Friday, April 15, 2011

Castle Acre Priory

Ok, I'm back with more pictures from last weekend. After we left Castle Rising, we drove maybe 20 minutes east to Castle Acre, home of another ruined castle and a ruined priory. A priory is like a monastery that isn't fully independent and "belongs" to a larger abbey or monastery--in the case of this one, the abbey at Cluny in France. But let me back up a bit and give a bit of a history lesson (feel free to skip this part if it's not your thang, but there will be a quiz later).

In 1066, William the Conqueror sailed from Normandy and conquered England. He gave quite a bit of land to William de Warenne, one of his trusted warriors, who was responsible for building Castle Acre Castle (which we skipped because in photos it looks like there's not much there at all now). Later on, the de Warenne family also started the priory because a.) they had all kinds of worldly power, so it was time to start thinking about the afterlife; and b.) William de Warenne had been much impressed with the Cluny abbey in his native France and so he founded Castle Acre Priory as an offshoot of the larger abbey. Cluny and its offshoots were pretty powerful and rich; the Castle Acre site is totally huge and must have been quite impressive back in its heyday. Construction on the priory began around 1090 so parts of this place are over nine HUNDRED years old.

Fast-forward to 1536. England's most famous king, Henry VIII, closed down hundreds of monasteries and convents in the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Follow the link to the long and informative article in Wikipedia; the short version is that Henry's regime was responsible for the destruction of many religious sites across the country and in so doing made pots and pots of money. He was, at least, nice enough to provide pensions or endowments for most of the nuns and monks displaced in the Dissolution, but the program resulted in the loss of a lot of historical artifacts like the libraries of the monasteries and the ancient buildings themselves.

Castle Acre Priory was torn down in 1537, and its prior's residence was turned into a farmhouse. However, after that, the village was kind of forgotten and as a result the ruins were pretty much left alone for over 500 years, until the 20th century when they were cleaned up a bit and put under the auspices of English Heritage for people to visit. So, here's what the ruined priory looks like.

This is the west facade, which is still mostly intact; the prior's residence is to the right.

I thought it was kind of funny that there are weedy flowers growing in the stones of the ruins, sometimes pretty high up.

The site is really large and impressive, even in its ruined state. And Lee has lawn envy; the grass here looks waaayyyy better than our lawn does (in his defense, we just got our lawn mower and other yard equipment on Wednesday, so cleaning up the yard will be one of this weekend's tasks).

There's my honey!

Did I mention that we had a gorgeous day last Sunday?

West facade seen from the back...apparently I liked taking pictures of that part of the ruin because I think there's at least one more.

The complex had a large infirmary (back in the day, religious types also doubled as doctors a lot of the time...and if the patients died then they could pray for their souls) and a big, separate building for the latrines.

This was taken where the dormitory used to be, and if you look in the arch in the center of the photo you'll see the local parish church.

Here's the prior's lodging; photo taken from the opposite side of where we started out.

Lee's on the Stairway to Heaven (ok, I'm laughing anyway). This is, again, in the dormitory.

Closer up view of the prior's lodging/converted farmhouse, which is the most intact part of the ruins.

And the west facade again. I took most of the pictures at the priory so it's possible I just wanted to show off my photographic skillz ;) Honestly, I chose the priory for the day's trip because I thought we could get interesting ruin photos from what was in the English Heritage guidebook, and it was close enough to Castle Rising that we were able to easily see both in just a few hours with time to spare to hang out and chillax at the house.

Lee usually tells me to pick whatever it is we go see on the weekends...he says he doesn't much care what we do or what we go see, he's just happy to be here. He's very affable that way. I just hope I pick things that he finds interesting...I'm such a history nerd! Speaking of history nerdery, in the shop at Castle Rising Castle I saw a little poster with a rhyme on it which goes through all the kings and queens of England starting with William the Conqueror:

Willie, Willie, Harry, Steve
Harry, Dick, John, Harry Three.
Edward One, Two, Three, Dick Two
Henry Four, Five, Six then who?
Edward Four Five, Dick the Bad
Harrys twain and Ned, the lad.
Mary, Lizzie, James the Vain
Charlie, Charlie, James again.
William and Mary, Anne o'Gloria,
Four Georges, William and Victoria
Edward Seven, Georgie Five,
Edward, George and Liz (alive).

'Cept they left out Lady Jane, but then again she was only queen for nine days. "Dick the Bad" is Richard III, who was widely suspected to have killed the child-king Edward V to take the crown for himself. Anyway, I liked the poem but didn't buy the poster since I figured I could find the poem online...Google is a wonderful thing!


CCsMom said...

That WAS a gorgeous day! I love all the history. Looks like you had a great time.

Yay, it's FRIDAY after 5:00!!! Best time of the week.

Giffysk8s said...

Okay, I am offline for 9 days, and you make about a kazillion posts! LOL So I am sitting here with my "I can't believe vacation is over" cup of coffee and reading your blog.

I, for one. LOVE reading your historical narratives~so keep on typing, my friend!

Fabulous skies in the photos. Your shots of the ruins are great! But thanks to you I will now have "Stairway to Heaven playing through my mind all day."

I am actually surprised that you didn't buy the poster because I know you like them. :)

Now off to read your older posts!