Norwich Monastic Remains

King St 97 Howard House [0288] 1934-09-13
The garden wall is probably the original boundary wall of the Austin Friars friary precint.
Austin Friars King St stone arch [3785] 1949-06-12
The first Charter of foundation for the Austin Friars in King St is dated 1293. In 1360, having obtained the parish church of St Michael-in-Conesford and most of the land between Mountergate and the river, the friars pulled down the church and built a noble convent, cloister and conventual church.
Austin Friars King St stone arch [6224] 1981-08-13
Built into a wall on the east side of the street in what was Morgan's brewery are some fragments of stone with these inscriptions: "Historic Interest of this Site. Late 13c church of St Michael. Early 14c to mid 16c Monastery of the Austin Friars incorporating the above Church". "This Stone Arch was found in masonry thought to be an old Tomb, during excavations on this Site in 1946. It was erected here in 1948 and re-erected in 1970."
Carrow Priory Prioress' parlour [3416] 1940-05-16
West side of parlour and guest chamber, early 16c. This Benedictine Nunnery was founded by two sisters, Seyan and Leftelina, in 1146. After the Dissolution, it was granted in 1538 to Sir John Shelton, Knt. In 1821 Mr Philip Meadows Martineau was the owner. In 1878 the property was purchased by the Colman family.
Carrow Priory Prioress' parlour doorway [3424] 1940-05-16
Early 16c. In the spandrels are a "Y" and a Gun, the rebus of Isabella Wygun, the last but one Prioress here.
Carrow Priory cloister east wall [3417] 1940-05-16
Carrow Priory cloister NE angle piscina [3421] 1940-05-16
Carrow Priory east end column bases [3419] 1940-05-16
Marks on the bases of the columns seem to identify the mason as the same who was responsible for the building of the Infirmary at Norwich Cathedral Priory, and the Jew's House (Isaac's Hall or the Music House) in King St.
Carrow Priory east end from south transept [3418] 1940-05-16
Carrow Priory south transept wall base [3420] 1940-05-16
Blackfriars' St Andrew's Hall south side [0147] 1934-07-01
History of Blackfriars (Dominican Friary)
1226 - Dominicans settle in Colegate, north of River Wensum
1258 - Sackfriars settle in Norwich, south of River Wensum
1307 - Sackfriars suppressed; Blackfriars succeed to their site
1345 - Blackfriars commence building
1413 - Fire causes evacuation to old site "over the water"
1449 - Rebuilding so far progressed that community able to return to south side; the nave was built at the expense of Sir Thomas Erpingham who died in 1428 before it was completed
1538 - Convent suppressed; buildings obtained for the City by Augustine Steward
1712 - The buildings had been put to various uses and had been somewhat neglected with the result that the steeple fell off and was not rebuilt
1713 - The Quire of the church having been used for some time by the Strangers (Walloons or Dutch) was granted to them on a 200 year lease
1876 - The original church known as Becket's Chapel was wilfully destroyed
In recent times the buildings have been used for various purposes, mainly educational, and the conventual church was for many years the home of the Norwich Triennial Musical Festival.
Blackfriars' St Andrew's Hall west end [1041] 1936-06-20
Blackfriars' St Andrew's Hall two windows [3751] 1948-09-08
Decorated and Perpendicular windows.
Blackfriars' St Andrew's Hall interior east [3737] 1948-09-03
Nave of Dominican chapel.
Blackfriars' St Andrew's Hall interior west [3736] 1948-09-03
Blackfriars' south aisle doorway sculpture [3752] 1948-09-08
Blackfriars' east cloister range [1039] 1936-06-20
An original dorter window adjoins the right-hand buttress.
Blackfriars' chapter house column base [3750] 1948-09-03
South side of chapter house
Blackfriars' cloister garth SE angle [6628] 1990-08-07
Blackfriars' western cloister range [5436] 1975-07-29
Blackfriars' cloister north side foundation [5437] 1975-07-29
Blackfriars' south cloister walk [3738] 1948-09-03
The cloister, which lies to the north of the nave, is separated from it by a narrow lane (now covered in) and lies on a different axis from the church. It remains remarkably complete except for the north range which has been destroyed, the Art School standing adjacent to the site, but some details have been ascertained by excavation. The cloister itself is roughly square of four bays to each side, and like all friaries the cloister walk runs along under the chambers, instead of forming corridors against them. The whole of the cloister block is 14c.
Blackfriars' south cloister walk N corbel [3739] 1948-09-03
Blackfriars' south cloister walk S corbel [3740] 1948-09-03
Blackfriars' crypt NE bay vaulting [3742] 1948-09-03
Blackfriars' crypt southern half [3741] 1948-09-03
Ante-Chapel to Becket's Chapel, with brick vaulting.
