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New guide to historic Castle Acre

PUBLISHED: 09:00 02 October 2008 | UPDATED: 11:04 08 July 2010

Castle Acre from the air.

Castle Acre from the air.

One of England's best preserved Norman villages tucked away in the heart of Norfolk has been brought to life in a new guide book.

English heritage has put together a book on Castle Acre Priory and Castle, which sit just eight miles outside Swaffham.

One of England's best preserved Norman villages tucked away in the heart of Norfolk has been brought to life in a new guide book.

English heritage has put together a book on Castle Acre Priory and Castle, which sit just eight miles outside Swaffham.

The guidebook includes a richly illustrated tour of the castle, priory and village complete with colour photographs, reconstruction drawings and an eyewitness account.

The priory was part of a vast monastic network centred on the great abbey of Cluny in France.

Author Edward Impey takes readers on a tour which includes detailed explanations of both the impressive church and the domestic areas, including the refectory, the prior's lodgings, the warming house and even the latrines which are one of the best preserved examples in the country.

A tour of the castle is provided through plans and drawings to show how it would have been laid out and former uses of the different areas of the Norman motte and bailey castle, now some of the most spectacular earthworks in England, according to English Heritage.

And the book tells the story of the development of the village, castle and priory, which were all built by the family of William de Warenne, a Norman noble who fought at the battle of Hastings.

A spokesman for English Heritage said: “The village is an extraordinarily rare survival of a Norman planned settlement.

“The guidebook reveals how the site changed over time including the reinforcement of the castle in the twelfth century, the destruction of the Priory after the suppression of the monasteries in the 1530s and the growth of visits to the romantic Priory ruins in the eighteenth century.

“In the twentieth century both the castle and the priory were placed in state guardianship and this guidebook includes memories from the first custodian at the priory, William Savage.”

The book also has a section on the Cluniac order, which followed the customs of the monastery at Cluny, France and a section about a fifteenth century illustrated chant book found at the priory.

The guide, which was written by Edward Impey, a leading expert in Norman history, includes fold out maps of the entire village, the priory and castle. It also contains information about access to Castle Acre for people with disabilities.

The guidebook to Castle Acre Priory and Castle costs £3.50 and is available at the site, as well as from local bookshops.

It can also be ordered from English Heritage's website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk.

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