Skeletons, Woods, and Ruins – Explore 900 years of history with our review of Norton Priory Museum and Gardens.
In a nutshell:
📬 Location: Norton Priory Museum & Gardens, Tudor Road, Manor Park, Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7 1SX
📞Tel: 01928 569895
🌐Web link: https://www.nortonpriory.org/
🖼Attraction type: Historic buildings and gardens
💷 Cost of admission: £9.50 for adults, £8.50 concession, £6.75 for children over 4 years old, £26.50 for a family pass (two adults and up to three children). As a charity, all funds go into the restoration of the site. Prebook: Preferable though if you phone up in advance, if there is good availability they will allow you to turn up on the day (prebooking applies during covid pandemic only).
🚗Car park: Free
🕗Opening times: Open daily from 10am to 5pm. Last entrance is 2.30pm.
♿ Wheelchair and pram accessible? Yes, Paths are well maintained for prams and wheelchairs. Walking difficulty: Easy.
🐾 Dog friendly: In parts. Dogs are not permitted inside the museum itself but are permitted in some of the surrounding woodland areas.
🚴♂️Suitable for cyclists: N/A
🌯Food: Refreshments are currently only available in the ground floor space of the museum due to covid restrictions. Picnics welcome.
🕗Estimated visit duration: On a non-event/themed day, you can spend 2 to 3 hours here easily.
😷Covid update: Foot operated sanitiser, timed entry, social distancing encouraged, masks to be worn when visiting indoor spaces. Advance booking with E tickets preferred (though not always essential depending on availability). Contactless payment preferred. Touch free sanitiser points.
Working only a stones throw away from Norton Priory, I have often on my journey home wondered what this little gem has to offer so in May half term, we finally paid them a visit.
Norton Priory Museum & Gardens is a grade I listed building, being Europe’s most excavated monastic site. Visitors can immerse themselves in over 900 years of the sites unique history, learning about the life of the monks in the medieval priory and the history of the Abbey. The site is 42 acres in size and holds the museum, excavated remains, woodlands, walled gardens, stream glades, timber play area and more.
So what did we get up to?
Upon arrival, we were greeted by friendly and chatty staff. We were advised how to make the most of our visit and so off we headed off to look at the museums artefacts in the exhibition galleries before venturing outside. We were impressed at how well laid out the museums treasures were, and how Norton Priory have worked so hard to ensure that the finds from their archaeological digs are as interactive as they can be.
There are TV screens to learn about topics such as the history of medicine, disease and illness for example, plus other interactive elements like buttons for the kids to push and wheels to spin bringing history to life. Our little girl was fascinated seeing the several skeletal remains uncovered here, each with a description of where they were found and how they passed on. Don’t miss the 1.25 tonne and 11.1ft high sandstone statue of St Christopher, a rare find given the dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1541.
We soaked up the atmosphere inside the abbey remains, admiring the fascinating architecture. The remains of the Abbey were incorporated into the Tutor house that was built here in the 1540’s before being replaced by a Georgian Manor House. Parts of the Abbey remain but the Tudor house and Manor House have been demolished and now the museum sits on this site.
Exploring the Abbey Ruins, Norton Priory, Cheshire
Our little one enjoyed navigating her way around to explore the ruins of the outside and was happily distracted when she found ‘The story teller on the ruins’ (Rogan Mills) who was amazing with her. Although he was not scheduled to read a story at that time he asked her if she wanted one anyway. He also asked her what type of story she would like and true to form she put him on the spot and asked him to make one up in his head. He happily obliged. Rogan also adjusted his stories to suit the age of his audience as we saw him a few times during our visit.
Storytime at the ruins, Norton Priory
Next we embarked on our treasure hunt (downloaded in advance), first hunting for the giant replica of a medieval bell which the kids of course love ringing. The paths in the woodland are well maintained and offered a nice cool space to explore on a hot day. Dotted along the woodland walk were a few features to keep the kids entertained such as a Nature Play area consisting of timber play frame (which we turned into Hooks pirate ship), giant wooden xylophone and tubular bells, with plenty of wildlife to see on our travels towards the stream glades etc. There is also a nature kitchen which provides a great spot for making mud pies! There are normally medieval costumes etc for the kids to try on and feel a little more a part of history but due to covid the costumes of course were not available.
Nature Play area and musical instruments, Norton Priory
Unfortunately due to tired legs we didn’t quite make it all the way around, choosing to sacrifice the rest of the woodland walk and a trip to the Bridgewater canal in favour of taking her back to the other side of the venue towards the walled gardens. If we had ventured deeper into the woods, we could expect to see squirrels, woodpeckers, bats and more.
Can you spot the coffins? She loved climbing over the stones and bridges. The Laburnum arch is a great addition to the tranquil garden space.
The Walled Gardens
The walled gardens were well maintained and full of colour, with a large variety of flowers such as daffodils, bluebells and roses. There are plenty of British fruits grown such as pear, fig and rhubarb, more exotic fruits such as kiwis, oranges and lemons, and older traditional fruits like those the monks would have eaten such as quince and medlar. As you’d expect, different parts of the garden come alive during the different seasons so there’s something different to see on each visit.
A nice touch…. childrens story’s were dotted around the Walled Gardens.
Staff were friendly, having a little chat with her about the best ways to explore. The only thing we would say is that of course the paths are narrow and unfortunately at one point, they had let a few too many in to the walled gardens as we were finding it difficult to stay out of other peoples way. This was the only part of our visit where we felt in this position. Everywhere else felt incredibly safe, including the gift shop and the exhibition rooms.
Walled Gardens, Norton Priory
Our little four year old enjoyed stretching her legs here, the fun loving story teller, the timber play frame, instruments etc. If we were to visit again, we would bring her when she is a tad older so she can appreciate the historical significance of a site like this, and we would bring her on a themed/event day as we have heard from our Clued in with kids Cheshire members, that staff go all out on event days to make the visit magical, fun and exciting for little ones. We will be back soon to explore the rest of the grounds.
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Terms and conditions...
*Story teller present on select dates only. Events subject to change.
*We have tried our best to give a factual and honest review based on our own experiences. However, this is just our interpretation and different people will naturally have difference experiences. Therefore, please regard this review as intended., for guidance only.
*As far as we are aware, all information is correct at the time of publication. If a mistake has been made, or if there is a recent update we should be aware of, please contact admin. Prices and facilities are subject to change, especially as covid regulations change.
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