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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Thorpe Hamlet: an old priory

St Leonard's Priory 1906

ONCE upon a hill in Thorpe Hamlet there was a priory. It was built by the Normans and from there the first monks had a great view of the cathedral emerging in the meadows across the Wensum.

The priory sat on the corner of what is now Gas Hill and St Leonard’s Road. Like countless other religious buildings it was sacked in the aftermath of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. And like countless others it was then taken over by a toff – Earl Surrey in this case. The history gets a bit complicated after that because Kett’s rebels occupied the building during the summer of 1549. And after that its fortunes waxed and waned according to whether the Surreys were in or out of favour with the relevant monarch. St Leonard's sale particulars

Picture-wise we’ve skipped forward to 1906. This shot is taken from sale particulars which nevertheless talk about “the ruins of the Norman Priory” still existing in the house’s substantial gardens. Apparently they included parts of a gate tower, a church and a precinct well. Mary Ash’s excellent history of Thorpe Hamlet quotes a lady called Lorna Hewitt who was born in the house. (I guess her parents might even been the ones who bought it in 1906.) She remembers her grandmother seeing a ghost in the cellar and an incredibly deep well in the garden - 200ft she reckoned. 

This building was demolished in the 1970s. Now two modern buildings share the site. But are there any remains left today? Any ghosts too? I wonder.

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