Norton Priory is a historic site in Norton, Runcorn, Cheshire, England. It comprises the remains of an abbey complex dating from the 12th to 16th century. The priory was established as an Augustinian foundation in the12th century. It was raised to the status of abbey in 1391 and closed in 1536. Excavation of the site began in 1971, and became the largest to be carried out by modern methods on any European monastic site. In 1984 the separate walled garden was redesigned and opened to the public. In August 2016, a larger and much extended museum opened.
About Norton Priory in brief
Norton Priory is a historic site in Norton, Runcorn, Cheshire, England, comprising the remains of an abbey complex dating from the 12th to 16th centuries. The priory was established as an Augustinian foundation in the12th century, and was raised to the status of abbey in 1391. The abbey was closed in 1536, as part of the dissolution of the monasteries. Nine years later the surviving structures, together with the manor of Norton, were purchased by Sir Richard Brooke, who built a Tudor house on the site. This was replaced in the 18th-century by a Georgian house. Excavation of the site began in 1971, and became the largest to be carried out by modern methods on any European monastic site. It revealed the foundations and lower parts of the monastery buildings and the abbey church. In 1984 the separate walled garden was redesigned and opened to the public. In August 2016, a larger and much extended museum opened. The 42-acre site, run by an independent charitable trust, includes a museum, the excavated ruins, and the surrounding garden and woodland. It is a scheduled ancient monument and is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building. It was the second religious house to be founded in the Earldom of Chester; the first was the Benedictine St Werburgh’s Abbey at Chester, founded in 1093 by Hugh Lupus, the first Earl of Chester. It may have been that fitz William wanted greater control of the strategic crossing of the Mersey at Runcorn Gap, or it may be because the canons wanted a more secluded site.
The site for the new priory in Runcorn was in damp, scrubby woodland. There is no evidence that it was agricultural land, or that it contained any earlier buildings. Sandstone for building the priory could be obtained from the shores of the River Mersey, and sandstone for mortar could be available from nearby Delamere Macclesfield. The church and monastic buildings were constructed in Romanesque style in Cheshire and Lincolnshire, with some donated by William fitz Nigel with properties in Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Delameres. It’s likely that the dedication to St Bertelin was taken from a Saxon church already existing in the area. There were freshwater springs near the site, and these would have provided fresh running water for latr and domestic purposes. They would also have been used to create watercourses and moated enclosures and herb gardens, which might have been use to create moat enclosures. Some of the oak trees from the old priory are hundreds of years old, and it is likely that this came from various sources from nearby forests and some nearby. It might also be possible that some of the sandstone used for the mortar could have been obtained from nearby rivers and lakes.