The anchorhold housed a succession of men and women known as anchorites and anchoresses who lived apart from the world and devoted themselves to a solitary life of prayer. The most famous anchoress is Lady Julian, author of Revelations of Divine Love who lived beside St Julian’s Church in Norwich. Mention of those at All Saints is made in wills and writings of the 13th - 15th Centuries. Margery Kempe, the medieval Lynn mystic, was known to visit the anchoress here.
The anchorhold was built against the warm south wall of the chancel. This room probably served as an oratory. The aperture in the interior wall enabled the anchorite to see the blessed sacrament and behold the priest saying Mass. It had a bay window to the south, to which people would come to make offerings and requests for prayer. Beside it was a domestic range for a servant to attend to their practical needs. Traces of the roofline of this building can be seen in the south wall of the chancel.
Some of the anchorites of All Saints’ had been wealthy individuals and were generous to the parish. Anchoresses Isabella and Katherine are recorded as donating rich sets of vestments to the church.
Other anchorites and hermits are known to have lived in Norfolk, but All Saints is unique in preserving its anchorhold, a reminder to us that this church is not a museum, but a house of prayer.
Visitors are most welcome to come here to pray, and to hear Mass from inside the anchorhold, as the anchorite would have done.