Creake Abbey

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Creake Abbey
LocationKing's Lynn and West Norfolk, East of England, Norfolk, England
Coordinates52°55′12″N 0°45′33″E / 52.91994°N 0.75925°E / 52.91994; 0.75925Coordinates: 52°55′12″N 0°45′33″E / 52.91994°N 0.75925°E / 52.91994; 0.75925
Site notes
OwnershipManaged by English Heritage
Public accessOpen all year round, at any reasonable time, Monday to Sunday North of North Creake, off B1355

Creake Abbey is a ruined abbey in Norfolk, England, situated alongside the River Burn and a mile to the north of the village of North Creake. The abbey church was dedicated to Saint Mary.

The site was originally occupied by an almshouse for the poor, and was founded by the Augustinians as a priory in the 12th century. Voluntary grants of alms by the leading families of Nerford and Creake and by the faithful of the neighbourhood seem to have built up resources sufficiently to warrant elevation from Hospital to Priory and thence to Abbey, which happened in 1231. Henry III made a number of grants to Creake in its early years. Gifts of parish churches included Hapton and Wreningham, Gateley and St. Martin at Quarles and later in 1365 of St. Andrew, Great Ringstead.[1]

The heyday of the Abbey was during the fourteenth century when there were but six canons, though the Rule required in addition to the abbot, prior and cellarer, a cantor, sacrist and kitchener, refectorian, infirmarian, almoner, master of novices and guest master. According to Bedingfield, these posts may have been filled in rotation or plurality. There will have been junior canons and, from time to time, novices. There would finally be numerous servants, tailors, laundresses and their assistants, the messor, shepherds and cowherds for the farm, as well as residents of the hospital. Unlike some of the abbeys in the region, it was still fulfilling its hospital function as late as 1397.[2]

In 1483, a fire swept through the abbey, damaging the church and several of the other buildings, such that it was beyond the capacity of the convent to restore it. The abbot appealed to the king as patron of the house, and Richard III, 'moved with pite' gave the abbey by way of alms towards the rebuilding of the handsome sum of £46 13s.4d., to be paid out the revenues of the lordship of Fakenham. Robert Walsingham, appointed abbot in 1491, began extensive rebuilding of the quire and presbytery, and Sir William Calthorpe left £74 towards the completion of the work. By 1503 the work was well advanced and lands given by Walter Aslake were used for the completion of the north side of the quire. By this time the abbot was Giles Sherington. However, in 1506 an outbreak of the 'sweating sickness' wiped out the monastic community, the abbot himself being the last to die.[3] The abbey site and estate was given to Lady Margaret Beaufort in 1507, and ended up in the ownership of Christ's College, Cambridge.

A few sections of the church walls remain standing, and demonstrate their traditional Norfolk flintwork. There are some remaining carved details in the window arches and doorways. However, little else survives apart from foundations. The site is now in the care of English Heritage, and freely accessible to the public.


  • The Heritage Trail (1998–2005). Creake Abbey. Retrieved October 21, 2005.
  1. ^ Bedingfield, A.L. A Cartulary of Creake Abbey. Norfolk Records Society v. XXXV(1966). p. xvii ff.
  2. ^ Bedingfield, A.L. (op.cit.). p. xvi.
  3. ^ Bedingfield, A.L. (op.cit.). p. xxi.

Further reading[edit]

  • Reference to the abbey and its benefactor Walter Aslake in:

Peter M. Barber & Michelle P. Brown, "The Aslake world map", Imago Mundi, The International Journal for the History of Cartography, Volume 44, 1992 - Issue 1, p. 24, this page of article reproduced at Taylor and Francis Online on 29 July 2008. [Accessed 16 Dec. 2018]

External links[edit]