Norton Priory, originally Norton Abbey, founded in 1115, is a historic site near Runcorn, comprising of the remains of a Medieval Augustine Abbey, which moved to its current site in 1134, where it is now a museum. This Grade 1 National Heritage listed building is considered to be the most important monastic remains in Cheshire, if not in the whole of Britain.
In unseasonably wet weather Whitley WI enjoyed their Annual May Outing (in June this year).
We were welcomed by Claire our guide, whose knowledge of the area was extensive. Yes she could answer all the difficult questions, from some of our own gifted local historians.
Closure of The Priory occurred in 1536 under Henry VIII, during his dissolution of the monasteries. The events surrounding the fate of the abbey are complicated, and included a dispute between Sir Piers Dutton, who was in a powerful position as the Sheriff of Cheshire, and others.
The Dutton family were great benefactors of the Priory, even having their own chapel.
The Priory was eventually sold to the Brooke family in 1545, who built first of all a Tudor House then a beautiful Georgian mansion on the site. The Brooke family left the house in 1921, and it was almost completely demolished in 1928 with rubble from the house being used in the foundations of a local chemical works.
In 1971 archaeologist Patrick Greene was given a contract to carry out a six-month excavation as part of a plan to develop a park in the centre of Runcorn New Town. Greene’s initial findings led to a further 12 years of major excavation of the site.
The area excavated exceeded that at any other European monastic site. In 1975 Norton Priory Museum Trust was established, with the current modern museum being opened in 2016.
One major artefact on display is the 1391 medieval sandstone statue of St Christopher, at 11.1ft tall, carrying the Christ-child on his shoulder. He was associated with the abbey because of its proximity to the River Mersey and the dangers associated with crossing the river.
Following the talk and a delicious sandwich lunch, many members departed for home. Needless to say, some of our hardy members fought the elements and couldn’t resist walking to the walled garden which had been restored in the 1980s. It includes an orchard, fruit and vegetable gardens, ornamental borders and a rose walk, as well as the national collection of tree quince.
So an outing to a historic site, close to home, yet full of untold stories.
Thank You to Ann for your hard work and determination to ensure Whitley WI members enjoyed their day and learnt lots!