn to a close, than the zeal which 
had been so profusely manifested towards the monas- 
teries in the shape of gifts, grants, and bequests, began 
to decline; recurring at rare and uncertain intervals, 
they at length ceased altogether. The grasping spirit 
evinced by some of these establishments may have con- 
tributed in some degree to this result ; but there is little 
doubt that the increasing laxity and indifference apparent 
in their conduct mainly tended to accelerate their declen- 
sion in the popular esteem. About this time, also, a new 
channel was opened for the exercise of pious zeal and 
munificence, to which the bounteous current that had 
once flowed so lavishly towards the monasteries was now 
transferred. Two new orders made their appearance 
whose profession was poverty their wealth, the scrip 


and staff; these were the Dominicans and Franciscans 
or Friars Mendicants, as they were generally termed. 
The contrast presented by the profession and appearance 
of these fresh claimants upon pious sympathy, to the 
pride, wealth, and luxurious ease of the established 
orders, was well calculated to work a powerful effect, and 
before long they completely distanced their more indolent 
competitors in the race for popular favour. The very 
profession of poverty, borne out by the palpable in- 
difference to the wealth and pomp of the monks and 
other ecclesiastics, evinced by these Friars, obtained for 
them an extraordinary degree of sympathy, something 
akin to that formerly displayed towards the older orders 
of monachism, when at their first institution they pleaded 
the same vow of poverty ; whilst the activity and zeal 
they employed in the discharge of their ministerial office 
secured for them that enthusiasm to which their appear- 
ance had already inclined the popular bias. Within, 
however, no great length of time, the establishments of 
the mendicants themselves became gradually possessed 
of ample revenues and extensive estates ; and then the 
same growing spirit of laxity and indifference, as well as 
a corresponding decline in popular sympathy, fell to their 
share. A new light began to break upon the horizon of 


the religious world, and the first clear line that served to 
herald the approach of a flood of glorious sunshine 
beamed upon the world in the person of John de Wycliffe. 
From that moment monachism, in all its various phases, 
began to totter from the ascendant position it had so long 
occupied, until at length the watchword of Reformation 
rung from one end of Europe to the other, and out- 
thundered the palsied fulminations of the Vatican itself. 
In the sweeping changes consequent upon this mighty 
moral revolution, the original motive and intent of 
monastic institutions was lost sight of; abuse and use 
were confounded, and whatever there might be of good 
or evil commendable or reprehensible in the constitution 
of such societies, was indiscriminately sacrificed in the 
resistless torrent.^ 

Thus fell monastic establishments, after centuries of 
increasing power and splendour ; and though the imme- 
diate results were fatal to their existence only in this 
land, the system itself, throughout the countries where 
Papal ascendancy still prevails, received a shock which it 
has never since surmo anted. In England ruins, widely 
scattered in every direction, are all that is left to attest 
the former prevalence of monachism amongst us, and 
these are regarded with an interest proportioned to the 


many associations which the sight of them is calculated 
to excite. Of late years, indeed, some partial attempts 
have been made by the Roman Church to revive the 
system in the very heart of a Protestant country ; but 
many of its most prominent features are no longer to be 
recognised, and happily so. The character of modern 
monachism in England possesses more of the original 
intent and spirit ; its professors are generally quiet, 
unpretending persons, who have doubtless associated 
from zealous and conscientious motives, and who dis- 
charge their self-imposed duties faithfully and unob- 
trusively. How long this retiring spirit might be 
maintained were the discipline of Rome again to be 
predominant amongst us, it is not our business to 
discuss ; nor is such a consummation to be wished, on 
many serious accounts. The Cluniacs, however, are 
extinct ; and the land that once teemed with members 
of their rigid order, now knows them no more. At least 
forty-five distinct establishments of this order once 
existed in our land, and these were fully organised and 
completed within less than a century and a half; the 
first introduction of the order being effected by William, 
first Earl de Warrenne and Surrey, and the last house in 
connexion with it being founded in the latter years of 


Stephen's reign. On continental Europe, the order 
obtained in Spain, Italy, Germany, Lombardy, and to an 
unprecedented degree in France, where its monasteries 
exceeded those of all other orders ; thus evincing that, 
notwithstanding its peremptory restrictions, the Cluniac 
rule was in especial favour with the enthusiastic and 
devout. For a considerable period, the principals of 
the houses of this order in England were invariably 
foreigners, generally supplied from the parent founda- 
tions in France ; but after the increasing importance of 
the dependent cells enabled the greater part of them to 
throw off the trammels of subserviency, the superiors 
were elected by the several chapters from among their 
own fraternity, and thus their monasteries became exclu- 
sively native. The moral canker at length infected the 
austere severity of Cluniac discipline, and many ingenious 
substitutes were devised in place of the rigid require- 
ments of the founder, until little more than the name 
remained to mark the distinctive character of the order. 
Since then, the shadow has departed as well as the 
substance ; and the pious labours of the Abbot of Gigni 
live but in the memory of the past. 



XTREMELY scanty (as might be ex- 
pected from the imperfect chronicles 
which relate to the period in which 
they flourished,) are the records which 
remain to us of some of the most 
powerful families that in a remote age constituted a 
portion of the ancient nobles of our land. Unless their 
names occur in association with the stirring events 
of the time which are matters of public history, it is 
rarely that they occupy a position sufficiently prominent 


to attract the attention of the chronicler, and the 
biographer is ahle to glean at best but a meagre outline 
of characters, which, from their importance in other 
respects, would seem to require detailed expatiation. 
In some respects, however, this circumstance may be 
deemed not altogether unfortunate, for in a great number 
of instances the quality of the information obtained will 
scarce repay to the curious inquirer the labour of 
research; and however he may delight to pore over 
musty tomes and to unravel the mysteries of worm- 
drilled chronicles, the issue will too frequently be disap- 
pointment, as the ideal attributes of nobility and dis- 
tinction, with which eager imagination is prone to invest 
its favourite hero, are scattered to the winds by the glar- 
ing evidence of moral worthlessness and insignificance. 

Charity, nevertheless, will cling to the hope that if the 
worst traits of character unhappily survive, it is because 

" the evil that men do lives after them ; 

The good is oft interred with their bones ; " 

and that much redeeming excellence is lost to us through 
the waywardness or partiality of the historian. 

Generally speaking, there is so much obscurity and 
intermixture of legendary matter in the annals of our 
ancient worthies, that it is no easy task to sift their 


incongruous material in order to arrive at a simple and 
explicit approximation to the truth ; and this remark 
applies with peculiar force to the records which relate to 
the members of that once powerful and illustrious family 
of whom, from their intimate connexion with the Castle 
and domain of Acre, it behoves us to present a sketch. 
The very name of De Warrenne exists but in the faint 
traces of the past, and a family once prominently conspi- 
cuous for its powerful influence and princely wealth, 
associated with royalty and distinguished for military 
prowess, has long since ceased to own a living represent- 
ative. For some centuries they occupied a prominent 
station in the courts of princes, and enjoyed a measure 
of prosperity and influence vouchsafed to few, until at 
length their grandeur passed away as a dream, and the 
extraordinary possessions held by them were dispersed 
into various channels unassociated by title or kin with 
the original proprietors. The family cognizance, or and 
azure cheque, still holds a place in the quarterings of the 
illustrious house of Norfolk, with whom, in centuries 
gone by, it was connected by marriage; and this is all 
that is now left to indicate the individuality and family 
importance of De Warrenne. 

The armorial bearings introduced at the head of this 

D 2 


section, represent respectively those of De Warrenne, 
simple or and azure cheque ; and those of Arundel, lions 
rampant quartered with De Warrenne. They occur 
among the remains, and will be particularized hereafter. 

William, first Earl de Guarrenne (Warrenne), in Nor- 
mandy, and of Surrey in England, was the chief of a 
family among the most powerful and illustrious of his 
native land. Enjoying the intimate friendship and con- 
fidence of the Conqueror, with whom he was nearly 
connected by his marriage with Gondreda, the fourth 
daughter of that prince, it is natural that he should form 
one of that reckless band of chivalrous adventurers who 
followed the fortunes of their ambitious master on his 
daring and successful inroad on our isle. 

The little group of bold spirits who constituted the 
ducal court of Normandy had long contemplated with 
eager desire the fair broad lands and domains of England, 
and were not backward, on the first intimation of their 
liege lord's determination, to avail themselves of the 
opportunity. The prospect of rich remuneration which 
the Duke of Normandy held out to his devoted followers 
in the event of success, was sufficient in itself to inflame 
their determination in an age when bold and daring 
exploits were deemed the surest tests of distinction ; and 


it is said that even before a foot was planted on the deck 
of the flotilla which was to bear them to our shores, the 
broad lands of " merrie England " were parcelled out 
among the rapacious crew. The successful issue of a 
contest which was destined to effect so extensive a 
change in the character of an empire, is well-known 
matter of history. No wonder, then, that upon the event 
. of the memorable field of Hastings, (the first, though 
by no means the last step necessary to the Conquest,) 
the triumph and exultation of the victorious Normans 
should be represented as partaking of a degree of extra- 
vagance allied to delirium. Such was the transport of 
their savage fury, we are informed, that they caused their 
horses to prance and plunge over the thickly-strewed 
bodies of the devoted Anglo-Saxons, and spurned their 
prostrate foe with an indignity utterly incompatible with 
a noble and magnanimous spirit. 

Among those who took part in the business of that 
eventful day, and in many an after conflict in the service 
of his chief, was William de Warrenne, whose zeal and 
devotion met with prompt attention and reward. 

The first act of his royal master towards him was to 
create him Earl of Surrey, and then to put him in pos- 
session of such vast domains as in point of extent and 


revenue amounted to a little principality. The official 
situation which he occupied at the court of the Conqueror, 
was that of Justiciary of the Kingdom ; a circumstance 
which proves that De Warrenne possessed ability of no 
mean order, independently of his military distinction. 
His colleague in this responsible office was Richard de 
Bienfait, and their names occur among those of the 
counsellors of state associated with Odo, Bishop of 
Bayeux, the half-brother of the Conqueror, in the govern- 
ment, when William revisited Normandy after his first 
partial subjugation of the kingdom. History bears 
melancholy testimony to the harshness and oppression 
employed by these haughty barons during their tempo- 
rary conduct of affairs; treatment which effectually 
roused a spirit of resistance on the part of the English, 
that it cost their stern masters an infinity of labour and 
anxiety to subdue. With these oppressions originated a 
long series of painful convulsions, which, it is shrewdly 
suspected, was the very issue contemplated by the subtle 
William in his temporary retirement to Normandy, that 
so a fair pretext might be supplied for the forcible and 
complete subjugation of the country; if this were his 
motive, the purpose was amply realised. 

The substantial acknowledgments received by De 


Warrenne as his share of the spolia opima may be 
summed up in a few words. In the county of Norfolk 
alone, the Conqueror bestowed upon him the possession 
of and right over no less than one hundred and thirty- 
nine lordships, in the county of Suffolk eighteen more, 
at least an equal number in the county of Sussex, besides 
vast possessions in the northern counties enough, one 
would think, to satisfy the cravings of the most rapa- 
cious spirit. Of all his extensive territories, his lordship 
of Acre, unceremoniously wrested from an unfortunate 
Saxon thane, attracted the Norman's peculiar regard ; and 
here, so soon as the partial settlement of affairs conse- 
quent upon the Conquest would permit of his applying 
to the work, he hastened to erect his baronial residence, 
wherein he took up his permanent abode. Vast as were 
the resources which so wealthy and powerful a noble 
might bring to bear upon his undertaking, the work was 
doubtless one of time as well as of considerable labour, 
nor is it probable that its completion was perfected at 
the period of the earl's decease some twenty-two years 
afterward. In the mean while, however, once fairly 
established in the possession of his broad lands, he 
appears to have applied himself with considerable 
activity to works of a more peaceful and commendable 


character. A distinguishing trait in the character of our 
Norman rulers was the mania for founding and endowing 
religious houses, a disposition which prevailed to a great 
extent among them ; and if the subject Anglo-Saxons 
were compelled to groan beneath the iron rule of foreign 
despotism, they were at least ultimately constrained to 
acknowledge the advantage which art and industry 
derived from the splendid projects of their haughty 

Partaking of this spirit, in common with his country- 
men, De Warrenne determined to apply some portion of 
his ample revenues to purposes which might bequeath to 
him a fairer position in the annals of fame than he might 
otherwise have been destined to enjoy. His first under- 
taking in this way was to found and endow an extensive 
priory and hospital at Lewes in Sussex, a foundation 
which, he appropriated to the abbey of Clugny in Bur- 
gundy, as a residence for a fraternity in connexion with 
that religious order. It is simply related that upon 
some occasion, De Warrenne, accompanied by his Coun- 
tess, determined upon a pilgrimage to the Holy City, and 
at an early period of their progress thitherward they 
availed themselves of the hospitality usually proffered 
by the monasteries to those who were bent upon a like 


pious errand. The reception they experienced at Clugny, 
and the general character of the religious profession 
exercised within its walls, so charmed the noble pilgrims, 
that when in after years an opportunity was presented 
for carrying into effect a long-cherished desire to found 
some religious house for the welfare of their souls, they 
determined to evince their recollection of what they had 
seen and heard at Clugny by bestowing upon that foun- 
dation the house they were about to establish. Thus the 
priory of Lewes was endowed for the support of twelve 
Cluniac monks, who, with a certain Lanzo at their head, 
were despatched somewhere about the year 1078 from 
the parent establishment to take possession of this new 
retreat. Their privileges were then duly confirmed to 
them by charter. Within six years after this, the Earl 
commenced the foundation of another religious establish- 
ment, immediately contiguous to his Castle of -Acre, 
which he appropriated to the same order, and annexed 
as a cell to his previous foundation at Lewes, both being 
thus subordinate to the wealthy Abbey of Clugny. 
Scarcely, however, was the foundation-stone of the Priory 
of Acre duly laid, than its munificent founder sustained 
a bereavement for which he was but ill prepared. His 
wife Gondrede, to whom he seems to have been tenderly 


attached, died in child-bed at his baronial castle, on the 
27th of May, 1085, and was removed for interment to 
the new priory church of St. Pancras at Lewes, and there 
deposited. From this period, the bereaved Earl would 
seem to have passed the remainder of his days in com- 
parative seclusion, devoting his time to religious exer- 
cises, and works of piety and benevolence. A small cell 
at Heacham owes its origin to his liberality ; and at the 
expiration of four years from the period of his loss he 
himself was gathered to his fathers, and expired in the 
month of June, A. D. 1089. It is supposed that his 
remains were deposited with those of his lamented 

William, second Earl de Warrenne and Surrey, suc- 
ceeded to the titles and vast possessions of his father. 
But slender details of his history remain to us; although it 
appears that he was a suitor, not altogether unfavoured, 
for the hand of Matilda, daughter of Malcolm King of 
Scotland, and subsequently Queen-consort of Henry I. 
The marriage, however, was not sanctioned by Rufus, to 
whom, and not to the lady's relatives, the demand was 
made. The Red King, doubtless, had good reasons for 
the prohibition, in the simple fact that it would have 
been highly impolitic on his part to encourage a union 


between so powerful a vassal and a princess of the 
ancient Saxon line ; and this project failing, it does not 
appear to whom the Earl was eventually united. Upon 
the accession of Henry I. we find this De Warrenne 
associated with the Earl of Shrewsbury and Arundel, 
Walter Gifford, Arnulf de Montgomery, Robert de Mallet, 
and other influential barons, in espousing the pretensions 
of Robert of Normandy, the elder brother of Henry, to 
the sovereignty of England. These powerful nobles, 
whose weight and influence would at any time render 
their opposition formidable, promised to join the Duke 
with all their forces, immediately upon his landing to 
assert his right to the throne ; and they were true to 
their engagement. But the result was unsuccessful, and 
the mild and, leisure-loving Robert was speedily won 
over by his wily and grasping brother to effect a com- 
promise. The defection of his barons was not likely to 
escape the notice of the crafty Henry, and many of them 
experienced the full weight of his resentment in the 
confiscation and alienation of their estates, though their 
persons were spared. De Warrenne, however, seems to 
have been so fortunate as to pass without let or molesta- 
tion, either in purse or person. 

In addition to munificent benefactions to the infant 


priory of Acre, he founded two other religious houses in 
distant counties, one at Widkirk in Yorkshire, and the 
other at Sandtoft in Lincolnshire. 

Of William, the third Earl, the historical particulars 
are equally meagre ; although he is said to have obtained 
high consideration for services rendered to King Stephen. 
In requital of these services, this monarch bestowed upon 
De Warrenne the demeans of the borough of Thetford, 
together with the advowsons of all the churches on the 
Suffolk side of that place, of no inconsiderable importance 
at the period. The Earl, already in the enjoyment of 
princely possessions, determined forthwith to apply his 
new acquisitions to pious purposes, and accordingly he 
commenced at Thetford the foundation of an extensive 
monastery and church, which he appropriated to the use 
of the order of Regular Canons of the Holy Sepulchre. 
This foundation he endowed with all that he had received 
from the King, and added further grants and privileges 
of great munificence. His example was followed by his 
brothers, and other successive members of his family, 
until the establishment attained to considerable affluence. 
Like his predecessors, he did not omit to foster his 
ancestral foundation at Acre, to which he was a liberal 
benefactor, causing a foundation to be built at Slevesholm 


as a cell to that establishment. At this period the torch 
of enthusiasm kindled a flame that burnt brightly over 
Europe, and, sharing the common zeal, De Warrenne 
hastened to join the ranks of the crusaders, carrying 
numerous and valuable aid to the army under Louis 
King of France, and the Emperor Conrad. There, in the 
very centre of the Holy Land, in conflict with " the proud 
Paynim," he met an honourable death, and his possessions 
devolved upon his only child Isabel. 

Hamlyn Plantagenet *, a member of the illustrious 
House of Anjou, and nearly connected with the reigning 
sovereign, as fourth Earl De Warrenne and Surrey, suc- 
ceeded to the enjoyment of the titles and estates solely 
in right of his marriage with Isabel, the only child of the 
deceased Earl. By her he left issue, William, who 
succeeded to the family honours. Hamlyn does not 
appear to have partaken in a very great degree of the 
chivalrous spirit of the time ; for it is recorded of him 
that, having been appointed, during the reign of John, to 

* Perhaps the characteristic origin of this distinguished family appel- 
lative is not so generally remembered as it deserves to l>e. Geoffrey of 
Anjou, the chief of this House, possessed a peculiar predilection for the 
flower of the common broom plant (Planta genistce\ a sprig of which he 
was not only in the habit of wearing in his bonnet, but his followers 
were required to do likewise ; and thus it became the family cognisance, 
and ultimately its familiar designation. 


serve the office of Justiciary of the Cinque Ports, he 
declined serving, and was thereupon required to pay the 
fine of a palfrey to the King for his contumacy. And 
upon another occasion, in the same reign, he is men- 
tioned as having, in conjunction with the Archhishop of 
Canterbury, paid a second fine to the same monarch, in 
order to be released from the obligation of sending their 
knights and retainers over into Poictou. From these 
little traits, we may infer this Earl to have been of a 
retiring and domestic disposition; although it must be 
noticed that he was by no means indifferent to the 
stirring events which convulsed the land during the 
latter portion of the reign of the tyrannous and treach- 
erous John. We find the seal of De Warrenne amongst 
others appended to that great and memorable Charter 
which laid the foundation of English liberties, showing 
that he was of the number of those bold Barons by whose 
firmness and intrepidity a slow consent was at length 
wrung from the reluctant and unprincipled monarch. 
The name of Hamlyn occurs among the liberal benefactors 
of the Priory at Acre and other religious establishments. 
William, fifth De Warrenne and Surrey, survived his 
father but for a short time ; though, having married Maud, 
a daughter of William Mareschal, Earl of Pembroke, he 


left issue, John Plantagent and Isabella. The former 
was destined to become a conspicuous character in the 
annals of his country ; the latter was eventually espoused 
to Hugh de Albini, Earl of Arundel and Sussex, and this 
seems to have been the first alliance between the two 
noble families who, by a subsequent intermarriage, 
became so intimately connected. This Countess of 
Arundel, partaking of the same pious munificence for 
which her family were so conspicuous, devoted a con- 
siderable portion of her ample dowry to the foundation 
and support of an Abbey at Marham, appropriated to 
the use of the Cistercian nuns, an order first introduced 
into England about the year 1128. This abbey ultimately 
attained considerable wealth and eminence. 

It must not* however, be forgotten that the name of 
the fifth Earl occurs in the annals of our national history, 
as taking a part in the serious differences which obtained 
between Henry III. and his Barons, under the influence 
of the celebrated Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. 
De Warrenne appears to have adhered to the King's 
party, and enjoyed the friendship of Prince Edward. 
Upon the serious reverses sustained by the royalist 
forces at the battle of Lewes, De Warrenne made his 
escape to the Continent, accompanied by the half-brothers 


to the King. From thence he subsequently returned, 
and landed in Wales at the head of one hundred and 
twenty knights and a troop of archers. His loyal 
example was speedily followed by other barons who 
joined his standard; and after a series of successful 
manoeuvres, De Montfort sustained a complete overthrow 
in the vicinity of Evesham. It cannot be doubted that 
the devotion of De Warrenne to his master's cause 
obtained for him the favour and esteem of the monarch. 

In our historical notices of the sixth Earl De Warrenne 
and Surrey, we have a wider field of interest and infor- 
mation to engage our attention. Possessing undaunted 
firmness, unquestionable courage, and great military 
talent, John Plantagenet failed not to attract the especial 
regard of one of the most chivalrous monarchs who ever 
swayed the sceptre of England. Edward I. well knew 
how to appreciate the qualities which distinguished 
one so eminently conspicuous among the wealthy and 
influential of his barons, and readily availed himself of 
the powerful aid supplied by his vast resources and 
experience ; nor was the king's judgment in this matter 
without its advantageous results. 

An incident is on record which prominently illustrates 
the bold and independent spirit of this De Warrenne, 


and which, while it involved an act directly opposed to 
the prevailing desire of the monarch, tended probably in 
its results to induce the king to win by courtesy that 
which he utterly failed to obtain by force. 

Upon his return from a long and expensive sojourn in 
France, Edward found the condition of his exchequer to 
be so impoverished as to require vigorous and active 
measures for its reparation. Though possessed of many 
shining and estimable qualities, the king was not parti- 
cularly scrupulous about the means whereby he proposed 
to recruit his exhausted finances ; and unhesitatingly 
put in motion measures of so arbitrary a nature that a 
fierce spirit of resistance was kindled, to such an extent 
as if not timely checked must have led to consequences 
most fatal to hjs authority and interests. Commissioners 
were appointed, before whom the barons of the realm 
were summoned to render an account of the titles by 
which they respectively held their possessions, under the 
shallow pretext that many encroachments on the rights 
of the crown had been surreptitiously made by them. It 
must be confessed that the blow thus aimed at the 
interests of his haughty vassals was every way charac- 
teristic of the intrepidity for which Edward was dis- 
tinguished, although he somewhat miscalculated the 


reception which such policy would encounter from 
them. The scrutiny was searching and severe : and to 
some extent the ruse of the needy monarch was success- 
ful. But the bloodless triumph of Runnimede was not 
yet forgotten; and the bold spirit of the barons of 
England, fired at the summary proceedings levelled 
against their rights, was effectually roused to resistance. 
Upon his appearance before the commissioners, in obe- 
dience to the summons, the Earl de Warrenne and 
Surrey, when .required by them to produce his title, for 
all answer deliberately drew his ponderous sword, and 
pointing to it, exclaimed, " By this instrument do I hold 
my lands, and by the same I intend to defend them ! 
Our ancestors, coming into this realm with William the 
Bastard, acquired their possessions with their good 
swords. William did not make a conquest alone, or for 
himself solely ; our ancestors were helpers and participa- 
tors with him ! " The fearless earl was no longer urged, 
for the king was not prepared to dispute the validity of 
such title-deeds, and De Warrenne escaped unscathed 
from the ordeal. But others were not so fortunate : for 
in certain cases where, from the various convulsions to 
which the land had been subjected, written deeds and 
grants from the crown had been lost or destroyed, 


Edward, without scruple, seized the manors and estates, 
and would not release them except upon payment of 
large sums of money by way of ransom. 

The foregoing anecdote sufficiently indicates the mettle 
of this spirited baron ; but it is in the early part of the 
year 1296 that we first find the name of John de War- 
renne occupying a distinguished post in the victorious 
army of Edward. Our fair sister land, " land of brown 
heath and shaggy wood," will ever associate the recollec- 
tion of De Warrenne with one of the most momentous 
periods in the annals of her history. 

Baliol of Scotland, who, five short years before, had 
solemnly sworn fealty and allegiance to Edward, in evil 
hour, and by the mischievous advice of ambitious coun- 
sellors, as solemnly renounced his deliberate pledges. 
" Madman and foolish traitor ! " exclaimed Edward, when 
the intelligence reached him, " since he will not come to 
us, we will go to him." To determine and to act were 
simultaneous with the energetic monarch. De Warrenne, 
with a select detachment of troops, was commissioned to 
recover the Castle of Dunbar, which the Countess of 
March had delivered to the Scots, although her husband 
was at the very time serving in the army of Edward. 
And with the investment of this castle commenced a 


series of brilliant exploits on Scottish ground, in which 
De Warrenne obtained prominent distinction. 

Although the Scottish army in full force was des- 
patched to the relief of Dunbar Castle, the English troops 
under De Warrenne hesitated not to give them instant 
battle ; and on the 28th of April, after a severe encounter, 
the Scots were completely routed with the extraordinary 
loss of ten thousand men. The Castle immediately sur- 
rendered at discretion. Rapidly following up this bril- 
liant achievement, De Warrenne experienced a series of 
successes almost without parallel. Within a space of 
somewhat less than two months, he obtained the sur- 
render of the several Castles of Roxburgh, Dumbarton, 
Jedburgh, Edinburgh, and Stirling ; the principal strong- 
holds of the kingdom, whose conquest was thus effected. 
Too late did Baliol endeavour to withdraw the gauntlet 
of defiance which he had so hastily thrown down before 
the indignant Edward , too tardily did he offer abject 
submission and implore peace ; the victorious southron 
would exercise a conqueror's right, and Baliol was com- 
pelled to a complete surrender of his kingdom and 
degradation from his kingly state, in terms of the utmost 
baseness and humiliation-. 

It was not likely that the important services of the 


Earl of Surrey would be overlooked by the exulting 
monarch. As the most effectual means of securing to 
himself the peaceful possession of his recent conquest, 
Edward intrusted the custody of the surrendered 
castles to English captains, and filled every situation of 
weight and responsibility with English subjects, ap- 
pointing John de Warrenne to the exalted post of governor 
of the realms, with Hugh de Cressingham as treasurer, 
and William Ormesby as justiciary, to exercise supreme 

But the personal favour of the gratified monarch 
towards his illustrious general did not terminate here. 
In the early part of the year 1297, when De Warrenne 
had retreated for a short period from the cares and 
anxieties of 'his responsible office to the peaceful and 
domestic retirement of his own loved castle of Acre, 
leaving everything in Scotland, to ah 1 appearance, in a 
condition of quiet subjection, Edward, in additional proof 
of the esteem he entertained for his faithful baron, 
honoured him with a personal visit, attended by the most 
distinguished members of his court, and sojourned for 
the space of three weeks in the ancestral stronghold of 
the proud and opulent De Warrennes. Then did its 
massy walls ring with the shout of joy and revelry, its 


stately halls and crowded ballium throng with knightly 
retinue and mailed men, and all the pomp and circum- 
stance of military splendour. But scarcely had the pro- 
longed roar of festivity consequent upon this distinguished 
visit ceased to echo in its ample courts, than its noble 
master was again abruptly summoned from the peaceful 
seclusion of his home, to play his part in the turmoil and 
activity of vigorous warfare, for Scotland was again in 
insurrection and making another fierce struggle for terri- 
torial independence. 

De Warrenne, on leaving his charge for England, had 
delegated his authority to Ormesby, the justiciary, who 
acted as his lieutenant, and, for a time, all went on in 
peace and tranquillity. But volcanic fires slumbered 
beneath the seeming calm ; a star was rising over the 
hills of Scotland, that ere long blazed a signal beacon 
from clan to clan, and roused an energy which, for 
a time, effectually subdued the authority of English 

William Wallace, a name ever cherished by Scotia's 
sons her justly prized hero first stood forward in the 
month of May, A. D. 1297, as the liberator of his dis- 
tracted country from the thraldom of Eriglish rule ; and 
having by a masterly exploit obtained possession of the 


seat of government at Scone, chieftains of note and dis- 
tinguished rank flocked to the uplifted banner of freedom 
and independence. Ormesby, the discomfited lieutenant, 
with difficulty saved his life by flight, and abandoning to 
their chance a vast amount of booty and prisoners, 
hastened with all despatch to communicate the disastrous 
tidings to the too secure Earl of Surrey. 

At this time the king was preparing to embark for 
Flanders, but secure in the skill and discretion of his 
general, he made no alteration in his plans, receiving the 
intelligence with a calmness apparently akin to apathy ; 
but left the suppression of the revolt to the ability and 
judgment of his trusty friend De Warrenne. 

The energies of that nobleman were again aroused 
to vigorous- action, and hastily assembling all the dis- 
posable military force of the kingdom to the north of 
the Trent, he a second time pushed onward under the 
expectation of reaping fresh glories on the fated plains 
of Scotland. His first act, as soon as the troops could 
be coUected, was to despatch in advance Sir Henry Percy 
and Sir Robert Clifford, at the head of an army of forty 
thousand foot and three hundred horse. The policy of 
this prompt measure was immediately apparent. The 
insurgents, numbering a nearly equal force, were found 


in the occupation of a strong position in the neighbour- 
hood of Irvine in Ayrshire. Disorganisation, however, 
reigned in their ranks, and confusion in their councils. 
No acknowledged leader was as yet there to controul the 
irregular assembly that had flocked to the insurgent 
camp, and although Wallace had raised the standard of 
freedom, petty jealousies and cabals prevented his recog- 
nition among them as their authorised champion in the 
inevitable struggle. The natural consequence ensued ; 
dispirited, discontented, and dismayed, the chief associates 
of the luckless Wallace at once withdrew themselves 
from his alliance, and subserviently renewed their sub- 
mission to the authority of Edward, leaving but one 
baron and a still numerous though undisciplined force 
with the disgusted chieftain, who immediately withdrew 
with them to the north. Had the English now pursued 
the obvious advantage at their disposal, Scotland would 
again have been a subject land without the need of a 
blow ; but for the space of two or three months, with a 
want of foresight far from commendable, the government 
neglected all further attempt to suppress the insurrection, 
busying itself rather with petty quarrels and disputes of 
precedency, without bestowing a thought upon the 
gathering strength of the rekindled flame of patriotism 


that still blazed amid the Highlands. During this 
interval it appears that De Warrenne resigned his post 
as governor of the realm of Scotland, retaining, how- 
ever, the command in chief of the armies. The 
King appointed as his successor in the government 
one Bryan Fitzalan, a distant connection of the Earl of 

In the meanwhile a fresh gathering of bold and inde- 
pendent spirits rallied round the still free banner of 
Wallace ; the genius of freedom, though bruised, was not 
broken ; the hearts of many whose hands were fettered 
by vows and pledges to the Southron, went with the 
patriotic band, and, profiting by the experience of recent 
failure, to select a recognised leader and champion of 
their cause", the Hero of Scotland at length stepped forth 
at the head of a prodigious though undisciplined host, to 
renew, with better prospect of success, the arduous 
struggle for his country's independence. 

The strongholds of Brechin, Forfar, and Montrose, 
yielded to the impetuosity of the patriotic band; and, 
like an avalanche accumulating in its course, Wallace, 
leaving a strong force to invest Dundee, with a rapidity 
emulating that of his great antagonist, advanced at the 
head of forty thousand foot and one hundred and eighty 


horse upon Stirling, where a considerable garrison of 
English troops then lay. By the promptitude of this 
movement he anticipated the English general, and suc- 
ceeded in taking up a very strong and advantageous 
position in front of the Castle, before the main body of 
the Southron army, with De Warrenne at its head, could 
reach the place. Wallace posted his men on the banks 
of the Forth, partly concealing them behind the neigh- 
bouring high grounds ; and scarcely had he done so when 
the English troops appeared on the opposite side of the 
river, consisting, it is said, of one thousand horse and 
fifty thousand foot. 

The sagacity of De Warrenne immediately detected the 
incalculable superiority of the enemy's position, and he 
prudently resolved to offer terms before he ventured to 
risk an engagement. His caution, however, was over- 
ruled by the haughty tone of defiance with which 
Wallace received his flag of truce, and by the impatience 
of the English troops to chastise the bold daring of their 
intrepid challenger. " Return," exclaimed Wallace, " and 
tell your masters that we do not come here to treat, but 
to assert our rights, and to set Scotland free ; let them 
advance, they will find us prepared." Still De Warrenne 
hesitated ; and during that night no movement was made 


on either part. The reluctance of the English com- 
mander to risk an encounter could not arise from any 
apprehension of an inequality of numbers, for in that 
respect the advantage was obviously on his side ; besides, 
the skill and courage of De Warrenne were too securely 
established for that ; but the discrimination of the expe- 
rienced general at once discerned that, to press to the 
attack of a reckless foe burning to resent prior defeat, 
and posted to such singular advantage as were the troops 
of Wallace, was to rush upon inevitable defeat or destruc- 
tion, and the result too plainly proved the correctness of 
his judgment. The matter was deliberated for some 
hours, when the impetuosity of the men, and the taunts 
of Hugh de Cressingham, who loudly protested against 
the wasteful expenditure of the king's money in keeping 
up an army unless it were to fight, at length succeeded 
in overruling the better judgment of the commander, 
and the attack was determined upon. 

It should be borne in mind, that the Forth intervened 
between the English army and then* friends in the 
garrison which they had advanced to relieve, the forces 
of Wallace further interposing between the Castle and 
the adjacent bank of the river. The only means of 
crossing the stream was by a narrow wooden bridge, of 


dimensions so inconsiderable, as to render the passage of 
a numerous force, even though no chance of interruption 
existed, a work of time and difficulty. 

At an early hour of the morning of the fatal llth of 
September, the English troops began to pass over this 
inconvenient structure, Hugh de Cressingham leading 
the van. For some time no obstruction was offered to 
their progress, and nearly one-half of the assembled 
force made the transit in perfect security. At this junc- 
ture however, Wallace, by a dexterous development of a 
detachment of his forces, succeeded in gaining and kept 
possession of the extremity of the bridge by which the 
enemy had passed to the Stirling side ; and the astounded 
English saw themselves fairly entrapped and cut off from 
all chance of retreat by the same channel along which 
they had advanced, or of their friends effectually suc- 
ceeding in coming to their assistance. Rapid as thought, 
the Scottish chieftain revealed the whole extent of his 
hitherto partially concealed armament, and the snare 
into which the devoted English had thus incautiously 
precipitated themselves became at once apparent. A 
furious onslaught was made by the elated Scots upon 
their nearly paralysed opponents, and the scene became 
one of indescribable carnage and confusion. Burning 


with animosity against the luckless Southron, and flushed 
with the confident expectation of victory, the eager Scots 
neither gave nor sought for quarter ; the hapless English 
were mercilessly cut to pieces, or met their death in the 
troubled waters of the rapid Forth : thousands fell before 
the overwhelming torrent of destruction, and the hated 
Cressingham was the first to experience the vengeance 
of his infuriated opponents. But one English knight 
alone by a daring effort of bravery, succeeded in cutting 
his way through the serried ranks of those who guarded 
the bridge, and thus rejoining his friends on the opposite 
side. No prisoners were taken ; and it is believed, that 
all who gained the river perished in the stream from the 
weight of armour or the exhaustion of wounds. 

To the gallant De Warrenne, hitherto borne on the 
very wave- crest of success, this was indeed a disastrous 
day ; and he, whose name had hitherto been a passport 
to triumph, was reduced to the painful alternative of 
sudden and swift flight. Finding the fortune of the day 
to be irretrievable, he mounted his horse and rode with- 
out stopping to Berwick. 

The successes which rapidly followed upon this gallant 
exploit of the Wallace, are well known matters of 
history. Within a very short space of time English 


authority within Scottish ground was at an end, and 
English forces themselves effectually driven beyond the 
border. Elated by a brilliant series of triumphs, Wallace 
carried his incursions far within the English pale ; and 
the northern counties were fated to experience the 
weight of his vengeful retaliation. 

These fatal reverses, however, did not diminish the 
confidence reposed in the Earl of Surrey by his royal 
master. Edward, during the active period referred to, 
was still in Flanders, where tidings of the total change 
in the posture of affairs in Scotland reached him ; and 
acting with that promptitude and decision for which he 
was distinguished, he immediately addressed letters to 
all the Earls and Barons of England, requiring them to 
effect a general muster of the whole military force of the 
kingdom at York, by the 14th of the ensuing January, 
over which John de Warrenne was again deputed to be 
commander-in-chief a sufficient proof that he continued 
to retain the esteem of the king. In this way a formid- 
able army was assembled, consisting of not less than one 
hundred thousand foot and four thousand horse; who, 
under the gallant conduct of the Earl of Surrey, again 
advanced upon the Scottish border. The tables were 
once more turned ; and the lately victorious Scots fled 


before the mighty host arrayed against them. The army 
reached Berwick without striking a blow, and was pre- 
paring to enter upon the Scottish territory, when orders 
reached De Warrenne from Edward, commanding him to 
suspend all further advance until the King himself 
should arrive to place himself at its head. 

