Norfolk Adventures – Binham Priory.

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Even though we live in Norfolk and love exploring, last week I realised just how much more of the county we have left to discover.

To celebrate a special birthday, my mother-in-law brought three members of her family from the West Midlands to stay in a fantastic converted barn she rented in the village of Bale, which is about nine miles from the town of Fakenham.

There was even room for Mark, Freya and I and so we used the barn as our base and set about showing them some of the county’s highlights – and, my goodness, did we pack a lot in.

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Our bit was behind the hedge on the left.

With four generations to cater for I didn’t expect everyone to be happy all of the time but, actually, everything we did had elements that we all enjoyed.

We visited two stately homes, a wildlife sanctuary, the beach, a zoo and, the piece de resistance, my MIL walked alpacas along the coast as her birthday present from Mark and I. IMG_2428

However, it was as we were driving to and from the different places that I realised how much there is still to explore – especially when Mark decided to take little detours off the beaten track (yes, we were lost).

There were some proper “wow” moments, including driving through a picture-perfect village, turning a corner and coming across Binham Priory, looking glorious against the blue sky. Even Freya was impressed (although she thought it was an enchanted castle).

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I had heard of the ruined Benedictine priory before but I didn’t know exactly where it was. While we didn’t have time to stop then, I knew we would be back – and in fact we went back three different times.

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A potted history.

The priory was founded in the late 11th century – a massive undertaking by a nephew of William the Conqueror, Peter de Valognes and his wife Albreda. It took about 150 years to build so obviously they never got to see it finished. I imagine it must have been an impressive sight, rising up out of the countryside, once it was completed.

While it’s a tranquil place now, it has experienced its fair share of drama, including a siege in 1212 (see the links at the end of this post for a detailed history). It also suffered from:

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It was closed in 1539 after the Dissolution of the Monasteries and was sold to Thomas Paston who started demolishing it. Stone from the monastery was reused in many local houses. Apparently, Thomas Paston’s nephew, Edward, started building a new house on the site but a workman was killed by falling masonry and the rest of the men refused to continue.

Today the nave of the much larger priory church has become the Church of St. Mary and the Holy Cross and is still used as a place of worship.

Missing Fiddler.

According to myth there is a tunnel running from the priory to Little Walsingham, which is said to have been the site of a strange disappearance. Apparently, one day a fiddler decided to explore the tunnel with his dog, as you do. Villagers could apparently hear his music as he ventured forth…until it suddenly stopped. His little dog came running out but no one dared enter the tunnel to look for him. He was never seen again. The place where the music stopped is now known as Fiddler’s Hill.

I wandered about on my own as the sun set and I have to say I felt perfectly content. It wasn’t eerie at all, just rather inspiring.

More info.

I did a short video of our approach to Binham Priory. It doesn’t really do it justice but you’ll get the idea (I’m sat in the back with Freya to get the best view).

There are some great sites with more info about the priory, including opening times.

Binham Priory.

Norfolk Archaeological Trust.

English Heritage.

Myths and Legends.

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My Sunday Photo – August 13th, 2017.

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As we had such a nice time at the degree shows in Norwich recently, I decided to take Freya to the Sainsbury Centre, which is based at the University of East Anglia, and enjoy their outdoor sculpture trail around campus.

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Once again she was really interested in the pieces – and had some very funny opinions of several of them.

She was a bit frightened by the three Antony Gormley sculptures, especially the one we could get close too. I thought they were wonderful – although I can see why their placement caused controversy.

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We are without the internet for the next few days so I’ll be late commenting on my fellow My Sunday Photos and also responding to any comments kindly left on this post (sorry!). Normal service will resume shortly.

Wishing you a good one.

Photalife

Things To Do In Norfolk: The Museum of Norwich.

IMG_1826When the history of the building is as interesting as what’s now housed inside, you know you’re in for a treat – as is the case with the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell.

You’ll find it tucked away down a little alley, just a short walk from other attractions such as the castle.

It started its long life as the home of a wealthy merchant in about 1325 and changed hands (and was updated) several times until the 1580s when it was sold to the city.

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Part of it was then converted into a Bridewell – or prison for women and beggars, who were occupied with manual work or, in some cases, taught a trade.

By all accounts, life inside was harsh and, on occasions, barbaric – indeed, the threat of being sent to the Bridewell was supposed to act as a deterrent.

When fire broke out in 1751, destroying much of the building, it apparently had a rather famous (or infamous) inmate, Peter the Wild Boy.

Infamous resident refuses to leave.

He was a child found living wild in the forests of Hanover, in northern Germany, in about 1725 and brought to England by King George I as a “curiosity” for his daughter-in-law Caroline, the Princess of Wales.

The boy could not talk and instead of walking preferred to scamper on all fours – apparently picking the pockets of courtiers and stealing kisses.

While he initially caused quite a stir (Jonathan Swift was among those to write about him), he was eventually sent to live on a farm in Herfordshire, from where he would regularly escape.

You can find out more about him here but his time in Norwich is commemorated by the nearby Wildman pub in Bedford Street and a blue plaque on the side of the building.

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Museum life.

After the fire, the Bridewell was rebuilt as a prison and stayed in use for another 77 years before it then served as a tobacco factory, leather warehouse and shoe factory.

Given the stories the walls could tell if they could talk, it seems rather fitting that the building should eventually be turned into a museum, which first opened its doors in 1925, focusing on a city at work and play.

Refurbishment.

In 2008 the museum was granted £1.5m for a major revamp, which included a new entrance, enhanced displays and better access for visitors.

It reopened in 2012 and, as soon as you enter, you can see the money has been very well spent.

A fantastic history wall – a huge mosaic created with mainly donated photos on a lightbox, is one of the first points of interest – and that high standard is maintained throughout the museum.

The galleries are full of interesting, often quirky, displays with plenty of things to touch and smell, audio to listen and videos to watch – all the while learning about the people who lived and worked in our Fine City.

There’s a guide to the various areas of the museum here.

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Credit: Museum of Norwich.
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Credit: Museum of Norwich.
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Credit: Museum of Norwich.
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Credit: Museum of Norwich.
What we thought.

I have a major soft spot for this museum and, whenever possible, always take visitors to Norwich there – and I still feel like I haven’t seen it all.

There’s so much to look at and get involved in. I always find something different every time. It’s also all so accessible and I genuinely feel more connected to the city and its people – even though I wasn’t born here – when I’m inside.

My favourite area is the pharmacy, full of colourful bottles with lotions and potions for all sorts of ailments. It’s behind floor to ceiling glass (my photos really don’t do it justice) but still provokes a “wow” as most people enter.

While I think Freya is perhaps still a bit young to really appreciate the museum, entry was free last week (thank you to the Freemen of Norwich) and so I knew it wouldn’t matter if she got fed up after 30 minutes (as three-year-olds do) and we had to leave.

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As it happened she had a great time trying on wigs and hats, looking at maps, sniffing various things and discovering sparkly red shoes to clomp about in (it was hard to get her to leave the shoe drawer).

Even if you’re not local, I would suggest it’s worth a visit (my visitors have all loved it). I can also see it being a regular haunt for us as Freya grows up.

Costs.

Adult £5.70
Concession £5.40
Child (4-18) £4.55

For full information about prices (there are also family tickets and a twilight ticket) and opening times please click here.

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Suitcases and Sandcastles