Castle Acre is one of those places most people in Norfolk are slightly aware of and, yet, have perhaps never visited. If this is the case (or indeed if you are in Cambridgeshire or Lincolnshire) then one should do so at the first possible option, and let not even the promise of a rainy day hold you back. Such a day was exactly the one where I walked into the grounds of the former Castle Acre Priory, having never visited it before (much unlike the castle area itself where I’d been twice before).
Firstly, the grounds are wonderfully extensive. The ruined monastic and everyday buildings that abound here, along with the descriptions for the logic of their construction, make for a wonderful landscape. This place brought to mind for me the St Andrews Cathedral as well as places such as Melrose and Culross. People having visited ruins of the clergy’s past efforts are aware, I think, of this mental image I mention for it is one that is different to the prevailing sense which reigns where the nobility once lived.
I think this has to do with the sense of cultural relevance: the monks, after all, were a beacon of light, hope and learning for so many years while the un-dedicated were still trying to get a grasp on how to begin again the gathering of knowledge. Of course, this must be taken in context with the rest of what they did, but in general the balance would fall on the side of good, especially in remoter rural places.
One of the most memorable edifices at this priory is a structure I want to mention separately though it carries a very daily (perhaps even half-daily…) purpose. This illustrious structure is the local latrine which might not be that spectacular on its own. What made it interesting for me is the two-storied building that the monks had built over-standing a stream so that cleanliness could be maintained as well as possible. This was a really clever solution which took full use of the local landscape but also the limited technical possibilities available.
However, let us take another look at the grand scale: