Thetford Warren Lodge
In the heart of Thetford, a lovely little market town in Norfolk, the grand ruins of an ancient church loom above the gentle Little Ouse River.
These ruins are magnificent to behold, but what makes them truly remarkable is the story behind them - a story of religious turmoil and a holy order of crusaders.
A cloister of crusaders
The Thetford Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built by William de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey, in the 12th century.
His order, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, owned six monasteries around England.
This one would have been built around the same time Warenne joined the Second Crusade and made pilgrimage to Jerusalem as a knight of God.
The monks who looked after this place would have also looked after churches in Jerusalem, including another that was also named the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the heart of the holy city.
It was near that church that Jesus was said to have been buried. It’s safe to say, then, that the order that owned this humble monastery in Thetford were a highly respected group.
Religious ruins and a godly garden
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is in ruins now, but as you explore, try and imagine how it must have looked in its prime: abuzz with many monks, raising money for pilgrims in Jerusalem and performing religious services for the locals.
Yet that time couldn’t last forever, and following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, this was one of the first places to be closed down.
It went on to become the farm, and nowadays the only part of the original monastery that remains is the nave, which was built later than the rest.
By the 19th century, the church ruins had become a favourite feature of the owner of the farm: Henry Bartlett, the mayor of Thetford.
He decided to enhance the beautiful remains of the church further by turning it into a grotto, covering the old stones in ivy and vines that still grow thick and fierce today, giving this place an almost fairy-tale look.
The remains of Thetford Church of the Holy Sepulchre are beautiful and tranquil, not to mention brimming with amazing history.
This place has been an important part of this historic town for almost a thousand years, so if you’re interested in learning more about this place and the stories it has to tell, be sure to stop by.