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Carbrooke Preceptory was first established in 1173 through a grant from Matilda, Countess Clare, to the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Eighteen manors in Norfolk were eventually in their possession, all administered from Carbrooke, which remained the only preceptory in the county at the Dissolution. In addition, rents and tithes were due from a large number of locations throughout Norfolk and East Anglia, and voluntary contributions were also collected, in keeping with the role of the preceptory as a revenue-generating institution converting agricultural wealth to portable wealth. The preceptory along with the rest of the Order was suppressed by Parliament in 1540. Excavation revealed a stratified sequence of structures and deposits on the western side of the preceptory. Insights into the architectural and social history of the establishment resulted from a combination of archaeological and documentary research, the activities of the inhabitants of Carbrooke seeming, both through the material and documentary records, to bear more resemblance to those of a large baronial house than a monastery.
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