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Historic abbey on sale for £1m

PUBLISHED: 16:12 02 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:57 22 October 2010

Pentney Abbey and the 14th century farmhouse are currently up for sale for £1 million.

Pentney Abbey and the 14th century farmhouse are currently up for sale for £1 million.

For house hunters with £1m to spare, it offers a unique chance to buy a slice of Norfolk history.

Pentney Abbey, near King's Lynn, has had a colourful and eventful past, having once been used as target practice by Oliver Cromwell and his men as they sailed up the nearby River Nar.

For house hunters with £1m to spare, it offers a unique chance to buy a slice of Norfolk history.

Pentney Abbey, near King's Lynn, has had a colourful and eventful past, having once been used as target practice by Oliver Cromwell and his men as they sailed up the nearby River Nar.

In more recent times, it has been a popular venue for medieval banquets and civil wedding ceremonies and receptions.

But now the property has gone on the market, having been owned by the same family since local entrepreneur Graham Lee bought it 50 years ago.

Founded in 1130 by Robert de Vaux, the abbey was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene.

For more than 400 years it was home to the Augustinian "black canons", so called because of the colour of their habits.

The monks, who were celibate and renounced personal possessions, would leave their community to preach and conduct services of baptism, marriage and burial.

The hustle and bustle of life in the 12th century was in stark contrast to the tranquil scene at Pentney today.

A constant stream of carts, horses and pedestrians would pass through, often bringing supplies of food and wine, wood and charcoal for fires, timber and stone for building and precious gold and silver plate for the church.

There would be numerous visitors, too, such as clergy to check on the abbey's finances and the behaviour of the canons, travellers and pilgrims in search of food and a bed for the night and lay people from the village - stonemasons, bakers, gardeners and tradesmen.

All that remains of the original structure is the gatehouse, which has been listed by English Heritage as a Grade 1 Scheduled Ancient Monument.

After the dissolution of the monasteries and the Reformation in 1537, the buildings fell into decay.

When Cromwell and his soldiers took pot-shots from their flat-bottomed boats with their guns and cannons, the gatehouse was fortunately out of range.

The estate, which extends to nearly 50 acres, also includes a Georgian farmhouse, a range of outbuildings and stables, and even a dungeon.

The main barn is licensed for weddings, parties and corporate entertainment, with its own bar and commercial kitchen.

There is a clay pigeon shoot in the grounds and the new owner will also have fishing rights on the Nar.

Henrietta Bruce, from estate agent Belton Duffey, which is conducting the sale, said the property was already attracting interest from prospective buyers.

"It's definitely a one-off opportunity for people to buy a piece of history," she said.

"It obviously can be an extremely nice family home but there's also huge potential for maybe a riverside theatre, entertainment, crafts centres - anything that needs a lot of outbuildings.

"They could convert into a small hotel with a restaurant and banqueting facilities and clay pigeon shooting. There are quite a lot of possibilities."


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