Probably the most well documentd part of Bacton's past is the, now ruined, Broomholm Priory.
Founded in 1113 by William de Glanville for monks of the order of Cluni, it was dedicated to St. Andrew. The priory was remarkable for its reputed possession of a 'little cross' said to have been made by St. Helena from part of the Saviour's cross where his hands and feet were nailed. The priory was one of the largest places of pilgrimage in East Anglia until 1536 when Henry VIII dissolved the abbeys.
1113 – William de Glanville, cousin to the first Pastons and the man who granted the land to Paston, founded the Bromholm Priory at Bacton. It was a cell for seven or eight Cluniac monks from Castle Acre.
The original building was small, but a considerable enlargement took place in the early thirteenth century. Probably to replace smaller buildings a Chapter House and Dormitory were built. This expansion was due to the Priory’s wardship of a ‘valuable relic’.
The Cross of Our Lord
Baldwin, Count of Flanders and Emperor of Constantinople was always harassed by infidel Kings. Before marching into battle against his enemies he always paraded ‘The Cross of Our Lord’ and other relics in front of the foe. On the last occasion he neglected this ritual, unfortunately that cost him his life and the lives of many of his followers.
Baldwin’s Chaplain, who was of English extraction, left Constantinople with his Clerics, the ‘Cross of Our Lord’ and other relics. Upon arrival in England he went to St. Alban’s and sold an ornamented cross, two fingers of St. Margaret’s and some other relics to a monk there. He also showed the monk what he claimed was a piece of the true cross. The monk didn’t believe him and the Chaplain left.
Many monasteries later he came to the Chapel of Bromholm, which was poor. Upon sight of the cross the Prior and Brethren were overjoyed to receive such a treasure and carried the cross into the oratory and preserved it there.
The ‘Cross of Our Lord’ brought prosperity to Bromholm upon its arrival in 1223. Soon afterwards ‘Divine Miracles’ began to occur. According to Capgrave, nineteen blind men had their sight restored and thirty-nine men were raised from the dead by the power of the cross. Such miracles brought fame across the known world and Bromholm became a focus for Pilgrims.
In 1223 Henry III and his court stayed at Bromholm and confirmed several grants to the monastery.
In 1298 Bromholm had become prosperous and so Pope Celestine V absolved Bromholm of its subjection to Castle Acre.
At the dissolution of the monasteries the Priory was granted to Sir Thomas Wodehouse of Waxham. The Paston family were also patrons of the Priory. Sir John Paston, upon his death in 1466, was brought from London to Bromholm to be buried amid much pomp and ceremony.
Extensive remains still stand, although now used as a farm storage area. The Church was originally 200ft long, 50 ft wide with trancepts 90ft across. There is also rumoured to be the remains of a secret tunnel linking the Priory with St. Margaret’s Church, complete with golden gates in existence.