Blackfriars' Thos A'Becket chapel fragment [3744] 1948-09-03
Thomas-a-Becket's Chapel having been unroofed and filled in to the top of the walls towards end of 19c.
Blackfriars' Becket's chapel north wall [5337] 1972-12-30
Blackfriars' Becket's chapel view NE [5339] 1972-12-30
Thomas-a-Becket's Chapel excavated 1972.
Blackfriars' Becket's chapel south wall [5338] 1972-12-30
Blackfriars' Hall east end from Elm Hill [3753] 1948-09-08
Blackfriars' Anchorite's house N wall E end [3743] 1948-09-03
Blackfriars' confessional squint [3745] 1948-09-03
Squint formerly open to the church interior.
Blackfriars' Hall interior view west [3746] 1948-09-03
Before removal of war-time blackouts.
Blackfriars' Hall interior view east [3748] 1948-09-03
Before removal of war-time blackouts.
Blackfriars' Hall Hastings brass matrix [3749] 1948-09-03
Brass to Edmund and Eleanor Hasting. 1487. Near south-east corner of Blackfriars' Hall.
Greyfriars St Faith's Lane boundary wall [6229] 1981-08-17
All that now remains in situ of Greyfriars in St Faith's Lane. Founded in 1226, the church of this friary was dedicated to St Francis and was built on a site now largely occupied by Prince of Wales Rd. At the Dissolution in 1539 the property was granted to Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshall of England. Afterwards seized by the King it was granted in 1544 to Paul Gresham and Francis Bolders, and in 1559 was sold to the city.
St Leonard's Priory flint wall Kett's Hill [6454] 1987-04-25
A wildlife park known as Kett's Heights has recently been formed on a hillside between Kett's Hill and Gas Hill, overlooking Bishop Bridge and the Cathedral. Here at its highest point a flint wall is all that remains of the chapel of St Michael-on-the-Mount. According to the Registrum Primum of Norwich Cathedral Priory, in 1101 Herbert de Losinga, the first Bishop of Norwich, was granted the manor of Thorpe and Thorpe wood by Henry I. There he built the church and priory of St Leonard and, nearby, the chapel of St Michael. The latter was to replace a church on Tombland having the same dedication, which the monks had pulled down in order to make an entrance to the Cathedral monastery.
St Leonard's priory was a cell to the Cathedral, and while certain of the monks were placed here permanently others were here only while the cathedral church was being built. One of their duties was to perform daily service in St Michael's chapel; out of their revenues they had to find a scholar and pay for an exhibition for him at one of the universities.
At the dissolution of the monasteries Henry VIII granted the priory to Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, whose son the Earl of Surrey built a magnificent mansion here known as Mount Surrey. He did not live long to enjoy it, for after falling out of favour he was beheaded in 1547.
Two years later Robert Kett (illustrated in bronze on one of the City Hall doors) and his rebels encamped here. The priory they largely destroyed, but Mount Surrey they used as a place of detention for their more important captives. Little now remains of the priory. Walter Rye, who owned the site at the beginning of the 20c, carried out excavations there and uncovered the entrance to the gate tower, but he found very little else. Of St Michael's Chapel, later familiarly known as Kett's Castle, only the flint wall remains - tidied up from the rugged appearance it presented when made the subject of a painting by John Sell Cotman in 1810. Supported on one side by a brick wall, once part of a greenhouse, it now stands isolated and a prominent reminder of the city's past.
St Leonard's Priory flint wall Gas Hill [1504] 1937-03-25
St Leonard's Rd 113 priory garden archway [5086] 1966-09-15
St Leonard's Rd 34 site of priory [1502] 1937-03-25
Sprowston Rd Lazar House west side [0291] 1934-09-15
The Lazar House on Sprowston Rd, or the Magdalen Chapel as it is sometimes known, was founded before 1119 by Bishop Herbert de Losinga, and the Norman doorways on the south and west are most probably his work. It was intended for a Master, Brethren and Sisters who were lepers and the late Dr Bensley considered that the actual Chapel, dedicated to St Mary Magdalen, was contained in a small portion only of the present building, at the east end, and the hospital part, or wards, occupied the main western portion, males and females being separated by a screen.
In Blomefield's time it appears that some ruins stood to the south of this building, which are thought may have originally been the brewhouse, kitchen, storehouses and Master's house, but no foundations were discovered during excavations made at the beginning of the 20c.
