Without doubt the most photographed/painted landmark on the Norfolk Broads, this is my effort. What you are seeing is virtually all that remains of the Abbey of St Benet’s Hulme, part of the gatehouse, a small section of defensive wall and the shell of a much later mill.
Built besides the River Bure near the junction with the River Ant, in a very isolated spot, the very earliest monastery is from the 10th century. In medieval times it was one of the richest and and most powerful in the Country. They controlled the digging of peat for fuel, it was these peat diggings that flooded forming the shallow lakes known as the Broads. The Abbey was the only one not dissolved by King Henry VIII but given to the Bishop of Norwich for joining the new protestant Church of England. The Bishop dismantled the buildings selling off the stone and the last remaining monks left, knowing when they weren’t wanted!
The Abbey fell into ruin, just the gatehouse and a few stones marking the Church. In the 1700’s an ingenious farmer constructed a mill into the gatehouse building, removing the upper floor so the sails could turn, no need for planning permission in those days! Initially for grinding rape seed for oil lamps later converted to a drainage pump this is the oldest mill in the Broads. It was abandoned in the 1860’s after a gale destroyed the cap.
Now owned by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust. They have stabilised the ruins and tidied the site with paths and interpretation boards and a nice car park, but on dark nights as mist covers the marshes the ghosts of monks are said to haunt the area.