This is confusing – the Cluniac Order was founded by William I of Aquitaine and a Benedictine Monk, Saint Berno, appointed as the first Abbot at the Abbey of Cluny in 910. The order spread quickly but Priories were controlled by the mother house and had to send any money which they raised back to France. Eventually this made the ‘alien order’ very unpopular in England.
Thetford Priory was established as a Cluniac Priory in the early 12C by Roger Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk who laid the Foundation Stone in 1107. The Priory was an important, wealthy, and powerful establishment in Mediaeval East Anglia but didn’t escape Henry VIII and was closed down in 1540 with the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Although the Abbey is now ruined it is still an interesting visit. The complex was originally walled and entered through a 14C Gatehouse (which is not on the diagram above, but somewhere off the bottom left corner) and which is amazingly well-preserved. It used to have a large barn attached but this was taken down in the 18C. The Priory housed a statue of the Virgin Mary associated with miracles and which produced considerable income from pilgrims for the Priory, enabling the construction of this impressive Gatehouse which replaced the original 12C building.
The Gatehouse allowed entry into the walled Abbey precinct.
The Abbey Church dominates the site! In the 14C ownership of the lands passed to the Crown, and then the Dukes of Norfolk, and two Dukes of Norfolk were buried here: the 1st Duke, killed at Bosworth in 1485, and the 2nd Duke, who was victorious at Flodden Field, but their tombs were moved to Framlingham after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The Church opened on to a spacious, covered Cloister off which the small Chapter House and Refectory and Kitchens could be accessed.
The Prior’s House continued as a residence, with alterations, after the Dissolution but was in ruins by the 19C, as it is today.