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Norton Priory, Cheshire

(53°17′25″N, 2°43′12″W)
Norton Priory
SJ 521 773
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Cheshire
now Halton
medieval not confirmed
  • Ron Baxter

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What survives is the undercroft of the west range of the cloister, once the west front of the house. A portico was added to the west front in 1886, and at the S end is a late-12thc. doorway assumed to be the reset chapter house doorway of the priory. At the N end of the portico is a replica of this doorway dating from 1886. The 12thc. doorway gives access to bay 3 of the undercroft, and the 19thc. copy of it to bay 4. Slight remains of an earlier doorway can be seen behind the replica. To the E of the undercroft, entry to the cloister is by large unarticulated arches in bays 2 and 3.

The undercroft itself is rib vaulted in seven pairs of quadripartite bays, supported on a central row of piers with wall- and angle-responds. The bays are numbered (following Thompson) from S to N. The undercroft consisted originally of two compartments, and the division is marked by a rectangular central pier between bays 3 and 4, with responds to N and S to carry the longitudinal vault ribs, and transverse arches springing to E and W linking the pier with the E and W walls. A much later transverse wall has been inserted in bay 5, dividing the undercroft into a N and a S section with a narrow arch between the two. Brick wine bins have been built into the N section, on the N and E walls. To the N of the undercroft a vaulted passage runs through the range from W to E. This must have been the parlour between the cloister and the outer court of the priory, providing the meeting place for monks and laymen. A hole has been knocked through the N wall of the undercroft to allow access to it. At its E end the passage opens into the NW angle of the cloister. The W end is now blocked. The passage is rib-vaulted in two quadripartite bays, and along the N and S walls are blind arcades built on benches running the lengths of the walls, with 4 arches per bay.


Now owned by Norton Priory Museum Trust.The priory was first founded at Runcorn as a house of Augustinian canons in 1134, and was moved to Norton in 1135. In 1391 its head was given the title of abbot. Norton was dissolved in 1536 and sold in 1545 to Sir Richard Brooke, who built a house on the site incorporating some of the monastic buildings. The house was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Brooke c.1750, and at that time the remaining monastic buildings except for the W undercroft were demolished. A portico was added to the west front in 1886. The family left Norton in 1922 and the house was demolished in 1928. The site has been open to the public since 1975.


Exterior Features


Interior Features

Vaulting/Roof Supports


Interior Decoration

Blind arcades

Loose Sculpture


Thompson describes the doorway as 'the finest decorated Norman doorway in Cheshire'. It is certainly more elaborate and finely carved than anything at the cathedral. In the delicacy and virtuosity of its carving it compares with the treatment of the N passage, or parlour with which it shares capital types, but both contrast with the solid simplicity of the main undercroft itself. Thompson suggests that the change in character between the undercroft and the passage may indicate that the campaign was in progress over a period of years, but brackets both within the period from 1140 to 1190.


Historic England listing 1130433

F. H. Thompson, 'Norton Priory, near Runcorn, Cheshire', Archaeological Journal 123 (1966), 62-66.

P. Greene, Norton Priory: The Archaeology of a Medieval Religious House. Cambridge 1989.