During the 12th century there were two manors in the Parish and, as was often the case, a Church for each. These were “All Saints”, the existing Church, at which services are still regularly held, and “St. Marys”, which ceased to be a parochial Church when it became the Church for the “Augustinian Priory” founded in 1216.
It was founded by Margaret de Caiesneto or Cressy and she endowed it with a small estate in Beeston, to which was added the portion of Eudo de Moulton, who has been preserved in the name “Moulney’s in Beeston” by which the Beeston Priory Manor was sometimes called. Unlike many small houses of the Augustinian Order, Beeston Priory was independent. In the three centuries of its history it acquired other estates in the immediate area but its resources were never very extensive and at no time does it appear to have been staffed by more than the Prior and four Canons.
The Priory existed until 1538 when King Henry VIII banned the Catholic religion and ordered the dissolution of the Monasteries and Priories. From the ruins that remain it would appear that there was a nave about 75 feet long to which a chancel was added. Later a chapel was added on the south aisle and another transeptal chapel on the north. Later, extensive alterations appear to have been carried out at the west end of the nave, including the great west window, which probably dates from about the middle of the 14th century. The conventual buildings stood on the south side of the Church, this area is now occupied by a farmhouse.
At the dissolution the Crown granted the Priory together with its estates to Sir Edmund Windham Kt., and Gyles Seafowle Esq. The last Prior Richard Hudson and his four Canons all subscribed to the Royal Supremacy, i.e. accepted the Church of England as the supreme Church. On the dissolution the Prior and Canons all received pensions and the Prior became Rector of Newton Flotman in South Norfolk.
The ruins are a “Heritage Site” and are in the care of English Heritage and North Norfolk District Council.
Signposts by the common on the coast road (A149) guide visitors to the Priory.