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The Church was the most important building and would have been built in the shape of a cross. Rich people would pay to be buried in the Church, as close to the Altar as possible. Over 120 burials were found and some of these, with ornate covers, can be seen in the museum.
The Church was large and richly decorated to show the status of the Abbey and to inspire awe in people. Around 40,000 tiles covered the floor. We also think that a statue of St. Christopher would have been displayed in the Church so that pilgrims could look upon him.
The East Chapel was added to the Priory when the canons carried out extra building works in the 1300s. It was possibly a shrine that contained a fragment of the true cross that one of the Barons of Halton brought back from the crusades. Local people would have been allowed to attend the Church on special days, but they were separated from the canons by an ornate screen.
The Cloister was used as the Tudor rubbish dump, and a number of clues to life in Tudor times were found there. There is a book cupboard, on the external wall of the Undercroft, which can be seen from just outside. It might look like a window but it as probably used to store sacred books. The ground level used to be higher and this wall was part of the cloister.
The Chapter House was where the daily business of the Priory was conducted. It was rebuilt in the 1200s and made much bigger, so it could accommodate the increased number of canons at Norton Priory. It was decorated with ornate carvings such as a beak head which would have been above a doorway.
The Dormitory was directly next to the Church. This would have been handy for when the canons had to walk to Church in the middle of the night for a Church service! The warming room would have been directly underneath – this was the one place in the Priory that had a fire and the heat would rise up and heat the dormitory. The canons had a bed each, but all shared a room. This reinforced the idea that all were equal in the Priory.
The Abbots Tower was added around 1450, and would have contained the Abbot’s private lodgings. It was kept and used in the Tudor house but was destroyed to make way for the new Georgian house in 1750.
Monasteries and Priories were one of the few places in medieval England that would have toilets. The latrines at the Priory would probably have been drop toilets – simple holes which opened straight onto the sewer. Water would flow along the drain at the bottom, regulated by a sluice. Kitchen waste and water from the roof would also pass into the drain which would eventually be washed into the mill pond.