From this period, the name of John de Warrenne 
occurs no longer in the prominent position it had hitherto 
occupied, and history is silent with respect to his further 
career. There seems no reason to doubt that in the 
calm seclusion of his Castle of Acre, where he lived to a 
venerable old age, he continued to be honoured with the 
esteem and confidence of his royal master ; for in the 
many harassing and in some cases formidable differences, 
that subsequently took place between Edward and his 
Barons, the name of the Earl of Surrey does not once 
occur ; which, from the powerful extent of his influence, 
would surely have been the case had he taken any active 
part in those dissensions. 

The particulars of the domestic career of this distin- 
guished member of the De Warrenne family are ex- 
tremely vague and uncertain. It appears that he had 
one son, who married and died within the lifetime of his 
father, leaving issue also one son, who at an early age 


succeeded to the titles and estates on the decease of his 
grandfather, John Plantagenet. The Priory of Acre 
failed not to experience the munificence of the brave old 
Earl, and the Hospital of St. Mary Magdalen at Thetford 
was indebted for its foundation to the same liberal 

A remarkable contrast is presented to us in the 
character of John, grandson of the above, and the 
seventh and last Earl de Warrenne and Surrey : weak, 
mercenary, and dissolute, he seems by his folly and vices 
to have done much to degrade the name and to deteriorate 
the patrimony which he so unworthily held. Insensible 
to the real value of the influence which the high and 
commanding character, and the noble qualities of his 
grandfather had obtained for his family, he availed him- 
self of it only to foster his pride or to gratify his desires. 
Owing to the influential position which the De Warrennes 
occupied in the court of the First Edward, this degene- 
rate Earl succeeded in obtaining the hand of Joan de 
Barr, a grandaughter of the above king, in marriage, an 
event which in itself was well calculated to cement and 
strengthen that influence which the gallant old Earl had 
justly obtained in the councils of his sovereign ; and 
which was further exemplified in the appointment of the 


newly-married John to the responsible post of Deputy 
Constable of the Realm. 

A very few years elapsed before the sordid and male- 
volent passions of the last De Warrenne began to 
manifest themselves. Edward the First died on his 
expedition against Scotland within less than two years 
of the marriage of Earl de Warrenne, and the throne of 
England devolved upon the son of the deceased monarch, 
the first Prince of Wales, one in all noble qualities the 
very reverse of his father. De Warrenne was not slow 
to detect the prevailing foibles in the character of the 
second Edward weakness and cupidity, and in due 
time he diverted this disposition to the furtherance of 
his own iniquitous views. In the early part of this 
reign, indeed, he had united with the other leading 
Barons in opposing the infatuous predilection of the 
king for Piers Gaveston, to whom De Warrenne owed a 
peculiar grudge for his having worsted him in a tourna- 
ment ; but no sooner was Gaveston disposed of, than the 
wily Earl, with considerable subtlety, sought to gain the 
favourable disposition of the king to the promotion of 
his own base views. 

Wearied of the society of his amiable Countess, whose 
only reproach was that she was childless, De Warrenne 


sought for some pretext upon which he might sue for a 
divorce. The circumstance of his wife's close connexion 
with the blood-royal, rendered this a task of no small 
tact and delicacy ; but a timely display of loyal devotion 
to his master's interests sufficed to effect that which a 
direct appeal might have failed to accomplish. To this 
end, therefore, in the early part of the year 1316, 
affecting to experience extraordinary zeal in the service 
of his sovereign, whose interests he pretended were 
deserving of every sacrifice, he being at that time put to 
severe expenses for prosecuting the war in Ireland, De 
Warrenne made a free gift to Edward of a great part of 
his patrimonial estates, inclusive of his Castle and manor 
of Acre. The ruse succeeded ; Edward, charmed by the 
apparently disinterested sacrifice of his opulent baron, 
retained possession of the munificent gift for little more 
than a year, when he regranted it to the undeserving 
Earl, accompanied by his full sanction to the divorce, 
which had been opportunely introduced to his notice. 
De Warenne, separated from his Countess Joan, imme- 
diately contracted a second marriage with Isabella de 
Houland ; although this new alliance proved no less un- 
fortunate than the first, if issue had been the desire 
which prompted him to seek the divorce : Isabella died 


The wanton indifference to the integrity of his patri- 
monial estates which De Warrenne had evinced by his 
gratuitous surrender of them to the king, was again dis- 
played at the earliest opportunity. Scarcely had he 
been replaced in their possession than he began to give 
further proof of the little store he set by them, in seeking 
about for a purchaser for these despised possessions ; 
nor was he long detained in the search, for he found a 
willing purchaser in the person of the Earl of Pembroke, 
who within a year or two again passed them to the Earl 
of Athol ; and thus, for the space of nearly ten years, 
they were entirely alienated from the family of De 

However, in the first year of Edward III. the capri- 
cious Earl again repurchased of the Earl of Athol, the 
castle, manor, and estates he had previously sold, and 
one would hope that the return of better feelings might 
have prompted him to desire then' repossession. The 
real motive, unhappily, was not long a matter of ques- 
tion. In the year 1336, we once more find this vacillating 
and mercenary noble making a second grant of his 
valuable possessions to the reigning sovereign ! It does 
not appear to what particular end this ostentatious gift 
was now directed, but doubtless the subtle Earl antici- 



pated that he might win the favourable countenance of 
the youthful monarch, then in his twenty-fourth year, in 
the same mode which he had so successfully practised 
with the father. The third Edward, however, was not 
of a kindred spirit, and either penetrating the artful 
purpose of De Warrenne, or disgusted with the reckless- 
ness that could so readily tamper with the time-honoured 
possessions of an illustrious family, he within a month 
or two returned them upon his hands, with the express 
stipulation that in the event of the Earl's decease, as he 
had no issue, the property should revert to Richard, son 
of Edmund, Earl of Arundel, and Alice his wife, a sister 
of this same De Warrenne. By this expedient, the King 
effectually secured these noble domains from further 
detriment or misappropriation at the caprice of a weak- 
minded and unprincipled man. The whole of De War- 
renne's conduct with reference to the castle and appro- 
priate manors of Acre, seems to have been characterized by 
supreme indifference if not absolute dislike. Although 
the name of the last De Warrenne occurs once or twice 
amongst the benefactors of two or three small religious 
houses, his ancestral foundation at Acre appears to have 
been entirely neglected by him, although at the very 
time a near relative of his own occupied the post of 


prior in the establishment. His bounty was directed to 
other channels. Through the recommendation of Sir 
Edmund Gonville, founder of Gonville Hall, (now Caius 
College), at Cambridge, who officiated in some capacity 
of steward to this noble, De Warrenne placed a fraternity 
of Dominicans in an old foundation connected with the 
former see of Thetford, and subsequently known as the 
Old House Priory. To this establishment he contributed 
as largely as his impaired fortunes would permit, and 
subsequent benefactions and purchases obtained for 
the foundation a considerable share of wealth and im- 

The last male scion of the noble house of De War- 
renne survived the re-settlement of his patrimonial 
estates for about eleven years, and deceased on the 30th 
June, 1347. 

The castle and manor of Acre, and the greater part of 
the vast possessions of the De Warrennes, now passed, 
together with the title of Earls of Surrey, to Richard 
Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, a nephew of the last De War- 
renne, in conformity with the prudent arrangement of 
the King to that effect. Of this Earl no facts of moment 
relating to our subject remain to be recorded, save that 
to avoid the recurrence of such arbitrary transfer of pro- 


perty as disgraced the career of his predecessor, he adop- 
ted the precaution of entailing the castle and manor of 
Acre upon his heirs-male only. He married Eleanor 
daughter of Henry, Earl of Lancaster, and widow of 
Henry Lord Beaumont, by whom he had one son ; and 
after a peaceful enjoyment of his princely possessions 
during a period of nearly twenty-eight years, died A. D. 

Richard, son of the above, now succeeded to the 
titles and estates, and had the fortune to attract the 
notice and regard of the youthful Richard II. immediately 
upon his accession to the throne. In the month of 
August, 1377, we find the Earl of Arundel and Surrey 
leading the armies of the recently crowned monarch, and 
evincing something of the spirit and success of his great 
progenitor, the sixth Earl De Warrenne. A combined 
armament of French and Spanish, who had landed in 
great force in the Isle of Wight, devastating it and the 
adjoining coast of Hampshire, were effectually repulsed 
with great loss by the Earl of Arundel at the head of the 
English troops, in the vicinity of Southampton; and 
further important services were rendered by this noble- 
man in the subsequent incursions made by the enemy on 
the coasts of Sussex and Kent. In the following year 


(1378), a squadron was detached under the joint com- 
mand of the Earls of Arundel and Salisbury, with the 
view of taking possession of the port and town of Cher- 
bourg on the coast of Normandy, which had been just 
ceded to England by the King of Navarre, then occupied 
in a war with the French King, and who by this cession 
hoped to obtain the valuable aid of the English in his 
struggle. On its passage, the squadron encountered a 
Spanish fleet, and sustained considerable loss, but at 
length its destination was reached and Cherbourg 
effectually secured: thus depriving France of an important 
naval arsenal, and affording to the English another key 
of entrance to that kingdom. 

It would be thought that faithful and efficient services 
were at all times a sufficient claim upon the confidence 
and esteem of the sovereign, and not easily to be for- 
gotten. For a time, the Earl of Arundel appears to have 
retained the favourable countenance of the King ; but ere 
long he was doomed to learn, by melancholy experience, 
the value of the inspired Psalmist's humiliating caution 
" Put not your trust in princes." > 

The Earl of Arundel had for many years enjoyed 
the friendship and confidence of the Duke of Gloucester, 
uncle to the King ; and in the vigorous measures adopted 


by the Duke to displace from their ascendancy in the 
councils of Richard, Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, 
and Robert de Vere, Marquis of Dublin, and in the sub- 
sequent commission chosen by consent of both houses of 
parliament to reform the state of the nation, at the head 
of which Gloucester was placed, the Duke found 
willing and able coadjutors in the Earls of Arundel and 
Nottingham. The energy and success with which Glouces- 
ter carried his measures into operation, for a time 
effectually cowed the spirit of the faint-hearted King, 
who quailed before the energies of his imperious uncle. 
But hatred rankled at the monarch's heart, and he only 
bided his time for a signal and complete revenge. That 
which he had not the moral or physical courage to effect 
by force, he determined to accomplish by treachery and 
stratagem. Simulating acquiescence in the arrangements 
of Gloucester and his party (among the most prominent of 
whom were the Earls of Arundel, Warwick, and Notting- 
ham, although the latter, who was actually married to 
the daughter of Arundel, at a subsequent period insi- 
diously withdrew from the connection of his friends, and 
became one of the most diligent parasites of the King,) 
Richard suffered some ten years to elapse without 
betraying his resentment in any prominent manner. 


At length, within twelve months after his marriage 
with Isabella, daughter of Charles VI. of France an 
alliance which he knew to be as unwelcome to Gloucester 
and his friends, as it was generally unpopular throughout 
the country his treacherous design was carried into 
effect with consummate skill. 

His first victim was the Earl of Warwick, for whom he 
feigned an unusual degree of newly-awakened regard. 
Having invited him to a banquet, he received and enter- 
tained him with marked blandness and hospitality ; but 
before the conclusion of the interview the luckless Earl 
found himself placed under close arrest on a charge of 

Within two days of this stroke, and before it could 
be greatly noised abroad, the wily King succeeded in 
prevailing upon Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, to bring his brother, the Earl, to the royal presence 
for a friendly conference. The result also in this case was 
precisely the same, and the Arundels fell into the snare. 

There now remained but one more victim for this 
treacherous sacrifice, and he the most important of all. 
Hastening, with a gay and gallant company, to his 
uncle's castle of Fleshy, in Essex, where Gloucester 
was sojourning with his family, the unsuspecting Duke 


hurried to the entrance, to welcome his royal relative 
with all due honour. Richard saluted him in a sprightly 
and buoyant tone, and hurrying onward, feigned great 
eagerness to pay his respects to the Duchess, whom he 
detained in friendly conversation, while the Earl Marshal 
suddenly seizing the astonished Duke, hurried him with 
incredible speed to the Thames, secured him on ship- 
board, and had him conveyed to the strong-hold of the 
castle of Calais, where, shortly after, he was ingeniously 
murdered, although his death was publicly attributed to 
natural causes, and his body, which certainly betrayed 
no traces of violence, restored to his afflicted widow. 

But the coup-d'etat of Richard was not yet complete. 
Pushing on with extraordinary speed to the Castle of 
Nottingham, where his uncles Lancaster and York, and 
his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke, who were in a great 
degree involved in the measures and opinions of the 
Duke of Gloucester, then lay, he surprised them into 
annexing their seals to a document which charged their 
unfortunate friends, the Duke of Gloucester, the Earls of 
Arundel and Warwick, of treason ; and armed with this 
additional authorit} 7 , he hastened back to London to put 
the closing scene to the tragedy. 

On the 17th of September, Thomas Arundel, the 


primate, was publicly impeached of high treason ; but, 
apprehensive of the effect which his well-known eloquence 
might produce upon the assembled Peers and Commons, 
Richard, affecting to exercise unwonted clemency in the 
case of this distinguished ecclesiastic, contrived at once 
to obtain a sentence against him of banishment for 
life. This was accordingly acted upon, although, after 
all, the sentence was destined to be of brief duration. 
Within rather more than a year after it was pronounced, 
Thomas Arundel returned from exile, in company with 
the wily Bolingbroke; upon whose accession to the 
throne, on the deposition of Richard, the Archbishop was 
fully re-instated in the see of Canterbury. In this 
capacity, which he continued to fill until his death, he 
acquired an infamous notoriety, for the rigour of his 
measures against the Lollards; against which class of 
early Reformers he directed the most severe penalties. 
The first victim to this persecution at the hands of 
Arundel was William Sawtre, rector of Lynn Regis, who 
after sundry conferences with the primate, was solemnly 
deprived of his priestly office by the Archbishop, excom- 
municated, and delivered over to the secular power, by 
whom he was burnt in Smithfield a fearful precedent, 
the first fruits of a bloody harvest in the same arena. 



This martyr was speedily followed by others, among 
whom was the amiable and talented Lord Cobham. The 
particulars of their respective conferences and discussions 
with Arundel, are recorded in Foxe's Acts and Monu- 
ments. Archbishop Arundel, though a man of con- 
siderable learning and ability, was withal an inflexible 
bigot and stickler for the supremacy of prelatical autho- 
rity. To his example and influence many deviations 
from the primitive standards of faith and doctrine in the 
church owe their promulgation, if not their origin. He 
particularly enjoined the worship of the Virgin, and 
encouraged many superstitions, worthy only of the 
darkest ages ; and it is worthy of especial notice that it 
was about this period that the cup, in the sacrament of 
the Eucharist, was gradually withheld from the laity, 
although so cautiously was this innovation introduced, 
that the clergy were instructed to begin the practice only 
in small obscure village churches. 

But to return. On the very day following the sentence 
passed on the Primate, Richard Earl of Arundel was 
placed at the bar of the House of Lords, and his trial 
proceeded with unwarrantable rapidity. The unfortunate 
Earl stoutly protested his innocence, and offered to prove 
it by the then frequent expedient, in such cases, of 


ordeal by battle. Failing to obtain this concession, he 
demanded a fair and open trial by jury; this also was 
denied him, for his destruction was resolved upon ; and, 
as a last resource, he pleaded a general and particular 
pardon, on account of services rendered many years 
before. In vain did he claim an impartial hearing ; 
sentence was passed with very little ceremony. On the 
following day his execution accordingly took place on 
Tower Hill ; at which, to his additional agony, his own 
son-in-law, Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, 
assisted, and performed the unfilial office of binding up 
the victim's eyes for sacrifice : it is even said by some 
that he struck the blow which severed the head from the 
trunk of the hapless Earl of Arundel. 
' The vindictive spirit of the King towards the family 
of his noble victim did not terminate with this tragic 
issue. The late unfortunate Earl had, in early life, 
espoused Elizabeth, daughter of William Bohun, Earl of 
Northampton, by whom he left issue a son and a 
daughter. Upon the untimely decease of his father, this 
son, Thomas, by virtue of the entail, should have suc- 
ceeded to the enjoyment of the titles and estates ; but 
the King, availing himself of the pretext of treason on 
the part of the father, determined to carry his resentment 


to the utmost, and without hesitation alienated the 
possessions of the Earldom of Arundel and Surrey to 
others ; bestowing the castle and manor of Acre upon 
that pious individual, the Earl of Nottingham, whom he 
at the same time raised to the dignity of Duke of 
Norfolk, and causing an act to be passed, by which the 
issue-male of all those persons who had been condemned 
were for ever declared incapable of sitting in parliament, 
or holding office in council. 

Thus matters continued, until the deposition of Richard, 
and the accession of Bolingbroke as Henry IV., when one 
of the first acts of the latter was to reverse the attainder 
against the unoffending son of his unfortunate friend 
and ally the Earl of Arundel, to rescind the heartless 
and obnoxious act which excluded him from office, and 
to reinstate him fully in the possession of the ancient 
family titles and estates. After this, he continued to 
enjoy the uninterrupted esteem of his sovereign and his 
successor. The latter he accompanied into France, and 
took part in the brilliant glories of the memorable field 
of Azincourt, and in those other encounters which 
tended so greatly to elevate the military fame of 
England upon the Continent. He had married, in 
early life, Beatrice, an illegitimate daughter of the 


King of Portugal, but left no issue at his decease, which 
occurred in 1416. 

It will be needless to trace the history of these noble 
families any further. Enough has been said to illustrate 
the character of those powerful and haughty feudal 
chiefs, with whose memory the grey remnants of the 
Castle of Acre must ever be associated. All that we 
have aimed at in the foregoing sketch has been to convey 
some impression, however slight, of the position in society 
and bearing of those individuals who, in a remote age of 
chivalry, occupied its stately halls, and crowded its 
defences with all the splendour and circumstance of a 
military stronghold. At the epoch where our sketch 
breaks off, the days of chivalry were fast passing away, 
and the immense baronial power and influence which 
had formerly been matter of jealous suspicion, if not 
alarm, to the Sovereign, was fast losing its weight and 
importance in the regal councils. The stern and haughty 
Barons of the two last centuries began to merge into the 
no less dignified and infinitely more high-minded and 
generous class which constitute the Nobility of England. 

Before we dismiss this portion of our subject, it may 
not be uninteresting to take a rapid glance at the 
general character, habits, and customs of those ancient 


Barons who occupy so prominent a station in the early 
annals of our history in connexion with, and consequent 
upon, the Conquest. 

They were, as we have already seen, essentially a 
chivalrous race, in so much, at least, as the term implies 
considerable military skill, personal courage, hardihood, 
and independent spirit ; in the higher qualities of chival- 
rous bearing, they were too frequently deficient. The 
success to which they attained in their military opera- 
tions was unsurpassed by any class of people of the 
time, and victory usually crowned their operations to 
whatever quarter they might be directed. In the direc- 
tion of their exploits, they were not particularly scru- 
pulous with respect to the moral rights and privileges of 
others ; by the sword they obtained possession of their 
domains, and by the sword they retained it. A stern, 
uncompromising, grinding system was introduced by the 
Normans, which enabled them to crush, with iron hand, 
that spirit of resistance which a more equitable policy 
might have rendered it difficult to them to subdue. 
Such, in brief, was the general character of the feudal 

The establishments maintained by these haughty 
chiefs, were of a piece with the oppressive magnificence 


which characterised their general demeanour. The 
castles, with their immediate dependencies, were crowded 
with retainers who, apart from ceremonies of state, were 
wont to be at the disposal of their liege masters upon 
the most ordinary occasions. In travelling, it was no 
unusual thing for a Baron to be attended by as many as 
a thousand horse, besides a retinue on foot ; while in 
time of war, in addition to the pecuniary resources they 
could bring to the assistance of the sovereign, their 
trains, fully mounted and equipped, formed little armies 
in themselves. Whatever share a love of pomp and 
parade might have in such displays, there can be no 
doubt that the extreme insecurity of the country, and 
the precarious tenure by which the Normans during a 
-long period held their newly acquired possessions, sug- 
gested the necessity of these precautions ; which rendered 
them at once formidable to the predatory bands of 
outlawed Saxons, and at length objects of jealous suspi- 
cion to the sovereign, who, unable to dispense with their 
aid, could not control their independence. The frequent 
collisions between the Barons of the realm and their 
acknowledged head, in which the former successfully 
maintained their independence, are well-known matters 
of history. 


A similar profuse expenditure prevailed in the domestic 
arrangements of the baronial strongholds ; but in most 
instances, the means were inadequate to the intention. 
The modern accessories of luxurious ease and refinement 
were little dreamt of by the rude dwellers of an iron 
age ; stately and grand as we know their halls to have 
been, the particulars of their internal arrangement were 
little in accordance with the character. Straw supplied 
the place of beds, rushes rudely strown served for 
carpets, the regal palace boasted nothing better for the 
general mass of its inmates. Splendid garments, rich 
armour, massy cups of gold and silver, and priceless 
jewels of various kinds were not uncommon among them ; 
but of the innumerable appliances of domestic conve- 
nience and elegance, which long custom has since 
rendered indispensable to the humblest cotter in the 
land, they were utterly ignorant or careless. Huge 
oaken tables groaned beneath the prodigality of substan- 
tial cheer, but fingers alone were employed in tearing 
the morsel from the joint; and the wine-cup circulated 
from mouth to mouth, without regard to rank or age. 
The baronial tables, however, were provided with the 
rarest luxuries that the age could produce and money 
procure ; and no pains were spared to render their enter- 


tainments sumptuous and recherches. The cookery was 
congenial to the prevailing tastes ; and although many 
of the dishes would doubtless horrify a gastronome of 
the nineteenth century, they possessed peculiar agremens 
for the epicures of that day. Among the most esteemed 
of their dainties must be mentioned the crane and the 
peacock, the latter of which was frequently sent to table 
in its gorgeous plumage ; while certain other dishes, 
known by the not very euphonous names of Diligrout, 
Kasurnpie, and Maumpigirun, were especial favourites. 
Indeed, so much importance was attached to the correct 
preparation of certain condiments, that Blount, in his 
" Ancient Tenures," records the fact of estates being held 
on this express condition. Wines of coarse and powerful 
quality, with ale and cider, constituted the usual 

With all this incitement to sensual indulgence, the 
Normans were a temperate race, and their banquets were 
regulated rather for display than luxury. Their hours 
were early, and a triplet proverbial amongst them ac- 
quaints us with the fact : 

Lever a cinq, diner a neuf, 
Souper a cinq, coucher a neuf, 
Fait vivre d'ans nonnante et neufs. 




To rise at five, to dine at nine, 
To sup at five, to bed at nine,. 
Makes a man live to ninety-nine ; 

a system which might not unadvantageously be practised 
at the present day. In short, their daily habits were 
strictly regulated, so as to maintain unimpaired that 
vigour of body and strength of constitution so essential 
to the chivalrous character they professed. To this 
all other considerations were made subservient ; and 
if boisterous revelry sometimes prevailed, effeminacy 
and enervating indulgence were alike scouted and 

The literary capabilities of the Barons of old were such 
as might be expected from an age when might was 
regarded rather than right, and the sword served as the 
most usual pen. Few, very few, could read, still less 
could write, for such acquirements were looked upon 
as the province of "poor beggarly clerks;" even seals 
were not employed until a late period, and the usual 
mode adopted by the Baron to confirm a grant or 
sanction a deed, was to bite the wax, leaving the 
impress of his teeth on the pliant mastic as the only 
proof of his approbation. 


Such were some of the characteristics of a class of men 
who filled no inconspicuous position in the early annals of 
our history, and who were destined to be the instruments 
of great and decisive changes in its social and moral 
features. Highly as, in an age of enlightened intel- 
lectuality, we may be disposed to censure the views, 
habits, and practices of these people, let us not withhold 
from them the meed of bold and chivalrous bearing; 
and if, perchance, at any time we are disposed to 
denounce them as little better than robbers, let the 
opprobrious epithet be cancelled in the remembrance 


-*-* r 5 -- i= jC~^ ** ^^ J^ k x {&&- ' _jjf^'^^' 

Etcied "by K.Ninin from a Drawing tj C. Wright, 




N opinion has obtained to some extent 
among the curious in such researches, 
(based upon an ambiguous expression in 
Blomefield,) that this venerable strong- 
hold of feudal grandeur may be referred 
to a Roman origin, that traces of their work may be 
detected in the existing remains. The inference does 
not appear sufficiently supported by evidence to be 
deemed conclusive, and a careful examination of the site 
does not, we imagine, confirm the supposition. 

That a small Roman station existed in the immediate 
vicinity, if not on the actual site, of the castle, is probable 
from its direct proximity to a road or ma familiarly 
known as the Peddar's "Way, running in a straight line 
from hence to the coast, and from the natural features of 
the surrounding country presenting a locality favourable 


to such a purpose ; but, undoubtedly, there is at present 
no evidence of a castrum or permanent station, such as 
may indubitably be traced at Caister, Burgh Castle, and 
other places in Norfolk and the adjoining counties, 
having occupied this particular site. The simple fact of 
a few coins and other articles of Roman handicraft having 
occasionally, though rarely, been brought to light within 
the limits of the parish, whilst they indicate its proxi- 
mity, does not by any means authorise us to appropriate 
the precise place of Roman sojournment. The remaining 
walls, too, massive and ponderous as they are, do not 
present decisive traces of that distinctive feature which 
characterises Roman work of this description, and thus 
the whereabouts of the ancient castrum, if any existed, 
must at best be conjectural, and that so vaguely as to 
baffle the scrutiny of the most diligent examiner. 
Enough will be found to gratify the admiration of the 
spectator if we assign to these venerable remains a more 
recent origin, and ascribe^them to the wealth and enter- 
prise of the first De Warrenne. 

The materials whereon to graft an historical notice 
of the once magnificent family-seat of the proud Earls 
De Warrenne and Surrey are so extremely scanty, that our 
sketch must of necessity be brief. Indeed much of that 


which relates to the castle itself has already been antici- 
pated in the preceding section, and little remains for us 
to trace but the fluctuations of its fortune in the hands 
of its several possessors from the period of its founda- 
tion to the present time. These we have endeavoured 
to embody in a tabular summary, which will be given 
presently ; and, in the mean while, we may devote a few 
minutes to a consideration of the peculiar character 
of the military architecture of the period, of which our 
now dilapidated stronghold was once an admirable type. 
The military structures of the Norman era are of 
a character totally distinct from the huge fortified resi- 
dences which predominated generally at a .later period. 
The peculiar position of our Norman invaders, in the 
midst 'of a people still smarting under the wound of 
recent conquest, and as yet but imperfectly subdued, 
rendered it imperative upon the companions of the Con- 
queror to consult security in the construction of their 
strongholds before the refinements of convenience or 
luxury ; and thus we find in the castles of the twelfth 
century that the attention of the founder has been 
directed solely to this end. The principles upon which 
this desirable security was to be attained were of a 
nature totally opposite to those which are adopted with 


a similar view in modern warfare. Difficulty of access, 
complication of defences, and massy solidity of wall, 
were the principal means relied upon, and certainly the 
buildings in question were generally admirably calculated 
for resistance to the modes of attack then in use. The 
subject has been so admirably condensed by a modern 
writer, and his account is in many respects so effectually 
corroborated in the stronghold before us, that we 
cannot do better than transcribe the passage at length. 

"The Anglo-Norman Castle occupied a considerable 
space of ground, sometimes several acres, and usually 
consisted of three principal divisions, the outer' or 
lower balliuni, (Anglice bailey,} or court, the inner or 
upper court, and the keep. The outer circumference of 
the whole was defended by a lofty and solid perpendicular 
wall, strengthened at intervals by towers, and surrounded 
by a ditch or moat. Flights of steps led to the top of 
this rampart, which was protected by a parapet, em- 
battled and pierced in different directions by loop-holes 
or chinks, and oeillets, through which missiles might be 
discharged without exposing the men. The ramparts of 
Rockingham Castle, according to Leland, were embattled 
on both sides, * so that if the area were won, the castle 
keepers might defend the walls.' The entrance through 


the outer wall into the lower court was defended by the 
barbican, which in some cases was a regular outwork 
covering the approach to the bridge across the ditch ; but 
the few barbicans which remain consist only of a gateway 
in advance of the main gate, with which it was connected 
by a narrow open passage, commanded by the ramparts 
on both sides. Such a work remained until lately 
attached to several of the gates of York, and still 
remains, though of a later date, at Warwick Castle. 
The entrance archway, besides the massive gates, was 
crossed by the portcullis, which could be instantaneously 
dropped upon any emergency ; and the crown of the arch 
was pierced with holes, through which melted lead and 
pitch, and heavy missiles, could be cast upon the assail- 
ants below. 

" A second rampart, similar to the first, separated the 
lower from the upper court, in which were placed the 
habitable buildings, including the keep, the relative posi- 
tion of which varied with the nature of the site ; it was 
generally elevated upon a high artificial mound, and 
sometimes inclosed by outworks of its own. The keep 
bore the same relation to the rest of the castle, that the 
citadel bears to a fortified town ; it was the last retreat 
of the garrison, and contained the apartments of the 


baron or commandant. In form the Anglo-Norman 
keeps are varied, and not always regular ; but in those 
of the larger size rectangular plans are the most common, 
and of the smaller class many are circular. 

" The greater keeps are often enormous masses of 
building. That of the Tower of London is a parallelogram 
of one hundred and sixteen feet by ninety-six, and sixty- 
nine high. Rochester occupies a square of about seventy 
feet, and rises to the immense height of one hundred 
and four. Dover, Colchester, Castle Rising, Kenilworth, 
Richmond, Bamborough, and others too numerous to be 
separately distinguished, are of the same class and on a 
similar plan. Their vast surfaces are relieved by shallow 
buttresses; and in some instances, as at Norwich, by 
ornamental arches*." 

Such was the general character of those massy feudal 
strongholds, of which the Castle of Acre has been in its 
time a noble example ; but unfortunately there remains 
little more than an outline to indicate its arrange- 
ment and proportions. Time and violence alone have 
not been the sole agents in this entire dilapidation ; and 
there is every probability that after its abandonment as 
a family residence, it was gradually dismantled and 

* Pict. Hist, of England, Vol. I. 


levelled with the ground by the successive proprietors of 
the manor To the antiquary this must ever be matter 
of regret ; for to judge from the extent of the existing 
skeleton, if we may so term it, the preservation of this 
fortress would have furnished posterity with an admir- 
able specimen of this class of buildings in a part of the 
country where such structures are extremely rare. 

For upwards of two centuries, however, the Castle of 

Acre was doubtless maintained in all its integrity, and 

so long as it was held by the De Warrennes, with the 

exception perhaps of the last Earl, it was occupied by 

them as a family residence, and therefore kept perfect in 

all its appointments. Admirably calculated for purposes 

of defence, and studiously constructed to resist with 

success such military operations as might be brought to 

bear against it, this stronghold does not appear ever to 

have had its capabilities in that way tested. Its career 

was uniformly one of peace ; no siege, no investment, no 

assault is on record, in which the fortress bore a part. 

There is indeed a very vague tradition still extant in the 

neighbourhood, of a certain battering which its old walls 

sustained from the Parliamentary forces during the Great 

Rebellion ; and a hill, popularly known as Winchester 

Hill, commanding the area from some little distance, is 


pointed out as the station whereon were planted the 
cannon directed against the castle; and it is further 
alleged that balls have been dug up within the areas of 
the ballium and the keep. But the whole rests on very 
insufficient authority, and our opinion is that, at the 
period referred to, the castle itself by which we under- 
stand the keep and its appendages had long ceased to 
exist; there being little more remaining then than at 
this time. If the rumour has any foundation in fact 
whatever, it may have originated in the circumstance of 
the site having been temporarily occupied by a detach- 
ment of the royalist troops, as a redoubt or encampment, 
from which it was necessary to dislodge them by a 
cannonade ; but we cannot find any authentic traces of 
such an event, and that there ever was anything in the 
shape of a regular siege of the locality we are disposed 
unhesitatingly to question, for the reasons given above. 

Whilst, however, the Castle of Acre retained its original 
character of an Anglo-Norman stronghold, there is 
assuredly no evidence to show that it was ever hostilely 
approached, and its formidable ramparts, towers, battle- 
ments and outworks frowned stern defiance in the midst 
of a serene and quiet landscape, undisturbed by the 
presence of a single foe. But if the din and turmoil of 


warfare were wanting, the ancient seat of the De War- 
rennes was not deficient in those other bustling acces- 
sories which we are wont to associate with the idea of a 
castle. From the rank, wealth, and influence of this 
family, we may well conceive it to have often been the 
arena of the splendid hospitalities for which the baronial 
residences of England were usually distinguished. Re- 
tainers crowded within the walls ; men-at-arms thronged 
the ramparts ; noble knights and squires filled the 
spacious halls; courtly dames and high-born beauties 
graced the ample dais; tilts and tournaments allured 
with their gorgeous pageantry; mimes, glee-men, and 
minnesingers added fresh impulse to the festal hour; 
and all the pomp and circumstance which a proud Baron 
of the olden time could so readily command were here 
displayed in all their splendour. On one occasion in 
particular, referred to in another place *, all these 
attractions were concentrated, as it were, to do honour 
to the presence of one of England's proudest and most 
chivalrous sovereigns, and still tradition retains some 
faint memory of the glories of the royal visit. Who can 
pause unmoved amid the void and grass-grown area ot 
the castle keep, and suffer busy fancy to retrace the 

* Vide, ante, p. 53. 


splendours of the past, to which its rude and shattered 
walls were tongueless witnesses ? We envy not the man. 
It is not easy to determine at what particular period 
the castle began to decline from its pristine integrity and 
importance ; but it seems probable that its decline may 
be dated from the time of the last Earl De Warrenne. 
We have elsewhere noticed the extraordinary course 
adopted by that Baron in reference to this domain, and it 
is natural to conclude that the indifference manifested 
by him towards the possession of the property was 
accompanied by an entire neglect of it. During his life- 
time it passed into the hands of four several proprietors, 
and ultimately repassed into his own, not apparently 
from any particular desire to that effect on his part, but 
through the direct interference of the sovereign. Of 
course, pending these successive changes it could not 
have been permanently occupied as a family residence, 
and once fairly abandoned in that capacity, its integrity 
as a military stronghold was no longer an object of 
interest. Upon coming into the possession of the 
Earls of Arundel, its fate was sealed. The superior 
beauty and advantages of then* princely Castle of Arun- 
del, caused them at once to decide in favour of the 
latter, and the Castle of Acre was no longer the seat of 


baronial splendour and hospitality. It is probable, then, 
that the work of dilapidation proceeded from this time ; 
repair being utterly neglected, the lapse of years pro- 
duced the usual consequence, and successive proprietors, 
desirous of turning the material to the best advantage, or 
of adapting it to other purposes, gradually commenced 
the work of demolition until every trace of the habitable 
portion of the structure was entirely removed. It is 
impossible to account for the total disappearance of the 
keep and domestic buildings upon any other supposition 
than this; for the immense solidity with which such 
edifices were constructed, would fairly bid defiance to the 
united efforts of time and violence in their destruction, 
unless a deliberate effort were made to that end. Nothing, 
however, now remains except a few fragments of external 
wall, and such peculiar features of the site as could not 
be obliterated without the expenditure of considerable 
labour. The illustration at the head of the ensuing section 
will serve to convey some idea of the picturesque appear- 
ances of these fragments. It represents a portion of the 
area of the keep viewed from the summit of the inner 
fosse, while a portion of the rampart and fosse of the 
inner ballium are perceptible to the left, some of the 
modern dwellings, with the tower of the church, being 


visible in the distance ; the moonlight effect which the 
artist has so happily caught, presents the most favour- 
able point of view in which the remains can be contem- 
plated, and may be repeatedly viewed in the clear, bright, 
still, and balmy nights of autumn. The detail of existing 
remains, however, properly belongs to another section, 
and we shall here bring our slight historical notice to a 
close by an enumeration of the several Lords of the 
Castle and Manor of Acre into whose possession it has 
successively passed, from the period of the Conquest to 
the present time. 



1st. William, Earl de Guarenne in Normandy, and of Surrey in 
England. (By grant from the Conqueror.) 

2d. William, son of the above, second Earl de Warrenne. 
3d. William, his son, third Earl de Warenne. 

4th. Hamlyn Plantagenet, fourth Earl de Warenne. (By 
intermarriage with the daughter of the above.) 

5th. William, his son, fifth Earl de Warrenne, &c. 
6th. John Plantagenet, sixth Earl de Warrenne. 

7th. John, grandson of the above, seventh and last Earl de 
Warrenne and Surrey. 



8th. Adomar de Valence, Earl of Pembroke. (By purchase 
from the aforenamed Earl.) 

9th. David, Earl of Athol. (By purchase of the Earl of 

10th. John, seventh Earl de Warrenne. (By repurchase of the 
Earl of Athol.) 

llth. Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, nephew of the last- 
named Earl. (By him entailed to his heirs male.) 

12th. Richard, son of the above. 

13th. Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. (By grant from 
Richard II. on the attainder of the last-named Earl of 

14th. Thomas, son of the aforesaid Richard Fitzalan. (By re- 
stitution from Henry IV.) 

15th. John Fitzalan, Lord Mal- 
travers, cousin to the 
above-named Earl. 

In the person of John Fitz- 
alan, Lord Maltravers, com- 
menced the union of the dis- 
tinguished families of Fitz- 
alan and Maltravers, which 
subsisted among the suc- 
ceeding Barons until its termination with the last of 
the Fitzalan family in Henry, twenty-second Earl of 

H 2 


16th. John, his son. 

