St Olave’s Priory & Undercroft, Norfolk

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Back in our lovely summer and yes it was lovely, not often we can say that, we explored St Olave’s Priory in Norfolk.  I say explore, more a stroll around in the glorious weather…….a very peaceful experience.

The ruined priory was founded 1216 by Robert Fitz Osbert for a community of Augustinian Black Canons.  The priory was also know as Herringfleet and jointly dedicated to St Mary and Olaf (d1030)  Olaf being the 11th century King who converted Norway to Christianity and became the Patron Saint of Norway.


The priory was built on the banks of the River Waverley, which would had been an advantageous place for transport and trading.  During the following centuries the priory was added to, but there were times when food was short and the monks were near starvation.  Life in this way carried on in the priory until its dissolution in 1537.


 After the dissolution the site was purchased by Sir Henry Jerringham in 1547.  He constructed a three story mansion which incorporated several parts of the remains.  The mansion was demolished in 1784.  Stone was used to carry out repairs to Herringfleet Church and the undercroft was converted into a cottage which was used up until 1902.

Part of the church, cloister and the hidden gem…….the refectory’s 14th century undercroft and fragments of Jerringham’s house can still be seen.  The upper floor refectory over the undercroft no longer remains, but the wonderful undercroft does.


The undercrofts vaulted brick ceiling is an early example of the use of brick in England, supported on Purbeck marble columns, it is almost complete and retaining much of its original plasterwork.

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This 14th century door would have lead to the Prior’s lodgings, guest rooms and kitchens.

Not the largest priory we have visited but we did have it to ourselves and the undercroft is a gem, it was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.




6 Replies to “St Olave’s Priory & Undercroft, Norfolk”

  1. What a lovely place – I love the old stonework and arched windows. The poor monks didn’t have it easy, did they?! What would the undercroft have been used for originally? Was it a private chapel of some sort? It looks a lovely, tranquil place.

    1. Its a very tranquil place, its tucked away and I think it gets missed. Undercrofts were used mostly for storage, but in towns or cities if a building had one, they would be rented out as shops. Some nice examples in Chester and we even had some as shops in Kings Lynn, sadly no longer. It does look like it should be a chapel, but the site did have its own small church. Above this undercroft they would have had a dining room. In larger houses sometimes they have the kitchens in the undercroft, but I think only the ones that were built on monastic sites. I did visit some nice shops in Landsberg in undercrofts under medieval houses 🙂

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