Tuesday, 3 July 2012
The spectacular ruined priory at Castle Acre is well known and is often visited, but only a few miles away lie the ruins of a similar large priory at West Acre. The village is remote, quiet and tiny and the site lies within the grounds of the Abbey House. Next to the church there is the well preserved gate house. Abbey House lies beyond, and incorporates within its outbuildings part of the Cloister. The tall standing section is all that is left of the west end of the church, it is a roofless ruin covered in dead ivy. Behind it there is a meadow, with many lumps in the ground indicating where the remains of the rest of the church and the priory buildings once stood. There is a lonely monolith standing in the middle of the meadow which was part of the Chapter House. Two other tiny fragments remain, one near the river which may have been the Infirmary or possibly the Reredortor (privy) and an almost buried section of cloister wall.
Why did the buildings of Castle Acre survive more completely than West Acre? After the dissolution of the monastries, most of the valuables were stripped and sold (lead off the roofs, for example) and at Castle Acre the Prior's Lodging was used as a farmhouse. Its continuing use ensured its survival, although most of the cut stone was used for building and can be seen in other buildings within the village. It is possible that West Acre was more thoroughly stripped of its valuable cut stone than Castle Acre, leaving the flint cobble walls vulnerable to the weather and without structurally sound corners.
Owners of land with medieval buildings had their own stone quarry, and could make some money out of it.