17th. William, uncle to the last-named. 

18th. Thomas, his son. 

19th. William, his son. 

20th. Henry, his son. 

With this Earl the entail for a considerable period 
terminates, there being no heirs male of the said Henry 
Fitzalan in any branch. His titles passed to the family 
of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, in right of his 
marriage with Mary, second daughter of the said Henry. 

The Castle and Lordship of Acre were sold by the same 
Henry Fitzalan to 

21st. Sir Thomas Gresham. 

22d. Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter. (By purchase of Sir Thomas 


23d. William Cecil, his son. 
24th. Sir Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice of England. (By 

purchase of William Cecil.) 
25th. Sir Robert Coke. 
26th. Sir Edward Coke. 
27th. Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester, who again entailed the 

Lordship upon his heirs male. 

28th. Wenman Roberts Coke, Esq., of Longford in Derbyshire. 
29th. Thomas William Coke, Earl of Leicester. 
SOth. Thomas William Coke, Earl of Leicester, son of the above, 

and present proprietor. 





There the strong barbican the moated wall, 
Proclaim the day that closed on Harold's fall. 
From yonder gate, in hurnish'd mail bedight, 
The Baron led his warriors to the fight. 
Through yonder arch the bold Crusaders pour'd, 
When faithless Paynim dared the Christian sword. 
In yonder Court for tournament array'd, 
England's proud chivalry their flags display'd. 

HE remains of the feudal stronghold of 
the De Warrennes are comprised within 
an area somewhat exceeding eighteen 
acres in extent; but so completely has 
the greatest portion of a pile that once 
rose proudly and sovereignly above the soil been 


obliterated, that but little is left to indicate its 
pristine grandeur, except a general ground plan, and 
the huge circumvallation of the earthworks which no 
time can altogether efface. The detail of the remains 
must, therefore, necessarily be brief; but with the 
aid of our plan we shall, it is hoped, succeed in 
conveying some idea of the importance and former 
arrangement of this structure. 

The area we have noticed was, it will be observed, 
of irregular form, surrounded throughout its entire 
extent, except at two points, by a deep fosse and lofty 
rampart of earth that still retains its sharp and pre- 
cipitous outline in a remarkable degree of preservation. 
Advantage was taken of the natural formation of the 
ground that constitutes the northern bank of the Nar, 
which rises from the vaUey with a marked but gentle 
sweep. Upon a portion of this acclivity the out- 
works were thrown up, crowned by the keep on an 
artificial mound superadded to the natural elevation 
of the locality. 

The only access to the approaches was through the 
entrance gateways, marked A, B, on the plan, by the 
first or northern one of which [A] we shall commence 
our examination of the enclosure. 


This gateway still remains, at the top of the principal 
street of the village, of which it forms a curious, and, 
for England, an unusual feature. It gives the air of 
a small Continental town, with its haute and basse ville ; 
and the picturesque effect produced by this lingering 
remnant of feudal importance may be inferred from the 
accompanying faithful illustration, which shows the 
steep descent of the street as seen through the archway 
of the gate. The entrance itself consists of a double 
portal, opening in either direction through a pointed 
arch, flanked by small but massy circular towers of rough 
flint, which was the principal material employed through- 
out the structure. It had originally an outer and an 
inner door of oak, the hinge pivots of the latter still 
remaining in the side walls ; and between the doors was 
the usual portcullis, the stone groove in which it ran 
being yet in a perfect state of preservation. Above was 
doubtless a small chamber, and a contrivance for pouring 
down melted lead or boiling pitch upon any assailing 
party that might perchance win its way to the possession 
of the outer door ; but all; trace of such contrivance is 
now gone, the space being open to the sky. The gateway 
[B] at the bottom of the present street, the remains of 
which have only been removed within the present cen- 


tury, was in every respect similar to the one we have 
noticed. It would seem that these gateways were not of 
so early a period as the main body of the castle itself, 
since they must have been built when the pointed style 
began to supersede the severe curve of the early Norman ; 
although there can be no doubt they were constructed 
on the foundations of similar approaches. 

The name still retained by the street upon which we 
thus enter sufficiently indicates the nature of the locality. 
We stand within the outer ballium, and the street is 
popularly called Bailey Street. 

A few paces to the left of the gateway, within the 
ballium, stood a chapel [C], of which but very faint 
indications now remain, part of a western gable attached 
to a short row of cottages, and fronting the street, being 
all that is left to mark the spot. Some of the old inha- 
bitants, however, well remember the traces here to have 
been of a more decided character. This chapel has been 
called the Castle Chapel, and so far as it stood within the 
works attached to that structure, it is entitled to the 
name; but undoubtedly it could not have been the 
chapel attached to the Castle par excellence, for it is not 
likely that an edifice erected for the private use of the 
family would be placed in a situation so remote from 


the domestic buildings of the establishment, or in a 
locality so comparatively insecure as the outer ballium. 
The private chapel of the castle we imagine to have 
been immediately connected, if not within the keep itself. 
The chapel that existed in this place was in all probabi- 
lity connected with some small buildings partaking of 
a monastic character, and appropriated by the first De 
Warrenne to the use of the brethren of the Abbey of 
Cluny, who had accompanied him from Normandy. We 
are expressly informed that four members of the frater- 
nity alluded to, with one Lanzo, as their superior, were 
prevailed upon by the powerful Earl to take up their 
residence within the precincts of his castle of Acre, where 
they abode under his protection, and officiated in his 
family as occasion required. Here they remained until 
the foundation of the neighbouring priory, and the pro- 
gress of the works in that quarter (of which most 
probably they were the architects), enabled them to 
remove thither the nucleus of the infant establishment. 
The chapel we are noticing may have been appropriated 
to their use, and thus may be regarded as the prototype, 
if we may so speak, of the future conventual church. If 
the conjecture be correct, we cannot fail to regard the 
spot with additional interest. 


To the right of the entrance was an extensive open 
space, of oblong form, now partially covered by houses, 
but still retaining its pristine character towards the west. 
This space is familiarly known as the Barbican, and 
apart from the retention of the term indicating the 
character of the locality, there is every reason to believe 
that this outwork served the purpose alluded to. If it 
be thought that the area thus distinguished is somewhat 
too extensive for the usual character of a barbican, it is 
answered that there does not appear to have been any 
definite dimensions for the nature of this defence. A 
barbican is defined to be " a kind of watch-tower ; also 
an advanced work before the gate of a castle or fortified 
town, or any outwork at a short distance from the 
main works." * Now this description admits of consider- 
able latitude, and answers in many respects to the cha- 
racter of the outwork under notice. It is really in ad- 
vance of " the main works" of the castle, the principal 
entrance gate to which [D] fronted the west, and, doubt- 
less, in case of assault would have proved a formidable 
impediment to the approach of hostile troops, whilst at 
the same time it would serve as a secure enclosure for 
the sheep and other stock required for the use of the 

* Vide Glossary of Architecture, ad verb. 


beleagured fortress. Let any one examine the huge 
rampart of earth which, with its external fosse, here 
exists in an excellent state of preservation, particularly 
towards the south-west, and he will at once perceive how 
ingeniously it was contrived for security against the 
greater part of the resources that could be brought to 
bear against it in those olden times, and how great 
must have been the labour bestowed on its construction. 
The remains of a barbican of this character are of 
extremely rare occurrence in this country, the greater 
part of the existing defences so distinguished being 
little more than small embattled spaces in advance 
of the main gate, as at the Monk Bar at York, and at 
Warwick Castle. The direction and extent of our bar- 
bican will be best inferred on reference to the plan. 

Passing down the steep declivity of the street of the 
modern village, at somewhere about its centre, where 
a narrow stile now serves as an approach to the castle, 
the visitor sees before him, to the left, the ponderous 
mound and remaining wall of the castle-keep, imme- 
diately in front, the remains of a third gateway [D] 
corresponding in every respect with the similar entrances 
already noticed ; and beyond this, to the right, the fosse, 
rampart, and wall of the inner ballium. There are now 


remaining no indications of the manner in which this 
gateway was approached, standing, as it did, on the 
further side of a wide and deep fosse of precipitous 
pitch. In all probability it was by means of a draw- 
bridge, since a more massy and permanent structure 
must surely have left some traces of its existence. 
The gateway was double, with portcullis between, as in 
the preceding cases ; and immediately within the port- 
cullis, to the right as you enter, was a doorway of which 
the upper portion only is discernible above the soil, com- 
municating with a small square apartment, doubtless 
appropriated to the use of the janitor, or gate-keeper. 

Through this entrance we are admitted within the en- 
closure of the Inner Ballium, a considerable area sur- 
rounded throughout its entire extent by a deep fosse and 
a lofty rampart of earth originally surmounted by a 
stray wall of rough flint, having at regular intervals 
small towers which the remaining basements indicate to 
have been square. It will be seen at once that great care 
was exercised in rendering the defences in this quarter 
substantial and complete, and this has been very effec- 
tually done. The outline of this portion of the works 
resembles that of an irregular horse-shoe, and to the 
east, opposite to the entrance from the outer ballium, 


was once a massy tower with probably a small postern 
communicating with the double fosse in this direction. 
A wall in all probability here crossed the fosse imme- 
diately surrounding the keep, and joined on to the exter- 
nal wall of that fortress, as was the case on the north 
side to be noticed presently. Thus the inner ballium 
was secured against unauthorised intrusion on every 
side, and from the great elevation of the surrounding 
rampart, with its crowning wall, it could scarcely be over- 
looked from any part of the neighbouring country, by 
which means strict privacy was obtained. Towards the 
centre of the enclosure are still visible traces of foun- 
dations of a square outline [a]. These are thought 
to be remains of soldiers' quarters, or some such build- 
ing, although it is of course impossible to speak with 
precision on this point. The foundations may have 
belonged to some structure of far more modern date? 
though long since abandoned. 

Facing immediately to the north, we have before us 
the fosse and elevated mound whereon once towered the 
lordly keep. All that now remains of this, the nucleus 
of the stronghold, the acropolis of the fortress, is the 
greater portion of the external wall enclosing the area 
upon which the keep itself formerly stood, and the effect 


of the ruin as viewed from the inner ballium is pictu- 
resque in the extreme. The only entrance to this enclo- 
sure was from its south side directly facing the centre of 
the ballium, with which it was connected by a steep stab* 
conducting to a drawbridge crossing the fosse, and 
probably flanked by small towers or defences of a similar 
nature. Considerable traces of the stair alluded to may 
still be seen on the steep declivity of the hill. They ap- 
pear to have consisted of a regular series of steps of 
solid flint masonry, similar to that which prevails 
throughout the buildings, though probably they were 
originally coated with stone. A small wicket or postern 
gate at the summit of the stair admitted the visitor 
within the court-yard of the keep. The building properly 
so called has long since totally disappeared, and its very 
position with reference to the enclosing wall is doubtful. 

From indications on the soil, however, it probably stood 

' '\ 
a few paces from the northern side of the area, and its 

form might have been that of a parallelogram, the shape 
usually adopted in such structures of the period. Were 
an excavation of sufficient extent undertaken in the 
direction indicated, considerable remains of the edifice 
itself would doubtless be disclosed, but the labour and 
expense are rather formidable obstacles to the attempt. 


An octogenarian of the parish relates that when he was 
about the age of twelve years, he well remembers an 
excavation commenced in this quarter by the then occu- 
pier of the land, and the extreme curiosity that was 
excited by the undertaking. A rather narrow shaft, but 
of regular proportions, (to the best of his recollection, 
eleven feet square,) and lined with compact stone, was 
opened by the workmen. The interior was filled with 
masses of broken wall and rubbish, which, as the work 
proceeded, increased so greatly in density and size, that 
at the depth of fifteen feet, where the stone lining of the 
shaft still continued to run on in unbroken plainness, the 
attempt was altogether abandoned, and the material 
replaced. We cannot but regret that the project was thus 
relinquished ; for had it been pursued, it is most likely 
that some matters of high interest would have been 
developed. It was not an unusual thing for Norman 
kee|k to be provided with a shaft of this description, 
communicating immediately, or by a passage, with some 
apartment below the foundations of the structure, to 
which, in case of close siege, the family might retreat, 
together with such valuables as could be easily trans- 
ferred to the spot. The shaft of which we speak was 
probably a contrivance of this kind ; and to strengthen 


the supposition, there is a tradition extant that a subter- 
ranean communication exists between the castle and the 
priory, beneath the several fosses which intervene. Had 
the above-mentioned excavation been persevered with, 
this point might probably have been decided. 

The external wall of the keep measures 561 feet in 
circumference. On the outside it is slightly angular, the 
angles being marked by a plain Norman buttress of stone 
recurring at regular intervals. This is more particularly 
apparent on the north-western side, where the buttresses 
are visible, though partially concealed by ivy. Internally, 
the wall, which varies in thickness from eight to eleven 
feet, is perfectly circular ; and towards the summit was 
a rampart, or terrace walk, embrasured, of which traces 
remain toward the north and west. The masonry consists 
wholly of immense flints, disposed without regularity, 
and grouted together into a firm compact mass, a large 
portion of which still remains unaffected by the vicissi- 
tudes of so many seasons, and almost defying the efforts 
of devastating man. The whole presents a curious proof 
of the labour and care bestowed by the Norman masters 
of the soil in securing the baronial strongholds which 
they raised on their newly-acquired lands, and serves to 
show the apprehensions they entertained of the force 


and resistance of the oppressed English, whom they had 
so unceremoniously ejected from their ancient possessions. 
Very many years elapsed before the Normans became 
peaceably settled in their conquest, during which the 
houseless Britons wandered from place to place, ever and 
anon evincing their dislike to a foreign yoke, by partial 
manifestations of a strength which, if concentrated in 
one uniform effort, might have proved irresistible. The 
haughty barons thus became fully sensible of the value 
of deep ditches and massy walls ; and in the construction 
of a castle due attention was paid to these requisites. 
Immediately to the north, in the thickness of the wall, is 
the remaining portion of a narrow arched passage, ter- 
minating, perhaps, originally in a loop-bole or aperture 
for observation ; and a little to the east of this, where 
the original wall appears to have been comparatively 
thin, an attempt has been made to strengthen it by the 
addition of a fresh breadth, the material of which, 
however, not being so well prepared as the former, it is 
now fast crumbling away. A small square tower seems 
also to have existed on this side, and the passage just 
noticed probably had immediate connexion with it. 

To the north-east of the keep the fosse is doubled, 
forming a narrow irregular insula, upon which it is 


evident some small tower or other outwork originally 
stood [B]. From the appearance of the wall of the keep 
in this direction, it seems that the fortress was more 
assailable on the east than on any other side, and the 
double fosse and watch-tower may have been subse- 
quently contrived to counteract the defect. 

The extent and position of the ditches are clearly indi- 
cated by the plan, and the sharpness of outline which 
they still present to the eye of the visitor is sufficient 
proof of the care and labour bestowed in their con- 
struction. The impediment they would offer to the 
operations of a hostile force, in the days of heavy armour 
and ponderous balistse, must have been formidable 
enough, and thus they effectually served to check the 
advance of the marauding and predatory bands, who 
were greater objects of annoyance and apprehension to 
the Barons than any more disciplined troops. It is 
generally supposed that such defences were usually 
designed for the reception of water as an additional 
means of security, and from whence they would receive 
the appellation of moats. Where the site of the castle 
and other circumstances permitted of such an arrange- 
ment the precaution was probably adopted, but it does 
not appear to have been invariably the case, and in the 


present instance there is ample evidence that nothing of 
the kind existed. The ditches were dry as now, unless 
under the casual accumulation of rain or snow. A little 
examination of the site will suffice to establish this fact. 
It will be observed that the ground whereon the castle 
and its outworks are raised, following the natural undu- 
lation of the soil, gradually increases in elevation from 
the river's side, a circumstance which would render the 
supply of water from that source a work of extreme 
difficulty, if not impracticable, in an age when the prin- 
ciples of hydrostatics were so imperfectly understood ; 
and therefore to counteract the consequences of this defi- 
ciency, recourse was had to an expedient which served 
as an ingenious substitute for the protection afforded 
by water in such a case. A lofty and substantial wall 
was carried immediately across the fosse in three distinct 
quarters, indicated in the plan [C. C. C.], one of which 
still remains in a state of good preservation, on the east 
side of the inner ballium ; another, partially existing, to 
the south-west of the same ; and a third, joining on to 
the external wall of the keep, to the north-west, of which 
only traces faint but not to be mistaken are now left. 
The intention of this shrewd contrivance was obviously 
this: in the event of a detachment of hostile troops 

i 2 


obtaining possession of the fosse, in any particular 
direction, it would be impossible for them to complete 
the circuit of the castle without encountering a check 
from these walls ; while the beleaguered could prosecute 
their defensive operations in comparative security behind 
the flinty screens. They are so placed that strangers, 
unacquainted with the locality, would come upon them 
abruptly, unprepared for an obstacle so simple, yet 
effectual, and no little confusion might have been caused 
by the discovery. 

From the level of the keep a bird's-eye view is obtained 
over the whole of the works connected with the castle 
and the adjoining country, and a faint idea may be 
formed of the picturesque effect of the scene in 
the early days of its glory. The landscape to the west 
is still extremely engaging, the sight ranging along the 
well-wooded valley of the Nar, with the venerable ruins 
of the Priory in the foreground, and nearer still, between 
this point and the spot whereon we stand, the long line 
of the barbican and outer ballmm. An ascent to the 
summit of the ancient rampart on the embrasured wall 
will well repay the trouble. 

Within the barbican stands an ancient farm-house, 
how occupied as a cottage. It appears to have been 


erected towards the latter part of the fifteenth or the 
commencement of the sixteenth centuries, and was 
probably built for the residence of a steward or some 
other occupant of the lands connected with the castle, 
when the latter, having been abandoned as a family 
abode, was fast disappearing, or possibly had been alto- 
gether removed. On the external face of this building 
occurs the Tudor rose, and a mullet pierced, of red-brick 
earth, but there is no other cognizance to indicate the 
date or the original proprietor. The western gable is 
terminated by a slender finial or hip-knob, having the 
appearance of a chimney, though it is undoubtedly not 
pierced for that purpose. The interior presents nothing 
particularly worthy of notice, having undergone various 
changes in the process of adaptation to other and different 
uses from that to which it was first applied. 

We have thus surveyed the general features of this 
venerable remain, which, if they be found to be scanty, 
are nevertheless fraught with interest of a peculiar kind. 
There is ample scope for the exercise of fancy, and we 
might easily have filled the area with conjectural 
(though probable,) buildings appertaining to a Norman 
stronghold, on a scale of importance equal to the 
one before us. But as there is so very little left to 


render such conclusions in any way decisive, we have 
preferred adhering strictly to matters of fact, plainly 
evident to the apprehension of any visitor to the spot 
who will take the trouble to examine the particulars we 
have indicated. The very dimness of the detail, 
rendered more conspicuous by the prominent strength 
of the outline, is well calculated to stimulate curiosity 
and to call forth the powers of a ready imagination, 
which every individual will find a pleasure in exercising 
for himself; bearing in mind the prevailing spirit and 
character of the times which are to be re-embodied in 
his mental picture. 

We are now about to enter upon a still wider field of 
interest, with greater variety of detail and more certain 
data to guide our conclusions, and if we be found to be 
somewhat minute in our statements, it is with the hope 
of omitting nothing that might gratify the antiquary, or 
tend to afford a glimpse of the characteristics of a by- 
gone age to the general reader. 






subject can be more replete with curious 
) interest or matter of reflection than the 
history of our early religious houses. 
Whether we view them as monuments 
of the pious munificence of their chival- 
rous founders, as the sanctuaries of neglected learning, 
or as the depositaries of all that tends to civilise and re- 
fine in the pursuit of art and science, they have a claim 
upon our veneration and regard which cannot fail to 
awaken a proportionate interest in the annals of their 


early career. No one can pause amid the crumbling 
ruins of a deserted sanctuary without experiencing some 
desire to know wherefore and by whom it was erected, 
by whom it was tenanted, and what changes led to its 
present desolation? And how greatly is this natural 
sentiment of curiosity augmented when the subject that 
gives rise to it meets us in the fertile pastures of our 
native land ! What a train of thought does it not open 
to our view ! How do the feelings, habits, impressions, 
" the memory of departed years " rush upon our minds 
in dreamy but vivid colouring, as we pace the dilapida- 
ted cloister once echoing to the measured tread of the 
pale ascetic ! So universal seems to be the predilection 
for such investigations, though in many instances perhaps 
the parties themselves may be unconscious of it, that we 
know not the wayfarer, gentle or simple, who, if he have 
the leisure, will not turn from his path to obtain a nearer 
view of some inviting ruin, and there he will saunter and 
gaze until fairly bewildered by the seeming chaos, or that 
imagination has expended itself in recalling the shadowy 
visions of the past. 

Impressed with a sense of the increasing interest felt 
in these lingering memorials of the past, we have endea- 
voured to collect under one focus several dispersed 



historical notices relative to a foundation not indeed 
appertaining to the first class of religious houses, but 
occupying no insignificant rank among the number of 
secondary establishments, and enjoying a revenue and 
importance paralleled by few, surpassed by none. 

We have already seen that the Priory of Castleacre 
owes its existence to the piety and munificence of 
William, first Earl De 
Warrenne ; and the cir- 
cumstance which led to 
its appropriation to a 
peculiar order of the 
monastic fraternity has 
been alluded to in our 
brief notice of that Ba- 
ron's career. Before the 

massy stronghold which its distinguished founder was 
erecting on his noble domain could be well completed, 
the pious intentions of the powerful Earl were carried 
into effect, and the infant fraternity of Cluniacs found 
rest and protection beneath the sheltering outworks of 
their patron's fortalice. 

A favourable spot was selected within a short distance 
of the castle, and but little beyond the line of its outer 


vallum, pleasantly situated in the luxuriant valley of 
the Nar, whose clear and rapid waters formed the 
southern boundary of the intended precincts. Here the 
foundation was duly laid by the distinguished Earl 
himself; while under his auspices, and the skill and 
superintendence of the little knot of Cluniacs who had 
been originally located in the castle chapelry, the work 
rapidly proceeded towards completion. 

In those days, the only sound knowledge of the 
principles of architecture was possessed by the inmates 
of religious establishments ; and the grandeur and beauty 
of many of our existing cathedrals and parochial churches, 
together with the widely scattered remains of monasteries 
and myncheries, afford ample proof of the skill and 
judgment exercised by the ecclesiastics in this depart- 
ment of the arts. A taste for magnificent buildings was 
cherished by the Normans in a pre-eminent degree, and 
the zeal and activity with which they exercised it can 
only be equalled by the extraordinary resources which 
they brought to bear upon their plans. Among those 
whose admirable skill and unequalled liberality were thus 
displayed at an early period, must ever be mentioned 
with high honour the name of Gundulph, Bishop of 
Rochester, who is said to have been the most able 


architect of his day, and to whom the Cathedral and 
Castle of Rochester, as well as the Tower of London, 
owe their origin. Ralph, Bishop of Chichester, William, 
Bishop of Durham, and Mauritius, Bishop of London, 
fill distinguished stations in the roll of Norman talent 
and munificence ; nor must we omit to mention the first 
Bishop of Norwich, Herbert de Losing, to whose profuse 
liberality and great ability the cathedral and monastery 
of Norwich, together with many other ecclesiastical 
foundations, owe their origin. When we are assured that 
the extraordinary expense of these vast structures was 
entirely defrayed at the private cost of this prelate, we 
are confounded at the wealth and liberality so profusely 
appropriated, a feeling by no means diminished, when 
we are further informed, upon the testimony of William 
of Malmesbury, that Herbert de Losing was by no means 
a rich bishop ! This recorded fact will suffice to show 
with what spirit such undertakings were projected and 
engaged in by our Norman conquerors ; and however we 
may censure the rapacity that characterised their uncere- 
monious seizure of the lands and wealth of England, it 
is but justice to admit that they certainly applied their 
resources with admirable taste and most liberal expendi- 
ture. Their works, indeed, were to endure beyond the 


age, and, in contemplating the massy solidity and compact- 
ness of construction which invariably distinguish them, 
whether castle or convent, it. is clearly apparent that 
had not the corroding hand of time been assisted by spo- 
liation, violence, and neglect, they would have remained 
entire to this day, and to all appearance imperishable. 

The name of the individual whose plans and arrange- 
ments were carried out in the construction -of the priory 
at Acre does not remain to us ; but it is reasonable to 
suppose that the purposes of the munificent founder 
were effectually supported by some inmate of the parent 
Abbey of Clugny, or of the numerous establishment of 
the great Earl himself; be it as it may, he was evidently 
no bungler at his vocation. Though upon a scale of 
limited dimensions, the existing remains bear testimony 
to the skill and judgment of their architect. 

The precise date of the foundation has never hitherto 
been correctly given, the various authorities that allude 
to it generally assigning a year antecedent or subsequent 
to the actual one as the period for the commencement of 
the work. Now this discrepancy, involving no error of 
particular importance, would not, in a general way, be 
of any moment ; but the remarkable part of the business 
is, that the real fact of the case should, for so long a 

Etched by 



period, have escaped the observation of any person care- 
fully inspecting the ruins. 

The true date of the foundation actually exists at the 
present moment, within the shattered precincts of the 
priory itself. 

Let any visitor to the ruins, sufficiently venturous to 
climb a few feet of broken stair (and with common caution 
the ascent is both easy and secure), ascend that which 
conducts to the first range of arcades running round the 
north transept of the conventual church, and, passing 
along the narrow passage which forms the floor of the 
arcade, let him proceed to the western side of the tran- 
sept. On the flanking wall of the passage to the right, 
securely sheltered from the fickle rigour of our climate, 
the visitor will remark, conspicuously impressed upon 

the stucco, the date in question, of which the accom- 

panying illustration is a faithful transcript. 

There seems no reason to doubt that we have here 
presented to us a correct record of the true period of the 
foundation of this establishment. It is obvious, from the 
sharp angular character of the impress, that it could 
only have been made while the stucco was still moist, for 
any attempt to cut into its substance when dry would 
only result in the flaking and chipping of the external 


surface, and admitting that the stucco of these passages 
was renewed at a much later period for the existing 
church itself was an erection of sixty years subsequent to 
the actual foundation of the establishment still we may 
reasonably regard this date as the renewal of a former 
one, in this or in some other portion of the building, 
religiously preserved or carefully replaced by the then 
occupants of the priory. 

To the ready acumen of Dr. Murray, the present excel- 
lent Bishop of Rochester, who personally inspected the 
remains a few years since, we are indebted for the deter- 
mination of this interesting point. From it we learn 
that the foundation of the Priory of Acre took place 
A. D. 1084, in the eighteenth year of the reign of the 

In order to read the date, as it thus stands recorded on 
the wall, aright, the visitor to the ruins must place him- 
self with his back to the wall, side by side with the 
impress ; or the reader of these pages must reverse the 
book, so as to bring himself into a corresponding position 
with our illustration, and, crossing himself after the 
mode pursued by members of the Church of Rome, 
commencing with the upper figure 1, as the top of the 
cross, passing to the cypher 0, as the bottom, and then 


touching the left and right sides of his breast respec- 
tively, to indicate the situation of the figures 8 and 4, 
they will be found to correspond with the act, and the 
perfect date of 1084 will result. The simple ingenuity 
of this contrivance, at once to keep alive in the minds of 
the inmates of the priory the munificence of their earliest 
benefactor, and at the same time to remind them of 
the prominent purposes for which the foundation was 
endowed, cannot fail to be apparent. 

The foundation effected, the superstructure proceeded 
with despatch. And here it may not be inappropriate to 
say a few words on the prevailing character of Norman 
architecture, not with the view to a lengthened disqui- 
sition on so fertile a theme ; but to furnish the reader 
with a few of the more prominent characteristics of the 
style, so as to enable him readily to recognise Norman 
work, wherever any traces of it may come under his 

The general character, then, of Norman architecture is 
that of massive solidity and strength, without, at the 
same time, conveying the impression of disproportionate 
heaviness. This is, in a great degree, ingeniously obviated 
by the admirable disposition of ornamental mouldings 
and enrichments, which, partaking of the same marked 


simplicity as that of the bulk of the edifice itself, by their 
profuse dispersion over the plain surface of the building, 


impart to it a most agreeable character of lightness and 

The distinguishing feature of this style consists in the 
circular arch, sometimes constituting a perfect semicircle, 
sometimes stilted, and sometimes approaching somewhat 
to the outline of a horseshoe, springing either from a 
single column, or from a solid pier decorated with half- 
columns; which diversities of arrangement may be 
noticed in various parts of the remains at Castleacre. 
The abacus, or crowning tile, of a Norman pillar will 
almost invariably be found to have its lower edge cham- 
fered or sloped off, the slope in some instances being 
slightly hollowed out : the shaft of the pillar, though 
generally plain, is sometimes highly ornamented. 

Another marked characteristic of Norman work is the 
frequent employment of a peculiar zig-zag moulding, 
technically known as the chevron, which is carried not 
only over the semicircular arch of a doorway, but over 
a successive series of arches in the nave of a church, as 
in our present subject, where the chevron ornament, both 
single and double, has been employed with rich effect. 
Billet-moulding, an ornament resembling equal cubes of 


billet-wood cut into regular portions, and carried alter- 
nately round the outline of an arch in the same manner 
as the chevron, is another decisive feature of this style 
and may occasionally be remarked here, though it exists 
in great perfection in the remaining portion of the Priory 
Church at Binham. To these we may add the spiral and 
the cable mouldings which invariably characterise the 
Norman style, and which are usually employed with 
beautiful effect in the enrichment of the principal door- 
ways to their churches and conventual buildings. Upon 
such doorways, indeed, the most lavish display of orna- 
ment was bestowed ; the arch usually consisting of en- 
riched bands embracing the principal ornaments peculiar 
to Norman work, and blended with admirable judgment 
into an harmonious whole. 

Norman windows may readily be recognised by their 
being long and narrow, and round-headed, set near to 
the outer surface of the walls, and splayed from within 
only, a peculiarity which distinctly marks them from 
windows of purely Saxon origin, which, in other respects, 
somewhat closely resemble the specimens of early Nor- 
man. One point respecting them is deserving of particular 
attention, namely, that Norman windows of early date 
are invariably plain ; at a later period we find them 


enriched with chevron or billet beading, in the same 
way as the arch ; and at a later period still, they are 
sometimes obtusely pointed. The recollection of this 
distinction will frequently prove of considerable assist- 
ance in determining the age of any structure Avhere they 
may be found to occur. Circular windows of this period 
are also occasionally, though rarely, met with in this 
country ; on the Continent they recur more frequently. 

Buttresses were very sparingly employed in buildings 
of the Norman era, the ponderous solidity of their edifices 
not requiring such extraneous aid ; whenever they 
chanced to be introduced, it was rather for the sake of 
ornament than use, and their outline is uniformly straight 
and plain throughout their entire length without break 
or projection. Thus, buttresses being so generally dis- 
pensed with, the external surface of churches and large 
buildings would present an unsightly superficies of 
uniform plainness. To obviate this, several decorative 
expedients were adopted, of which the most frequent and 
conspicuous are a series of blind arches and arcades, 
sometimes arranged singly side by side, and sometimes 
interlacing the one with the other, and thus carried in 
parallel ranges over the exterior surface of the building, 
concentrating, as it were, in rich profusion on the western 


of the structure. The west front of our Priory 
church affords a pleasing illustration of this. 

The few hints we have given on the subject will 
usually enable any one to recognise the character of 
Norman works; and in returning to our historical notices 
of the Priory of Acre, it only remains to observe, with 
reference to the architectural undertakings of this extra- 
ordinary people, that the prodigious masses of them 
which continue to our day, clearly imply that such vast 
handiwork could only result from a methodical division 
of labour. The clerical architect, we may suppose, sup - 
plied the plan, outline, dimensions, and general character 
of the building ; the master mason devoted his attention 
to the manual development of its construction; while 
the various details, inclusive of the decorative parts, 
were intrusted to a distinct class of artisans, to whom 
we can find no corresponding class at the present day, 
the invention as well as the execution of such portions 
being left entirely to their discretion. 

No sooner were the works at the Priory in a sufficient 
state of forwardness for the reception of inmates than 
De Warrenne hastened to complete his munificent pur- 
pose, by providing the infant establishment with a noble 
endowment. From the charter which he granted to the 



fraternity we learn, that for the good of his own soul, 
and for the souls of his father, mother, and heirs, he had 
caused this Priory to be built and appropriated to the 
use of thirty-six monks, exclusive of a prior, of the 
Cluniac order of St. Benedict, subordinate to the Priory 
of St. Pancras at Lewes, and as a cell to the parent 
abbey of the order at Clugny in Burgundy. He then 
gives to the use and benefit of this institution the church 
and advowson of Acre (formerly distinguished as East 
Acre, the original of the present village of Castleacre, 
and a little to the north of the latter), the churches and 
advowsons of Methwold, Wickmere, and Trunch, with 
two parts of the tithes of his possessions at Grimstone, 
all in Norfolk, together with the church and advowson of 
Leaden Roding in the county of Essex. This grant was 
duly confirmed by Bishop Herbert de Losing, by whom 
the conventual church was also with all solemnity con- 
secrated, and dedicated to the honour of God, St. Mary, 
St. Peter, and St. Paul. 

In this way ample provision was already made for the 
wants of the infant institution, dependent as it was, by 
the will of the founder, upon a larger establishment ; and 
from this period commenced a series of benefactions, 
gifts, and endowments, which, augmenting with extra- 


ordinary rapidity, ere long enabled the cell to throw off 
the trammels of its dependence, and to take a proud 
standing among its free compeers of the land. A sketch 
of the number of these benefactions, and the nature of 
some of them, so far as they are capable of being traced, 
will serve in some measure to illustrate the animus which 
obtained among the wealthy and devout of the middle 
ages in the disposal of their ample resources. We would 
fain indulge the hope that our Priory deservedly acquired 
its rapid accession of emoluments and honours from the 
high and consistent character for piety, sobriety, and 
benevolence which it maintained ; but when we call to 
mind the pride of wealth in some, the influence of super- 
stition in others of its benefactors, and the grasping spirit 
of appropriation, per fas out nefas, which not unfrequently 
actuated the monks and churchmen of those ages, we are 
constrained to hesitate in our judgment. It is but fair to 
add, however, that no syllable of censure has transpired 
to the detriment or discredit of the monks of Castleacre. 
But in order as much as possible to preserve the 
continuity of the thread of our narrative, we shall touch 
upon the more prominent points of its history, before we 
proceed to enumerate the principal benefactors to the 


William, the second De Warrenne, who had himself 
been a witness to the deed of grant conferred by his 
father, liberally seconded the pious exertions of his 
predecessor, and bestowed still further revenues, lands, 
and emoluments upon the picturesque Priory " standing 
under the walls of his Castle of Acre," an example muni- 
ficently followed by many of his contemporaries, as well 
as by the succeeding members of his own family. 

To give additional importance and weight to the bene- 
factions of the founder and his son, King Henry I. con- 
descended to confirm their grants by a deed under his 
sign-manual, the form of which is preserved by Blomefield, 
to the following effect : 

Notum sit prsesentib. et futuris qd Ego Henricus, Dei gratia 
Rex Anglor. pro salute animse mese et antecessorum meor. et pro 
statu et prosperitate regni, concede Deo et Sanctse Mariae de 
Achra, et Sanctis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, et monachis de Sancto 
Pancratio ibidm Deo serventib. quicquid Will, de Warrenna dedit 
eis, scil. in ipsa Achra duas carucatas * terre, et hocq. fregerunt de 
brueriis ejus, et culturam cum mora ubi ecca fundata est. 

Signuin HEN. REGIS. 

S. ROBTI. Epis. S. HERBERT! Epis. v 

S. ROGERI Epis. S. WILLIAM DE ALHINI, 8zc. &c. &c. 

* The carucate was probably an extent of 150 acres, and according to 
this computation, the Priory was endowed at the outset with 300 acres 
of land. 


Among the signatures to this document may be noticed 
that of William de Albini, the lord of large possessions 
in Norfolk, and afterwards conspicuous for his marriage 
with Adeliza, widow of Henry I., in right of which he 
succeeded to the Earldom and estates of Arundel. 

So rapid was the increase of grants and benefactions, 
that within little more than fifty years from the period 
of its foundation, and about A. D. 1140, we find the 
Priory to possess a right of tithes or a right of presenta- 
tion to not less than twenty-seven parishes in Norfolk 
alone, besides the patronage of the Priory of St. Andrew 
at Bromholm, which had been annexed as a cell to that of 
Castleacre. The parishes referred to were the under- 
mentioned, and were duly confirmed to this establishment 
by Edward, Bishop of Norwich, in the above year : 

Acre, Newton (by Acre,) East and West Lexham, Great 
Dunham with the Chapel of St. Mary, Kempstone, Wea- 
senham St. Peter and St. Paul, Shingham, Methwold, 
Ottringham, Trunch, Wickmere, Sherringham, Hellesdon, 
Fulmondestone, East and West Basham, Tatterset, South 
Creake and Congham. 

Extensive as the list already appears, it is but a 
fraction of the number which eventually came into the 
possession of this wealthy establishment. Among the 


benefactions conferred by the liberality of the second 
De Warrenne were certain lands, the revenues of which 
were to be appropriated to the erection of a new and 
more spacious conventual church, the original edifice 
being found too small and insignificant for the increasing 
importance of the establishment. Accordingly, some- 
where about this period, the new structure, of which 
the remains still exist, was commenced, and in the year 
1148, it was solemnly consecrated by Turbus, Bishop of 
the diocese. 

The tide of prosperity continuing to flow uninterrupt- 
edly in favour of this institution, we find that in the 
year 1283 the fortunate Prior possessed in virtue of his 
office an estate of not less than four-hundred-and-ninety 
acres of land, of which four-hundred-and-sixty were 
arable, twenty pasture, and ten meadow, besides five 
water-mills, a very fruitful source of revenue in those 
days, lands in the adjacent village divided among 
thirty-six tenants, a court baron, and certain other 
privileges of the free gift of the Earls of Surrey and 
Warrenne, which Blomefield describes as two folds, two 
bulls, and two free boars. From all this it appears that 
the emoluments of the Prior were by this time of con- 
siderable value and importance. 


The result of all this accumulation of prosperous 
fortune might have been anticipated. No longer re- 
quiring foreign aid in its support, the chapter of the 
establishment panted to throw off the yoke of depend- 
ence, and from a subordinate cell to take its position 
among free and independent Priories. The time at length 
arrived for the realisation of their wish, and in the year 
1373, the 47th of the reign of Edward III. the chapter 
proceeded formally to memorialise the King, and to 
certify that the Prior and Brethren of the Cluniac foun- 
dation at Acre were all bond fide Englishmen, and not 
aliens or the subjects of any foreign power, nor did they 
pay tribute, or receive pensions, or owe obedience to the 
Abbot of Clugny, except when he came into England to 
visit the Priory. This formal representation, well sup- 
ported doubtless by cogent and weighty reasons, obtained 
for the Priory the coveted privilege. It was forthwith 
declared to be indigena (native), and not alienigena 
(alien), emancipated from its subordinate connexion with 
the parent Abbey of Clugny, and admitted to the full 
rights and privileges of an independent community. 
This was a proud and gratifying event for the worthy 
brotherhood, who could henceforth regulate their economy 
according to their own free-will and pleasure, without 


lett or hindrance; but it may be questioned whether 
the after results were altogether so advantageous to the 
community as they may have anticipated. No fresh 
benefaction or increase of possession occurs after this 
period ; and although the increasing partiality in favour 
of the Mendicants may have had some influence in the 
matter, the proclamation of its independence seems 
entirely to have checked the stream of patronage which, 
so long as it retained its character of a subordinate cell, 
continued to flow upon it. 

The enumeration of benefactors presents us with 
many names of distinction and influence ; the list, doubt- 
less, is far from complete, and perhaps only such are 
recorded whose grants were of sufficient importance to 
merit the distinction. The dates annexed refer to the 
period of the respective benefactions, wherever they 
could be determined. 


William, first Earl de Warrenne . . . A.D. 1084 

Robert de Vaux . . temp. Rufi. 

Roger de Tony ... . . temp. eod. 

Robert, lord of Massingham .... temp. eod. 

Bartholomew de Glanville . . . . . .1120 

William, second Earl de Warrenne . . . . 1134 

Hugh de Vancy . . . . . temp. Hen. I. 



Isabella, Countess de Warrenne > '. - r . . temp. eod. 

Jeffrey de Faverches . \.~, .... . . temp. eod. 

Peter de Cranwich ...... temp. eod. 

Phillip de Candris ...... temp. Steph. 

William de Huntingfield ..... temp. eod. 

William, third Earl de Warrenne . . . . 1145 

Hardouin Bacon . . . . . . . .1154 

Hubert de Montechensi . . . . . .1154 

Nicholas le Syre . . . . . . ante 1160 

King Henry 2nd 1170 

Herbert de Sudacra ..... temp. Hen. 2. 

Godfrey de Lisewis . . . . . . .1170 

Sir Maurice de Barsharn . . . . . . 1J71 

Alan, son of Godfrey de Swaffham . . . uncertain. 
John Hautyn, lord of Herringsby . . . ..1196 

Hamlyn Plantagenet, fourth Earl de Warrenne . . 1199 
Sir Ralph de Beaufoe ..... uncertain. 

Sir Robert de la Haye ..... uncertain. 

Ralph de Warrenne ..... temp. Johan. 

Sir Ralph de Pavilly ... . . temp. Ric. I. 

William, son of Roger de Huntingfield . . .1218 
Sir Walter de Grancourt . . . . . . . 1219 

Henry de Rie ....... uncertain. 

Sir Frederic de Capraville . . . ... 1227 

Hugh de Vaux . . . ... 1 . 1240 

Sir EudodeHarsyke : . .- . . . . . 1240 




Sir Alexander de Harsyke 

William d'Estouteville, lord of Gressenhall 

Sir Osbert de Stradsett 

Adam Talbot 

Sir John de Loddon . 

William, fifth Earl de Warrenne . 

Roger de Cressy .... 

Robert de Mortimer .... 

John le Strange . 

William Bardolf ..... 

Sir Hugh de Polstead . . . 

Sir Richard le Russ .... 

Ralph de Pavilly . 

John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury 

John Plantagenet, sixth Earl de Warrenne 



. . 1244 

. 1250 

. . 1252 

. 1254 

. . 1262 

. 1264 

. . 1265 



. 1270 


. 1273 



The above catalogue, commencing with the name of 
De Warrenne, terminates also with the name of another 
member of the same family, and he the most distin- 
guished of his race. 

Sir Eudo and Sir Alexander de Harsyke, whose names 
are likewise recorded, were members of a wealthy and 
influential family holding possessions in the parish of 
Southacre immediately adjacent to the precincts of the 
Priory. Sir Eudo flourished in the time of Henry III., 


and his effigies in stone, still extant in the north aisle of 
Southacre Church, shows him to have belonged to the 
distinguished fraternity of the Knights Templars. 

It were tedious to enumerate the various gifts and 
benefactions which were bestowed upon this foundation, 
nor is it always easy to trace the nature of them. 
Generally speaking, they consisted of lands, churches, 
manors, and dependent cells, which last we shall more 
minutely particularise as belonging to the history of our 
Priory. But one or two of the donations are of a de- 
scription so characteristic of the time, that they merit 
separate notice. 

Henry de Rie, of the family of Eudo de Rye or Rhia, 
a companion of the Conqueror, by his will, without date, 
bestowed upon the monks of Acre, his mill situated at 
Worthing in Norfolk, together with Thurston the miller, 
his (Thurston's) mother, and brothers, and all their sub- 
stance ! We can readily suppose what became of the 

mill, but how the unfortunate miller and his family 
were turned to account is not so easy to guess. Henry 
de Rie must have been a very simple or a very bad man, 
and it is hoped that the change of masters would be to 
the advantage of poor Thurston. The fact, however, is 
curiously illustrative of feudal tyranny. 


We might reasonably conclude that a foundation of 
such repute and importance as the Priory of Acre would 
have attracted some degree of the support and bounty 
of the Metropolitan. But of all the several Primates 
who filled the Archiepiscopal chair of Canterbury, and of 
these some were intimately connected with the Arundel 
family, the name of only one occurs in the enumeration 
of benefactors, and he, quaintly observes Blomefield, 
"contented himself with granting indulgences" privi- 
leges certainly, but such as the worthy fraternity would 
probably have readily foregone for the sake of more 
tangible bounty. This was John Peckham, who, when 
Archbishop of Canterbury, granted, in the year 1 283, an 
indulgence of thirty days to all who would pray for the 
soul of William, the third Earl De Warrenne, and fifteen 
days for that of Ella, his Countess, and twenty days 
more for the souls of William, the first Earl, and Gond- 
rede his wife. 

No description of property tended more fully to 
enhance the weight and importance of a religious foun- 
dation than the possessions of cells, either dependent 
and tributary, or subject in matters of discipline and 
spiritual control. The influence accruing to the superior 
establishment from such appendages must be at once 


apparent, and as intimately connected with the history 
of our Priory, we shall proceed to give a brief sketch of 
them separately. They were in number seven, of which 
the most memorable was 


In, or about the year 1120, the Priory of Acre 
received at the hands of Bartholomew de Glanville, a 
valuable gift in the annexation of the Priory of Brom- 
holm, a recent foundation of rising importance and 

This establishment originated in the munificence of 
William de Glanville, who projected the foundation A. D. 
1113, for a prior and ten monks, and at the same time 
liberally endowed it. The conventual Church was 
solemnly dedicated to the honour of God, St. Mary, and 
St. Andrew ; and upon its completion, Bartholomew, the 
son of the founder, granted it to the Priory of Acre as a 
subordinate cell to that institution. In this position it 
remained during the greater part of two centuries, until, 
in the year 1294, it was emancipated from this subordi- 
nation by a bull of Pope Celestine V. and thenceforward 
became an independent establishment. In the mean- 
while, however, it received proofs of considerable favour 


and patronage, and numbered amongst its benefactors 
King Henry III., who, in the year 1233, resided there 
with his court, and not only confirmed all previous 
grants, but added materially to its endowments. 

The heraldic bearings of this establishment merit 
notice, because the device they bore has relation to 
an object for which Bromholm obtained a degree of 
celebrity scarcely surpassed by the far-famed attractions 
of the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. This was 
no other than a remarkable Cross, placed within the 
conventual church, and popularly known as the Holy 
Rood of Bromholm. The reputation of this relic (for 
such it was esteemed) extended far and wide, until it 
became one of the most attractive objects of pilgrimage 
in the kingdom. 

A curious manuscript, still extant in the British 
Museum, informs us that a certain priest of the name of 
Hugh, a native of Norfolk, on his return from the Holy 
Land, whither he had journeyed in pursuance of a vow, 
brought with him on his return this cross, which had 
there enjoyed no small share of reputation, having been 
triumphantly carried before the Emperor Baldwin in his 
fearful encounters with the Saracens. When or by what 
means it came into the possession of the fortunate Hugh 


is not particularised, but the Priory church of St. An- 
drew at Bromholm had the happy luck to become the 
depository of this inestimable treasure, inestimable, 
because it was said to have been constructed out of the 
wood of the true cross, by order of the Empress Helena, 
and from those portions of that fatal tree which had 
been most sprinkled by the blood of the Redeemer. 
Whether authentic or not, the very repute of this cir- 
cumstance was enough to inflame the zeal and devotion 
of the pious throughout the land, and the Priory of 
Bromholm reaped the full advantage of its extraordinary 
acquisition. The miracles ascribed to the beneficial 
influence of this Holy Rood are as numerous as they are 
startling, and one cannot but regret that so invaluable 
an instrument should have been swept away by the 
ruthless hand of scepticism and reform. Worthy old 
Fuller concentrates his panegyric of its merits in one 
emphatic sentence ; " amongst all others, commend me to 
the cross at the Priory of Bromholm in Norfolk ;" whilst 
another authority gravely assures us that nineteen blind 
persons were restored to sight, and no less than thirt} r - 
nine raised from the dead through the instrumentality 
of this cross ! If the authenticity of but a thirty-ninth 
part of the latter enumeration could be established 


with certainty, and beyond the suspicion of fraud or 
collusion, the relic assuredly deserved all that was 
said in its honour, and more. As it was, indeed, 
oblations and pilgrimages without number were made 
to it, and the commissioners, at the surrender in 1534, 
returned the value of the former at somewhere about 
5. 12s. 9d., a sum equivalent to 84. 11s. 3d., a 
large amount in those days. 

Upon a review of the resources of this foundation, 
some short time previous to the surrender, it was 
ascertained to hold the patronage and advowson of 
nine churches in Norfolk, and four in Suffolk, ten 
valuable manors, and lands, interests, and posses- 
sions in fifty-eight parishes. Upon its dissolution, it 
passed into the family of Sir Thomas Wodehouse of 

The official seal of Bromholm yielded a large impres- 
sion in red wax, nearly three inches in diameter, pre- 
senting in the centre the effigies of St. Andrew seated, 
holding a cross in his raised right hand, his head en- 
circled by a nimbus. Over this appeared a bust of 
the Virgin and Child, and this inscription surrounded 
the whole : 

Sigillum. Prioris. et. Convent Sci. Andree. de. Bromhold. 



This was a small house, founded by one Nicholas le 
Syre, and annexed as a cell to the Priory of Acre, the 
foundation being duly dedicated to the Virgin Mary and 
St. Nicholas. It continued as a subordinate cell until 
the Dissolution, when it fell in common with its parent 
establishment. It appears, however, that although 
dependent so far as discipline was concerned, this 
religious house obtained considerable revenues and 
lands to itself, and became in a great degree rich 
and influential. 

Was a small Priory founded by William, third Earl de 
Warrenne, and situated in the vicinity of Methwold, in 
a fenny district from whence it derived its cognomen. 
It was attached as a cell to Acre, and consisted of a few 
Cluniacs with a Prior ; which functionary was always 
elected by the Chapter of Acre from among their own 
body. The house was dedicated to the Virgin and 
St. Giles, and the charter and privileges secured to its 
inmates by the liberality of their patron were fully con- 

J- 2 


firmed at a subsequent date by John Plantagenet, the 
sixth Earl. It shared the fate of its foster parent at 
the Dissolution. 


The bounty of William de Huntingfield was evinced 
towards the Priory of Acre in the grant of an extensive 
tract comprising the whole isle, (as it was called,) of 
Medenham or Mendham in Suffolk, upon the stipulation 
that the Chapter should cause a substantial Cell and 
Church of stone to be erected in a place called Hurst, 
within the limits of the above parish. This foundation 
he liberally endowed with manors, rents, and churches, 
an example followed by other benefactors with corres- 
ponding munificence, so that in process of time it occupied 
no inconsiderable place in the possessions of Acre Priory 
whose fate it shared at the surrender. The conventual 
church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the 
establishment consisted of a Prior and nine monks, 
usually supplied from Acre. 



A small establishment, but by no means a needy one, 
under this name, was founded within the parish of 
South Rainham in 1160, by William de Lisewis, whose 
son Godfrey, succeeding to the possessions of his father, 
before the completion of his pious undertaking, annexed 
the house to the Priory of Acre as a subordinate Cell, 
upon the express condition that the Chapter of that 
house should keep at least three Cluniac monks at 
Normansburgh. The compact seems to have been pretty 
literally fulfilled, and that is all ; for it does not appear 
that the Cell of Normansburgh ever at any time boasted 
of more than three monks and a Prior. Notwithstanding, 
this miniature monastery obtained considerable favour 
from the devout and wealthy. It was more than suf- 
ficiently for its wants endowed with lands in Rainham, 
Oxwick, Brisley, Gateley, and Godwick, together with a 
manor, the advowson of the church of South Rainham, 
the hermitage of Wiggenhall, besides other rents and 
revenues. Its chapel, of which some fragments remain, 
was dedicated to the Virgin and St. John the Evangelist. 
Of course the cream of its resources found its way to the 
parental coffers at Acre, and the relative position of both 
houses was maintained until the surrender. 



One of the Priors of Normansburgh, about the year 
1181, founded a small Nunnery in the parish of Wiggen- 
hall, for nuns of the Order of Fontevrault, which founda- 
tion, with the consent of Godfrey de Lisewis, he granted to 
Lena, daughter of Godric de Lenne, for herself as Prioress 
and seven nuns. Its church was dedicated to the Virgin 
and St. John the Evangelist, and the foundation received 
considerable benefactions from various quarters. Godfrey 
de Lisewis, above-mentioned, confirmed the grant of this 
nunnery as a cell to the Priory of Acre, with which it con- 
tinued to be associated until the surrender. This is a 
rare instance of a cell being occupied by a religious 
order, differing in sex and constitution from the parent 
establishment to which it was appropriated. 


This was nothing more than a Chapelry erected upon 
lands in an ancient hamlet, forming part of the parish of 
Swaffham, known as the Stow, or Guthlac's Stow, a 
name apparently of Danish origin. These lands were 
granted to the Priory of Acre by Alan de Swaffham, 
some time in the reign of Henry II., upon the stipulation 


that the chapter should furnish a priest to officiate in 
the Chapel of St. Guthlac, at least twice in the week. 
The distance from the priory being little more than four 
miles, the terms were easy of fulfilment, and so effec- 
tually did the services at the Chapel win the good-will 
of its frequenters, that in a very short time the lands 
so obtained to the priory received considerable addition, 
and became an estate of important value. 

We forbear to particularise other chapelries, chaunt- 
ries, hospitals, and anchorages, which belonged to or 
were connected with this foundation, and we must soon 
turn our attention to the closing scenes of its prosperous 
career, when it was compelled to resign its privileges 
and yield up its acquisitions to the hand of power. In 
the peaceful enjoyment of its ample revenues, it held on 
the even tenour of its way without lett or hindrance, 
until the regal fiat went forth for its suppression. 

The fraternity assembled here seem to have been 
throughout a retiring and inoffensive set of men, concern- 
ing whom if there be nothing eminently conspicuous for 
worth or talent to record, there is at the same time 
nothing of an opposite character to lay to their charge. 
Whether the austere rules of their order were rigidly 
adhered to, or whether that measure of laxity and demo- 


ralisation, which too frequently predominated among 
monastic institutions toward the later period of their 
existence in this land, and which so materially acceler- 
ated their downfall, pervaded this society, it is equally 
impossible to determine. We would charitably hope 
not; and allowing ample latitude for a deviation from 
the rigid principles of their foundation, arising from 
the change of time, circumstances, and opinions, we 
would believe that the monks of Castleacre at least 
were not altogether amenable to the sweeping condem- 
nation which so justly devolved upon many of their 
compeers. Tales, indeed, are told, and rumours rife, of 
sundry unclerical jollifications and unhallowed doings 
within the walls of this foundation, but they have no 
better authenticity than " old wives' fables ; " and when 
we reflect how generally every circumstance that can 
be established to the prejudice of a life is prone to be 
caught at and dwelt upon to the exclusion of every 
redeeming fact, we may infer from the silence of history, 
both local and general, that nothing very reprehensible 
can be fairly laid to the charge of the inmates of our 

We may form some estimate of the extent of their 
resources from the recorded statement of their posses- 


sions, Avhen at the zenith of their greatness and 
importance. At that time the Priory possessed eleven 
manors or lordships, lands, tithes, and rents, in upwards 
of one hundred and forty-two parishes in Norfolk alone ; 
the advowsons or patronage of thirty-three churches 
in the same county, and the advowsons or patronage of 
eight churches in other counties. 

One other source of emolument, though. insignificant 
when compared with what has been already detailed, 
must not be overlooked. No conventual church could 
be deemed complete without its relic or relics, and it 
were a curious task to have framed a statistical account 
of their numbers, nature, and variety, at a time when 
almost every little parish church could offer something, 
were it but a single hair, to the gaze and osculations of 
the unhesitating devotee. The traveller on the Continent 
at the present day is often staggered at the surprising 
number and variety of such precious deposits which 
everywhere are thrust upon his attention ; what must 
it have been when the amount might easily have been 
quadrupled without exhausting the number of such 
authentic treasures ? The Priory of Acre had its relics, 
but what they were, with one exception, we are not 
informed. The chief object of attraction was the arm of 


St. Philip, a saint who certainly had nothing to do with 
the foundation in any way ; and why, how, or when, this 
peculiar fragment found its way to the relic-coffer of the 
worthy Cluniacs, it is useless to imagine. Might not an 
emulous spirit of rivalry have something to do with it ? 
The Austin Canons of the neighbouring Priory of 
Westacre were privileged in the possession of a single 
finger of St. Andrew, duly mounted in silver, as such a 
treasure deserved to be. Upon some occasion the 
chapter of Westacre rather profanely pawned this inge- 
nious specimen for no less a sum than forty pounds 
sterling, (an amount at the lowest computation equiva- 
lent to 400 of the present value,) a pledge which they 
had not the good fortune to redeem up to the time of 
the surrender, when the king's commissioners absolutely 
refused to do so on the plea that it was not worth a 
fortieth part of the money ! Now, it may be, that the 
Cluniacs, not to be out-done by the Austin Canons, set 
about to find a rival attraction to the incomparable 
finger, and this would account for the timely appearance 
of St. Philip's disjointed limb. The relic attracted a 
competent share of admirers, who duly " paid for peep- 
ing." In the year 1534, the value of oblations to this 
arm was estimated at upwards of ten shillings. 


The enumeration of Priors who successively presided 
over the affairs of this community is remarkably com- 
plete ; the name of the first only being wanting. The 
following list will show the order of their succession and 
the dates of their respective appointments, so far as they 
could be correctly ascertained. 


Angevine . . . . . about A.D. 1130 

Richard 1148 

Jordain 1160 

Odo 1180 

Hugh 1190-5 

Maimone . 1200 

Lambert de Kempstone ...... 1203 

Philip de Mortimer 1210 

Robert de Alengon 1220-7 

Ralph de Weasenliam . . . . . . 1239 

William de Kent ...*** 

Adam 1250 

John de Granges . . . . . . 1255 

Walter de Stanmere 1258-67 

Robert de Hakbeach . . . . '; . . 1270 
William de Shoreham . . . . >> . *** 
Benedict 1286 


Robert Porter J308 

John Hamelyn . * * * 

John de Acra * * * 

Walter de Franceys 1311 

Peter de Jocello 1317-24 

Guy 1329-37 

William de Warrenne .... uncertain. 

Walter Picot * * * 

Thomas de Wiggenhall . . . . * * * 

John Okinston . . . . . . * * * 

Simon Sutton . . . . . . *** 

Thomas Bayley . . . . . . . * * * 

Thomas Tunbridge . . . . . * * * 

John Shareshale 1428 

Thomas Bates * * * 

Richard Bennet . .... 1452 

Nicholas *** 

John Plumstead . . . . . . . . * * * 

John Amflets 1482 

John Winchelsy ........ 1510 

Thomas Chambers . . . . . . * * * 

Thomas Mailing * * * 

Hence it appears, that from the forty-sixth year after 
the foundation of the Priory until the period of its 
dissolution, the establishment was successively under 


the superintendence of thirty-eight priors, of whom the 
first six enumerated in the list seem to have been purely 
Normans, the rest gradually assuming more of a native 
character until English names alone appear. Of the 
doings or sayings of these worthies, nothing authentic is 
left on record, but it is interesting to observe that a 
member of the noble family of De Warrenne was 
amongst those who in turn conducted the affairs of his 
ancestral foundation. This was somewhere about the 
tune of the last earl, to whose restless and vacillating 
character he could have been no stranger. 

We have now a favourable opportunity for noticing a 
peculiarity, abundantly exemplified in the foregoing list, 
as well as in that of benefactors, and other similar tables 
given in these pages. It relates to a point, familiar 
enough to the antiquary, but which may possibly have 
escaped the notice of the general reader, although it 
merits attention ; since it serves to throw considerable 
light upon the origin of surnames borne by families and 
individuals, particularly in our own country. Indeed, it 
is very possible that the great majority of surnames of 
English growth are referable to some such source as we 
are about to indicate, and many a family throughout the 
length and breadth of the land, at the present time and 


for long years past plunged in circumstances of obscurity, 
might trace its origin to some individual of note in cen- 
turies gone by. 

It is pretty well understood that many familiar names 
of every-day occurrence have originated in the honest 
calling, occupation, trade, or pursuit exercised by the 
respective progenitors of the parties bearing them in some 
remote period. To this source may be referred such 
surnames as Miller, Baker, Butcher, Carpenter, Forester, 
Bowman, the frequently recurring Smith, &c., &c. 
Thus, in days gone by, in some rural district or pro- 
vincial town, where perhaps but one of a craft practised 
his peculiar calling, the honest master of the forge would 
be familiarly known among his neighbours as John, 
Smith, i. e. the smith ; the worthy presiding genius of the 
water-mill would be designated Robert, Miller, i. e. the 
miller, and so on ; and the definite article being generally 
omitted in common parlance, the resulting appellatives, 
primarily indicating the respective professional employ- 
ments of the parties bearing them, would, in process of 
time, become the distinguishing family name of their 
posterity. It should be remembered, that at the period 
referred to no system of baptismal registration existed, 
and we may thus reasonably infer that in many instances 


the original surname of the family was lost, and super- 
seded by the familiar appellative derived from an honest 
occupation ; which will readily account for the frequency 
of such names, without any ties of relationship existing 
between the parties to whom they belong. 

The same remark obtains with respect to surnames of 
a less conspicuous character. The possessors of manorial 
rights or lordships, and many who rose to eminence in a 
civil or military capacity, were commonly designated 
from their respective lordships or possessions, and in 
some cases from the place of their nativity. Thus we 
have Ralph de Weasenham, Lambert de Kempstone, Peter 
de Cranwich, Osbert de Stradsett, John de Loddon, &c., 
deriving those appellatives from their peculiar domains 
or lordships of Weasenham, Kempstone, Cranwich, 
Stradsett, and Loddon, all places in Norfolk. In due time 
the expletive falling into disuse, the family name assumed 
somewhat of the character of the lordship from which it 
was originally derived, and retained it although the 
possessions that originated it might long have passed 
from the family itself. Abundant instances of this 
simple derivation might be produced, and it may un- 
doubtedly be exemplified in every county in the kingdom, 
where families and individuals may still be found bearing 


surnames perfectly or closely assimilating to the names 
of places or manors within the limits of their respective 
counties. The subject is curious and interesting, but a 
more extended examination of its principles would lead 
us too far away from our main subject. We have said 
enough to enable the reader to exercise his ingenuity in 
tracing to their source many family surnames which may 
come under his observation. 

Our historical notice of the Priory of Acre brings us at 
length to the closing scenes of its career. The regal fiat 
had gone forth, and the emissaries of the spoiler were 
not slack to execute his rapacious behests. Abbey and 
priory, cell and chantry, anchorage and spital, were 
summoned in rapid succession to disgorge their accumu- 
lated revenues and time-hallowed privileges, while their 
dismayed inmates were scattered with very little con- 
sideration through the length and breadth of the land. 

It was on the 22d day of November, 1537, that a small 
section of the chapter of the Priory of Acre by its act 
and deed alienated for ever the rights, privileges, posses- 
sions, and revenues of its venerable foundation. We 
cannot rightly estimate the feelings with which the 
parties to this sacrifice fulfilled their painful task ; it 
could not be without a struggle, nor can we suppose that 


the impulse of the heart accompanied the act of the hand. 
Resistance, of course, would have been utterly vain, nor are 
the occasions frequent in which any attempt of the kind 
was made. Many religious houses, with a view to obtaining 
the best terms and as much consideration as possible, anti- 
cipated the desires of the King by a voluntary surrender 
of that which else would have been taken without scruple ; 
and it is not unlikely that the Cluniacs of Acre were of 
this number. It is evident, however, that the transfer was 
not accomplished without some manifestation of opposi- 
tion, not to be mistaken, though tacit. Of the thirty-six 
members constituting the fraternity (supposing the esta- 
blishment to be full or thereabouts, at the period of its 
dissolution), barely one-third affixed their names to the 
fatal deed which drove them from their quiet retreat ; and 
these, more pliant or less spirited than the rest, or, what 
is more likely, allured by timely and cogent reasons on 
the part of the representatives of majesty, confirmed the 
transfer by their signatures. The deed of surrender is 
signed by the Prior and ten monks only ; the remainder 
took no part in the act save by an eloquent silence. From 
that moment the Cluniacs of Acre ceased to be. 

This document, which is curious enough in itself, and 
the more especially from its presenting an average sped- 


men of the stringent authority and wholesale appro- 
priation exercised by the King in similar cases, we are 
happy in having it in our power to give at length. It 
must be premised, however, that from the effect of time 
upon the original, several words and parts of sentences 
are so completely obliterated as to render the meaning 
extremely obscure, or at best conjectural. Nevertheless, 
quite enough remains to render the general purport of the 
whole sufficiently intelligible ; and we have accordingly 
appended a translation, as complete as the various 
hiatus referred to would admit of. We have endeavoured 
to preserve the character of the original as far as we 
could in the transcript, both in regard to the etymology 
and abbreviations employed, and to the signatures, which 
being ranged along the left margin of the original deed, 
will be found to occupy a relative position in our type *. 

Omibs. Xti fidelibs ad quos presens Scriptum 
Indentatu puenit. 

Per me Thomas Prior Monastery bete Marie de Castel- 

ThomaMallynge, acre j n c6m Norff> aliag dfig Thomag p rior domug 
Prior. deCastleacre. 

regularis sive prioratus bete Marie de Castelacre 

* It is necessary to explain that the extraordinary specimen of Latinity 
here presented to the reader is a literatim copy of the original, the con- 
tractions, &c. being retained. It is of that peculiar class termed Norman 
Latin, a style sui generis. 



Per me 
Johan (Bounhaut .) 

Per me 
Wiellelm Burton. 

Per me 

Robtm. Danyel. 

Per me 
Rob. Fyske. 

Per me 
Willm. Elis. 

ordinis clunacen Norvicen diocessis et ejusdem 
loci conventus saltin in Dno sempitern. 

Novit nos pfat priorem et convent, unanimo 
assensu et consensu firis aniinis delibat. certa 
scientia et mero motu nris ex quibusdm causis 
justis et . . . nos animas et consciencias nras 
spaliter moventibs ultro et sponte dedisse con- 
cessisse confirmasse ac per psentas damus con- 
cedimus reddimus delibamus et confirmamus 
illustrissimo inuinctissimoque principi et dno nro 
Henrico octavo dei gra Anglie et Francie regi 
Fidei defensori dno Hibern. et in terr. supremo 
capiti Anglicane ecclie totum dcm Monastm sive 
prioratu firm de Castelacre pdca ac totum scitum 
fundum circuitum et pcinct eiusdem Monastij nri 
de Castelacre pdca necnon omia et singla Mania 
dnia Messuag. gardina curtillagia . . . terras 
et tenta nra prata pascua pasturas boscos reddit 
rencones slutia molendina passagia Feoda milst 
ward maritag. escaet natives Villanos cum eor 
sequelis coies libtates franchesias iurisdiciones 
officia curtlet hundrd vis francpleg feria meat 
pcos Wappenna vinaria aquas piscarias vias vacuos 
fundos advocacones noiacones pntacones et dona- 
cones eccliar vicariar capellar cantiar hospitalm et 
alior eccliasticor bnficior quorcumq. Rencones 
vicarias cantarias phcones porcones annuitates 
decumas oblacones ac omia et singla emolument 
pficua possessiones hereditamenta et jura nra 

quecumq. tarn infra com. Norff. Lincoln Suflf. 
M 2 



Per me 
Johan Bets. 

Per me 

Per me 
Johne Low. 

Per me 

Robertu Fadre. 

Per me 
Rob tii Salman. 

Essex. Midd. Cant, quam alibi infra Regnum 
Anglie, Wallie et . . . eorum eidm Monasterio 
sive Prioratui de Castelacre quoquo modo spectan 
concen sive tenend. et gaudend dcm Monasterm 
sive Prioratu scitum Fundum circuitum et pcinct 
de Castelacre pdcm necnon omia et singla pdct 
mania dmna messuag gardin terras tenta ac ceta 
pmissa cu omibus et singulis suis membris et ptin 
pfato inuinctissimo principi et dmno nstro Regi 
hered et assignat suis nupp cui in hac pte ad omem 
juris effcm qui exinde sequi potit aut potest nos et 
dcm Monasterm sive prioratu de Castelacre pdct 
ac omia jura nobis qualitercunq. acquisita ut decet 
subjicim et submittim omem et omiod plenam et 
libram facultatem auctoritatem et potestatem nos 
et dcm Monastem sive priorat de Castelacre pdct 
una cm omibus et singulis Maniis terris tent 
reddit renscionibs sviciis et singulis cetis pmissis 
cum suis iuribs et ptin quibuscunq disponend ac 
per suo libr Reg voluntatis libits ad quoscumq. 
usus maiestati sue placentes alienand donand 
comittend et tnslatand huiusmodi disposicones 
alienacones dona comiscones tnslacones prdcm 
maiestatem suam quovis modo fiend .... nat 
et grat ac ppetus firmas .... per psentes Et 
ut principa omia et singla suum debit sortiri valeant 
effem elecionibs .... nobis et successoribs 
nris necnon omibs querelis prvocacionibs appella- 
cion litib accion ibinstanciis aliisq quibuscunq. iuris 
remediis et bnficiis nobis forsen et successoribs nris 


in ea pte ptextu disposiconis alienaconis tnstaconis 
et comissionis pdict et ceter prmissos qualitercunq. 
competentibs et competituris omibs doli erroris 
metus ignorancie vel alicujs nature sive disposiconis 
excepcionibs obiectionibs et allegacionibs prorsus 
semotis et depositis palam publice et expresse ac 
.' . . . nri scientia animisq spontaneis Renun- 
ciavim et cessim .... per psentes Renunciam 
et cedim et ab iisdm Recedimus in his Scriptis. 
Et nos pdict prior et conventus et successores nri 
Monastm sive priorat. de Castelacre ac oraia et 
singla mania dmia mes. gardina curtillag tosta 
prata pascua pasturas boscos subboscos teras tenta 
ac oinia et singula ceta pmissa eidm suis membris 
et ptm universis pfato dno nro Regi hered et 
assignat suis contra omnes gentes Warrentizzab. 
. . . . per psentes. 

In quar. Rer. testimonium nos pfat. Prior et 
conventus utiq pti hor. scriptor. nror Indentat. 
sigillura firm commune apponi fecimus dat- vicesimo 
scdo die Novembris anno regni pdci dni Regis 
invic. vicesimo nono. 


To all faithful Christians to whom the present written Indenture 
may come. Thomas, Prior of the Monastery of the blessed Mary 
of Castleacre in the county of Norfolk, otherwise Sir * Thomas, 

* Dominus Sir. The usual prefix to graduates of the Universities 
and to the clergy generally ; whence the Sir Hugh (Dominus Hugh), of 
Shakespeare and others. 


Prior of the regular house or priory of the blessed Mary of Castle- 
acre, of the Cluniac order, in the diocese of Norwich, and the 
chapter of the same place, Eternal health in the Lord. 

Be it known that we, the aforesaid Prior and Chapter, with 
unanimous assent and consent, having deliberated in our minds, 
with sure knowledge and a pure motive, certain just and reasonable 
causes specially moving our souls and consciences thereunto, 
willingly and spontaneously have given, yielded, confirmed, and by 
these presents do give, yield, deliver, grant, and confirm, to the 
most illustrious and invincible Prince and our sovereign Lord, 
Henry the Eighth, by the grace of God, King of England and 
France, Defender of the Faith, Lord of Ireland, and upon earth 
supreme head of the English church, all the said our Monastery or 
Priory of Castleacre aforesaid, and all the site, foundation, sur- 
rounding land and precinct of the same our monastery of Castleacre 
aforesaid, besides all and every the manors, domains, messuages, 
gardens, covered buildings, lands and tenements, our meadows, 
grazing grounds, pasturages, woods, rents, revenues, water-mills, 
passages, feofs, wardships .... native villeins, with their 
(lineal descendants?) liberties, franchises, jurisdictions, offices, 
curtlets, frankpledges, hunting grounds, cattle, wappentakes, 
cellars, fisheries, roads, waste grounds, the advowsons, nomina- 
tions, presentations, and donations, of the churches, vicarages, 
chapelries, chantries, hospitals, and of the other ecclesiastical 
benefices whatsoever ; the rectories, vicarages, chapelries, chantries, 
pensions, rates, annuities, tithes, and all and every our emoluments, 
possessions, hereditaments, and rights whatsoever, as well within 
the counties of Norfolk, Lincoln, Suffolk, Essex, Middlesex, Cam- 
bridge, as elsewhere within the kingdoms of England, Wales, and 
of those things in any way belonging, concerning, 


appending to or depending upon the said Monastery or Priory of 
Castleacre ; and all our deeds, evidences, writings, and muniments, 
belonging to the said Monastery or Priory, its manors, lands, 
tenements, and privileges whatsoever ; or to every other peculiar 
in any way pertaining, held, or enjoyed by the said Monastery or 
Priory, the aforesaid site, foundation, surrounding land, and 
precinct of Castleacre ; besides all and every the aforesaid manors, 
demesnes, messuages, gardens, lands, tenements, and other privi- 
leges belonging to all and every its members and things belonging 
to our aforesaid invincible prince and lord the King, his heirs and 
assigns (lawfully authorized) ; to whom by law in this behalf we 
apprise whosoever henceforth can or may follow us, the said 
Monastery or aforesaid Priory of Castleacre, and all the rights, 
howsoever acquired by us, as it behoves we convey and cede all and 
altogether, full and free liberty, authority, and power, ourselves, 
and the said Monastery or Priory of Castleacre aforesaid, with all 
and every the manors, lands, tenements, rents, revenues, services, 
and every other the privileges with the rights and appurtenances 
thereunto belonging and whatever can be disposed of, to the King, 
to whatever use may please his Majesty, to be alienated, given, 
entrusted, and transferred, the disposals, alienations, gifts, com- 
missions, translations of this kind to be done, in whatever manner 
his aforesaid Majesty (may think fit). . . . And that all and 
every these privileges may avail to be held as his due, we cause our 
determination (to be respected), by us and by our successors, 
apart from all quarrels, provocations, appeals, litigations, actions, 
suits, and such like whatsoever ; with remedies and immunities of 
law by us and our successors in this behalf from any pretext of 
disposal, alienation, translation, and commission aforesaid, &c., the 
privileges whatsoever agreed upon at this time, or to be agreed 


upon, all exceptions, objections, and allegations of fraud, errors, 
fear, ignorance, or any other nature or disposition, being altogether 

removed, and openly, publicly, and expressly set aside 

With deliberation and voluntary inclination we have renounced 
and yielded, and by these presents we do renounce and yield up, 
and by the same we deliver (them) in these writings. And we, 
the aforesaid Prior and Chapter and our successors, by these 
presents, have warranted (for ever) the Monastery or Priory of 
Castleacre, and all and every its manors, demesnes, messuages, 
gardens, covered buildings, meadows, grazing grounds, pastures, 
woods, underwoods, lands, tenements, and all and every the other 
privileges, with all its members and appurtenances, to our aforesaid 
lord the King, his heirs and assigns, against all people. 

