Heritage trail brings to life Castle Acre’s Norman history

Launch of the Castle Acre Heritage Trail. Pictured are Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan from Blast from the

Launch of the Castle Acre Heritage Trail. Pictured are Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan from Blast from the Past. Picture: Ian Burt

It was once a thriving Norman town complete with its own spectacular priory of monks and strong walls.

Now the interwoven history of castle, priory and village can be seen through a new heritage trail which will guide visitors through Castle Acre and the ages.

English Heritage has launched the trail, which coincides with the 950th anniversary of the Norman conquest, with the aim of boosting the village as well as showing people what life was like for the monks who once called the green estate home.

It follows the story of Brother Odo who explains to readers how he and his order live.

The noble William De Warenne founded the priory in 1090 and his father, also William De Warenne, built the castle shortly after the Norman invasion in 1066.

The priory was home to an order of Cluniac monks who originated from Burgundy and De Warenne is thought to have founded it in deference to his wife Gundrada who was very pious.

Castle Acre remains one of the best preserved Cluniac priories in England and the site has special historical significance due to the remains of the castle and the bailey gate, which cars still drive through every day. The heritage trail route takes in all of these landmarks as well as leading walkers through the village, passing pubs, cafes and shops.

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It is hoped it will bring a boost to the village as well as helping teach both locals and visitors about the history of the area.

Steve Bax, historic properties director for English Heritage, said: 'It is really important that the community appreciate and value places like the priory here.

'It is our role to keep it here for future generations. It is a ruin which makes it expensive to maintain and we need the community's help, both by supporting us financially by volunteering, donating and sponsoring us and also by encouraging people to come and visit this beautiful place.

'The town trail helps people to learn a bit more about where they live but is also for visitors to this idyllic village.'

An exhibition of stonework from the priory has also gone on display to show how the buildings were created.

Are you part of a heritage project? Write to doug.faulkner@archant.co.uk

The monks were forced to leave the priory in 1537 when Henry VIII ordered it abandoned as part of the reformation.