More recent History of Norton Priory

The site of the Abbey of Norton (founded 1134), near Runcorn, Cheshire, was excavated in the 1970s. It was the first monastic site in Britain to be excavated by modern excavation techniques. The foundations of a large monastic house, which once belonged to the Augustinian Order of Canons Regular, have been revealed. The final church on the site was over 80m. (c. 250 ft.) long. The only part of the original Monastic buildings to have survived is the ground floor of the 12c. undercroft of the Cellarer's range. This became incorporated in the later Georgian mansion, which was erected on the site by the Brooke family of Norton. The 8th. Baronet was the last to live at Norton, and the family left Norton in 1922. The Georgian house was pulled down in 1928, but the old undercroft was left standing. The site was first opened to the public in 1975, followed by the building of a permanent Museum which has been further improved and enlarged so that the old Undercroft itself is now inside the Museum building.
One of the "treasures" at the museum is a 3m. high 14th.C. sandstone statue of St. Christopher. This has been restored and investigated and was returned to the Museum on Aug 24th. 1999, to a purpose built display area. This statue is now acknowledged as being one of the finest examples of medieval statuary in Britain, if not in Europe.
As well as the Monastic remains and its adjacent formal garden, there is also a restored walled garden, dating from about 1780. This garden now houses the National Collection of tree quinces (Cydonia Oblonga). The quince in medieval and Tudor times was grown widely and used in preserves. The garden has won prizes on its own merit. It is run as an Organic garden and grows many older varieties of fruit and vegetable, in keeping with the history of the site. The informal woodland garden which was in the near vicinity of the mansion has also been restored and contains many fine trees. The Museum also has a Sculpture trail, which has grown over the years.
Although now called Norton Priory, it is known that Norton became a mitred Abbey in 1391, one of only two mitred Abbeys in Cheshire, the other being the Benedictine Abbey at Chester, now the Cathedral.
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