In testimony of which things, we, the aforesaid Prior and Chapter, 
to each part of these our indentured writings have caused our common 
seal to be appended. Given on the twenty-second day of November, 
in the twenty-ninth year of the reign of our aforesaid invincible King. 

The " common seal " affixed to this document, and of 
which a representation is given in another place, is of 
an oval form, but unfortunately much defaced. Enough, 
however, remains to show that the device represented 
the figure of the Virgin standing under a canopy of rich 
shrine-work, the figure being surrounded by a radiated 
nimbus. Beneath her feet is part of the wall and gate 
of a castle, with the portcullis partially raised ; the 
monogram of Maria appearing immediately within. The 
inscription is wholly illegible. The smaller, or Prior's 

Etched "bv H.ltjjliaiu.fro7iial)ra.wi!^ by 


seal, of this foundation, represents a full-length figure of 
the Virgin seated, in high relief; the inscription, however, 
being much defaced. 

From the above deed it will be seen how complete, 
sweeping, and entire was the surrender which these 
monasteries were required to make of their long-cherished 
and venerated rights and privileges. Taking the specimen 
before us as a sample of the whole, we may judge how 
sordid and tyrannous was the spirit in which the King 
exercised a power suggested by his own arbitrary 
caprice, and authorised to him by a cringing and obse- 
quious Parliament. And what did he offer in exchange, 
what shadow of compensation did he make, for the 
indiscriminate spoliation which he thought fit to indulge ? 
Not a syllable is said on the subject ! Not a hint trans- 
pires save the vague and general admission of " certain 
just and reasonable causes moving them thereunto ! " 
Reasonable, forsooth ! They had promises, perhaps, 
fair specious promises in plenty, and some trifling pen- 
sion might fall to the share of the most forward in the 
work of cession ; but what became of the great bulk of 
the men who were thus abruptly and unceremoniously 
unhoused and beggared ? 

The surrender was acted upon without loss of time. 


The commissioners compiled their inventory with the 
most scrupulous exactness ; not an article, however in- 
significant, of the least apparent value, or that could by 
any means be converted into coin, escaped their scrutiny. 
Crosses, chalices, patens, censers, candlesticks, the costly 
trappings of the various altars, the rich robes of the 
officiating priests, the elaborate adornments of the shrines, 
the sonorous peal of bells, the lead which roofed the 
church and adjacent buildings, the varied paintings on 
the storied windows, the massy timbers of the roof, 
down to the very pigs of metal reserved for occasional 
repairs, were all collected together, examined, weighed, 
valued, and returned, to be disposed of in the readiest, 
and most advantageous manner. Goods, chattels, crops, 
stock, and moveables of all descriptions, old iron, glass, 
and stone, were as far as possible disposed of on the 
spot, and the amount so raised, together with whatever 
moneys might be in the possession of the Chapter at the 
time of the surrender, besides the arrears of all rents 
due to the foundation, were transmitted, as early as 
might be, to " the court of Augmentation of the revenues 
of the King's crowne," the destined bourne of all this 
heartless spoliation. The Cluniacs of Acre, for a time at 
least, were homeless. 


What a change had a few short weeks wrought in the 
fortunes of a once flourishing community ! Altars that 
had blazed with jewellery and plate, naked, cold, and 
mutilated ; shrines that had sparkled night and day with 
a hundred votive tapers, dark, dismal, and unheeded ; 
bells that had flung their mellow chime far and wide, 
in sorrow or in gladness, broken and destroyed; the 
massy grey towers which for centuries had formed so 
prominent a feature in the surrounding landscape, roof- 
less to the winds and storms ; cloisters that had echoed 
to the measured tread of anxious devotees, silent and 
deserted ! The lowly hind, following his customary 
vocation in the neighbouring fields, from the mere 
impulse of habit, would pause in his employ to catch the 
wonted tone of the shrill sacring bell, but pause in vain ; 
the familiar sound was hushed for ever. The way-worn 
mendicant would seek the shelter and relief never with- 
held by the good brethren of the almonry ; no voice res- 
ponded to the meek appeal, no dish of broken meats 
rejoiced his eager gaze. The very air was tainted with a 
living desolation, and the blasts of winter howled and 
eddied the psean of triumphing ruin ! 

During the space of ten years the Crown retained pos- 
session of the surrendered lands, when, having exhausted 


the cream of the various revenues, they were dispersed 
among different proprietors as the most eligible purchasers 

The Priory, with its immediate lands and manors, 
passed into the hands of Thomas Howard, Duke of 
Norfolk, who was already in possession of the Castle 
with its dependencies. Thenceforth the respective 
properties centred in the person of one proprietor, 
and following the succession already detailed in our 
Historical Notices of the Castle, came into the family 
of the noble individual who now holds them. Ruin 
equally marks the site of baronial hall and cloistered 
cell, but fertile harvests wave in all directions on the 
surrounding lands, and could the poor Cluniacs of Acre 
have anticipated in then- day the goodly produce which 
now annually attests the combined triumph of skill, 
capital, and liberality, they would have found their 
revenues, ample as they were, doubled in value and 

We cannot close our sketch of the career of this inter- 
esting foundation without briefly adverting to the general 
pursuits of its former inmates. 

Of these we can only speak by conjecture. With one 
solitary exception, to be noticed in another place, there 


is nothing extant to attest the skill or learning of the 
monks of Acre. It cannot boast of its Matthew Paris 
or its William of Malmeshury, and yet it is reasonable 
to suppose that it could not be wholly destitute of talent. 
It had its library, and such learning as the period could 
claim was doubtless cultivated within its walls. Few 
establishments of the kind but had their school, where 
the instruction of youth was exercised as a duty, and 
where the high-born and the lowly alike experienced the 
tender solicitude of their instructors. The revival of 
letters obtained in Continental Europe some short time 
prior to the Conquest, and in reviewing the character of 
the Conqueror we should not overlook the fact that by 
his munificence and personal example he endeavoured in 
every way to promote their cultivation in this land. 
The monasteries were for a long period the only suitable 
retreats of resuscitated literature, and it is only justice 
to the monastics to say that they fostered and cherished 
it with exemplary fidelity. It is this very fact which 
attaches so much interest to the spots now and for a 
long series of years destitute of claim upon our respect, 
and we cannot look at humble and obscure Acre with- 
out reflecting that it has borne its share in the goodly 
work. Science and the fine arts had also their votaries 


here, and there is evidence to show that the latter were 
practised, in one department at least, with considerable 
success. The richly stained glass with which the con- 
ventual churches were wont to he adorned, and which 
later ages have very partially succeeded in emulating, 
were in many cases prepared by the monastics them- 
selves, and the paintings which still occur on the pannel- 
ling of rood screens and other places, in many of our 
churches, may probably be referred to the same origin. 
Music formed another resource of the solitary recluse, 
and, though perhaps of a quality repulsive to ears accus- 
tomed to the rich and elaborate harmonies of modern 
art, it still possessed that powerful influence upon the 
mind which, under every form, we find to be its attribute. 
We may not depreciate the character of ancient harmony 
because so little of an undoubted early date has been 
preserved to us, but we cannot question that it was 
of a nature suited to the solemn devotional purposes to 
which it was applied. The services of the Roman 
Church, indeed, owe much of their attraction to this 
beautiful acquirement, and its value in promoting devo- 
tional feeling is daily becoming more appreciated among 
those of the reformed faith. Gardening and agriculture 
were pursuits followed equally for the produce which 


they yielded as for the wholesome recreation afforded by 
them, and the skill to which the monastics attained in 
the former department is attested by many contemporary 
and subsequent writers. It was not merely the neces- 
sities of the community which prompted attention to 
this matter, for they lived almost wholly on vegetables 
and fish, but a desire to profit by the inexhaustible 
resources which they were sensible a well-directed cul- 
tivation would open to them, and to their patient per- 
severance we are indebted for the introduction of many, 
now familiar, but ever welcome fruits. But for them, 
gardening might never have risen to the character of a 

Thus, with all the rigour and monotony of their 
religious profession, the monks of Acre had open to 
them a wide field of intellectual enjoyment and relaxation. 
Literature, science, art, music, gardening, and agricul- 
ture, were surely abundant resources for the time that 
could be spared from severer exercises, and a well 
regulated mind could have no cause to complain of a 
paucity of matter for improvement and enjoyment. And, 
indeed, until an increasing spirit of luxurious ease and 
moral apathy rendered them alike indifferent to the 
character of their profession and its resources, these 


matters were not neglected or suffered to lie dormant ; 
so that, whatever may be urged, and with justice, against 
the too prevalent character of monastic institutions, we 
cannot withhold from them the meed of commendation, 
as the faithful guardians of all that now so greatly 
contributes to the delight and relaxation of civilised life. 
Whilst the various classes of society around them were 
plunged in the tumultuous distractions of a rude, stern, 
uncompromising age, or sunk in the debasing trammels 
of an ignorant and hopeless servitude, the peaceful 
inmates of the cloisters " held on the even tenor of their 
way" in uninterrupted security, calmly fulfilling their 
pious and benevolent calling, and cherishing the feeble 
flame of knowledge which was not to flood its light upon 
the world until the hands that had so fostered it were 
mingled with the past. 

Let it be considered, then, that the Priory of Acre has 
contributed its share to this important work, as a humble 
nursery of neglected and well-nigh forgotten science, and 
it immediately becomes invested with an interest to 
which, perhaps, in the opinion of many, its shapeless and 
scattered ruins can otherwise possess no claim. 




The earth where abbeys stood 

Is layman's land ; the glebe, the stream, the wood ; 
His oxen low where monks retired to eat, 
His cows repose upon the prior's seat ; 
And wanton doves within the cloisters bill, 
Where the chaste votary warr'd with wanton will. 

THE BOROUGH, Letter iv. 

NE is tempted almost to believe that the 
gentle-hearted Crabbe had penned these 
lines under the vivid impression of a 
recent visit to Castleacre, so faithfully 
true are they to the existing condition 
of its venerable Priory. Here, indeed, it is matter of 


frequent observation that " oxen low where monks 
retired to eat," and here too, ofttimes, in the bright and 
balmy days of summer may be seen a happy group of 
joyous faces clustering eagerly round a well-stored cloth 
of snowy whiteness spread on the fresh herbage, and 
watching with merry malice the abstraction of a distant 
sketcher from their party intent upon transferring yon 
fantastic pier in crayons or in pencil, whilst flocks of 
" wanton doves " whirr and whirl overhead until they 
again find rest from their mazy flight in the secure lodg- 
ment of the western tower of the conventual church. 
Can they be conscious of the proximity of some of their 
less fortunate mates, whose plump and well-seasoned 
bodies are immured within the inviting precincts of that 
capacious pie ? For here, within the shattered boundary 
of the ample refectory, we perceive substantial symptoms 
of good cheer ; no black beans and salt indeed, but 
pasties, capons, hams, tongues, and eke champagne, 
nectar unknown to the poor hunger-pinched Cluniac ! 
There are pilgrims too, but very merry ones, and a 
thrilling laugh, which ever and anon echoes from some 
distant angle of the ruin, indicates the presence of most 
youthful votaries, whilst the more sedate of the party 
lounge in indolent ease upon the green sward, occupied 
in social converse, or rapt in silent contemplation of the 


by-gone glories of the neighbouring fane. A thin pungent 
vapour, redolent of Virginia, wreathes at intervals into 
the still evening air, but it breathes not frankincense ! 
How changed the scene from that remote period when 
no foot trod the cloistered courts save that of the pale 
ascetic, or that perchance of the privileged stranger whom 
business, or the call of hospitality, had brought within 
the walls ! 

It is satisfactory to know, that in the dispersed, and 
apparently confused, masses of time-worn ruin which 
here meet our view, we have before us one of the most 
interesting and complete remains of monastic institutions 
which this country can furnish. The ground-plan is 
nearly entire throughout, and the details, upon examina- 
tion, are found to supply a competent idea of the arrange- 
ments usually adopted in such establishments ; whilst 
the wealth and importance formerly attached to this 
foundation, lead to the reasonable inference that it 
affords a fan* type of the general character of the class 
to which it belongs. 

The Priory is situated within little more than a 
quarter of a mile from the Castle Keep, from whence it 
still forms a prominent and agreeable feature in the 
landscape. The precincts occupy a space of ground in 

N 2 


extent about thirty-six acres, originally surrounded 
throughout by a substantial wall of rough compact flint, 
of which considerable traces are still discernible to the 
north and east. Indeed its course may be remarked with 
tolerable distinctness throughout the greater part of the 
extent, running parallel with the western wall of the 
modern churchyard, and bending at an abrupt angle on 
the margin of the stream to the south, which here divides 
it from an adjoining parish. The area comprised within 
this boundary, of which but a small portion is under 
cultivation, the remainder being rich pasture land, was 
in part occupied by the conventual buildings of the 
foundation, and such appurtenances as were necessary 
to the comfort and relaxation of its inmates. Cemetery, 
garden, stew-ponds, and dairy- walk were here, the pre- 
sumed localities of which will be more minutely noticed 
hereafter, whilst the only entrance to the precinct being 
to the north, immediately within the observation of the 
good superior of the establishment, who at a glance 
could become cognisant of every exit and entry from 
and to the premises, secured an ample share of privacy 
without impressing the fraternity with the unwelcome 
idea of compulsory restraint. 

We approach the Priory, then, from the north, and on 


the summit of the rising ground from whence we dip, 
as it were, into the inclosure, at its north-eastern corner 
we obtain the pretty bird's-eye glance at the ruins which 
is so happily conveyed in our illustration at the head 
of the preceding section. The principal, and once the 
only, entrance to the precinct is by a Gate-house or Lodge, 
faithfully represented in the accompanying sketch, 
through the main archway of which we catch a view 
of the western extremity of the conventual church, 
with its adjoining lodge, the private residence of the 

This Gate-house, placed at a distance of about one 
hundred and thirty yards from the north-west angle of 
the church, was rebuilt on the site of an older and 
smaller structure, in the time of Henry VII., at the same 
period with several extensive repairs in the Priory itself. 
The style of architecture at once declares its origin, and 
the counterpart of the edifice must be familiar to all 
who have noticed the greater part of the college gate- 
ways at Oxford and Cambridge, particularly those of 
St. John's and Queen's Colleges in the latter university. 
To such a one it will be no difficult matter to re-embody 
the kindred structure before us, and indeed, the lateral 
walls remaining in a very sound and nearly perfect state, 


its restoration as a dwelling might be effected at a trifling 
cost, and if executed with judgment would have a pleasing 
and appropriate effect. 

The facade consists of two arched entrances, flanked 
and surmounted by the windows of the porter's dwelling. 
The principal or carriage entrance, as we may distinguish 
it, being constructed for the passage of vehicles of that 
description and horsemen, occupies the immediate centre, 
presenting a road-way upwards of eleven feet in width ; 
to the left of the entrance, as the spectator views it, a 
lesser archway, four feet nine inches wide, furnishes a 
convenient and secure mode of entry and regress to 
foot-passengers, contiguous to, but apart from the hazard 
and inconvenience of the public road. These two path- 
ways blend, as it were, into one within the gateway, by 
means of an open archway corresponding in dimensions 
with the outer or carriage entrance. The entrances 
fronting the high-road were closed at pleasure by stout 
oaken doors, of which the iron pivots still remain : their 
corresponding archways on the priory side were not 
similarly secured, but open, as now, at all hours of the 
night or day. 

To the left of the entrance is the Porter's Lodge, a small 
apartment, having in one corner a spacious hearth and 


chimney, and two or three niches somewhat resem- 
bling piscinae in form. This apartment was separated 
from the footway by a thin partition, of which traces 
remain on the stucco of the lateral walls. Opposite to 
this, on the other side of the carriage-way, was a small 
chamber lighted by two windows ; and adjoining to it, 
at the south-western angle, was a good staircase of hard 
brick, conducting to the sleeping apartments, two in num- 
ber, each lighted by four windows, with a narrow passage 
of communication on the southern side of the wall. 

The south front of the Gate-house is entirely plain, but 
on the northern or principal facade, there are five shields 
of armorial bearings well executed in stone, and still 
retaining their respective devices with sharp distinctness. 
These shields are disposed upon the building as in the 
illustration, and have been separately delineated in pre- 
ceding portions of our work ; although, as this is the 
proper locality to which they belong, it will be necessary 
again briefly to notice them. The shield in the centre, 
over the apex of the principal archway, presents the 
armorial bearings of De Warrenne, the munificent founder 
(vide ante, page 33) ; that on the extreme right, the device 
of John Fitzalan, Lord Maltravers (ante, page 99) ; that 
on the left of the centre, the arms of England, tern pore 


Henry V.; and that to the extreme left, the armorial 
bearings of Arundel (ante, page 33). Immediately above 
the crown of the footway arch rests the armorial bearing 
of the Priory itself (ante, page 121). 

Upon the whole, though interesting in its way, it must 
be admitted that this Gatehouse is sadly deficient in 
keeping with the beautiful ruin to which it conducts. 
The term " stately," which Blomefield applies to it, is 
strangely misapplied ; and it sinks into complete insigni- 
ficance, when reserved by visitors as the last object of 
examination, as too generally happens. The main point 
of curiosity is the admirable manner in which a hard red 
brick, moulded with considerable skill to the shape 
required, has been employed in the construction of the 
quoins, buttresses, window-frames, and hoods, to the 
complete exclusion of stone. No flaking appears in any 
part of the compact outline, notwithstanding neglect, the 
lapse of time, and the exposure to climate through so 
long an interval. 

Passing down the steep declivity from the Gatehouse, 
until we near the modern buildings of the Priory Farm, 
and facing to the east, we pause before the west front of 
the conventual Church, from the south-western angle of 
which the Prior's Lodge immediately abuts. Our frontis- 


piece will afford some idea of the objects which here 
meet our view, although it is scarcely possible for the 
pencil to convey the impression which a first glance at 
this beautiful faade is calculated to make upon the 
mind. With the antiquary the sentiment expressed is 
uniformly that of admiration: the least interested in 
such pursuits fail not to remark the grace which a happy 
combination of simplicity and rich decoration succeed in 
producing. We contemplate a structure over which the 
storms of seven centuries have passed, with a lenity that 
speaks volumes in behalf of the solidity of its construc- 
tion, as well as the durability of its material. There is 
a freshness about the whole which might well-nigh 
induce us to doubt whether this be not the production of 
a later age, instead of being, as in truth it is, a remnant 
of the skill and judgment with which architects laboured 
in their vocation, when the Red King swayed the sceptre 
of the realm. Time has lightly done his allotted work, 
and but for the ruthless hand of spoliation and wanton 
dilapidation, which have been so mercilessly exercised 
upon other parts of this noble foundation, we might have 
had present to our view, not a western frontage only, but 
an entire edifice nearly in its original state. Desirable 
as it would be, in many respects, to contemplate the 


structure complete in all its original freshness, we 
confess to a predilection in favour of our pretty ruin : 
for the attention which is now concentrated on some 
scattered relic of early art, would necessarily be dimi- 
nished by dispersion over an ampler range of observation ; 
whilst in its present state imagination may exercise both 
taste and ingenuity in giving form and substance to 
the wide-spreading masses around. It is at least a 
pleasing exercise for the fancy ; but in order to direct it 
aright, we must enter the consecrated precincts with 
something of a warm feeling of art, and a determination 
to assign to every part its due weight, and importance, 
and propriety, in the scale of our mental restoration. 
We shall be at no loss to realise the picture ; a fragment 
here, an enrichment there, an entablature in one place, 
and intersecting arches in another, occur in every 
quarter to assist us in the work ; and thus " in our 
mind's eye " we may embody the vast skeleton into one 
consistent and harmonious whole. 


however, claims our first attention. With one exception, 
all is Norman pure, stern, massy still not heavy Nor- 
man. The central door-way, opening into the nave [A], 


with its semicircular arch of bold and varied moulding ; 
the smaller entrances on either side [B, C], leading 
respectively to the north and south aisles, having their 
arches in like manner, though dissimilarly, ornamented ; 
the tiers of blind arches, interlacing and simple, covering 
the intervening spaces, and rising to the summit of the 
remain; the fantastic corbels and metopes, all bearing 
the distinctive impress of Norman work, produce a 
combination, the harmonious arrangement of which can 
only be appreciated fully on personal inspection. Our 
illustration will serve to show the general effect of the 
front ; but a separate drawing of the central arch is 
given at the head of this section, in order more clearly to 
point out the simple and pleasing style of ornament 
employed in its decoration. 

An ingenious idea has been somewhere suggested, and 
has, we believe, obtained among several of the curious 
in such speculations, that the various mouldings and 
decorative enrichments which are so profusely dispersed 
over most of our ecclesiastical edifices, have not been so 
distributed at the mere fancy or caprice of the builders, 
but have all a symbolical or latent meaning allusive to 
some matter of faith, or doctrine, or tradition, in connec- 
tion with the Church. We shall not pause for an elabo- 


rate examination into the merits of such a theory, if it 
can be called one ; indeed we only touch upon the sub- 
ject to show how it may be applied to interpret some 
of the decorations in the structure before us, and it is 
left to the discretion of the reader to adopt or reject 
the speculation as he may judge most fit. How far 
the conceit can be borne out by evidence it is not 
for us to determine, but at least it is not devoid of 

For example, the zig-zag or chevron moulding, which 
forms so conspicuous a feature in the decoration of the 
doorways and arches of the nave, and other parts, may be 
supposed to have some reference to the rays or nimbus 
which usually encircle the heads of saints or angels in 
old paintings and illuminations, and thus to indicate 
Glory. The chain of large balls or beads will serve to 
represent the rosary, an important adjunct of Roman 
Catholic worship, indicating Prayer; the bold twisted 
cable appropriately enough symbolises Union and Strength, 
the prominent features of an Apostolic Church. Three 
arches interlaced in one pannel, and under one common 
hood or canopy, will indicate the Trinity ; while a group 
of six arches, similarly interlaced, on either side a door- 
way or window, fitly represents the number of the 


Apostles. In like manner four arches, similarly con- 
nected, will point out the number of the Evangelists ; 
whilst a chain of such arcades, carried on in unbroken 
succession over the facade of a building of this class, will 
frequently be found to correspond in number with Christ, 
the Apostles, and Evangelists, or with that of the Seventy 
commissioned by Him as the early ministers of his Church. 
Thus, as the general form of the edifice had reference to 
the Cross, so its leading decorations were studiously 
arranged in harmony with the idea, and were meant to 
symbolise some point of revelation or of tradition in 
connexion with it. Whatever may be thought of the 
matter as applied to the decorations in question, it is 
certain that the capitals of columns were frequently 
adorned with some rude sculpture, intended to represent 
the leading events recorded in Holy Writ, such as the 
Fall, the Deluge, the trial of Abraham, &c. There are 
indications of this in the facade of our Priory, but so 
defaced that it is extremely difficult to individualise the 

In speaking of the pure and bold Norman character of 
this elegant facade, we observed that there was one 
exception to be remarked. It is to be found in the 
pointed window which surmounts the central archway. 


This, beautiful in its kind, and conspicuous for the sym- 
metrical perfection of its proportions, is, nevertheless, 
sadly out of place in its present position, and manifestly 
an interpolation of later date. This is palpable at once 
to the slightest observation, from the evident interruption 
that it has occasioned in the tracery of arches which 
still flank the window on either side, and which formerly 
extended completely across this part of the building. In 
fact, originally there was no window of any kind what- 
ever in this part, such being the usual character of severe 
Norman style, and the facade presented one uniform 
frontage of arches, columns, mouldings, and tracery. It 
was not until the growing taste for the pointed arch, 
and the passion for western windows to our churches 
began to prevail, that the worthy fraternity of this 
establishment were tempted to admit the incongruous 
interpolation. It is satisfactory, however, to reflect 
that the window in question is by no means so dis- 
proportionate to the general plan as too frequently 
happens in the case of similar addenda. The extra- 
ordinary beauty of the outline that remains is suf- 
ficient to justify the care that is bestowed in its 

It will be observed that the upper part of the southern 



tower has on each of its sides two sharply pointed arches 
or lancets. These may undoubtedly be referred to the 
period when such arches, preceding the regular pointed 
style, came into use ; that is to say, within a very few 
years prior to the consecration of this edifice by Bishop 
Turbus, in A.D. 1148, at which time this portion of the 
building was completed. The corresponding tower at 
the northern extremity of the front, now entirely demo- 
lished to the very foundation, was doubtless similarly 
constructed and adorned, and there is reason to suppose 
that both were originally higher by one or two tiers of 

We will now proceed to enter within the consecrated 
area of the Conventual Church ; and here, to assist the 
examination, reference must be made to the accompany- 
ing plan. 


It will be seen that the general plan of the Church is 
cruciform, part of the choir, with the transepts, forming 
the upper portion of the cross, the nave, with its side 
aisles, constituting the shaft. 


The interior proportions of the edifice will be found to 
correspond with the following measurements : 


Total length from the west entrance to the wall of 
the Lady Chapel [E] at the back of the high 
altar 226 

Length of the nave, from the west door to the 

screen [D] 90 

Length from the screen to the back of the altar, 

as before . .... 136 

Breadth of the nave, with side aisles ... 59 6 

Breadth across the transepts . . . 99 6 

Upon entering through the archway [A], and turning 
to examine its interior plan, it will be found to present 
a construction altogether different from its external 
appearance. It is, in fact, a double arch, ingeniously 
contrived, but producing an effect far more curious than 
agreeable. It should be noticed that the soil, which has 
accumulated in some slight degree on the exterior faade 
of the building, is actually accumulated to a much 
greater extent in the interior, in some parts very consi- 
derably so, and that originally the passenger descended 
to the pavement of the church, from the respective 
entrances, down four or more steps ; as is the case to this 
day upon entering the cathedral church of Norwich, to 


which, in general arrangement, the present structure, on 
a diminished scale, bears considerable resemblance. 

The pavement throughout the building consisted of 
small square red tile, neatly and compactly laid, and for 
the most part perfectly plain ; embossed, or intaglio, 
pavement being of very rare occurrence in this portion 
of the ruins. Wherever we have cleared a space to the 
floor of the church, and the spots have been varied and 
numerous, we have uniformly exposed the small plain 
pavement referred to, in a greater or less degree of 

Advancing from the west door along the centre of the 
nave, we find that there were six massy piers on either 
side connecting it, by means of noble and richly decorated 
archways, with the north and south aisles respectively. 
Of these arches, all that retains its original casing of 
stone, or that can serve to indicate the style of decora- 
tion which was carried forward through this portion of 
the building, is that upon which the south-western tower 
rests, and which fortunately continues in a good state of 
preservation [a]. As we shall return presently to a 
more minute notice of this locality, we will now direct 
attention to the sixth pier from the entrance, and its 
corresponding one on the opposite side []. Upon clear- 


ing away the rubbish and fallen ruin from the south pier 
in this quarter, we ascertained that a massy screen, and 
possibly rood-loft, extended from side to side across the 
nave and aisles, resting in either direction against the 
piers referred to. Of what material the screen might be 
it is impossible to determine, but the fact of its existence 
is clearly shown by the broad deep grooves prepared on 
the basement of the pier for the reception of the frame- 
work. Here, then, the nave may be said to terminate ; 
the remaining space, as far as the Lady Chapel at the 
extremity, being properly the choir. Before, however, 
we enter upon this department of the building, a curious 
fact remains to be noticed, which has been brought to 
light by the excavation already alluded to. From a 
cursory glance at the remains it might reasonably be 
concluded that the north and south aisles were carried 
forward uninterruptedly into the transepts, or with the 
mere intervention of the screen referred to; but such 
was not the case. The aisles were respectively termi- 
nated in this quarter by a thin though substantial wall, 
against which rested a small altar, raised a few inches 
from the regular pavement of the church, and flanked on 
either side by a painted sellium or confessional, the 
frame-work of which had disappeared. Thus, with the 


screen in front of each, these small spaces constituted 
distinct chapels [c. c.], and doubtless were so considered. 
The oblong space upon which the altar rested was paved 
with small tiles, neatly painted in eccentric devices, the 
colours being burnt in, but without any appearance of 
embossment or intaglio. It is to be regretted that these 
traces are no longer to be recognised ; exposure to the 
air caused a rapid exfoliation of the material of the wall, 
and the reprehensible curiosity of visitors accelerated 
its complete destruction. 

A FEW feet beyond the screen we enter the space 
between the transepts. Of four massy piers which here 
supported the low central tower, always found in Nor- 
man structures of the kind, one only rises to a consider- 
able height above the fallen ruin ; this is the pier marked 
fd.] in the plan. It presents a huge mass of irregular 
solid masonry, strikingly significant of the bulk and 
dimensions of the tower it helped to support. The 
exterior casing of stone has long since disappeared, and 
the hand of the spoiler is but too apparent in this spot 
as well as in the remainder of the choir. In all proba- 

o 2 


bility the basements of the remaining piers, if uncovered, 
would be found in nearly a perfect state, whilst their 
dimensions far exceed those of their predecessors in the 
nave. Standing in the midst, between the basements of 
the piers of the central towers facing eastward, we have 
behind us the range of the nave and side aisles ; imme- 
diately in front, the choir with its side chapels ; and on 
either hand, the north and south transepts. With the 
exception of the latter, the ruin is so complete that little 
remains to indicate the form and dimensions of the 
building, but a ground outline just discernible above the 
soil. It is fortunate, however, that the walls of the 
transepts, with the exception of the upper part, are all 
standing; and as the superincumbent mass of rubbish 
has been removed in one or two places down to the 
original pavement standing thereupon, the visitor may 
form a tolerable idea of the noble elevation of the pile, 
which here ran upward to the roof, unbroken by any 
intermediate vaulting, and possessing arcades, tracery, 
and a beautiful succession of arches and moulding rising 
to the summit. 

Directing our attention, in the first instance, to the 
south transept [G], we observe its eastern side to be 
occupied by an apsis or semicircular chapel [e], a con- 


trivance of frequent occurrence in Norman edifices. It 
has a vaulted roof, an east window, a small altar beneath 
it, a piscina to the south of the altar, and there are 
indications of a screen, or railing, on the west side, com- 
municating with the transept. In the corner immediately 
adjacent to the apsis is a stair-case conducting to the 
arcades in this direction, and on the southern wall of the 
transept is a deep arched recess, formerly most probably 
containing an altar tomb [/], and flanked on each side 
by a distinct ambry or safe, for the secure deposit of the 
vessels and accessories used in the service of the altar. 
The appropriation of these ambries to such a purpose 
can only be matter of conjecture, since every trace of 
stone-work, except a small portion in the lower part of 
the ambry, adjacent to the south-west angle of the tran- 
sept, where it has the appearance of a drain, has been 
entirely picked away; from which circumstance, we 
suppose this shrine or tomb to have been highly orna- 
mented, and its decorations deemed of sufficient value to 
swell the coifers of the Court of Augmentations. The 
western wall of the transept seems to have been for the 
greater part solid, although it was long supposed that an 
arched entrance to the church, from the adjacent cloister, 
existed in this quarter. An excavation, however, has 


proved that the supposed entrance was, in fact, nothing 
more than a recessed lavatory on the side of the cloister, 
through the back wall of which an opening has been 
forced into the transept by some of the early spoliators 
of the fane. Immediately contiguous to this forced 
passage, and partly destroyed by it, within the transept, 
there is a slightly curved depression in the even surface 
of the walls it is scarcely deep enough to be called a 
recess which presents the singular appearance of an 
early English window traced with a pointed instrument 
upon the stucco while the cement was moist, and still 
exhibiting evident traces of the colouring with which it 
was adorned. Exposure to the weather, however, is now 
rapidly obliterating all trace of this contrivance, the 
purport of which it is in vain to conjecture. 

Crossing over to the opposite or northern transept [F], 
we find the same general architectural arrangements 
observed as in the one we have just quitted, although 
the basement details are somewhat different. In the 
centre of the northern wall, a lofty arched entrance con- 
ducts to an apartment of which even the outline scarcely 
remains, and to which access was had from the pavement 
of the church, by means of six stone steps embedded in 
the thickness of the wall. The apartment to which they 


conducted is reasonably supposed to have been the 
sacristy [H] ; and there are traces of a low chamber 
over it, the use of which is not clearly apparent. To the 
left of the door-way, and in the north-east angle of the 
transept, is a stair-case leading to the arcades, wherein 
may be seen the remarkably preserved date which so 
completely determines the period of the foundation of 
the establishment, and to which reference has already 
been made (ante, page 126). On the east side is a lofty 
and deep arched recess, formerly containing an altar 
tomb, probably of one of the De Warrenne family, or of 
some munificent benefactor to the foundation, as, upon 
examination of the spot, some few years since, a skeleton 
was disclosed immediately in the centre of the compart- 
ment. It has been thought that this might possibly 
be the resting-place of the founder himself, but many 
considerations lead to the conclusion that he was not 
interred within these precincts. The western side of the 
transept seems to have been perfectly plain and unbroken 

Quitting the transepts, we pace the remaining portion 
of the choir to the small Ladye Chapel at the back of 
the high altar [E]. The remains in this direction are 
extremely scanty; but from the angle still remaining 


at [g ], and the general outline of the ground plan, it 
is obvious that this portion of the church has been 
rebuilt at a much later period than the preceding part. 
Originally, doubtless, the entire choir was constructed in 
unison with the rest of the building, and was terminated 
with a semicircular end, as usual in Norman structures 
of this class : at what period the change was made to its 
present form, or what the occasion which rendered the 
alteration necessary, there is no evidence to show. 
Pausing on the probable site of the high altar [A], and 
facing to the west, we trace the whole cruciform outline 
of the edifice, which, in its original freshness of tracery, 
arcades, and enrichments, must have presented an object 
of great elegance from this quarter, although the gran- 
deur and vast proportion which characterise the greater 
part of our cathedrals might be wanting. 

Retracing our steps through the length of the church, 
our attention is caught by the appearance of the south- 
western tower [I], which, from the comparative preser- 
vation of its leading features, enables us to judge of the 
character of the architectural embellishments which 
pervaded the nave, and were carried, more or less, through 
the entire building. The basement of the tower consists 
of two main arches, the one communicating with the 


nave, immediately on the right of a person entering by 
the great door ; the other, at right angles, opening into 
the south aisle. On the south side is a small arched 
doorway communicating with the cloister \_j ] ; in the 
adjoining angle a stone stair conducts to the upper 
part of the tower, and to the prior's private apart- 
ments ; and on the west side is the entrance from the 
front [C]. 

The whole of this area was, for a great length of time, 
inclosed by rough modern masonry, as a receptacle for 
coals, &c., until of late years, when the good taste of the 
present occupier has been evinced in the removal of all 
extraneous matter. From the appearance of the archi- 
vaults, we suppose them to have once been coated with 
a firm composition resembling stone, that might have 
continued perfect until now but for the rude purposes to 
which the area has been applied. Had the archi vaults 
been faced with stone, there is no reason why it should 
not have been apparent at this time, since the adjacent 
stonework remains compact and uninjured, and the 
greater part of the tower has luckily escaped the hand 
of the spoliator. It will be remarked that the appearance 
of the arch bears the stamp of solidity, combined with 
an airiness not often to be recognised in Norman work ; 


the form is of that peculiar description known as the 
stilted arch, though not to a disproportionate extent; 
and the graceful employment of the chevron ornament 
imparts at once a relief and richness which, in the com- 
plete state of the nave, must have had a strikingly 
elegant effect.* 

Before we pass from the consecrated precinct, to notice 
the domestic details of the establishment, a word or two 
is necessary with regard to the various excavations 
which, from time to time, have been made in this portion 
of the ruin. 

