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Following the Norman Conquest, the new owner of the lands in this area brought over some monks to provide spiritual support for the community. They were members of the Cluniac order, and arrived in 1080. He gave them some lands next to the river, and some money to build a priory. This would originally have been a wooden construction. In 1089, more money was given for a stone building, and construction began. It was not ready for occupation until 1160, with the monks essentially living on site, as the building continued around them.
Once completed, it contained an impressive church, accommodation for the Prior and his monks, and continued to be developed over the next two hundred years, as more donations were received from benefactors.
When Henry VIII was on the throne, in the 1530s, he ordered the dissolution of all monasteries, and their destruction too. All that remained was the Prior’s house, which was occupied until the 17th century by new owners. It has since been renovated, and houses the visitor centre, and new entrance to the ruins.
Since 1984, the site has been managed by English Heritage. It is well-signposted, and a very short walk from the village. It is open most days from 10 am until 5 pm, and there is an entrance fee of £7.30 for adults, which includes an audio device. Parking outside is free of charge, and there is a shop and picnic area, but no cafe. Dogs are allowed on leads, but not inside the exhibitions.
This is an historically important site, and combined with a visit to the nearby castle and village, makes Castle Acre a great place as a destination.