Re-discovering St Benet’s

Last month the Friends of St Benet’s Abbey continued their celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the Abbey with a ‘Discovery day’: we welcomed an audience of around 100 to a series of talks, and a trip to the site with leading experts, to find out about aspects of its history.

Starting the proceedings was Professor Julian Luxford from St Andrew’s University who gave a fascinating presentation on the architecture of the Abbey. Through his talk we gained an insight into St Benet’s as a place of change, continually building and developing – a part of the Broadland landscape that would have echoed with the sounds of mason’s hammers for many hundreds of years as new additions were added. Alison Yardy from Norfolk County Council’s Environment Team went on to explore the 18th century mill, a significant building in its own right. Through her talk we discovered that the mill, built over the gatehouse, spent a period of its life milling rape seed to create oil and at one time would have been filled with grinding machinery. On our trip to the site, we measured the mill’s internal diameter and put to rest for once and for all the competition for the largest mill on the Broads – confirming that is indeed St Benet’s!

This was followed by a presentation from Professor Tom Williamson who spoke about the changing shape of the Broads, the movement of rivers and how the geology which created the ‘Cowholm’  ‘hill’ is a key aspect to understanding why the Abbey is where it is. Again, we saw glimpses of a busy past landscape with people moving along rivers, perhaps stopping at the thriving frontage of the Abbey.

Nicola Hems, Curator at the Museum of the Broads brought us up to date by exploring the Abbey through the lens of tourism, from the early part of the 19th century through to today, bringing with her a range of illustrations and images of picnickers, pilgrims and holidaymakers that keep the site relevant and thriving in the modern era.

It was an extraordinary day, rich in information and in enthusiasm for this iconic site. A huge thank you goes to TFOSBA for bringing this together and there is more to come as the summer unfolds, including an exhibition, on-site sculpture and a community play – see below for more details on how you can get involved...


News in brief

St Benet’s Abbey:1000 years!

  • 9th June 2019:  'A Time to Gather Stones' Community play at St Benet's Abbey. Tickets £10.00 for the return Mississippi Riverboat Trip (pre-booked tickets essential) are on sale at Horning Post Office: Mon - Fri 8.30 to 5.30 and on Saturday mornings. Tel 01692 630833  Tickets will go on sale on Eventbrite after 7th May. There are two riverboat trips. The play starts on St Benet's Green Horning before boarding:
  • Trip 1 arrive from 10.30 for 11.00 play start.
  • Trip 2 arrive from 12.45 for 1.15 pm play start.
  • 13/14/15th June: 'A Time to Gather Stones' Community play at Village Halls. Free easy access performances of 'A Time to Gather Stones' Community play at 7pm in Ludham, Horning and Neatishead.
  • 31st July 2019: Willow monks. Help weave some willow monk sculptures. Join Withy Arts on site at St Benet's Abbey 10:00am - 3:00pm.
  • 3rd - 11th August: Free exhibition at St Catherine’s Church, Ludham.

For more details on all events contact or Facebook: St Benet’s Abbey, Norfolk Broads 

Guided tours 2019

Guided tours have re-started for the season, at Burgh Castle Roman Fort, Caistor Roman Town, St Benet’s Abbey, and Binham Priory. Free and no need to book.

  • Burgh Castle Roman Fort May-October, Sundays at 2:30pm from interpretation shelter near the car park
  • Caistor Roman Town May to September, Sundays at 2:30pm from interpretation shelter near the car park
  • St Benet’s Abbey May to September, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 3:00pm. Gather next to the mill/gatehouse
  • Binham Priory  May to September Tuesdays and Sundays at 3pm: Priory Church. Gather in the Church.

Other events

  • July-6-9th 2019 NAHRG coach trip to Isle of Wight. It is hoped the trip will include visits to Carisbrooke Castle, Osborne House, Yarmouth Castle, the Calbourne Watermill and Rural Museum, Dimbola Lodge and Quarr Abbey; and a boat trip to see the Needles; plus a visit to Brading Roman Villa, which will be hosting the major Hoards exhibition currently on tour from the British Museum. NAHRG members £380 per person; non-members, £400 per person. Information on booking HERE