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Step back to medieval Norfolk: Priory ‘rebuilt’ in glorious detail

PUBLISHED: 08:05 18 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:05 18 September 2020

The 3D reconstruction was used to create this artwork of the funeral of John Paston I at Bromholm Priory in the summer of 1466. Image: Supplied by Paston Footprints

The 3D reconstruction was used to create this artwork of the funeral of John Paston I at Bromholm Priory in the summer of 1466. Image: Supplied by Paston Footprints

Archant

One of medieval Norfolk’s architectural gems has been painstakingly recreated. STUART ANDERSON took a virtual look around Bromholm Priory.

James Mindham has created a computer generated 3D model of Bromholm Priory. 

Picture: MARK BULLIMOREJames Mindham has created a computer generated 3D model of Bromholm Priory. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Monks rushing to matins and vespers, peasants tilling the fields with ox-drawn ploughs and pilgrims marvelling at a piece of the ‘true cross’.

Bromholm Priory at Bacton may be in ruins today but wind back 600 years and you would have seen a much difficult picture.

And the priory has been bought back to life in all its monastic glory as part of the Paston Footprints project, which aims to tell the story of one of England’s most famous medieval families, the Pastons.

James Mindham, a Dilham-based computer artist, has spent eight months creating a 3D model of the priory and its grounds following research into what the once-grand religious complex actually looked like.

Historical artwork using the 3D model, imaging an evening mist around the active community at Bromholm. Artist James Mindham. Image: Supplied by Paston FootprintsHistorical artwork using the 3D model, imaging an evening mist around the active community at Bromholm. Artist James Mindham. Image: Supplied by Paston Footprints

Mr Mindham said: “We have worked from the known facts, the remaining structure and the known foundations, and taken inspiration from other existing monastery and priory buildings, particularly the mother house of Castle Acre and the priory at Binham.

“Much of the north gate of Bromholm still stands and the walls of the priory grounds are clearly defined; into those we have put ideas of what a thriving monastic community looked like.”

Bromholm was founded in 1113 by William de Glanville for the Cluniac order of monks.

Manual labour was left to the lay brothers and their families which freed up the monks for religious activities including praying eight times a day and copying manuscripts.

Drone photography under way on the Bromholm site. Pictured is Alan O’Neill, left, and Andrew Pinder of CHPV Drone Photography. Picture: Supplied by Paston FootprintsDrone photography under way on the Bromholm site. Pictured is Alan O’Neill, left, and Andrew Pinder of CHPV Drone Photography. Picture: Supplied by Paston Footprints

The priory became famous after it purchased a piece of the ‘true cross’ - Jesus’ crucifix - brought by the monk Martin Parism who fled the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

The relic drew pilgrims including King Henry III and Edward II.

One of the grandest events to occur there was the burial of John Paston I, following his death on May 21, 1466.

After his death in London, Paston’s funeral cortege to his Norfolk home was followed by a train of friars and professional mourners. The wake at Bromholm required 40 barrels of beer and ale, 15 gallons of malt and 20 pounds worth of coins to distribute to the poor.

Peter Stibbons, who is co-coordinating the computer-based rebuilds for the Paston Footprints project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPeter Stibbons, who is co-coordinating the computer-based rebuilds for the Paston Footprints project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

But the rise of Henry VIII spelt the end for Bromholm, and the priory was dissolved after the 1536 Act of Suppression.

The lands were sold off and the stonework of the buildings was frequently raided as a source of building material.

Its ruins are now on private land, in the care of Historic England, but history buffs can still walk up to the north gatehouse and see the central area.

The most complete element standing is the north transept, which was just small part of the impressive building that once stood on the site.

A late 19th century image by photographer and historian Alfred Savin of the former Bromholm Priory with farm machinery amongst the ruins. Image: Cromer MuseumA late 19th century image by photographer and historian Alfred Savin of the former Bromholm Priory with farm machinery amongst the ruins. Image: Cromer Museum

Peter Stibbons, who is co-ordinating the computer-based rebuilds for the Paston Footprints project, said: “This is the second of four major buildings to be completed.

“Paston Hall can already be seen on the Footprints website and Oxnead Hall and Gresham castle are well into development.

“Drone photography is undertaken for all the sites, and that provides a firm basis for positioning and developing the model. Once a 3D model is completed, there is a variety of uses to which it can be put to help tell the Paston story.

“James’s splendid artwork, using the 3D model as its base, is one such use.”

Standing elements of former Bromholm Priory as they can be seen in the 21st century, from drone photography. Image: Supplied by Paston FootprintsStanding elements of former Bromholm Priory as they can be seen in the 21st century, from drone photography. Image: Supplied by Paston Footprints

As well as being used to recreate historical artwork of the site, the model is being used with animations created for learning materials, some of which can be found at www.thisispaston.co.uk/teachingpriory.html

The model can be viewed at www.thisispaston.co.uk/bromholm01.html

Between 1380 and 1750 the Pastons rose from humble origins to become leading members of the aristocracy, played a major role in the politics of the day, and entertained royalty at their sumptuous mansions.

The Paston Footprints project is a four-year collaboration between the University of East Anglia’s school of literature, drama and creative writing, the Norfolk Record Office, the Paston Heritage Society, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

A drone photograph of what today appears to be the most significant feature of the former Bromholm Priory - but it is just the north transept of the church. In the Second World War there was a pill-box built into the ground level. Image: Supplied by Paston FootprintsA drone photograph of what today appears to be the most significant feature of the former Bromholm Priory - but it is just the north transept of the church. In the Second World War there was a pill-box built into the ground level. Image: Supplied by Paston Footprints

This is how the central area of Bromholm Priory would have once looked - taken from the 3D reconstruction. Image: Supplied by Paston FootprintsThis is how the central area of Bromholm Priory would have once looked - taken from the 3D reconstruction. Image: Supplied by Paston Footprints

Some walls of the chapter house at Bromholm Priory still stand. Image: Supplied by Paston FootprintsSome walls of the chapter house at Bromholm Priory still stand. Image: Supplied by Paston Footprints

How the north gate of Bromholm Priory, looking north through to Abbey Road, looks today. Image: Supplied by Paston FootprintsHow the north gate of Bromholm Priory, looking north through to Abbey Road, looks today. Image: Supplied by Paston Footprints

The intial stages of rebuilding the church at the centre of Bromholm Priory on top of the combined data. Image: Supplied by Paston FootprintsThe intial stages of rebuilding the church at the centre of Bromholm Priory on top of the combined data. Image: Supplied by Paston Footprints

A Spurdens survey of 1822, when more remains of Bromholm were visible, proved a useful base for building the 3D model. Image: Supplied by Paston FootprintsA Spurdens survey of 1822, when more remains of Bromholm were visible, proved a useful base for building the 3D model. Image: Supplied by Paston Footprints


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