It is reasonable to conclude, that, could a complete 
clearance of the area of the church be effected, many 
little matters of much interest to the antiquary would 
be disclosed. The work, however, would be one of con- 
siderable labour and difficulty. The prodigious quantity 
of fallen ruin and accumulated rubbish which covers 
every part of the pavement in some places to the 
perpendicular depth of ten or twelve feet, and the huge 
masses of piers and side-walls that occur, particularly in 
the transepts, would render the task of removal, save by 

* A slight sketch of the lower part of this tower is delineated as the 
background to the armorial bearings of the Priory. Vide illustration, 
p. 121 


some violent destructive process, almost impracticable. 
The consequence of this difficulty is, that excavations 
have hitherto been made very partially and imperfectly 
in detached spots ; whilst it must be confessed that if, in 
every instance, the hopes of the excavator have not been 
completely realised in the result of his attempt, enough 
has usually been disclosed to engender a strong desire of 
seeing more. Still there is room to hope that, at some 
future period, the curiosity of the visitor may be gratified 
by seeing an entire clearance of the whole area of the 
church ; and in that case, we trust that the increasing 
regard for such venerable remnants of a by-gone age, 
and the growing taste for everything that is calculated 
to throw light upon the acquirements and tastes of a 
remote period in our history, would restrain the curious 
from defacing or doing violence to the fragments that 

We have already observed, that wherever an excava- 
tion has been made, the pavement of the church has 
been found to consist of small, plain, red tiles. To this 
we may add, that in most cases considerable quantities 
of thick stained glass, of every shade of colour, have 
been found mixed up with the superincumbent rubbish, 
of course in minute fragments, but in such abun- 


dance as to indicate that " a dim religious light " 
was wont to be cast through many " a richly storied 
pane ; " portions of lead accompany them : and, in 
the vicinity of doorways, many large-headed studding- 
nails serve to show the former presence of an oaken 

Upon removing the soil from the eastern end of the 
south aisle, near to the chapel [c.], in the early part of 
the year 1837, there was disclosed a stone sarcophagus, 
partly resting beneath the level of the pavement, and 
(singular enough) partly projecting above its surface. 
To understand the eager excitement produced by this 
disclosure, it is necessary to premise that an opinion has 
long prevailed among the labouring part of the popula- 
tion of the adjoining parishes, and it is one pretty 
generally entertained, we believe, in the neighbourhood 
of all monastic remains, that in some part or another of 
the ruins a buried treasure, or a coffer of valuables at 
the very least, is to be found, and that some day it will 
be brought to light. Every excavation that is attempted 
is believed primarily to be prompted by this golden 
inducement, and the repeated disappointments which so 
regularly ensue, so far from shaking the belief, only 
serve to whet the appetite and strengthen the conviction 


of treasure being buried here, if we would but dig deep 
enough ! In the present instance this prevailing impres- 
sion sealed the fate of the sarcophagus. What could 
such a mysterious-looking object possibly be but the 
long-sought-for receptacle of hoarded wealth ? Heedless 
of the total absence of care manifested for its conceal- 
ment, it was at once decided that this must contain 
somewhat of important value ; and while one hastily 
summoned the family of the occupier, another spread 
the report in the villages, and speedily brought down a 
host of eager expectants hurrying to the scramble which 
they of course concluded would follow. In the mean- 
time the workmen pursued their labour, and in their 
eagerness to raise the supposed chest, it was broken into 
three portions, when were displayed the remains of a 
human being, peaceably reposing in their " narrow cell," 
and till that moment undisturbed. A curious fact was 
now developed. The sarcophagus, of thick but friable 
stones, perfectly plain, and to all appearance of ancient 
date, had in all probability been removed from some 
other spot to its present destination. A shallow grave 
had been dug beneath the pavement of the aisle and its 
bottom coated with cement. Upon this the body of the 
deceased was simply laid, wrapped in a shroud of coarse 


sackcloth, which was found still retaining its folds and 
encircling the skeleton ; while over all, the sarcophagus, 
void of any operculum or cover, was inverted. It is 
remarkable, that although the bones were found as 
described, wholly undisturbed in their humble shroud, 
and perfect in all other respects, the most careful search 
failed to discover any trace of the skull or of the feet ! 
in fact, it was ascertained upon inspection, that these 
members had been respectively amputated prior to the 
interment of the body, the one from the vertebrae of the 
neck, the other just about the ankle joint. No motive of 
necessity could have prompted this expedient, for the 
sarcophagus was not only of ample length for a full- 
grown subject, but was furnished with the usual cup-like 
recess at its upper end for the reception of the head of 
the deceased. An experienced medical friend, to whom 
the bones were subsequently shown, pronounced them to 
all appearance to be those of a female, and what dark 
tale of wretchedness, misery, or crime, might they not 
shadow forth ? The whole circumstance, the mutilated 
state of the body, the penitential character of its 
envelopment, the singular mode of its sepulture, the 
conspicuous position of the tomb, all seem to point 
to some transaction of grief, or guilt, or tyranny, 


that may supply ample scope for the exercise of ima- 

In clearing the entrance to the sacristy [H], and the 
adjacent corner of the north transept, many blocks of 
plain and ornamental moulding were disinterred ; and on 
approaching the level of the pavement, within two or 
three inches of its surface, an extensive stratum of wood 
ashes, at least a foot in thickness, presented itself. 
Considerable fragments of wood completely charred, 
aud the iron blade of a bill-hook, were taken from this 
stratum, and the discovery served to explain the . 
palpable traces of fire, which are still observable above 
the crown of the arch and within the doorway leading 
to the sacristy. It would seem that shortly after the 
early dilapidation of the fane, and before the mouldering 
ruin began to accumulate to any extent on the floor, this 
portion of the transept had been used as a woodhouse, 
wherein, if we may judge from the actual density of the 
ash stratum, compressed as it is by a mass of superin- 
cumbent rubbish to the depth of nine feet, a considerable 
quantity of such material was deposited. Through some 
mischance or wantonness, this pile had been ignited, and 
being suffered to exhaust itself, was so left without any 
fresh deposit in the place. 


Blomefield records the names of some few benefactors 
who, he says, are buried in the Priory Church, but 
hitherto no authentic proof of this fact has been 
disclosed. In the course of the past year, while tracing 
the area of the pavement in the very centre between the 
transepts, we exposed a plain slab of dark stone, 
utterly without inscription, date, initial, or ornament 
of any kind. From the fall of ruin the stone had been 
cracked in the centre, but in other respects had been 
undisturbed. Upon raising it we- found that it rested on 
an even bed of river sand, within three feet of which 
reposed a skeleton in perfect preservation, placed in a 
shallow grave cut into the natural chalk formation of 
the district. There were slight indications of the 
original presence of a coffin, but no cross, agnus, or 
other relique such as are usually found to accompany 
the remains of a defunct ecclesiastic. From this cir- 
cumstance, and the situation of the grave, we are 
disposed to imagine the body to have been that of 
some layman or other benefactor. It is likely that a 
more extended clearance would establish this point 
beyond a question. 

p ~ , 1 





Quitting the church through the small doorway [j], 
in the basement of the south-west tower, we enter upon 
the Cloister, around which the most conspicuous portions 
of the domestic part of the establishment were metho- 
dically arranged. 

Wherever a monastic establishment of any importance 
exists, a cloister appears to be an indispensable appen- 
dage. The advantage which it afforded to the fraternity 
to enjoy air and exercise whatever the state of the 
weather, at the same time that a complete privacy was 
effected, rendered the claustrum an important feature in 
then* domestic arrangements, and we accordingly find it 
annexed to almost every cathedral and collegiate church 
in the kingdom. In all probability the idea, together 
with that of the modern piazza of the Italians, was derived 
from the ancient Greek portico or peristyle ; or, if Scrip- 
ture authority be deemed of greater weight in such a 
case, the porch of the glorious structure erected by 
Solomon may have furnished the type of this contrivance. 
But, whatever the cause, facility of access to the principal 
offices of the establishment was doubtless an additional 
motive for its adoption ; and those who are familiar with 


the simple and beautiful peristyles that so frequently 
occur in the disinterred houses of Pompeii will at once 
recognise the analogy. 

The present cloister comprises a square of one hundred 
feet, the covered ambulatory being of a uniform width 
of ten feet all round, the cemetery occupying the centre 
as customary. The back wall is nearly entire on each 
of the sides ; but of the arcade separating the ambulatory 
from the cemetery scarcely any traces now remain above 
the soil, a fragment or two only being visible in the 
south-west and south-east corners. It is difficult to con- 
jecture the style and proportion of the arcades, but from 
the perfect simplicity of the remaining fragments, it is 
probable that they were as plain as possible, which 
was usually the case with the earliest examples of this 
kind of structure. At a certain elevation in the back 
wall may be traced the ridge line of the ambulatory 
roof, immediately above which are the windows of the 
prior's residence, and of other apartments in the several 
buildings that commanded this area ; a satisfactory proof 
that no range of dormitories or other cells immediately 
surmounted the ambulatory, as some have considered 
the usual practice to have been. The principal offices of 
the establishment communicated with the cloister by 


means of semicircular arched doorways which will pre- 
sently be noticed in detail originally faced with stone, 
but now entirely deprived of that covering. 

Traversing the cloister, at .right angles from the door- 
way at which we enter [/], we commence our examina- 
tion at its north-eastern corner. The first archway that 
we encounter was long supposed to have been a way of 
communication with the south transept of the church; 
and until the partial removal of the adjacent soil, it 
certainly had all the appearance of one. It is now 
apparent, however, that the existing opening [a\ has 
been violently forced through the thin back wall subse- 
quent to the dilapidation of the buildings, arid that the 
supposed doorway was nothing more than a deep recess 
containing a seat, or more probably a lavatory similar to 
an arrangement still observable in the beautifully-pre- 
served cloister at Norwich. The sole entrance to the 
church from this part of the building seems to have been 
by the doorway in the tower through which we have 
already passed. 

Within a few paces of the lavatory, and immediately 
contiguous to the south wall of the transept, we enter 

p '2 



This was a noble apartment, 38 feet by 22, and evidently 
finished with a degree of richness and elegance that well 
became the official saloon of the establishment. The 
north and south walls were occupied by elegant canopies 
of stone-work belonging to the respective stalls of the 
fraternity, the traces of eighteen of which on each side 
are still distinctly visible, although the stone itself is 
removed from hence as elsewhere : the number of monks 
on the foundation, it will be remembered, was thirty-six. 
At the east end was a noble window of stained glass, 
and to the west the stalls of the prior and sub-prior on 
either side of the entrance from the cloister [b~\. This 
doorway we suppose to have been of a highly-decorated 
character, from the simple fact that every portion of it 
has been carefully removed to the very basement; a 
circumstance which does not occur with respect to other 
doorways on the same level. Money being the real object 
of the royal spoliator, every article of value or that could 
be rendered available for the purposes of sale was 
unscrupulously detached, and disposed of piecemeal to 
the readiest purchaser ; and thus it is not unlikely that 
the enriched doorway of the chapter-room shared the 


fate of altar tombs, and other decorated portions in the 
church, and was removed in an entire state. Above this 
entrance was a second window overlooking the roof of 
the ambulatory, and fronting the windows of the prior's 
lodge ; whilst above the stalls of the brethren ran a range 
of low semicircular arches, pilasters, and ornamental 
mouldings, rising to the roof, which it is clear was vaulted, 
and probably faced with stone. In the south-eastern 
corner is a doorway [c] communicating with a narrow 
court-yard attached to the domestic offices of the esta- 
blishment, through which the servants and lay-brethren 
had admittance when summoned before the chapter, the 
monks alone entering by the western doorway. 

The area of this apartment having been cleared in the 
autumn of 1840, a pavement of small square tile, about 
the size of those in the church, but infinitely more finished 
and varied in character, was disclosed. The seats con- 
nected with the stalls doubtless partook of the character 
of the Miserere, and had been raised a step or two from 
the level of the floor, but every trace of them has dis- 
appeared. The pavement was very compactly and neatly 
laid in cement, presenting at brief and regular intervals 
groups of embossed and intaglio tile, the intervening 
spaces being filled with plain tile, and all highly glazed. 


The annexed illustration will serve to show the character 
of these varied groups. The tiles were arranged in dis- 
tinct groups of four of the same pattern placed in imme- 
diate contact with each other, and, after an interval, 
another group of four of another pattern, the several 
patches consisting of an even number of tile, bearing 
precisely the same device, each patch differing from its 

Some of the tile bore the device of a deer exceed- 
ingly well executed in high relief, the head raised, 
and the antlers thrown back : the glaze of these was 
yellow. (Vide illustration.) 

Others bore coats of arms, the one lozenges inter- 
mingled with birds, the letter B surmounting the shield ; 
the other presenting the appearance of simple drapery, 
surmounted with the letter W ; these were covered with 
a dark green glaze. 

Some bore the Christian name of the Prior for the time 
being, or of some benefactor, to this effect " Thomas," 
covered with a yellow glaze. 

Others again, in dark glaze, bore on a shield the three 
lions passant of England. 

Some had the device of a dragon, or chimaera, with 
extended wings, in high relief; others, simple roses and 

E i>J BOSS E ID PAW E 5H M 7. 

Etched T>y H.Nrniam 


stars in intaglio, a dark and yellow glaze respectively 
covering them. 

The general character of this ornamental pavement 
corresponds with what may still be seen in some part 
of the building at Caen known as the Palace of the 
Conqueror, and in other places in Normandy, but is of a 
date considerably posterior to the Conquest. Indeed, 
tile of this description cannot be referred to a period 
earlier than the close of the thirteenth century, when, as 
we learn on the authority of Fosbrooke, many religious 
foundations had kilns employed expressly for preparing 
them, from which the conventual and their dependent 
parochial churches were supplied. In support of this 
position, tradition says that the Priory of Acre possessed 
a kiln of this kind at Bawsey, near Lynn, from whence 
they were supplied with embossed and encaustic pave- 
ment, as occasion required. This will readily account 
for the appearance of armorial bearings above referred 
to, since we may conclude that, to commemorate the 
munificence of particular benefactors, the chapter directed 
copies of their respective heraldic bearings to be manu- 
factured at the kiln, for insertion in the chapter-room of 
their establishment, and in such other places as they 
might determine upon. 


Upon the whole, the effect of this handsome apartment, 
in its perfect state, must have been exceedingly pleasing; 
and the effectual manner in which it has been stripped 
will suffice to show that considerable importance was 
attached to the value of its enrichments. 


The next archway [B] on this side of the cloister opens 
upon a staircase conducting to the dormitory, which, with 
the exception of the lateral walls, has long since dis- 
appeared. It has been generally supposed that in con- 
ventual buildings the dormitory usually surmounted the 
west or south sides of the cloister, and in the majority of 
cases it may indeed have been so. But in the present 
instance it is obvious such an arrangement was not 
adopted, from the simple fact that the ambulatory is 
overlooked on every side by windows belonging to differ- 
ent apartments of the establishment, a circumstance 
which absolutely precludes the possibility of any apart- 
ments immediately surmounting the cloister. 

The present stair, the fruit of one of our earliest 
researches among the remains, consists of an easy flight 
of stone steps, apparently twenty-two in number, each 


6 ft. 6 in. by 15 inch., let into the wall on either side, and 
lighted at the top by a window of stained glass in the 
eastern wall. The entrance was closed by a folding door 
raised one step from the level of the cloister, of which 
the left half was usually kept shut, as we may observe 
from the manner in which the right half of the step is 
worn by the passage of feet. The steps that remain, 
bearing evident traces of their frequent use, are six in 
number, the falling ruin having fortunately covered them 
to that extent before the work of piecemeal spoliation 
had commenced in this quarter : the rest, however, with 
the exception of a fragment or two, are quite gone. In 
the stone-work of the steps, close against the north side, 
may be observed in two places small square holes, in 
which iron supports have been inserted to sustain a rope 
to assist the person mounting the stair ; a serviceable aid 
to those of the fraternity who, in spite of Cluniac auste- 
rity, upon occasion of high wassail, might retire to rest 
some " wee bit fou," as the song has it. We are reluctant 
to adopt such a conclusion as absolute ; but looking at 
the secure manner in which the stair was flanked, and 
its easy declivity, we cannot account for the adoption of 
such a precaution except with a view to the possible 
contingency we have intimated ; or (which is certainly 


the more charitable inference) it might have been so 
arranged in order to facilitate the ascent of the infirm, 
the aged, and the care-worn. 

Of the dormitory itself nothing distinctly remains 
even for conjecture to frame an opinion upon. To all 
appearance, it extended the whole length of the basement, 
including a portion of the staircase, in all some 110 feet 
by 26 ; a space which would furnish ample accommoda- 
tion for the cells of the fraternity ranged on either side 
of a common passage or gallery passing along its entire 
length at the centre. It was lighted by seven windows 
on the eastern side, four on the western, overlooking the 
ambulatory of the cloister, and two more also to the west 
beyond the buildings on the south side of it. All these 
windows originally were strictly Norman, as the stone 
moulding still extant in one or two places plainly indi- 
cates ; but it seems that they were subsequently altered 
more than once in a very clumsy, irregular, and unsightly 
fashion, as expediency required, or the taste and means 
declined. The range of the floor of this part of the 
premises is still very perceptible in the side walls. 
Security and privacy were the chief things aimed at in 
the arrangement of the dormitory ; for the usual custom 
was, when the monks had retired to rest, for the servitor, 


whose business it was to attend upon the sleeping cells, 
to lock the outer door, and carry the key to the prior or 
sub-prior, by whom they were again returned to the 
attendant when he went to summon the fraternity to 
rise at the appointed hour in the morning ; a proceeding 
which assuredly had more the air of a prison about it 
than a place of voluntary seclusion. 


A pace or two beyond the entrance to the stair last 
referred to, we descend one step through a doorway \d], 
originally ornamented with triple pilasters, to the refec- 
tory, a spacious apartment, extending from its northern 
extremity to the screen, probably existing to the south, 
in length 91 feet by 26 in breadth. The floor consisted 
of large square glazed tile, alternately yellow and dark 
green, but without any device; and the lateral walls were 
ornamented by a succession of plain blind arches, from 
which the stone-work has been completely removed, the 
windows being on the east side, and one small arched 
doorway on the west [c] communicating with the locu- 
tory. The floor above was supported upon arches, of 
the springers of which traces remain in the side walls, 


The screen of wood probably extended across the hall in 
a line just beyond the twelfth blind arch, from whence to 
the southern entrance was a distance of 14 feet 6 inches, 
constituting a sort of ante-hall to the dining-hall itself. 
The southern entrance to this noble apartment consisted 
of two handsome lofty arches, springing respectively 
from the east and west sides, and resting upon a massy 
pier in the centre, the basement of which still remains. 
This opened into a narrow passage about nine feet in 
width, conducting to the kitchen and other offices con- 
nected therewith. 

The whole apartment may be mentally restored, by 
reference to the existing dining-halls in our great 
Universities, and to those in some ancient manorial 

The Rev. R. Forby, in his account of the ruins, conjec- 
tures the entrance from the cloister, which we have 
described as admitting us at once to the refectory, to 
have opened into the buttery merely, and places the 
screen a few feet in advance of it, supposing the present 
opening, marked / on the plan, to have been the only 
direct entrance from the cloister. But, with all deference 
to the judgment of this able and experienced antiquary, 
we have presumed to entertain a different opinion, and 


we will give a brief statement of our reasons for adopting 
the arrangement which we have preferred. 

Upon a close examination of the opening (f,) we were 
led to conclude that originally this was no entrance-way 
at all, but like the lavatory, a passage forced by the early 
spoliators of the fane. A close inspection of the interior 
of the arch will show traces of stucco abruptly curving 
downwards at little more than half the width of the wall. 
On the west or external side it will be seen that there is 
no indication whatever of a stone archway, such as may 
be clearly traced in every other instance where a doorway 
or even a blind arch existed. On the contrary, there are 
evident tokens of an opening having been forced here, the 
comparative thinness of the wall offering considerable 
facilities for the removal of the material. This will be 
found to have been indubitably the case with the imme- 
diately adjoining entrance to the locutory [g]. Upon 
removing the soil on a level with the floor to this point, 
no trace whatever was observed of a doorway, but a plain 
fragment of stone forming a portion of the arch, which 
here curved uniformly with the prevailing decoration of 
the apartment. In short, it appears to have been simply 
a recess, possibly for the reception of some article of 
furniture answering to our modern sideboard or beaufet. 


Supposing this aperture to have been the entrance, and 
the screen to have occupied the place assigned to it by 
Mr. Forby, it would surely be strange that the entrance 
to so limited a space as that comprised between the 
screen and the north wall should be of the enriched 
character which the remains plainly indicate it to have 
possessed, whilst the immediate approach to the refectory 
from the cloister was left perfectly plain nay, even 
unsightly ! Again ; if the buttery had been here, as con- 
jectured by Mr. Forby, it was placed at a most incon- 
venient distance from the kitchen and similar offices 
nay, even cut off from all communication with them, 
unless we suppose the opposite opening on the east side 
to have been a doorway into the small yard to the east 
of the refectory, of which there is no indication what- 
ever. Now, by removing the screen to the quarter we 
have supposed to be its locality, we have a dining-hall 
of considerable length, with an anti-hall (which might 
have served as a buttery) directly communicating with 
the kitchen and offices, and readily accessible at all times 
to the servants without occasioning them to pass through 
the entire length of the hall, which must otherwise have 
been the case. There is obviously considerable difficulty 
in determining this point, nor are these suggestions 


offered with any view to speak absolutely, but, upon a 
careful review of the circumstances, we are disposed to 
believe that we have adopted the most plausible con- 


This is a small apartment to the west of the refectory, 
having an entrance from it [e] and another doorway 
[#] opening into the south side of the cloister. The 
purposes of this room corresponded in some respects with 
those of our modern Combination Rooms, where the 
monks retired after meals and joined in social conver- 
sation. Indeed, social chat was allowed here when, in 
conformity with the rigid Cluniac rules, silence was 
generally enjoined in other places, and the locutory was 
an indispensable feature in a Cluniac establishment. 
Du Cange informs us that in large foundations of this 
order there were not less than three apartments of this 
description. It may be thought that the present chamber 
could scarcely have been of dimensions sufficient for the 
purpose to which it was applied ; but a brief enumeration 
of the regulations which had reference to it, and which, 
like everything connected with the Cluniacs, bears the 
stamp of singularity, will serve to remove such an 


impression. The Prior, the Sub-Prior, and the other 
officials of the establishment, might at any time assemble 
in the locutory on matters of business, but the claustral 
monks were not permitted to do so indiscriminately. Of 
these, rarely more than four were allowed to be present 
at one time, and they not to remain long ; servants who 
might be summoned were never allowed to sit down, and 
no stranger could at any time be introduced. When 
one party had conversed for a short time, they made way 
for others ; and thus a comparatively small space sufficed 
for the purposes of such an apartment. 

The indications of a floor above show that this apart- 
ment was surmounted by a chamber of corresponding 
dimensions, which Mr. Forby ingeniously supposes to 
have been the scriptorium, with a door of communication 
on the west, conducting to a spacious apartment over the 
hall on the south side of the cloister, to be hereafter 


Repassing the refectory to the narrow passage at its 
southern extremity [A], and proceeding to the east, we 
arrive at the site of the kitchen, brewery, bakehouse, and 
domestic offices attached to the establishment [E E], 


comprising that portion which was appropriated to the 
use of the servitors and lay brethren. The ruin here is 
so entire that very little remains save an irregular line 
of foundation, serving to mark the extent of the buildings, 
but affording no indication of their appropriation, unless 
the traces of what apparently was an extensive flue just 
visible above the soil on the south side be considered as 
determining the situation of the kitchen in this quarter. 
A narrow yard appears to have intervened between these 
offices, the east side of the refectory, and the south-east 
corner of the chapter-room, from whence there was a 
door of communication already noticed, thus affording 
ready access to the domestics to any quarter where their 
services might be required. It is greatly to be regretted 
that the extremely dilapidated state of the building in 
this quarter deprives us of much that might prove 
curious in the domestic economy of the fraternity ; but 
the conspicuous position they occupied, as well as the 
comparative facility they afforded to the operations of 
the pickaxe, rendered them an early object of destruction. 
Much has even disappeared since 1810, when Mr. For by 's 
plan was published. From the fragments that remain 
it is obvious that the architectural character of this 
portion of the building was of a kind far less massy, and 



of a date considerably later than the better preserved 
portions of the remains, probably coeval with the choir 
and side chapel of the church. 


The domestic buildings of the establishment terminate 
to the south of the refectory with a long apartment [F] 
running east and west, in length 90 feet, by 19 feet 
6 inches in breadth, inclusive of the cells to be noticed 

The purpose of this long chamber, in some respects, 
remains a matter of considerable doubt, although in one 
particular its application we believe to be sufficiently 
obvious. It was lighted by two windows only, one at 
either extremity, and the floor rested upon a deep-vaulted 
channel passing through the entire length of the building. 
There were apparently but two doors of entrance to this 
room, both from the passage to the south of the refec- 
tory [A], and the principal chamber of which we are 
speaking, itself vaulted, was surmounted by a low loft of 
the same length as the room beneath ; this might serve 
simply as a store-chamber. Within rather more than 
three feet of the south external wall of the building is an 


interior wall of singular thickness, perforated by twelve 
arched doorways opening to a similar number of once 
separate cells, the appearance of which has tended some- 
what to perplex the visitor. 

Mr. Forby pronounces this apartment to have been the 
cellar, ( ! ) and we are at liberty to infer that of course 
the cells alluded to discharged the purpose of wine-bins ! 
He draws this conclusion from the supposition, that on 
account of its low situation and proximity to the river 
Nar, the Priory could not have been furnished with a 
cellar under ground ; and that from the studied manner 
in which coolness, ventilation, and convenience of access 
have obviously been consulted, no other locality presents 
such probability as the present. We readily admit the 
studied coolness, ventilation, and convenient access ; but 
the inference we derive from these facts widely differs 
from that of this able antiquary. 

It certainly seems highly probable that the cellar was 
not a sunken one, although, as there are no land springs 
in the vicinity, it might have been depressed a few feet 
below the usual level with perfect security ; but it is not 
in this quarter that we must look for such a convenience, 
and a little consideration of the remains will readily 
suggest the purpose to which it was partially adapted. 



Upon examining the eastern gable of the ruin, two arches 
will be observed, the larger one opening into the vaulted 
channel already noticed ; the smaller arch a little to the 


left of the former, communicating with a channel now 
completely choked with earth and fallen ruin, but run- 
ning immediately under the range of cells mentioned 
above, as may be clearly ascertained from the small 
corresponding arch at the western extremity of the 
building. A slight examination of the surface of the 
ground towards the east, will show that a stream of water 
once flowed directly through these vaulted channels ; if 
it were not the original bed of the adjacent river itself, at 
least it constituted a branch of the stream, artificially 
diverted in this direction. In all probability the bulk of 
the stream was permitted to flow through the larger 
channel only ; but, at stated periods, by means of some 
contrivance analogous to a dam or floodgate, its course 
could be directed through the lesser channel, when it 
would scour its whole length with a degree of force pro- 
portioned to its confined limits. It seems, then, that the 
lesser passage served the purpose of a sewer, and the 
cells above may readily be conceived to have been a 
range of those indispensable conveniences which we 
cannot suppose any establishment of this kind to have 


been without. The long apartment into which the cells 
open, may have been nothing more than a covered 
ambulatory, well ventilated, and of obvious utility to the 
frequenters of this region, especially during wet or 
inclement weather ; while the extensive loft above could 
be easily employed as a store-chamber, to which only its 
dimensions seem to warrant it could be adapted. We 
think that the coolness, ventilation, and convenience of 
access, so obviously consulted in the construction of this 
portion of the buildings, may be readily accounted for 
on the above supposition. 


Retracing our steps through the refectory, and re- 
entering the cloister, we find its southern side (with the 
exception of the entrance to the locutory in the east 
angle) to be occupied by the unbroken wall of a long 
apartment [G], the use of which is not now very 
apparent, although the suggestion of Mr. Forby on the 
subject seems the most plausible, and is that which we 
prefer to adopt. He conjectures it to have been the Hall 
of Novices, where those who were afterwards to take 
upon them the monastic vows, and others who were 


temporarily lodged in the establishment through motives 
of policy or economy, many of whom were little more 
than mere children, received regular instruction in the 
learning of the times. The suggestion acquires consider- 
able probability from the fact that the only entrance to 
this chamber appears to have been in the south-western 
angle of the cloister, so that access could at all times 
be easily obtained to the novices, laymen, and pupils, 
without in any degree intruding upon the privacy and 
social rendezvous of the regular brethren of the estab- 
lishment. Their sleeping apartments might have partly 
occupied the area above, the remaining portion com- 
prising the library of the house, from which was an 
entrance into the scriptorium, noticed in another place. 

A portion of a singular narrow-vaulted passage, con- 
structed in the very thickness of the wall itself, and once 
apparently continuing through its entire length, may 
still be observed in the northern wall of this apartment. 
The fragment that remains shows that no means of 
egress or regress existed to the east where the passage 
abruptly terminates with solid wall on its three sides. 
Light and the free circulation of the air were alike 
excluded ; while toward its extremity the floor gradually 
rises, so as effectually to prevent a tall person from 


standing upright within the cell. We cannot suppose 
this passage to have been an arcade similar to those 
which circulate round the church, and the only purpose 
to which it would seem to be applicable is that of 
punishment or penance. It is well known that Abbeys, 
Priories, and other conventual buildings had their prisons; 
and in some instances these have been of a very formid- 
able character, and placed in curious and unexpected 
situations. We do not imagine the spot now under notice 
to have been regarded exactly as a dungeon, but simply 
as a place of minor or temporary punishment. Perhaps 
some refractory pupil or dull student, occasionally, in 
extreme cases may have been treated with a taste of " the 
silent system " in " this black hole," with beneficial ad- 
vantage to his wayward disposition or sluggish intellect. 
The west side of the cloister now remains for a brief 
notice, and is entirely flanked by buildings constituting 
and in connexion with the Prior's lodge. There were 
two entrances from the cloister to this portion of the 
establishment; the one marked [&] in the plan, con- 
tiguous to the church, opening into the waiting-hall of 
the lodge, being for the admission of such of the frater- 
nity and lay members as might have business with their 
Superior ; the other [m] being a private door of com- 


munication with the precincts, for the use of the Prior 
himself, or his domestics. These are of course now 
blocked up with modern materials, and externally de- 
prived of their enrichments ; but their Norman construc- 
tion is still apparent. 

It may here be observed, that the basement story 
throughout the existing remains of the Prior's lodge still 
retains its perfect Norman character, while the upper 
portions, having undergone considerable alteration and 
repairs, and being in a great measure rebuilt, are the 
work of the time of Henry VII. 

The window surmounting the entrance [&] overlooking 
the roof of the covered ambulatory on this side supplied 
light to the private oratory of the worthy Superior, and 
was doubtless filled with stained glass. The remaining 
windows on this side belonged to chambers no longer in 
existence, and the appropriation of which it is useless to 


Quitting the cloister and passing to the west front of 
the conventual Church, we find the Prior's lodge to 
occupy a range of building protruding immediately at 
right angles to the south-western tower of this sacred 


edifice. It had two fronts, one to the north and the 
other due west, the southern side communicating with 
the Prior's private garden. The most conspicuous 
features in the north front are an arched entrance of 
communication to the waiting-hall already mentioned, 
[a] on the plan, and visible also in our illustration of 
the west front of the church *. This entrance admitted 
visitors from without who sought audience with the 
Prior, and who thus obtained entrance without encroach- 
ing upon the private resort of the fraternity. 

The other object deserving of peculiar attention is a 
capital specimen of an ancient bay-window, of admirable 
simplicity and solidity of construction, and remarkable 
for the singular manner in which it is supported, as it 
were, by a cluster of diminishing arches nestled one 
within the other. 

At the western extremity of this wing of the building, 
is another excellent specimen of an early English window, 
of which the frame and mullions are stone, the lower 
part presenting a corbel head, flanked on either side by 
quatrefoil work, the whole being of the style prevalent in 
the thirteenth century. The west part of the lodge is 
broken by the projecting buildings of the modern house 

* Vide Frontispiece. 


attached to the Priory farm, many of the apartments of 
which are incorporated with portions of the old structure, 
and so altered as to have lost all trace of the purpose 
for which they were originally planned. Some very 
interesting specimens of art connected with the period 
are, however, interspersed in the various chambers, and, 
through the kindness of the occupier, visitors, upon 
proper application, may gratify their curiosity by a sight 
of the greater part of the remains which we are about to 

The doorway [a] opens into an apartment which we 
have already mentioned as a waiting-hall or vestibule 
[A]. The vaulting is plain and massy, and there are 
three entrances the one just noticed, a second communi- 
cating with the cloister, and a third [b~\ connecting it 
with a second hall [B], formerly the principal hall of 
the establishment. The Norman doorways of the vesti- 
bule are distinguished by ornamental beading of a simple 
and somewhat rude character, indicating an indifferent 
state of art, and probably coeval with the foundation itself. 
Passing through the entrance p>], we arrive at the great 
Hall, a spacious and noble apartment, though now 
divided into a brewhouse and cellar. The vaulting of 
this apartment is of a more recent date than that of the 


vestibule, being slightly pointed, and the ribs thinner 
and less massy. A central pillar supported the floor 
above, the ribs of the vault radiating from its summit. 

On the right of the entrance is a piscina, or rather 
recess for a holy-water stoup; an appendage which 
occurring in another instance in this department of the 
Priory, serves to show that some ceremony was expected 
to be observed by those who were about to approach the 
presence of the Superior. The hall in question termi- 
nated the basement range of this wing of the building, 
and access was had to the upper or habitable apartments 
by means of a vaulted passage opening into the hall, and 
a stone stair on the side of the cloister, indicated in the 
plan, but now completely destroyed. 

From this point the ancient remains are so completely 
incorporated with the details of the modern establish- 
ment, and have necessarily sustained such subdivision 
and alteration, as to render hopeless any attempt to de- 
fine the method and extent of the original structure. A 
mere outline is all that it is possible to furnish, and this 
can be best conveyed by reference to the plan, which em- 
braces as much as can be traced of the old foundation, 
although a glance will show that much is wanting to 
preserve the uniformity that once doubtless prevailed in 



the orignal plan. The interruption caused by the pro- 
jection of the modern buildings renders it extremely dif- 
ficult for the casual visitor to trace the form of the 
lodge as it was originally planned ; but a frequent and 
careful examination of the site enables us to convey, by 
a simple diagram, some idea of its outline. The principal 
faade was to the west ; and from a central point in that 
direction, the lodge would have presented an outline 
somewhat to this effect, 


Here R will represent the right wing, containing the 
vestibule and hall already noticed, with chambers above ; 
L, the left wing, now in great part gone ; and P, a project- 
ing porch, if it may so be called, with chambers above, 
the windows of which are still extant. 

Reverting then to our plan, the next portion of the 
basement which still retains distinctive features is the 
central portion of the western fa9ade, marked [C.] 
This, again, appears to have been nothing more than 
a hall, and from its situation was probably reserved for 


the use of the Prior and such occasional visitors as might 
rank among his distinguished or private friends. Indeed, 
from all that we gather on a close examination of the 
site, it would seem that the basement plan was wholly 
taken up with halls, passages, and other accessories 
connected with the domestic economy of the establish- 
ment, the reception rooms and other apartments in the 
use of the Prior occupying the story immediately above. 
Upon this supposition alone can we account for the 
recurrence of vaulted chambers which, from their arrange- 
ment, were clearly not habitable apartments. The cen- 
tral hall, then, of which we are now speaking, is entered 
from the west through an entrance obviously of the 
time of Henry VII. when probably this projecting portion 
was erected. This part of the hall is now used as a 
kitchen; and immediately fronting the entrance, ter- 
minating the kitchen in that direction, is a vast, simple, 
and bold semicircular arch, springing from short columns, 
and indicating a fragment of the original Norman struc- 
ture not to be mistaken. The arch in question is now, 
with the exception of a small doorway, filled up by 
modern masonry. The doorway alluded to admits us to 
a second portion of the hall, now fitted up and used as a 
dairy. Here the work around us is obviously Norman of 


a very bold and striking description, and so characteristic 
of that peculiar style of art that we have selected the 
apartment as the subject of the accompanying illlustra- 
tion, which conveys a faithful transcript of the massy but 
graceful appearance of the intersecting ribs. The 
modern doorway in the immediate centre is the entrance 
from the kitchen, to the right of which, or on the left of 
the drawing, is an entrance-way of remarkable and 
unusual form, now blocked up. The outline of this sin- 
gular door bears a striking resemblance to the interior 
of a stone sarcophagus, excepting that the sides are 
strictly perpendicular to the floor, instead of converging 
towards the feet as in the latter case ; from its situation 
it appeal's to have been a communication from this hall 
to the lower apartments and left wing of the lodge. 
In the latter direction it is impossible to trace the 
original structure any further; part of the wing has 
disappeared, and the rest has undergone such complicated 
division from repeated alterations as to lose all trace of 
its identity. The site, therefore, is only generally marked 
on the plan [D]. 

With respect to the basement plan, it still remains to 
observe that a small court-yard occurs between the great 
and the central halls [C], now known as the Pump- 



court. This was always an open space, as evidently 
appears from the external range of the buildings that 
surround it ; but the adjoining space between this court 
and the cloister [d~\, now open, was once covered by 
apartments, of which only the stone window-frames and 
stanchels remain. In the court there is one object 
deserving of especial notice, and that is a capitally- 
preserved specimen of a Norman buttress, in the situation 
marked [e]. The buttress runs to a considerable height, 
is uniformly straight, and has on its surface a half 
pilaster surmounted by a plain capital and abacus. 
Immediately opposite to this, and strongly contrasting 
with it, is a heavy buttress of much later date, and the 
juxta-position of these two affords an unusual opportunity 
of comparing the effect of the different styles. The 
verdict will doubtless be in favour of the lightness and 
simplicity of the former ; but it should be remembered 
that buttresses were very sparingly employed in Norman 
work, the massy character of their structures rendering 
them quite independent of such extraneous aid, and they 
were introduced more for the sake of breaking the 
uniformity of a plain superficies than with any view 
to adding strength to the wall. Buttresses at a later 
period were literally intended as supports, and partake 


of the ponderous character necessary for such a 

But, quitting our sketch of the basement, we turn 
to the inspection of certain remaining apartments consti- 
tuting the entire story of the right wing, which, from 
their comparative state of preservation, have always 
awakened considerable interest. Of these a separate 
plan is given. 

These apartments, now two in number, and serving the 
purposes of a corn-chamber, were originally divided into 
three, the present approach to them being by a modern 
stair from the exterior, and a doorway forced through the 
recess of a window of the fifteenth century, marked [/] 
on the plan. This admits the visitor into an apartment 
[E] formerly divided into two at something less than half 
its entire length by a partition of stud-work and hard 
cement, removed some years since, and now leaving but 
slender indications of its existence. The portion of the 
chamber in which we immediately stand [E] was 
obviously a bed-room, in all probability that of the 
Prior himself. It was approached through a narrow 
passage and low pointed doorway in its south-west 
corner, and was lighted by the single window through 
which the modern entrance is carried. An ample hearth 


of the period of Henry VII. exists on the west side of 
the room, formerly bordered by an elaborate carving of 
foliage and flowers relieved by a deep flute, coloured 
scarlet, similar to another hearth in the adjoining apart- 
ment to be noticed presently. The carving, however, in 
both cases, we lament to say, has disappeared through 
the wanton curiosity of relic hunters among the visitors 
who have occasionally been admitted to the rooms. 
Fond of sight-seeing as we English are, there is certainly 
in the generality a strange development of the organ of 
destructiveness, wherever it can be humoured without 
attracting observation at the time. 

