Binham Priory

History, World & Travelling

I never expected to be visiting Binham but it was on the way. Or, rather, what I saw from the window of my car was that a ruined structure was rising up from the horizon on my right so I decided to stop and go for a walk. It’s a mighty sight to behold, and my poor camera’s representation of it is such:

Binham Priory ruins

For those loving stories as much as I do, one of the informative boards on the site (English Heritage) noted the story of Alexander de Langley, Prior of Wymondham. It notes how the prior was overly keen for studious enterprises, and his long committed hours drove the man to insanity. Prior de Langley was brought to Binham so that he could live in solitary confinement, and it is at Binham he also passes away. For an undefined reason (to not let the madness run rampage?), the former prior was buried in chains.

The priory itself dates to 1091 and was founded by Peter de Valognes with the original hope of 12 monks and a prior living here. The full structure wasn’t brought up until the mid-13th century, and the gatehouse reconstructed even later — the locals’ name for the gatehouse is ‘Jail Gate’ though it is unknown whether Binham, like other Benedictine communities, actually used the gate as a jail. My verdict would be that the people’s memory probably resembles better than known written documents, especially in this case.

Closed like other priories with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Binham has managed to preserve the structure of at least a part of what used to exist in very good order. A lot of the outbuildings were purposefully dismantled, either by the new landowner or villagers keen for good stone to build from, but the main structure stands strong even now. A lot of the earthworks around the area have also lasted to this day though the monks’ mill pond is no longer in existence. Nevertheless, as a set of grounds, this provides a pretty good option to view medieval monastic life.

I personally found this a fulfilling visit, with plenty of wandering possible at the site. The ruined state adds to the contemplative value, and I found it thoroughly enjoyable in general. The tree in the cloister was also rather beautiful, though an even bigger one (oak?) was just outside the old kitchen.

The tree

I would recommend a visit, especially on one of those good sunny days East Anglia sees every now and then. I would even go back though with the caveat of visiting somewhere else in this area as well at the same time.