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Remains of St Mary's Friary

Case study: Fakenham Road, Norfolk NR22 6BY (East of England)

List entry numbers: 1003162 (scheduled monument); 1373991 (listed building)

St Mary’s Friary building at risk - the little cloister at St Mary’s Friary
The little cloister (at the Friary) was in danger of collapse and important architectural detail and historic fabric could have been lost

Background and history

The Remains of St Mary's Friary comprise the most complete example of a Franciscan monastic house in England. The friars would have ministered to and drawn income from pilgrims who flocked to Walsingham. This was one of the pre-eminent pilgrimage destinations in England at the time. 

The friary was founded in 1347, and suppressed in 1538 by Henry VIII. The bell was sold in 1539 and the church demolished soon after.

The little cloister and guest house were converted into dwellings by various tenants and owners over the years. The whole site was acquired by the Walsingham Estate in the 18th century.

Little of the church or great cloister survives. The domestic buildings; the little cloister, guest house, chapter house, dorter and kitchen survive as ruins.

A Conservation Plan and Condition Survey were produced for the site between 2004 and 2010. Emergency works were funded under a Management Agreement with Historic England.

A specification for repair and consolidation was produced by the estate in conjunction with Historic England and Natural England in 2013. A major repair project was then initiated. The works were funded by Natural England and the Walsingham Estate, and were completed in December 2014.

Is it at risk?

No. The site had long standing problems and had been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 2008. 

Works have been joint funded by Natural England, the Estate and Historic England. Since 2013 the little cloister, the guest house and chapter house have been repaired and consolidated.

This project has been a model of cooperation between statutory agencies, skilled conservation professionals, and private owners. The prioritised works have been completed to a very high standard. The site was removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2015.

What's the current situation?

The site as a whole is now no longer considered to be at risk.

However, new priorities for repair and consolidation have emerged during the recent works. Discussions are ongoing over parts of the boundary walls, the little cloister, the dorter and kitchen range. 

The site is now open to visitors on one day a week.

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Remains of St Mary’s Friary image gallery

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

  • St Mary’s Friary building at risk - the little cloister at St Mary’s Friary
  • St Mary’s Friary building at risk - consolidated cloister window
  • St Mary’s Friary building at risk - stone repairs
  • St Mary’s Friary building at risk - view of the guest house and the north gable
  • St Mary’s Friary building at risk - the south gable and window