Walsingham Priory, now known as Walsingham Abbey, was established around 1153 by Augustinian Canons adjacent to the Holy House, supposedly a replica of the house in Nazareth where the Annunciation took place.
This was begun in 1061 by Richeldis de Faverches, the Lady of the Manor, as the result of a series of visions in which the Virgin Mary showed her the house and instructed her to build the replica in Walsingham.
By the fourteenth century there were so many pilgrims that the Priory was enlarged, and the little wooden Holy House was encased in a larger stone chapel.
Henry VIIIʼs Commissioners dissolved the Priory in 1538. Little now remains except the great east window, the well, and parts of the refectory undercroft which have been incorporated into the adjacent, largely Georgian, manor house.
Whilst the original Priory Gatehouse still stands on Walsinghamʼs High Street, entrance to the Abbey grounds is these days via the Shirehall Museum. Originally part of the outer precincts of the Priory, from 1773 to 1861 Quarter and Petty Sessions were held here, and the Petty Sessions continued until 1971. The old courtroom survives intact.