Little is known of its history. In 1506 it was united for a time with the St Giles' or Great Hospital in Bishopgate, but the union did not prove satisfactory and was soon broken. In 1548 it was granted by Edward VI to Sir Robert Southwell and John Corbett, and in 1668 it was an Almshouse for poor widows. By the middle of the 18c part of it was being used as a barn. At the beginning of the 20c Walter Rye rescued it from demolition and sold it in 1908 to Sir Eustace Gurney who restored it - as much as possible of the old fabric being left undisturbed. In 1921 he presented it to the City for use as a branch library, and as such it was opened two years later.
"This is certainly not one of the largest monastic remains in Norwich, but in many respects one of its most interesting, its date of erection - 1119 - makes it one of the oldest building in Norwich and the two Norman doorways, one on the west side, and the other on the south form two good specimens of that early style of architecture. Some authorities have stated that these doorways are not in their original positions, but there is no structural of documentary evidence that they have been re-erected from another building or any part of the same building. This is an excellent example of how a mediaeval building can be restored and put to a really legitimate modern use without in any way interfering with the original character of the structure." From "The Monastic Remains of Norfolk and Suffolk" by Claude Messent, 1934.
Sprowston Rd Lazar House south side [1740] 1937-07-03
Sprowston Rd Lazar House S Norman doorway [1741] 1937-07-03
Sprowston Rd Lazar House W Norman doorway [1742] 1937-07-03
Whitefriars Cowgate Factory Yard tracery [1651] 1937-05-29
On the east side of the road, with the river to the south, stands the great Yarn Factory, built in 1836-37, now part of Jarrolds' printing works. Until the Reformation much of the land on this side of what was formerly part of Cowgate had been occupied by the monastery of the Carmelites or Whitefriars.
Richard Taylor in his Index Monasticus describes how in about 1256 one Philip de Cowgate settled lands there upon William de Calthorpe, alias Suffield, "upon condition that the brethren of Mount Carmel should enter and dwell there without any molestation, for ever, and serve God therein". In addition to the founder, who was buried there in 1283, Taylor lists many other benefactors, including Sir Oliver de Ingham, Clement Paston, and Joan the wife of John Fastolf. With the money thus received the friars were able to build a magnificent church, partially completed by 1343 and eventually consecrated in 1382.
Despite the founder's decree that the Carmelites were to dwell there forever, King Henry VIII had other ideas; the friary was dissolved in 1542, and the site was granted to Richard Andrews and Leonard Chamberlayn. Shortly afterwards the land was divided up into many different ownerships.
Although the dimensions of the church and cloisters are known, having been copied from another source by the historian John Kirkpatrick in his Religious Houses &c. in Norwich, little is known of the actual layout of the friary. Most of our information comes from artefacts found on necessarily limited archaeological digs or when foundations have been dug for new buildings. In 1904 certain foundations were uncovered, and about 1920 six pieces of window tracery were found and built into a wall at Factory Yard, to be cleared away later when Jarrolds extended their works. Two coffins each containing a skeleton were found in 1958; they probably dated back to the 14c. And in 1960 a Gothic arch, which had been filled in with bricks and incorporated in a later building, was uncovered; this has now been opened out and forms an attractive feature near the entrance to Jarrolds' works. At about the same time a dilapidated flint wall adjoining the bridge was taken down as not being worth preserving - a modern tablet identified it as having once formed part of an anchorage attached to the friary.
The most important surviving feature on the site is a vaulted undercroft of two bays, adapted by Jarrolds as a small museum of obsolete printing machinery. In 1978 at Jarrolds' invitation the Norwich Survey team investigated the building, and details of their findings were published in Norfolk Archaeology Vol.37. Its position seems to have been to the north of what was probably the original cloister complex; it may have served as an entrance parlour to the cloister.
Another important relic, not in its original position, is what has become known as the Arminghall arch. This elaborately carved 14c archway has had a series of moves since it was taken down at the Dissolution and re-erected at Arminghall Old Hall, just a few miles south of the city. There it remained until the hall was demolished; the late Russell Colman then acquired it and transferred it to his grounds at Crown Point. From there it has recently been taken to be installed in the new Magistrates Court, just across the bridge from its original position. Now protected from the weather, it should survive for many years to come.
Whitefriars Cowgate flint wall [3187] 1939-07-30
Wall to the north-east of Whitefriars bridge which once formed part of an anchorage attached to the adjoining Whitefriars Monastery. Founded by Philip de Cowgate c1256 and suppressed in 1543.
Whitefriars Cowgate friary doorway W side [4615] 1961-07-07
Uncovered in 1961 it stood adjacent to the anchorage.
Whitefriars Cowgate friary doorway E side [6512] 1988-08-17

Text and photographs copyright George Plunkett