The Priory of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre was an Augustinian house, found in 1148 by William of Warenne on the south bank of the river, opposite the site of St Mary’s Priory. The priory was endowed with lands by Warenne and by King Stephen, and the possession of a holy relic, the comb of Thomas Becket, ensured that the priory became a focus for medieval pilgrims.
The Canons owned several hundred acres of pasture and arable fields around the site of the priory and a number of houses and other properties within the town. In addition, the canons had the right to use some of the foldcourses around Thetford for a flock of almost 1000 sheep. Foldcourses were a key part of the medieval economy of Breckland – sheep were grazed on pasture during the day and then ‘folded’ or ‘tathed’ on the arable fields during the night.
The ruins of the Priory church are now open to the public, although compared with St Mary’s Priory, little remains on the site. The visible ruins on the site are the walls of the nave of the Priory church. The only surviving remains in England of a priory of Canons of the Holy Sepulchre, who aided pilgrims to Christ’s tomb.