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The Undercroft was built in the late 12th century as the Priory storage range. It would have been used to store food, drink, cloth and plate and was looked after by the Cellarer. It was also used in the later buildings as a storage area. In 1868 Sir Richard Brooke, the 7th Baronet turned part of the Undercroft into an impressive entrance hall.
There are many original features to find, some more hidden than others!
The Archways in the porch are not a matching pair; one is an original Romanesque archway and the other is a Victorian replica. When the porch was built in 1868, the archway was brought from elsewhere on the grounds to be a stunning feature in the new ‘Medieval’ entrance hall. The other arch was added to give the porch symmetry. If you are facing the archways, the one on the right is the original. You might notice that the one on the left is a bit fancier, which was more to Victorian tastes!
The Angel hides between the porch and the original Undercroft. It was part of the internal spiral staircase for the Abbot’s Tower built in the 15th century.
The fireplace and tiled floor were added when the porch was built. The floor is designed to highlight the vaults and the colour of the stone. There are also tiles bearing the Brooke’s coat of arms and insignia. Some of the tiles, which would have been very expensive, were removed by the family when they left.
In the next room, the wine bins are the main feature. They were added in the 1780s and if you look closely you can still see the ‘bin numbers’.
The Bell Mould is the other important feature in the Undercroft. When Henry the Eighth closed Norton Priory, the Priory bell was lost. However, fragments were later found and from these, a mould was made, which you can see in the Undercroft. This mould was then used to cast a new bell, which stands by the herb garden now.
The Passageway was the original entrance to the Church. It is where visitors to the Priory would have waited, seated on the benches. Above the passageway was the Abbot’s accommodation, which was added later, and the remains of the spiral stairway can be seen in the doorway. There are also holes in the walls that would have held the beams for the second floor. There are some clear Mason’s marks on the stones, made by the masons who worked on the Priory. These showed how much work each man had done and what he should be paid.