Binham Priory is thought to have been built during the 12th-century by Pierre de Valoines a nephew of William the Conqueror. The layout of the abbey building is reasonably clear, but the main fragment to survive intact is the west end of the monastic church, which is now used as a parish church.
The position of the priory is magnificent, it is set on a rolling landscape beneath soft Norfolk skies, and the sight of it is at once both awe-inspiring and majestic. Glimpsing at the relics of the former building, preserved around the existing church, you get a picture in your mind of what this once great priory must have looked like all those centuries ago, before Henry's Dissolution laid hand upon it.
Documentary evidence supports the fact that the impressive west front was built between 1226 and 1224, and the decoration with its arcading, small columns, and dog-tooth ornament, confirms building dating to 1230. The unusually large window with its geometric tracery was probably added at a later date. The building as a whole is of immense architectural value and is important as a house of the Lord, providing a wonderful place of calm for spiritual worship.
Binham Priory has a magnificent serene interior consisting of the first seven bays of the original Priory Church without the aisles. The nave arcade has richly decorated arches with zig-zag and billet mouldings, these continue to the western end, where the style changes and the arches are pointed and ribbed. This is a church that shows clearly the change from Norman style to Early English.
Of the treasures to be seen in Binham Priory is an impressive Perpendicular seven sacrament font, and the stalls have misericords. The remains of the former Rood screen can be seen at the back of the Church. Following the Reformation, this was painted over with black letter text from Crammer's Bible of 1539.
Lurid tales of scandal surrounding the monk's of Binham descend from the 14th-century. The monks are said to have continuously quarrelled with the mother-house, sold the silver, wasted money, and generally indulged in unseemly behaviour. William de Sommerton, raised vast sums by selling of the most priceless pieces, and then managed to leave the order heavily in debt.
Another legend tells of Alexander de Langley, Prior of Wymondham who is said to have become insane. He was sent to Binham where he later died as the result of much ill treatment. He is believed to lie buried on the north side of the church.
Today, this beautiful Priory Church dedicated to St.Mary and the Holy Cross, save for the scattered ruins shows little sign of its turbulent past. It is a tranquil atmospheric spot, and a truly beautiful church where you can sometimes attend outside service, or simply spend a few moments in quiet contemplation.
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