Norton Priory Museum & Gardens, situated on the edge of Runcorn, is one of Cheshire's hidden gems. Once home to a medieval church, this is the most excavated monastic site in Europe. Visitors can explore the 12th century undercroft with beautiful vaulted ceiling and the priory ruins showing the layout of the medieval buildings. Norton Priory was founded in 1134, and achieved mitred abbey status in 1391. Two key families have links to the site: the Dutton family and the Brooke family. The Duttons supported and engaged with Norton Priory as a monastic site, up until the Dissolution in 1536. The Brooke family made Norton Priory their home between 1545 and 1921, when they left the site to move to a new home in Worcestershire.
The museum displays thousands of objects discovered at the site, which tell the 900-year history from priory to mansion house and the stories of the people who lived here. The most impressive object in the museum is the twice life-size St Christopher statue. It is likely that this statue would have been commissioned to mark the site attaining abbey status in 1391. In more recent history, the statue features in Lucy M. Boston’s classic children’s book, ‘The Children of Green Knowe’, first published in 1954.
Today, the museum is surrounded by woodland walks, bringing opportunities to discover secret summer houses, sculptures and a stream glade. During the summer season, the tranquil 2.5 acre Georgian Walled Garden is also open, with orchards, a rose walk and a herb garden. Norton Priory is home to the National Collection of Tree Quince, and the gardens and grounds support a wide variety of flora and fauna. Norton Priory Museum and Gardens is operated by The Norton Priory Museum Trust Limited, an independent charitable trust which seeks to conserve, champion and celebrate the heritage, landscapes and collections of Norton Priory for present and future generations. Norton Priory has a free car park, a gift shop and the Brooke Café, which serves a selection of hot and cold meals and refreshments.