A door in the partition wall, a little to the left of the 
present entrance, opened into the second apartment [F], 
which, there is abundant evidence to show, was the 
Prior's private oratory or chapel ; thus confirming the 
impression that the bedroom which communicated with 
it was wont to be occupied by that worthy functionary 
himself. Rather more than a third of the apartment, 
towards the east end, is raised one step from the level of 
the adjoining floor; and here the rough outline of the 
altar still exists, surmounted by a pointed early English 
window, originally filled with stained glass. The chapel 
was still further lighted by a window on the north side, 


corresponding, in size and appearance, with that of the 
adjoining bedchamber. The flooring of this and the other 
apartments consisted of small red brick neatly and com- 
pactly laid, as the remaining portions in this quarter 
suffice to show. The raised portion of the chamber, 
together with the altar, is comprised within a recess 
formed by a large and bold Norman arch bordered by a 
bead-ornament, the upper part of which is partially 
concealed by the more recent roof or ceiling. From this 
it appears that the eastern extremity of this chapel is 
part of the original foundation, not having been mate- 
rially altered or disturbed when the other portions of the 
upper story were rebuilt by Prior Winchilsea, temp. 
Henry VII. In the north corner, immediately contiguous 
to this arch, is a door of entrance to the spiral stair that 
admitted the Prior into the body of the church ; and close 
above it is the heraldic shield of England in the time of 
Henry VI. emblazoned in colours. A similar shield, at 
the corresponding extremity of the arch on the south 
side, presents the armorial bearings of De Warrenne, 
simple or and azure cheque, also emblazoned in the 
proper colours. Along the east wall, above, and on 
either side of the altar, are evident traces of an elaborate 
painting, representing pinnacled canopies and shrine- 



work, surmounted by what appears to have been an 
inscription of which it is not possible now to recognise a 
single letter. On 
the north wall, 
immediately con- 
tiguous to the 
arched recess, is 
a canopied seat 
of stone, richly 
crocketed, and 
fashioned in the 

style of the thir- Jf 

. jji? 
teenth century, ajj 

The annexed illus- 
tration presents a J 
faithful represent- '! 
ation of this en- 
riched piece of 
work, and em- 
braces a fragment 
of the great arch of the recess, together with the shield 
of De Warrenne previously mentioned. This seat is 
popularly called a Confessional, and it may doubtless 
have been employed for that purpose by the Prior, in his 



audience with such of the brethren as would repair to 
him for the purpose of making a clean breast of it ; but 
in its situation and character it rather indicates a sellium 
for the use of the Superior, whilst his officiating chaplain 
celebrated mass at the adjoining altar, and corresponds 
with the sellia so frequent in the south wall of our 
chancels, although the subordinate seats are wanting in 
a private oratory. The course of the partition wall, as 
indicated in the plan, will show that this chapel could be 
approached at any time without interfering with the 
adjacent bedroom; and a separate doorway, communi- 
cating with a narrow passage, apparent from the ruined 
court below, demonstrates that a distinct way existed to 
this apartment from the halls and cloister whenever 
occasion might require. The roof or ceiling, which 
extends over the whole range of apartments, presents a 
pleasing specimen of the style prevalent in the domestic 
architecture of the period. It consists of a uniform 
series of well-proportioned principals, inclining with a 
gentle slope from a central rib to the side-walls, the 
intervals being filled with small planks, the material of 
the whole being oak and sweet chesnut. The entire 
ceiling was ornamented with the well-known cognizance 
of the united houses of York and Lancaster, disposed in 


regular lines on the principals and pannels, a red and a 
white rose alternating at intervals of two or three inches. 
A short sprig and leaf are attached to each flower, and 
many of them may still be traced by the visitor, when 
his eye becomes accustomed to the uncertain light in the 
chamber. The flower is the simple Tudor rose, the 
centre in every instance being highly gilt, the petals 
painted in bright body colour. In its original state the 
effect of this simple decoration must have been eminently 
pleasing, the bright eye and brilliant colour of the flowers 
contrasting agreeably with the natural dark ground of 
the wood. The wood pannelling of the partition-wall, 
part of which still existed in Mr. Forby's time, was, as 
we learn on the authority of that gentleman, similarly 
decorated; and though other evidence were wanting, 
this circumstance alone would serve to establish the 
period when the upper portions of the lodge were 

Quitting these apartments through an opening forced, 
of late years, in the thick wall, we enter the chamber 
[G], commonly designated as the Prior's dining-room. 
Though disposed rather to consider it as a reception- 
room, or audience-chamber, if we may suppose the Prior 
to have been dignified with one, we cannot fail to be 


struck with its superior dimensions and appearance. 
The light in this apartment was abundantly supplied 
from the north by the handsome and characteristic bay- 
window which we noticed from the outside, and from 
the west by the projecting square window also previously 
noticed. Both these windows were partially, if not 
wholly, filled with painted glass, of which several frag- 
ments remained in Blomefield's time, who notices them ; 
nothing of the kind, however, now exists. In the north- 
west corner is a low pointed doorway, from which it is 
supposed there has been a flight of steps, connecting it 
with the external ground, and thus affording an easy 
mode of access to persons desirous of an interview with 
the Superior, on matters connected with the temporal or 
spiritual concerns of the foundation. But as, upon the 
face of it, this arrangement seems somewhat opposed to 
the notion of security and privacy which is apparent in 
all the other details of the establishment, we venture to 
hazard another conjecture respecting the use of this 
door, which we imagine to be supported by a circum- 
stance that, under other suppositions, it is difficult to 
explain. It will be observed, that immediately to the 
right of this doorway [ g ] there is a recess for a holj r - 
water stoup of rather unusual dimensions. It is not 


clearly apparent why such an appendage should exist 
within the walls of the Prior's apartment, if the door was 
a mere entrance ; but may it not in reality have opened 
upon a simple balcony, or contrivance of that kind, apart 
from the ground, from which, upon particular occasions 
of festival, or otherwise, the Prior himself might address 
or give his benediction to the assembled crowd of 
pilgrims, wayfarers, and people who had just left the 
church, accompanying the act with a plentiful lustration 
of consecrated water from the adjoining stoup ? Or was 
the recess nothing more than a lavatory for the Prior's 
use ? We venture the suggestion with extreme deference, 
and solely from an unwillingness to suppose that a com- 
munication with the ground ever existed in this direction. 
From the external appearance of the building, it is clear 
that an entrance of some kind has been here, but it is 
equally clear at a glance that the work is modern. If a 
solid stair did once exist, surely some trace of it might 
be detected, but there is nothing of the kind. It is true 
that in Forby's time the only entrance to the chambers 
we are examining was through the doorway in question, 
but he himself expressly tells us that access was had to 
it by means of a simple ladder. This has been long since 
removed, the entrance blocked up, and the present one 


constructed, as we have already described. Besides, 
such an entrance as is supposed would surely have been 
an unsightly blot on the symmetry and uniformity of 
the building; and upon the whole we cannot forbear 
inclining to the suggestion we have thus intimated. The 
solution of the difficulty is not a matter of moment 
either way ; but if the latter idea be correct, it certainly 
presents us with a singular feature in the arrangement 
of this Cluniac foundation. 

An arched entrance in the south-west corner [A], at 
present concealed from view by the stud-work of a 
modern closet built into the chamber, communicated 
with the interior of the lodge, and a similar doorway in 
the south-east angle ['], blocked up but still visible, 
opened into the passage connected with the bedroom, 
chapel, and stair leading to the halls. Contiguous to this 
latter entrance is a corbel-head in stone, so admirably 
preserved, and of such finished workmanship, that we 
have given an illustration of it at the end of this section. 
It represents an angel with extended wings, clad in 
chain-armour, and playing upon a cithern, in every 
respect resembling the modern guitar. As this really 
interesting specimen of art might easily escape observa- 
tion, from its position in an obscure corner, unless 


attention were expressly directed to it : its place is 
indicated in the plan [#]. On the east side is a spacious 
hearth, the counterpart of that previously described in 
the adjoining bedchamber, the chimney being common 
to both. 

We have thus enumerated the most prominent features 
in these interesting remnants of a by-gone age, and with 
them we terminate our survey of the Prior's lodge. 
Although we have studied to render the detail as clear 
and comprehensive as possible, we are sensible that to 
the uninitiated reader there must be an apparent confu- 
sion in the account which no caution could entirely 
obviate. The intermixture of ruin and repeated modern 
alteration have so effectually dispersed the fragments, or 
obliterated the features of the original structure, as to 
render impracticable, or nearly so, any attempt at a 
systematic arrangement of the details, and nothing but 
the assistance of a plan could enable the visitor to obtain 
a general idea of the edifice as it was originally planned. 
The reader will have seen, however, that there is much 
to gratify curiosity ; and indeed, viewed as a whole, we 
question whether any similar remains of the period, so 
strongly marked and defined, exist to a like extent in 
the kingdom. There may be isolated chambers extant 


of a far superior order, but the observation extends to 
the whole structure, and with reference to the class to 
which the foundation belongs. It is this circumstance 
which has attached so strong a degree of interest to the 
remains at Castleacre, and it must ever be a subject of 
regret to the antiquary that a greater degree of care has 
not been exercised in their preservation. For instance, 
in the arrangement of the dwelling for the modern pur- 
poses of the Priory farm, very much of that which is 
now bare ruin might have been retained, without im- 
pairing the original features of the edifice, or having 
recourse to the unsightly excrescence that now destroys 
the symmetrical outline of the old structure. The 
chambers of which we have just been speaking, in 
especial, might have been restored in all their original 
freshness at a comparatively trifling cost, and rendered 
beautiful and most comfortable apartments for family 
residence. But the age in which these modern alterations 
were first made was not a period conspicuous for parti- 
cular veneration of by-gone days, or of feeling for ancient 
art ; and it is only within the last half-century that a 
spirit has been kindled, happily increasing, in behalf of 
the works and imaginings of our stern ancestors. The 
fragments that are left to us are preserved with studious 


care, and a feeling of admiration has superseded that of 
idle curiosity. The architect and the artist turn with 
avidity to these ancient stores ; and modern art, with all 
its combined resources and advantages, has pride in 
re-embodying the creations of an earlier epoch. 


Connected with the lodge, on its southern side, we 
may reasonably suppose was the Prior's private garden, 
and the site is still devoted to a similar purpose. It is 
curious enough that within this garden there yet stands a 
magnificent pear-tree, traditionally known to the inmates 
of the Priory for many long years past as " the Prior's 
pear." The tree is lofty, spreading, and evidently of 
great age, though it flourishes with unimpaired vigour, 
and bears abundantly year after year ; the fruit is small, 
and of the class distinguished as kitchen-pears. When 
simply stewed in water, it eats deliciously without 
requiring the aid of sugar. Now, without venturing to 
suppose that this venerable tree is a veritable remnant 
of the original garden in this place, it may be readily 
allowed that it is the legitimate offspring of some favourite 
stock that once flourished upon or near the spot. The 


very name indicates its origin, and its presence is suffi- 
cient to establish the locality of the garden. It was 
inclosed by a wall, some portion of which may be traced 
on the east side. 

With reference to the greater portion of the conventual 
inclosure extreme uncertainty necessarily prevails. After 
the dissolution and the subsequent disposal of the pro- 
perty, the characteristic features of the extensive area 
inclosed within the surrounding walls were speedily 
obliterated, to make way for the humbler purposes to 
which the land was then applied, and, save an indication 
not to be mistaken in one or two spots, probability is all 
that we can attempt to urge on the subject. The space 
inclosed within the walls, we have previously observed, 
comprised about thirty-six acres, of which but a com- 
paratively small portion was occupied by the conventual 
buildings. Adjoining the church, to the north and east, 
was a cemetery ; bones in considerable quantities having 
been disinterred there at various times. North of this, 
and to the verge of the boundary, may have been a grove, 
or cover of underwood, and to he east and south of the 
cemetery an orchard. Below this, and on the gentle 
slope of the hill to the south, sheltered from the keen 
winds, we would place the vineyard; an appendage 


which, however it may startle the reader at the present 
day, there is no question was attached to every religious 
foundation of any importance. The cultivation of the 
vine, to a considerable extent, in this country at an earlier 
period of its history, is a fact now universally recognised, 
and the art was practised with great success by the 
monastics, whose well-stored cellars were mainly supplied 
from fruit of domestic growth, which, although it might 
not in point of quality compete with the rich produce of 
foreign lands, was yet of an excellence that modern 
experiments have failed to attain. It will be seen that 
" vineyards " are expressly named in the deed of sur- 
render, as part of the possessions of this foundation, and 
one of them at least must have been within the precinct. 
Connected with this, and covering an extensive tract to 
the south-east and south, was the general garden of the 
establishment, comprising, amid a profuse variety of 
fruits of foreign as well as native kinds, several commo- 
dious stew-ponds, deriving abundant supply of water 
from the neighbouring stream, and well stocked with the 
finny tribe, so essential to the wants of a monastic frater- 
nity. These stew-ponds have been filled up only within 
the present century, and their outline may still occa- 
sionally be traced by a practised eye. Gardening, it is 


well known, was a constant resource of the inmates of a 
monastery, and in the Cluniac discipline it was even a 
part of duty. To the attention and skill of the religious 
we owe the introduction of many now familiar fruits, as 
well as the preservation of several indigenous varieties, 
whose excellence might have been lost to us for ever, 
through the neglect and indifference of a rude and unlet- 
tered age ; and the modern horticulturist, revelling in 
the perfection to which skill and enlarged science, under 
the blessing of a bountiful Providence, have enabled him 
to bring the teeming produce of the earth, but little 
dreams for how much of his enjoyment he is indebted to 
the watchful and patient care of the poor secluded monk. 
The gardens of religious houses were, in short, the nur- 
series of an infant science, and in this respect alone 
claim to be regarded with interest. 

On the south-west and western sides of the inclosure 
we may suppose the cows, and other stock, retained 
for the use of the fraternity, roamed in suitable pastures. 
There are in this direction several extensive remains 
obviously connected with the foundation, but in so 
ruinous a condition as to baffle all attempt to define 
their peculiar uses with precision. The most probable 
supposition is that they were stables and out-buildings 


of that nature, together with a hostelry for the reception 
of strangers and wayfarers who might claim hospitality 
from the worthy brethren, but whose rank or situation in 
life would not entitle them to reception in the lodge 
itself. Some provision of this kind for the lowly pil- 
grims was usual, and the proverbial bounty of the 
Cluniacs would render them subject to a frequent suc- 
cession of such visitors. There is here a long ruin, 220 
ft. by 21, that we are disposed to believe formed a portion 
of this structure. Its situation is sufficiently remote 
from the general buildings of the establishment to secure 
its inmates against the chance of interruption whilst it 
was at the same time within the observation of the 
Superior. It is, however, useless to speculate in a 
matter of so much uncertainty, and we can only incline 
to the most probable supposition. Mr. Forby, it is true, 
places the hostelry in a far different situation, namely, in 
immediate connexion with the lodge, but there does not 
appear to be any decided rule in the matter, and when 
we consider the purposes to which such a building was 
usually applied, somewhat resembling the freedom of an 
inn, (though under certain positive restrictions,) ample 
reason will be found to reject the supposition. We 
have frequently and carefully examined the site to 


which we give the preference, and the impression has 
strengthened on every visit. Be it as it may, the 
remains in this quarter are certainly deserving of more 
attention than usually fall to their share from the 
superior importance of the adjacent ruin, and at some 
future period more decisive light may be thrown upon 
the subject. 


It is with a regret which none but a zealous anti- 
quary perhaps can rightly appreciate, that we are 
compelled to speak in the past tense of one of the most 
interesting remains of a by-gone age, a considerable 
portion of which was standing so late as the summer of 
1838, within the monastic inclosure. The Old Priory 
Barn has totally disappeared, and its actual site is 
now partially occupied by a kindred structure of recent 

It ranged due east and west within a few yards of the 
south-western angle of the great entrance to the 
precinct, and externally presented nothing very remark- 
able in its appearance except the unusual length and 
prolonged pitch of the roof, which imparted to it the 
appearance of a low building, whereas it was in fact of 


considerable height. The total length somewhat exceeded 
160 ft, of which about 60 ft. was comparatively modern, 
a considerable portion of the original building having 
fallen early in the last century. There is no doubt that 
the structure originally was of much greater length than 
this, as it is said there were no less than eleven bays 
connected with it. A space, however, of nearly 100 
feet of the building remained precisely in its primitive 
condition, (with the exception of occasional renovations 
of its huge thatch,) and internally the effect was curious 
and striking. 

The accompanying illustration will convey more 
effectually than a mere verbal account an idea of the 
appearance of the interior of this venerable grange at a 
time when it could, of course, be viewed to the best 
advantage, free from corn. The drawing was made 
by our excellent friend and coadjutor, in the summer of 
1838, within a few days of the dilapidation of the 
original, and is a most faithful representation of its 
curious and picturesque interior. 

It will be seen that a regular design pervades the 
disposition of the huge supports and beams that consti- 
tute the frame-work of the barn, partaking somewhat of 
the character of a dining-hall of the olden time, or 


of the rough outline of a conventual church. Supporting 
columns, consisting of massy timbers of oak and ash, 
ten in number, were ranged five on each side, at a 
distance of eight feet from the lateral walls, thus 
forming spaces to the north and south corresponding 
with the analogous aisles of a church, an intermediate 
width of twenty-two feet answering to the nave. The * 
supporting columns were united over the intermediate 
space at a height of twenty-two feet from the floor, 
by huge beams, above which again rose arches and 
spars of wood to the summit, the entire distance from 
the ground to the ridge of the roof not being less than 
thirty-eight feet. Now it appears that the side walls did 
not exceed a height of twelve feet, and from this 
elevation sprung the roof, presenting a vast superficies of 
thatch gradually sloping to a pitch of thirty-two feet on 
each side, where they ultimately met. The internal 
breadth of the barn between the lateral walls was thirty- 
eight feet. Upon examining the details, the method 
pursued in the erection of this grange became at once 
apparent. It seems that the entire frame-work of timber 
had been put together in the first place, presenting a 
huge skeleton of the future edifice, the intervals between 
the extreme lateral supports being afterwards filled up 


with squared blocks of chalk, of which the whole internal 
wall was composed, while externally a uniform casing of 
the usual material, rough flint, combining strength and 
solidity, was added. As a whole, and considering the 
extreme rarity of conventual barns existing in so com- 
plete a state, it is much to be lamented that the removal 
of the curious structure was deemed necessary, but 
independently of the extremely ticklish condition of the 
upper portions of the roof, its vast dimensions rendered 
it very inconvenient for the modern purposes of the farm 
with which it was connected. In its palmy days it 
doubtless was made the depository of good store of tithe 
from the neighbouring lands, as well as of the produce of 
its own, but now a building of diminished proportions 
has been found more serviceable for the latter purpose. 
To present at one view the dimensions of this ancient 
repository of the fruits of the earth, we subjoin a state- 
ment of measurements taken at the time. 


Total external length of the barn, as it existed in^May 

1838 160 

Internal length of the oldest portion . . . . 1 00 

Breadth of ditto . ; 38 

Perpendicular height . 38 

Ditto to the transverse beams . . . . . 22 

Height of side walls . . . . . . . 12 



On the extreme verge of the precinct, at its north-east 
angle, standing in triviis, was a small chapel, apparently 
of the fourteenth century, having a pointed window to 
the east, and neatly chequered with alternate blocks of 
stone and squared flint. The dimensions of this little 
shrine do not exceed 12 feet by 8, and this appears to 
have been the entire size of the building. It is not easy 
to say what might be the motive that prompted the con- 
struction of a miniature fane in such a situation, or to 
what peculiar purpose it was devoted. It is matter of 
history that, about the period to which we assign the 
structure, a peculiar jealousy existed between the regular 
and secular clergy, and the monastics and the parish 
priests were severally emulous to render the altars at 
which they respectively served objects of attraction to 
the devout and superstitious. It may have been here 
that the increasing attraction of the altars in the 
adjacent parish church disturbed the equanimity of the 
worthy brethren of the Priory, and led them to place a 
chapelry at the junction of three roads, to serve as a foil 
to the splendours of the altars of St. James, St. Bennet, 
and Our Lady. We would not willingly impute such 
narrowness of mind to the wealthy and independent 
Cluniacs, and would fain hope that a worthier motive 


prompted the contrivance, but it must ever remain a 
mystery. The probability is that, in reality, it was a 
chauntry commemorative of, or the pious work of, some 
benefactor. It is now occupied as a cottage, and 
possesses no trace of its original destination in the 
interior. From the garden of this cottage the visitor 
may obtain the pretty bird's-eye view of the remains 
represented at the head of the preceding section, p. 119. 

Before we pass away from an inclosure so replete with 
food for reflection to all who love to linger over scenes 
that once occupied a prominent position in our social 
community, but are now fast fading into oblivion, there 
are one or two matters connected with the Priory which 
it behoves us to notice. 

An impression pretty universally prevails with 
reference to the remains of such ancient structures, that 
an elaborate and careful search among them would be 
repaid by the discovery of some object of extraordinary 
worth or interest. We imagine not. Bearing in mind 
the real motives of the great mover in the dissolution of 
religious houses, subtilely and plausibly as they were 
veiled, we may be sure that nothing of important or 
intrinsic value was likely to escape the rigid investi- 
gation of the commissioners, selected as they were from 


the most devoted or most fawning of the regal adherents. 
In the case before us, there is indisputable evidence of 
the stripping of the vessel before it was abandoned as a 
wreck to the elements, and little more than what actually 
now remains could descend to the future possessors of 
the site. But if anything of moment did escape the 
scrutiny, what would be its fate at the hands of subse- 
quent masters ? If they were attached to the former 
mode of faith, whilst they deplored the ruin it was 
beyond their power to retrieve, they would be careful to 
remove the venerated relic to some more secure and 
congenial resting-place. If they were warmed with the 
fresh and fervid spirit of the Reformation, or indifferent 
to either party, its destruction would in any case ensue ; 
so that we cannot suppose that any modern search, 
undertaken with the view to reap substantial advantage 
from it, would issue in success. But with the antiquary 
the case is different. A coin, a fragment of orna- 
mental moulding, an encaustic tile, a bead, are to him 
matters of interest that amply reward the pleasure 
of a patient search, and stimulate him to further exertion; 
and here disappointment is not so likely to be his meed. 
The hope with which he engages in the work is untainted 
by a mercenary spirit, and his reward is found in the 

Etcied byH.Ninla-ni.frun! i Dia-wm-J by C-Wriiflit. 

^IUA. &e. (DAST E,iEA.(& IB S 


gratification of his curiosity. Many little matters of the 
kind referred to have remunerated the diligence of the 
antiquary in his search among the ruins of Castleacre, 
and most probably a complete clearance of the area 
would bring to light very many more. Unimportant as 
these trifles may be, they are, nevertheless, remnants of 
a by-gone age, and local indications of the character and 
purpose of the site where they are found. For this 
reason a degree of interest attaches to them, which they 
might not perhaps intrinsically possess. 

The accompanying plates will serve to show the 
nature of a few of these remains. 

Figs. 1 and 2, the common seal of the chapter and the private 
seal of the Prior, have already been described, p. 168. 

Fig. 3. A leaden bulla of Pope Honorius III., found on the 
pavement of the north transept of the conventual church. On one 
side is the legend HONORIVS. P.P. III. ; on the reverse, between 
a cross, two heads, very rudely executed, respectively surmounted 
by the inscriptions S. PA. S. PE., referring to the Apostles Paul 
and Peter. It is worthy of note that the priority is assigned to 
the first-named Apostle. This pontiff ascended the papal chair in 
the same year with our Henry III., namely A.D., 1216, and it is 
to some year between this and the Pope's decease in 1227, that 
we must ascribe the bull to which this seal belonged. 

Fig. 4. Part of a small case of lead, worn in the manner of a 
locket, and probably having in its centre some small fragment of a 


valued relic, or of the consecrated wafer, protected by a small lens 
of crystal or glass. This is apparent from the central eye being 
radiated round the circumference. 

Fig. 5. Bronze medal, distributed among the pilgrims who were 
present in Rome on the occasion of a jubilee. The device on each 
side is in an excellent state of preservation, and executed with 
much neatness. On one side we have the Pope breaking through 
the walled door in St. Peter's, with the legend, Annus IVBILEI 
Roma; on the reverse, the Wise Men's Offering. This medallion 
was found within the precinct. 

Fig. 6. A bronze seal of ancient construction, found within the 
precinct. It bears the private device or monogram apparently of 
some stranger, who may have been a temporary sojourner in the 
Priory, but there is nothing to indicate its date or the rank of its 
original possessor.. The legend, which appears to be Ralph Maghtilt, 
seems to indicate a Flemish origin. 

We might particularise some slight indications of 
Roman art, such as a seal, coins, and fragments of terra 
cotta, as found on this spot, but they are of extremely 
rare occurrence. Keys, spurs, an elaborately-wrought 
censer of brass, are recorded to have been amongst the 
spolia of the Priory, and one or two objects of much 
interest, which will come under our notice in the suc- 
ceeding section, are said, with some appearance of pro- 
bability, to have originally belonged to this foundation. 

When the exposed condition of the premises and the 


utter indifference to the preservation of the remains 
which has prevailed until within the last half century, 
are borne in mind, it is really singular that any fragment 
should still be met with to gratify the curiosity of the 
antiquary. From an early period of their decline and 
fall, the Priory as well as the Castle have served as a 
quarry of materials to the surrounding villages. Not a 
cottage or a cow-shed was to be built, but recourse was 
had to the ruins unlet and unimpeded, nor was it until 
the property passed into the family of its present noble 
proprietor that any attempt was made to check this spirit 
of appropriation. Of late years nothing of the kind has 
occurred, and everything is now done to preserve the 
ruin intact from further violence ; but the mischief 
already accomplished is irreparable. A stranger, passing 
through the quaint and narrow streets of the village, 
cannot fail to be struck with the patchwork appearance 
of all the old dwellings, without exception. Blocks of 
stone, fragments of columns, bits of ornamental moulding, 
corbel heads, portions of curiously carved frieze, are all 
irregularly interspersed with ponderous flint-stones, and 
plainly indicate the source from whence they were 
derived. In one place we observe an elaborate carving 
from the lid of a sarcophagus imbedded in the wall ; in 



another, the reversed capital of a Norman column does 
duty as the finial to a modern gable ; in a third, the 
massy basement of a clustered column serves the homely 
purpose of a horse-block. How much of interest might 
have been preserved to the antiquary, by the exercise of 
a little care and vigilance ! We rejoice to know that a 
better feeling now prevails, and the least-informed among 
the rising generation are insensibly acquiring a sentiment 
of respect for the " funny old walls " which characterise 
their native village. 


F late years considerable attention has 
been directed towards the subject of 
our parochial Churches, and a new 
interest has been rekindled with respect 
to their age, character, and architectural 
features. Not a village so humble or so remote but its little 
unpretending temple is eagerly sought out by the curious 
inquirer, and rarely does he quit the spot without having 
been able to add some little object worthy of note to his 
collections on the subject, whether it be an arch, a 
column, a sepulchral brass, or a corbel head. The 
Clergy, in particular, have, generally speaking, imbibed 
a spirit of interest and inquiry in reference to the 
churches of their respective benefices which promises 
to lead to the happiest results, and the reorganisation 
of the ancient and eminently useful office of Rural 


Deans in the greater number of our Dioceses will 
tend materially to accelerate this desirable issue. We 
hope, then, ere many years, to see every parish church 
throughout the length and breadth of the land restored, 
so far as its architectural features are concerned, to 
somewhat of its pristine character and elegance; the 
simple and beautiful arches, whether Saxon, Norman, or 
pointed, effectually relieved from the accumulated strata 
of whitewash which has been periodically smeared over 
their surface, and with which the smallest cranny of 
every moulding or enrichment has long since been 
choked so as to obliterate all trace of its original form ; 
the high and party-coloured pews reduced to decent 
proportions, or, better still, removed altogether, to give 
place to open benches of simple English oak; the 
unsightly box, denominated by courtesy a reading-desk, 
supplanted by some more appropriate appendage, 
(what so elegant, or so perfectly in keeping, as the 
ancient lettern*?) and every architectural or other 

* In the Church of Necton in Norfolk, through the spirited inter- 
ference of W. Mason Esq., a gentleman whose judgment and skill as an 
amateur architect can only be surpassed by his zeal, considerable progress 
has been made in this goodly work of restoration. The reading-desk 
consists of a lettern of carved oak, richly but appropriately adorned, 
having on one side the Folio Bible, on the other a Book of Common 
Prayer to correspond. This, with a faldstool, also of carved oak, is raised 


feature in the edifice brought, as far as practicable to 
its original condition. The awakened interest in behalf 
of such restorations, now universally prevailing, betokens 
a revival of sentiment toward the church in more senses 
than one ; for it must be confessed that, until within the 
last half-century, and in some instances within the last 
fifteen years, the external and internal appearance of 
the greater portion of our parish churches partook 
much of the character of the ministrations conducted 
within their green and slimy walls, alike distinguished 
by indifference and neglect. In many country parishes, 
how much greater interest has been excited and ex- 
perienced in the erection or reparation of a barn or 
cow-shed, than in the decent ordering ef the House of 
God ! It is true, the Archdeacon has made his periodical 
visit to inspect the state of the edifice, and he has seen 
much that has required amendment and alteration, and 
has given his directions accordingly ; but then, as in 
most cases, he cannot personally visit the church but 
once in the space of three or four years, the cautious 

on a platform two or three steps from the level of the pavement, open on 
all sides and simply relieved by a low rail, so that the minister is distinctly 
seen of all the congregation, who can note his demeanour while he leads 
their devotions, whether he reverently stand or devoutly kneel ; an 
advantage which the usual pens (quasi sheep pens, for such they are,) 
assuredly do not always possess. 


churchwarden, from a real indifference to the matter 
altogether, or from a timely dread of the bitterness of 
a church-rate, has taken care to defer the execution 
of his Ordinary's orders, until the recurrence of the 
period when he should again examine into the condition 
of the structure, and then they have been fulfilled in 
the most hasty and incomplete manner. The Archdeacon, 
however, repeats his visit, perceives an unwonted neat- 
ness in the arrangement, overlooks the tune that has 
elapsed since his directions were issued, commends Mr. 
Churchwarden for his zeal and attention, and proceeds 
to suggest some other point of reparation or improvement 
really, it may be, requiring immediate attention, but of 
course to be postponed until pretty nearly the expiration 
of another four years ! Now the revival of the ancient 
office to which we have already referred will, doubtless, 
tend to obviate much of this unseemly and negligent 
indifference ; for as it is the express duty of the Rural 
Deans personally to inspect the churches in their several 
deaneries every year, it can only be by their connivance 
that such matters can be safely neglected, and much 
cost and labour in the repair of the sacred edifice will 
thus be anticipated by then' timely interference. This 
circumstance, in addition to the increasing interest taken 


in their churches by the incumbents themselves, is a 
very propitious omen in behalf of the future status and 
ordering of these venerable piles. 

Another advantage likely to accrue from a renewal of 
this ancient feeling in behalf of our parish churches, is 
to be found in the beneficial influence it is calculated to 
exercise over modern ecclesiastical architecture. The 
fact, indeed, is in course of exemplification every day, 
and the numerous new churches which have recently 
been built, or are in process of erection in so many differ- 
ent parts of the kingdom, powerfully attest the advanta- 
geous change which has taken place in consequence of 
this revival. Look at the anomalous structures, designa- 
ted as churches, which emanated from the meretricious 
taste of our architects some seventy or less years ago, 
and contrast them with the ecclesiastical edifices that 
are now springing up in our land. Compare the half 
Italian, half Grecian, dashed with Gothic, and even 
sprinkled with Arabesque combination, which charac- 
terises some of those buildings, with the bold, rich, yet 
chaste and consistent harmony which prevails in the 
structures of our ecclesiastical architects of the middle 
of the nineteenth century. It will be seen that these 
last have indeed about them a smack of the ancient zeal 


and spirit, enriched by all the resources which expe- 
rience and the progress of art combine to bear upon the 

From its former intimate connexion with the Priory, 
the parish church of Castleacre would require mention 
in this place, were it not that it also deserves notice 
from its presenting a good and noble specimen of a 
village sanctuary ; we shall therefore be somewhat 
minute in the details. 

The parish church stands upon the summit of the 
rising ground which constitutes the northern boundary 
of the vale of the Nar, in a spacious church-yard of 
full three acres in extent, immediately contiguous to 
the barbican, on its western side, and overlooking the 
ruins of the Priory and precinct in a south-westerly 
direction. It is a spacious and elaborate pile, consisting 
of nave, chancel, and north and south aisles, with a 
lofty and handsome tower at the west end, containing 
a peal of five bells much out of repair, and a clock, 
though the latter has been long disused. 

The foundation dates somewhere about the close of 
the thirteenth, or commencement of the fourteenth, 
centuries, and its general architectural features are 
characteristic of the period referred to. The material 


of the structure is, as usual in the greater part of the 
counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, rough flint with quoins 
and buttresses of stone. A peculiarity of extremely 
rare occurrence may be remarked with respect to the 
form given to the stone-work towards the basement of 
the steeple tower ; this, it may be observed, has a 
pyramidal outline instead of the usual straight and 
sharply angular one generally to be found in such situ- 
ations. The windows which light the church are twenty- 
five in number, namely, six large windows in the north 
aisle, four of a similar description in the south aisle, with 
a window at the east and west ends of the same, ten 
clerestory windows, five on each side, an east window, 
and another to the south of the chancel, and a large 
western window in the steeple-tower, as usual. These, 
though partaking of a uniform character, are extremely 
varied in detail, and pass through the several grades of 
early English, decorated, and perpendicular, thus indicat- 
ing, it would seem, distinct periods of completion ; and 
it is not improbable that one or more of them was at 
various times the work of some pious and munificent 
inhabitant of the parish. Three of these windows in 
the north aisle are particularly deserving of notice as 
pleasing specimens of the decorated style, and the great 


east window, though now partially closed, presents a 
capital example of the pure early English. 

The windows in the south aisle are of uniform pat- 
terns (perpendicular), and all, with the exception of the 
great lights at the east and west ends of the church 
respectively, are surmounted hy an ogee arch. The 
great west window possesses transoms, as does also the 
small light at the western extremity of the south aisle. 

The church has three principal entrances ; the chief of 
these is to the north, under a deep projecting porch 
immediately contiguous to the steeple tower which 
ahuts beyond it. Immediately on a line with this 
entrance, on the south side of the church, is a pointed 
doorway, but without any porch, it being only designed 
for the passage of a corpse into the church-yard. A 
good specimen of a plain early English doorway forms 
the sole entrance into the chancel on its south side. 
The porch entrance is, as it has ever been, the main way 
of admission to the congregation attending worship 
within the church, and has been surmounted by a 
small chamber lighted by a square mullioned window 
at its northern end. To the right of the entrance and 
consequently to the left of a person entering, is a deep 
arched recess for the reception of a holy-water stoup, 


which convenience, however, has long ago disappeared. 
The door of entrance within the porch is pointed, under 
a square entablature, with embrasures, of the style 
prevalent in the time of Henry VI. At each angle are 
the shields of De Warrenne and Arundel respectively, 
precisely similar in character to those already noticed 
as occurring over the gateway leading to the precinct. 
A recent repair on the threshold of this entrance has 
brought to light a very ancient specimen of monumental 
art. It is a portion of a huge slab of slatestone, which 
until lately served as a stepping-stone of entrance to the 
church ; the part hitherto concealed by the masonry 
presents the torso of certain figures cut in intaglio on 
the surface of the stone. The design is rude, but exe- 
cuted with considerable freedom ; all that now remains 
are the hands placed as in the attitude of prayer, with 
the bust and shoulders of two figures in flowing drapery, 
one of them having also a rich collar on the neck ; the 
heads were broken off, and the lower portions of the 
figures appear to have been obliterated by the abrasion 
of feet. An inscription surrounded the whole, the 
characters being placed at wide intervals from each 
other ; of this, however, we can now only distinguish 
the letters E, S, H, apparently of Saxon form, and the 

T 2 


whole bears evidence of a style of monumental decora- 
tion long antecedent to the introduction of brasses. The 
fragments referred to are preserved in the church for 
the inspection of the curious. 

The large doorway, placed as customary immediately 
beneath the great west window in the steeple, does not 
appear to have been employed as an entrance for the 
people generally, but simply for access to the tower, or 
for the convenience of workmen when occasion might 
require. The tower, lofty and well proportioned, is 
embattled at the summit, having at each of the angles 
an oblong pediment originally destined for the reception 
of full-length figures of the Evangelists or other saints, 
but at present occupied by certain very unsightly dis- 
figurements, somewhat resembling chimney-pots, the 
refined taste of some bygone reformed churchwarden. 
At the extremity of the nave, where it unites with the 
chancel, is the cross usually to be observed in such 
situations, nearly perfect, and of rather uncommon 

The interior of the church at once strikes the visitor 
with its neatness and uniform lightness and airiness. 
The arches are exceedingly bold and spacious, but, with 
their supporting columns, particularly light and elegant, 


and do not fail to impress the spectator with a sense of 
their graceful proportion. They are five in number on 
each side, dividing the nave from the adjacent aisles 
north and south, two additional arches extending the 
aisle in the former direction, on a level with the chancel. 
The dimensions of the edifice may be inferred from the 
following interior measurements taken with every atten- 
tion to accuracy: 

Length from East to West .... 148 feet. 
Breadth across the aisles . . . 48 feet. 

The whole of this space is unbroken by galleries or other 
similar contrivances, except at the junction of the tower 
at the west end, where a light gallery serves to accom- 
modate the humble parish choir and the children of the 
National School, who are here visible to the whole con- 
gregation. The free seats are still what all ought to be, 
open benches of " brave old English oak," terminated 
with poppy heads, and furnished with elbows, whereon 
rest lions and dogs alternately, (the latter having on 
huge collars, studded with beads or bells,) together 
with ample space for kneeling, &c., and the appro- 
priate pews are fortunately kept so low as to interrupt 
in no important degree the view over the whole body 
of the edifice. 


But as there are some points of considerable interest 
deserving notice in this structure, we shall adopt a more 
systematic order in our description of them. 

Commencing then with the main body of the church, 
we shall find that the aisles, north and south, were 
respectively terminated by chapels, of which the frame- 
work of the screens, which divided them from the rest of 
the aisle, still remains to indicate the extent. 

The chapel in the north aisle, in length 44 feet by 11 
feet in breadth, was that peculiarly appropriated to the 
worship of the Virgin. This is evident from the cipher 
or monogram, MARIA, surmounted by the regal tiara 
of strawberry leaves, still distinctly visible upon the 
pannelling which once formed a portion of the dividing 
screen. The altar, piscina, and appendages at the east 
end are so completely obliterated as to leave no trace of 
their existence, but there can be no reasonable doubt 
that they once occupied that quarter; and from the 
importance usually attached to the shrine of Our Lady 
in all such buildings, we may suppose it to have been 
enriched with proportionate care and splendour. Con- 
nected with this chapel, it is recorded that a certain 
person of the name of Thomas Candler, of Castleacre, 
who it appears was buried somewhere in the church, 


did, by his will, bearing date 1514, freely give two closes 
or paddocks to Thomas March, and his heirs, on the 
express condition of his and their keeping a light in the 
basin before Our Lady in the chapel, " with five wax 
candels to be light at evry principel feste ; in every dobil 
feste two, and every single feste one : on a neglect thereof 
then the church reeves to take the closes, and to keep 
the same." The lights have long, very long, been neg- 
lected, but there is no appearance that the " church 
reeves " (churchwardens) ever had the closes ! 

The chapel in the south aisle was of somewhat inferior 
dimensions to the former, being only 17 feet by 11 feet, 
but possessed its screen similar to the other. There is 
nothing remaining to show with precision to whom this 
little chapelry was dedicated, but the probability is that 
it had for its patron St. Benedict, or Bennet, as he was 
more commonly designated, since there was a guild in 
the neighbouring village which claimed him for their 
tutelary guardian, and every guild we are informed had 
its peculiar patron's altar in the parish church. The 
pannelling which once formed part of the screen of this 
chapelry, presents the cypher N, surmounted by an abba- 
tial mitre, indicating the name of some prior of the 
adjacent foundation, who either built, or endowed, or 


restored this quarter at his own private cost. The altar 
was surmounted by a large and noble window to the 
east, now recently restored, and on the south side was 
a piscina, the frame-work of which still remains entire. 
On the north side of the chapel, resting against the angle 
of the wall, stood a full-length figure of the saint to 
whom it was dedicated, as may be clearly seen from the 
indications left. 

Both chapels seem to have been profusely ornamented 
with pannelwork, adorned with ciphers, monograms, 
flowers, palm-trees, &c., in a variety of colours, of which 
the most predominant are scarlet, green, and white. 
The figures were formed by means of perforated sheets 
of metal, from which the design was cut, and a brush 
filled with the appropriate colour being passed over the 
surface of the metal, the figure was thus imprinted on 
the pannel, and with a degree of ease and rapidity that 
admitted of ready multiplication. The ground on the 
pannels that are divided by mullions and tracery, is 
alternately scarlet and green, or deep blue ; but on the 
pannels not so divided, it is uniformly green, the figures 
in every case being simply white or pale yellow. In 
their recent state the decorative part of these chapels 
must have been strikingly rich and agreeable. 

Etched T>y H.UiEliaan.froiii a Drawing "by C . 


Another object worthy of observation will be found in 
the Pulpit, of which the accompanying illustration will 
serve to convey a faithful idea. Its form is hexagonal, 
but of such extremely narrow dimensions that we are at 
a loss to imagine how the portly Freres, whom we 
suppose occasionally to have displayed their eloquence 
therefrom, could have been suitably accommodated 
within its restricted confines. Tradition reports this 
pulpit to have been removed from some situation in the 
old conventual Church, and the general character of its 
appearance renders that supposition probable. It may 
have occupied some place in one of the chapels or tran- 
septs of that structure. It is simply supported upon a 
single stem or low column, surmounted by a wreath of 
the Tudor flower, from which the pannelling forming 
the bottom of the pulpit gradually radiates. The sides 
consist of single pannels, upon each of which is repre- 
sented one of the Doctors of the Church, seated, and in 
full length. Of these four remain in a capital state of 
preservation, except as regards the face, which, in every 
instance, has been erased by the mischievous zeal of the 
Cromwellian iconoclasts. The labels attached to each, 
however, generally serve to identify the person whom 
the figure is intended to represent, although from the 


effect of time and partial erasure it is extremely difficult 
to make out their entire meaning. 

The figure on the pannel nearest to the modern door 
of the pulpit, represents St. Augustin in profile. He 
wears a red mantle over a green under garment, the 
folds of both being painted with extraordinary power 
and fidelity. He has a cape of miniver, and on his head 
a cap surrounded by the nimbus, which here, as in the 
other figures, is burnished in gold. The fingers of one 
hand are placed between the leaves of a half-open 
missal, while the others are concealed in the drapery. 
On a scroll partially surrounding the figure is the inscrip- 
tion : 

EmpUt. spfn'tu sancto prrttfcat brtatem. gttugugtfn. 

The figure is seated on a kind of altar tomb as in the 
other instances, and the prevailing back-ground of this 
panel is blue, thickly studded with stars, sprigs, and 
birds in gold. The next in order, occupying the central 
panriel of the pulpit, is intended, we imagine, to represent 
Ignatius, but the label annexed is so much defaced and 
obscure, that it is difficult to determine this point. The 
figure presents a full face, and is clothed in a rich 
mantle of green over an under garment of white, the 
former being trimmed with a deep border of gold thickly 


studded with jewellery. The inscription, as far as it 
can be made out, is to the following effect : 

IBtt'am prettfcabft t perfectus aulrfen. fcfofat * * * tf. 

The ground of the pannel is scarlet, sprinkled as before. 
The third pannel bears the effigies of St. Jerome, on a 
ground of blue, similarly ornamented as in the preceding 
cases. The figure is clad in a long flowing mantle of 
red, lined with white, shoes appearing from beneath. 
He wears a peculiar scarlet cap, surmounted by the 
nimbus, with the following label, of which the first 
word is illegible : 

* * * sermonfg pulcn tu tta 33eat. 3fcronimus. 

The fourth pannel has the representation of St. Am- 
brose, executed with considerable spirit. The robe is 
full and flowing, of a rich green colour, lined with white, 
the scull-cap encircled by the nimbus. The legend 

lEbanQtlfum metes Uum rfgat. jbtt. gtmbrogf. 

The ground is red, with the same rich decoration as 

The whole of the interior of the pulpit is painted of a 
vivid scarlet colour, and evidently preserves much of its 
original appearance. The paintings evince a style of art 
cotemporary with the figures on the remaining portion 


of the roodloft screen, to be noticed hereafter ; and were 
possibly executed by the same hand, if they are not of 
an earlier date, which certain indications seem to war- 
rant. Altogether this curious remnant of ancient art is 
an interesting and uncommon feature in a village church, 
although it has not hitherto attracted the attention it 

The most prominent object of interest, however, in this 
part of the church, and that which immediately rivets 
the attention of the spectator, is the Font, with its elabo- 
rate and elegant canopy. The font stands immediately 
in the centre of the nave, at its western extremity, and 
consists of a plain hexagon of stone, supported by a 
single shaft, and resting on a basement raised two steps 
from the level of the pavement. The basin has nothing 
remarkable in its appearance, and most probably is of 
comparatively recent date, as it is palpably out of pro- 
portion with its cover. This last is a lofty tabernacle of 
rich and complicated shrine-work, diminishing to a grace- 
ful spire, and rising nearly to the roof of the church, 
from whence it is suspended by a gilt dove with out- 
spread wings. Some idea of the whole may be derived 
from the accompanying illustration, which conveys far 
more accurately than any verbal description the peculiar 



character of this almost unique contrivance. This is 
also said to have once formed part of the furniture of 
the Priory Church, and from its elaborate and unusual 
finish, there is strong reason to suppose this to have 
been the case. The material of which it is constructed 
is the sweet chesnut, and the wood is in every part as 
firm and sound as when first put together. The appear- 
ance of this canopy in its original freshness, must have 
been brilliant and gorgeous in the extreme. The colours 
employed w r ere white, of the purest and most perfect 
brilliancy, alternating with scarlet and green, of tint 
equally vivid, and thickly covered with cinquefoil rosettes 
in gold, the whole so disposed as to impress the eye with 
the most pleasing combination, instead of the tawdry and 
unmeaning glare which such an arrangement would seem 
to imply. About sixty or seventy years since, the then 
incumbent caused the gilding to be retouched, and the 
whole to be repainted ; and this was done of one uniform 
scarlet, thus completely destroying the original effect, but 
as this coat of colour has flaked off in many places, it is 
easy to perceive what its appearance was in its parti- 
coloured condition. The groined roof of the shrine work is 
lined in the interstices of the gilded ribs with rich crimson 
velvet, and beneath it, most probably, once stood figures 


of the Virgin and Child, occupying the place now filled by 
a gilt fir-cone, an ornament not at all in keeping with the 
rich fretwork of the canopy. The niches ranged around 
the tapering pinnacle of the cover were also doubtless 
intended for the reception of small figures, and were 
probably so occupied at first, although an unmeaning 
point of wood is now the substitute. When the basin 
was required to be used, the lower part of the canopy 
was easily raised, folding back upon its own shaft, on the 
principle of the telescope, and thus it would remain sus- 
pended for as long a period as necessary, supported by 
counterpoise weights in the interior, connected with cords 
and pullies concealed in the substance of the tracery, 
and acting precisely in the same way as a modern window 
sash ; at the conclusion of the service the cover was 
easily replaced on the orifice of the basin by a slight 
pressure of the hand. The whole of this contrivance is 
exceedingly curious and interesting, as exhibiting at 
once a specimen of art and mechanical ingenuity of a 
period at least as remote as the fifteenth century. It 
certainly merits complete restoration, which might be 
effected at no very considerable cost. 

It is presumed that the windows throughout the 
building were once filled, or partially so, with stained 


and painted glass, because considerable traces of it have 
been observed in each that has hitherto been examined. 
Such, too, was almost universally the case in our 
parochial churches, until the intemperate zeal of the 
deluded Parliamentarians under Cromwell decreed the 
indiscriminate destruction of everything that in the most 
remote degree savoured of what they deemed to be 
superstition ; forgetting that it was nothing less than the 
same feeling, under another semblance, which prompted 
them to the wanton outrage ! Thus windows, replete 
with " storied pane," and most interesting as furnishing 
examples of a rare and beautiful art, were unsparingly 
sacrificed to appease the fanatic bigotry of reckless mad- 
men. In some cases, whole subjects were fortunately 
removed by the timely interference of some considerate 
churchwarden, and concealed in a place of security until 
the passing away of the iconoclastic furor would permit 
of their replacement, but such instances were rare. In 
others the hasty application of whitewash to the uncon- 
scious glass served to conceal the offending tracery, and 
thus it was suffered to pass unscathed ; and again in 
others, the zealous emissaries who thus " thought to do 
God service," and in the same hurricane to extirpate 
Popery and High Church sentiments from the universe, 


contented themselves by simply punching out the devoted 

heads of the saints, angels, and martyrs represented on 

the pane, thinking thereby that they had effectually 
achieved the laudable work of crushing " the serpent's 
head," and thus rendering his further influence powerless ! 
In this way fragments, and sometimes important ones, 
have descended to our time in a tolerable state of pre- 
servation, and in some places in such abundance that 
their collection into one window becomes a matter 
deserving of some little care and attention. 

Such is the case with the parish church of Castleacre. 
The windows being in progress of indispensable and 
complete repair, the fragments of stained glass which 
abound in them, (though for the most part much muti- 
lated,) have been carefully collected and cleaned, whereby 
many small subjects of considerable interest have been 
developed, and it is purposed to place these all together in 
a window by themselves, where they will continue for 
many years to transmit the rich and varied light which 
erst beamed through every casement in the sacred 
edifice. There seems every reason to suppose that the 
general use of stained glass in our churches did not 
originate in considerations of mere ornament only, but 
that it was an expedient whereby the strong light of a 


glaring summer sun might be softened, subdued, and 
shaded, to the comfort and convenience of the crowds of 
worshippers who then usually thronged the sacred edifice. 
The incalculable superiority of this elegant expedient to 
the miserable substitute furnished by the modern appli- 
cation of paltry blinds of brown or coloured holland, will 
not admit of a moment's question. 

But the particular reason why we notice the stained 
glass in this place is, that a fragment of it serves inci- 
dentally to throw some light upon the nature of at least 
one of the pursuits followed by the inmates of the neigh- 
bouring Priory, and thus possesses additional interest to 
the observer. A portion of the glass represents a female 
figure, clad in a mantle of rich blue tint clasped at the 
throat, and seated on a low altar tomb, occupied in play- 
ing on a cithern or dulcimer, which is reposing on her 
lap. The figure, with the exception of the head, is 
perfect, and finished with great skill and neatness. 
Immediately beneath it, and indeed forming the base- 
ment of the subject, is part of an inscription, recording 
the name of the artist and his place of abode. The 
letters are in the old English character, of bright yellow 
hue upon a ground of clear brown, and are each about 
an inch in height. The name of the artist is unfortu- 


nately broken away and irretrievably lost, but that 
which remains is to the following effect : 

Thus we have indisputable proof that this particular 
subject at least was the work of a native artist, and 
most probably it applies to the entire window of which 
it formed a part. And if one window were executed 
here, might not all have been so ? The supposition is, 
at least, possible, and when we reflect that the art of 
staining and painting upon glass was an employment 
practised with admirable success by the monastics of 
old, and the proximity of the Priory, of which the parish 
church was a dependency, it becomes highly probable. 

Thus we have direct evidence of the successful culti- 
vation of art, at least in one beautiful department, by 
the Cluniacs of Acre, and may not the remark be 
extended with reference to another branch of the picto- 
rial science ? May not the pulpit, already noticed, and 
the rood-loft screen, have been equally indebted to the 
same fraternity for their embellishment ? We only 
suggest the matter, for in the absence of everything in 
the shape of tangible proof, it is impossible to determine. 
There is, in fact, much doubt and obscurity respecting 


the origin of the beautiful painted screens which formerly 
predominated so extensively in our parochial churches, 
more especially in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, 
and the subject merits a more minute examination than 
we are at present able to devote to it. It is thought by 
some, and with considerable semblance of probability, 
that they are of Flemish origin, or at least that Flemings, 
from the proximity of the above-named counties to their 
own shores, resorting hither in considerable numbers, 
introduced the art amongst us. It may be so ; but 
where would the practice receive such encouragement, 
or where could it be so securely followed, as in the 
monasteries? And if Flemings introduced the art, 
monks may have acquired and pursued it. The history 
of early art would acquire considerable interest from a 
careful and elaborate inquiry on this point. 

The rood-loft screen at Castleacre, to judge from 
the small portion that remains of it, was doubtless of 
rich and highly finished adornment. It occupied the 
customary station, at the junction of the nave and 
chancel, and the two doors connected with it may still 
be observed on the right hand pier, looking east. The 
lower arch conducts to a narrow stair in the thickness 
of the wall, the upper one opened upon the loft from 

u 2 


whence rose the rood itself with its adjuncts. The 
lower pannelling of the screen is all that is now left 
to indicate its quality, and this presents us with exceed- 
ingly well-finished paintings of the apostles, grouped 
six on each side of the central entrance to the chancel 
or choir. The minute and careful finish of the features 
and hands of the several figures, the natural and easy 
flow of the drapery, and the rich though harmonious 
blending of the colouring, evince a degree of skill in the 
artist of no mean order. His intention seems to have 
been to convey the general idea of a painted window, 
for the pannelling is arranged in six divisions, three on 
either side, bearing the semblance of pointed windows of 
rich and elaborate tracery, each window containing the 
effigies of two apostles, the one on a general ground of 
scarlet, the other deep green, and so on alternately; all 
being starred and spotted with gilding, in a similar way 
to the pannels on the pulpit. The latter, however, do not, 
we imagine, evince so high a degree of art as the figures 
on the screen ; there is a formality, a stiffness, and a 
poverty of resource about them which these last do not 
possess, while the effigies of the apostles are clothed in 
drapery of considerable variety of colour, ingeniously 
arranged and with as little of the prevailing stiffness 


of the age as we can meet with in any other instance. 
They will amply repay the close examination of the 
curious. The elevation of the entire screen from the 
pavement to the level of the loft seems to have been 
14 feet, its upper portion consisting of bold open 
window tracery, painted, gilt, and interspersed with 
well-executed carvings of birds, bats, wiverns, chimseras, 
and foliage, the several pannels and the architrave 
being bordered by a simple moulding, painted of a rich 
deep blue, and encircled by a broad fillet of burnished 

The chancel, upon which the screen opened, is of bold 
dimensions, well proportioned, and still retaining its 
regularity of form, though sadly disfigured in one part 
by the unsightly intervention of a modern pew, to make 
room for which a group of misereres., corresponding with 
some still remaining on the opposite side, were removed, 
and have since been lost. The quaint, but comfortable 
old seats just alluded to, may be observed on the south 
side of the chancel, immediately at the back of the 
rood-loft screen, so that then* occupants fronted the high 
altar. They are three in number, in an admirable state 
of preservation, and each bearing a well- executed device 
in wood, on the under part of the seat, which turns up, 


as usual in such contrivances. The devices are different, 
and do not at all partake of that monstrous character 
which is so frequently met with in similar instances, 
to say nothing of grossness, which is by no means 
uncommon. Two of the devices are well worthy of 
attention, the one for the spirit with which a sort of 
gorgon's head is designed, the tongue protruding from 
the mouth, the other for the delicate finish with which 
an eagle with outspread wings is represented in high 
relief. The miserere was a commodious stall furnished 
with arms and a high back, partaking somewhat of 
the character of a modern library chair; the seat, 
however, (which was perhaps occasionally covered with 
a cushion,) was constructed to turn on a suitable 
hinge, presenting, beneath, a narrow ledge supported 
by some fanciful device, and further* connected with 
ornamental foliage. It does not very clearly appear 
what was the purpose of this ledged subsidiary seat. It 
is said by some to have been contrived to kneel upon, 
but in this case the occupant must have turned his 
back upon the altar, a not very probable attitude 
during the celebration of mass, not to mention the 
inconvenient height of the ledge from the floor. It 
would rather seem to have been contrived to serve 


as a kind of seat or resting-place during particular 
parts of the service, or on especial occasions, when 
the officials were supposed by the generality of the 
congregation to maintain a standing posture, which, 
as they might be expected to do so during several hours, 
they would retain a very nearly upright position, while 
they were in fact receiving every support and easily 
resting upon the supplementary seat of the miserere. 
We know not how far this supposition might be borne 
out by the actual practice, but it is obvious the 
appendage could not have been contrived for mere 
ornament alone, for the ledge is universal wherever 
the miserere occurs. 

The high altar was raised by three steps from the 
general level of the pavement, and on its north side 
was a sacristy, now serving the purpose of a vestry ; 
a commodious apartment, having formerly above it a 
charnel chamber in which were deposited the bones 
taken up in the process of making new graves in the 
adjacent churchyard. These, however, were removed, 
and reinterred some years since, and the two chambers 
thrown into one, as they still continue. There are, 
doubtless, sedilia and a piscina on the south wall of the 
chancel, as strong indications of this being the case present 


themselves on sounding ; but the general features of 
the chancel have been so completely modernised, that, 
without considerable trouble, it might be difficult to 
recover their original bearing. The effect of the east 
window is sadly marred by the intervention of a huge 
beam, which crosses the vault nearly at its top, and the 
lights in the upper portion have long been obliterated 
and filled up with cement. It would really be desirable 
to restore this window to something of its original 
beauty, which might readily be done. The lower part 
is lancet-shape, surmounted by a wheel or rose mullion, 
and flanked by ornamental crockets, the whole present- 
ing a good specimen of early English verging upon the 
decorated style. 

The sacramental plate is of a richness of rare occur- 
rence in our village districts. The material is silver 
superbly gilt, and renovated through the public spirit 
of one of the churchwardens not many years since. 
The plate consists of a tall and massy flagon of 
antique and graceful form, having the I. H. S. encircled 
by a glory with the name of the parish deeply graven 
on the front ; a paten plain, but massy, and a chalice 
and cover of very elegant figure, chased and orna- 
mented with scroll-work, and bearing the date of 1694. 


This last was the pious gift of a lady of the name of 
Eleanor Gibbon. 

The brasses, so common in most of the Norfolk 
churches, and so inimitably illustrated by the late John 
Sell Cotman, are here exceedingly scanty, and of them 
but one or two insignificant specimens remain. There 
are traces of a label and shields on one or two slabs within 
a few paces of the lower step of the altar, but the brasses 
are gone. A plain brass at the west end of the church 
contains an Orate in behalf of William Fuller, who died 
on the 12th of October, 1523, and a brass about the 
centre of the nave appears, from the date, to be among 
the latest specimens of that description of monumental 
inscription. It is to the following effect : 

Here lieth bvried Marie Emmilie some time the wife of 
Edinvnd Hvdaon, Draper, daughter of Edward Barkham, 
of Southaker. She departed this life the 18th day of 
August, 1612. 

Other monumental effigies or tablets are equally meagre 
with the foregoing, nor are there any requiring particular 
record, except that in the chancel rest the remains of the 
Rev. James Thorn, G.S.T.D., Abrsedonensis, formerly 
vicar of this parish, and holding in addition other more 
valuable preferment. He was a zealous antiquary, and 


took great interest in the remains which adorn the parish, 
and if he did not always manifest unimpeachable judg- 
ment in his decisions and restorations, he can at least 
fairly claim the meed of diligent devotion to his favourite 

The church, of which we have thus given a detailed 
account, is dedicated in the name of St. James, and the 
benefice is a vicarage of very humble value, though 
assisted by grants from the Bounty Fund of Queen Anne. 
Probably its revenues were not always of such compara- 
tive unimportance as now. The present structure was 
erected by one of the priors- and the chapter of the 
neighbouring Priory, who were the impropriators of the 
advowson. They of course held the tithes, and the 
incumbent who was inducted to the benefice was pro- 
vided with lodging and commons in the Priory itself, in 
addition to a clear income of 10 per annum, a sum of infi- 
nitely greater value in those days than now, as we have 
already had occasion to show. Besides, the customary fees 
and mortuaries were no matter of indifference at a time 
when the church's aid was sought on every occasion and in 
every variety of form. The vicarage, therefore, was a suffi- 
cient and ample maintenance for its possessor, whilst the 
great tithes produced a valuable revenue to the treasury of 


the chapter. After the surrender, the impropriation and 
patronage remained in the hands of the Crown during 
the whole time it retained possession of the rights and 
revenues of the forfeited monastery, and ultimately 
passed with the site of the latter into the hands of the 
Norfolk family. From that period they have shared the 
fluctuations of the general property, as will appear from 
the subjoined table of the incumbents of the benefice, 
from the period of its connexion with the Priory to the 
present time, following the authority of Blomefield, and 
extending the list to the actual incumbency : 


John de Wysete , . A.D. 1307 The Prior. 
Robert de Folkestone . . . 1314 
John de Brecham (Birchara) . 1320 
John de Warrenne . . . 1329 

-P, , , , T TT.,, , I O/( A fThe Bishop of Norwich 

Ralph de Witlock . . . 1349 1 

\ (by lapse.) 

William Norman . . . 1374 The Prior. 

William de Horndon . . . 1383 

John de Walpole . . . 1386 

John Stegg or Stock . . . 1392 

Gilbert Bocher . . . 1438 

Richard Bocher . . , . 1448 

Richard Salisbury . ' V . 1449 

John Sennowe . 1452 




John Cokkys (Cocks?) 
William Rolling . 
John Pykard 
William Stephenson 
Robert Pepper . 
Richard Patrick . 

Anthony Wolley 

Samuel Beck 
William Thomson 
John Stearn . 
George Docking 
John Field . 
Edward Turner . 
William Bridgham 
Ambrose Pimlowe 
James Thorn 
Lancaster Framingham 
John Coe 
Wenman Langton 
William Baker 
John Ambrose Tickell 

I. H. Bloom . 


A.D. 1463 
. 1476 

. 1492 

. 1506 

. 1 550 The Crown. 

. 1554 The Duke of Norfolk. 

{The Assigns of Sir Thos. 
n u 

. 1604 Thomas Lord Burleigh. 

. 1606 Thomas Earl of Exeter. 

. date lost. 


. ] 643 Sir Robert Coke. 

. 1645 Sir Robert Coke. 

. 1669 J. Coke, Esq. 

. 1709 

. 1750 Earl of Leicester. 
. 1756 

date lost. 

. 1775 T. W. Coke, Esq. 

. date lost. 

. ]798 

f Thomas William Earl of 
. 1835 < 


Among the incumbents enumerated in the foregoing 
list, we meet with the name of one of the distinguished 
family of the De Warrennes, who thus served at the altar 


of the parish church ; and it affords additional evidence 
of the intimate connexion between this family and the 
locality, in its several capacity of Castle, Priory, and 

We have already made mention of the Rev. Jas. Thorn, 
and we must not omit to notice the Rev. J. A. Tickell, 
for so many years connected with this place as its 
incumbent. He was one of a family well known to 
fame a brother of the ingenious author of "Antici- 
pation," and a lineal descendant of the celebrated friend 
and coadjutor of Addison and Steele. 

Connected with the church were the guilds of St. 
James and St. Bennet, which here had their respective 
altars, and their appointed days of social festivity in 
honour of their patron saints. The guilds, it is now well 
known, were fraternities somewhat resembling our 
modern benefit-clubs, only regulated by more enlarged 
principles and cemented by a more stringent bond of 
union. The indiscriminate suppression of these bodies 
was not the least impolitic of the many arbitrary acts 
of the eighth Harry, and sufficiently indicative of the 
grasping spirit of appropriation by which, under the 
flimsy pretext of zeal in the cause of a Reformed faith, 
he was influenced. The accumulated wealth of the 


guilds throughout the land, and individually in our cities 
and larger towns, presented too inviting a field for the 
rapacity of the selfish monarch, and the countenance 
and encouragement which they received from the 
authorities of the church afforded a convenient plea for 
an attack upon them ; and, therefore, although in the 
early days of the dissolution of the religious houses, the 
king affected respect for the constitution of the guilds, and 
even pledged himself to maintain them inviolate, his 
plastic conscience ere long received new light upon the 
subject, and they were constrained, equally with others, 
to contribute the contents of their coffers to the craving 
vortex of the Court of Augmentations. The conse- 
quences were felt for many a long year afterward, and 
trade of various kinds lost caste in point of respectability, 
unity, and mutual interchange of good-will, which, even 
at this distance of time, it may be questioned whether it 
has altogether recovered. The still existing foundations 
in many of our large provincial towns afford incontro- 
vertible proof of the influence, wealth, and importance of 
our ancient guilds. 


ANY years before the faintest murmur 
of Norman hostility was heard to 
threaten the English shores, a con- 
siderable district of the county of 
Norfolk, designated under the general 
name of Acra or Acre, recognised as its liege lord a 
powerful Saxon Thane, bearing the name of Toche or 
Toke; whose possessions extended still further than the 
district alluded to, and who dwelt among them in all 
the rude splendour and independent bearing of an 
Anglo-Saxon chief. 

Acra comprised three parishes, distinct from, and 
independent of, each other, though held under one chief. 
The first of these, the most important in extent, was 
distinguished simply as Acre, or more particularly Est- 
Acre, the others, West-Acre, and South Acre, according 
to their relative positions with regard to each other. 


Time rolled on, and the conquering William, flushed 
with success and imbued with the spirit of a stern, 
uncompromising age, exerted more than a conqueror's 
right in the disposal of his conquest. The unfortunate 
Toche, whose only crime was a natural desire to retain 
his ancestral inheritance, was, without scruple or com- 
pensation, ejected from all his possessions and permitted 
to become the feudal retainer of a foreign master. 
His broad lands were parcelled out among the early 
followers of the Conqueror's standard, and Est-Acre 
fell to the share of De Warrenne. How the latter 
erected his stately castle and noble priory within the 
limits of this parish, we have already noticed, and 
Acre became the scene of baronial grandeur and clois- 
tered seclusion. What might be the actual condition 
of the parish at the early period referred to it is impos- 
sible to decide with precision, but the humble dwellings 
of the few Anglo-Saxon serfs, who tilled the surrounding 
lands, were probably situated in a direction a little to 
the north of the present village, for it is not likely 
that the spacious outworks of De Warrenne's castle 
would embrace within its boundaries any meaner tene- 
ments. The inference is supported by the palpable 
traces of buildings, of a later period, some moated, in 


the above quarter, occupied probably by retainers of the 
De Warrenne estate, and serving to point to the original 
site of the village. 

It was not until the castle began to decline from its 
proud pre-eminence that the modern parish gradually 
encroached upon its courts, and no sooner was the 
stronghold fairly abandoned than the work of demolition 
began, and cottages arose within the very penetralia of 
ballium and barbican. Thence it acquired and has 
ever since retained the distinctive name of Castle-Acre. 

The subsequent suppression of the Priory, and its 
consequent desertion, opened another quarry of ample 
material for the building enterprises of the increasing 
parish, and there is abundant evidence to show that 
they were resorted to without much delicacy or mis. 
giving either as to quantity or quality. In short, 
almost all the dwellings erected prior to within the 
last twenty or thirty years consist wholly of material 
supplied from the adjacent ruins, and bear the stamp 
of a singular and peculiar character. It is mainly 
owing to this circumstance that the parish presents 
to the eye of the traveller a quaintness of appearance 
of unusual occurrence in our rural districts. 

There are three principal manors, carrying fine arbi- 


trary, and distinguished as the Prior's, Arundel's, and 
the Earl's, from their former possessors ; but with the dry 
details of these it is not our intention to weary the 
reader, as there is no remarkable tenure connected with 
any of them which can merit particular notice. Suffice 
it to say, that the increasing population of the place and 
the frequent transfer of copyhold from seller to purchaser, 
renders the manorial privileges of this parish of some 
importance to their owner. 

And here one circumstance connected with the modern 
history of the parish deserves to be noted. Castleacre 
entitles its illustrious possessors, the Earls of Leicester, 
of Holkham, to a seat among the peers of the realm as 
Barons Castleacre, a distinction to which the family 
alluded to were justly elevated in the first year of the 
reign of our present gracious Sovereign ; and thus the 
ancient barony of the De Warrennes has resumed some- 
what of its pristine importance in the persons of its 
modern proprietors. 

The population of Castleacre, according to the census 
of 1841, amounts to 1494 souls, a calculation, we should 
say, rather within the bounds of actual fact than exceed- 
ing them. The inhabitants are exclusively agricultural, 
and generally of a very humble caste ; although abject 


poverty happily does not exist among them, still their 
means are exceedingly moderate, and the degree of 
intelligence prevalent, as usually happens, is proportionate 
to the extent of their resources. It has been the fashion 
to single out the parish of Castleacre as the most con- 
spicuous in point of demoralisation and general depravity 
within the circuit of many miles, and until within the 
last few years there has been, we fear, but too strong 
ground for the conclusion ; but then it is only justice to 
indicate the main source of this evil, and the still-existing 
obstacle to its effectual eradication. It is simply this : A 
custom has for many years prevailed in the place, and 
been encouraged by the occupiers in adjacent parishes, 
to farm out the work necessary to be done on their 
respective lands to one or two individuals, who shall 
provide hands to accomplish it in the best manner and 
on the most reasonable terms. These parties are termed 
gang masters, and a very significant term it is, for surely 
no gang of wretched slaves beneath the sweltering sun 
of the tropics, could materially fall beneath the generality 
of persons thus assembled together in intellectual 
debasement and moral depravity. The gang-masters, 
anxious to reap as much advantage to themselves as 
possible from their bargain with their employers, seek 


about in all directions for idle hands to execute their 
work on the cheapest terms they can procure them at. 
What is the result? -Vagrants, the very scum and 
refuse of the county jails, homeless, houseless wan- 
derers, with perhaps the brand of infamy upon them, if 
passing within the neighbourhood, can and have obtained 
employment for a week, a fortnight, or it may be only a 
few days, without question or hindrance. Short as their 
time of service might prove, it has been sufficient to 
inoculate the place, in the congenial hot-bed of the ale- 
house, with the virus of depravity, vice, and cunning, 
which these masters of their art import from their former 
haunts and occupations, and having sown the seed of 
mischief, they pass on and give place to another batch of 
worthies of similar stamp. Such has been the case, and 
we rejoice to hope that we may speak of this evil in some 
degree in the past tense ; the gang-masters have latterly 
become somewhat more cautious in their selection of 
hands. But the system itself is altogether bad, debasing 
to the parties employed, and injurious to the native 
labourers in the parish, and nothing short of its entire 
abolition can secure results permanently beneficial to 
the social improvement of the community. Until this is 
effected, other means of elevating the moral character of 


the humbler classes will experience but partial success, 
and yet such means are in diligent operation, and hitherto 
with happy and palpable advantage. A large National 
School is daily endeavouring to counteract the pernicious 
influence of the gangs upon the rising generation; a 
clothing society invites those of maturer age to reap the 
advantage of frugality and prudent forethought ; and 
benefit-clubs (the lingering apologies of the ancient 
guilds) still exist amongst us, though of questionable 
utility. Perseverance in these means and similar expe- 
dients may do much, but unless the blow is struck at the 
root of the mischief, we apprehend no very solid advan- 
tage will ever be gained in undermining the stronghold 
of depravity. If the occupiers who continue to uphold 
the system would one and all combine in the exercise of 
the moral courage necessary fo forego the singular 
advantages they obtain from its encouragement, 

" Ay, there '$ the rub," 

we are persuaded they would eventually reap a rich 
harvest of satisfaction from their determination. 

The features of the landscape are of a bold undulating 
character, prettily broken by low plantations towards the 
west, and the fields everywhere exhibit the admirable 


results of practical agriculture in its highest perfection. 
The well-merited influence of the late lamented pro- 
prietor, the greatest patron and the truest friend to 
agriculture the world ever saw, and the very high 
character of the occupiers for worth, experience, and 
capital, have contributed to this effect, and rendered the 
farming at Castleacre and its vicinity a finished school 
of the art. 

We have already mentioned the Nar, a pretty, clear, 
rapid stream, which winds its sinuous course through 
the parish, forming its principal boundary to the south, 
and was formerly navigable for small craft to within a 
short distance of the place. This stream must have 
proved of inestimable advantage to the monastics, for 
not only is its water remarkably pure and pellucid, but 
it is literally thronged with shoals of delicate speckled 
trout, of singular excellence both of colour and flavour. 
The fish are of two varieties the common trout, and 
the true Trutta Salmo, or salmon-trout, and these, with 
the exception of a few rare perch, roach, and dace, are 
the sole occupants of the stream. The abundance of 
fish is really extraordinary, when we consider the fre- 
quent pilferings to which the stream is unavoidably 
exposed, and the regular attendance during the season 


of sundry eager Waltonians, who have permission from 
the respective proprietors on either side of the stream 
to exercise their "gentle art," although a fly or a minnow 
are the most usual as well as the most scientific modes 
of capture employed. Complete success generally attends 
these " contemplative" gentlemen's operations, although 
the fish taken vary in size from half a pound to two 
pounds and a half, rarely much exceeding the latter 
weight. In the absence of the superior attractions of 
a salmon leap, the skilful brother of the angle does not 
disdain to pursue his sport among the shallow rapids of 
the Nar. 

Such is Castleacre, and such the features which 
render it equally an object of interest to the antiquary 
and the general visitor. The Castle, with all its pomp 
and circumstance of military importance, has passed 
away, the Convent, with its results of mingled good 
and evil, retains but a shadowed outline of its existence, 
the sterile wilderness of the adjoining lands has given 
place to pastures rich with luxuriant herbage, and fields 
teeming with the glad produce of successful cultivation, 
and the Nar alone rolls on its silent course unchanged, 
unchanging, and replete as ever with the same quality 
of the finny tribe as erst rejoiced the luxurious palates 


of the dainty Normans, or compensated the sickly appe- 
tite of the shrunken ascetic for the unsavoury mess of 
black beans and salt with which he was too often con- 
strained to be content. Here we pause, and the indulgent 
reader, who has had the patience to accompany us thus 
far, may well be weary of the monotonous garrulity of 
his companion. We have lingered o'er the past we 
have touched upon the present, and we conclude with 
the expression of bright hope for the future. 

" To-morrow to fresh fields and pastures new." 



BX 2596 .C37 B48 1843 c.2 


Bloom, John Hague. 

Notices, historical and 

antiquarian, of the