Record Details

NHER Number:1176
Type of record:Monument
Name:Site of Dominican Friary (Blackfriars)


This was the site of a Dominican Friary which was founded in 1256, and dissolved in 1538. By the 1270s it was large enough to house forty friars. Today there are no extant remains of the friary, but some of the buildings stood until the 1840s. Development in this area from the 1840s onwards has revealed stone coffins and burials associated with the friary, as well as substantial medieval walls and floors. The friary gave its name to Blackfriars' Street.


  • Medieval harness pendant from NHER 1176  © Norfolk County Council
  • Medieval harness mount from NHER 1176  © Norfolk County Council


Grid Reference:TF 6204 2004
Map Sheet:TF62SW

Full description

(S1) states that the Dominican Priory was founded in 1256 and dissolved in 1538. There was an anchorage belonging to it, and it was large enough to house 40 friars from as early as the 1270s. The site was enlarged in the 14th century and there was a serious fire in 1468. The buildings, which included cloisters and a gate house, were demolished in 1845, but quantities of its materials have been reused in later buildings in the vicinity. In around 1840 several human skeletons were unearthed when making alterations to a stable near the site.
Information from (S1b).
Ordnance Survey, 1978.

A Dominican Friary stood in Market Street, founded in 1256 and dissolved in 1538.
An undated plan in KLM, made when the Athenaeum (NHER 62822) was built, shows the walls of the Friary. According to (S2), this plan was made around 1859. The walls apparently represent the gatehouse and the exterior walls of the cloister, linked by an east-west wall. Taylor's 1843 guide (S3) describes the porter's lodge, a wall with traceried windows, and a Tudor arch as remaining, with two courtyards, perhaps the same as marked on the above plan. Taylor also states that stone coffins were found when the houses were built on Blackfriars' Road.
According to (S3b) the Baptist Chapel and adjoining buildings on the north side of Blackfriars' Road stand on the site of the Blackfriars' cemetery. This account also describes how, as a boy, the author saw 'those dead whose grand stone coffins… [I] saw dug up, placed with their contents to the view of the crowd, and then broken up and their skeletons thrown again in the earth'.

1841. Stray finds.
A stone coffin and skeletons were found when the Stepney Baptist Chapel (NHER 9375) was built.
E. Rose (NAU).

1850-1852. Removal of stonework and discovery of carved stone cross.
(S3b) reported that stones lying in a yard adjacent to the museum (then housed in the Athenaeum) had been brought from the ruins of the Blackfriars' Monastery, which was immediately adjoining, between 1850 and 1852 when the whole site was laid out and built upon.
(S3b) describes, illustrates and reconstructs an elaborately carved cross found in pieces amongst this stonework. The author attributes this cross to the 13th century. This cross was at some time placed beneath Greyfriars' Tower (NHER 5477) and in 1993 was Listed Grade II* and described in the List Entry as 'manifestly 9th to 10th century'. In 2014 it was put on display beside the entrance to King's Lynn Museum (NHER 35372). Two further fragments of another cross shaft were found at the same time.
This object is in King's Lynn Museum (KILLM : 2008.526)
A. Cattermole (King's Lynn UAD), 10 June 2019.

1954. Finds during excavation at Post Office Garage.
Workers excavating a pit for a petrol tank to the rear of the Post Office found stone and brick walls. These were thought by H.E. Bocking (Curator, King's Lynn Museum) to have formed part of the west end of the Dominican Friary. The remains were found 0.9m (3 feet) below the garage floor, and a stone and lime mortar wall 2 feet high was uncovered. Finds included pottery, and a 'fluted' stone which is thought to have been part of a carved stone pillar from the monastic church. Recent excavations next to the Lord Kelvin public house in Market Street also revealed stonework which is thought to have been part of the Dominican Friary.
Information from (S4).
A. Cattermole (King's Lynn UAD), 10 June 2019.

Around 1966. In area of friary, green-glazed stoneware and slipware sherds were found.

1980. Redevelopment of area as telephone exchange.
Brick foundations were struck by pile-driver, some clunch and carstone 2.4m - 2.7m (8-9ft) beneath the surface. Two skeletons aligned west-east were found just below foundations, one with cement adhering to skull. Some Grimston ware sherds glazed on the outside only, including a thumb-pinched base and a small sherd of Stamford Ware. Skulls were very blackened and other bones stained brown. Very worn and badly decayed teeth. Gums very receded on one, other had lost back teeth before death. Three fused arthritic vertebrae, also four ribs connected by bony growth. A third skull and limb bones were found in spoil heap. Foundations towards the east of the site were probably part of the courtyard wall.
A deep basement trench was dug across the western end of the site and produced two partial skeletons and three skulls, all at a depth of around 1.8m (6 feet). Pottery from this part of the site included a 19th century stoneware bottle, one sherd of 16th/17th century glazed earthenware, one medieval green-glazed Grimston, and one coarseware medieval sherd. Further finds from the spoil included human limb bones, a skull, medieval pottery sherds, a 14th century French or Tournai jetton, unidentifiable lumps of molten lead and bronze, three fragments of stained glass. All these finds were deposited with King's Lynn Museum.
About half way between the south-east and north-west corners of the site in a small pit dug for concreting, the western ends of three coffins made up of slabs were found, and contained bones. All these were 1.8m - 2.1m deep.
Immediately to the north of Blackfriars' Street, 3.65m east of the Princess Royal public house, a dressed column or pilaster base of oolitic limestone, octagonal, standing on a stone slabbed floor, 0.6m-0.9m (2-3 feet) below ground level. A building is shown on this spot on (S5), (S6) and (S7). (S8) notes that a solitary arch belonging to the friary remained, just opposite the Golden Ball public house. This was not the gatehouse that stood in Paradise Row, but the exact site is unknown. It may have been a separate cemetery gate.
At an unknown location on the site a ?granite tombstone fragment with a Lombardic lettered inscription …RO ANIM…DE COVSI (or E)…. There are several prominent men of De Couteshale noted in Lynn, often in connection with wills concerning the Blackfriars area.
See also (S9).
E.M. James (KLM), 1980.

Stone coffin and skeletons were found when the Stepney Baptist Chapel (NHER 9375) was built in 1841. This may be the same discovery of stone coffins and skeletons reported in (S3b).
E. Rose (NAU), amended A. Cattermole (King's Lynn UAD), 10 June 2019.

Excavations at this location in 2005 and 2008 revealed substantial masonry remains which were part of the Blackfriars' complex.
See NHER 41951 for further details.
A. Cattermole (King's Lynn UAD), 10 June 2019.

Monument Types

  • CROSS (Middle Saxon to Medieval - 800 AD? to 1299 AD?)
  • FLOOR (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WALL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CLOISTER (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1256 AD? to 1845 AD)
  • DOMINICAN FRIARY (Medieval - 1256 AD to 1538 AD)
  • GATEHOUSE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1256 AD? to 1845 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Medieval - 1256 AD to 1538 AD)
  • INHUMATION CEMETERY (Medieval - 1256 AD to 1538 AD)
  • PORTERS LODGE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1256 AD? to 1845 AD)
  • DOVECOTE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GLASS WORKS (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BROOCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COFFIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COFFIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FLOOR TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GRAVESTONE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STAINED GLASS (WINDOW) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TOKEN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COIN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • TOY (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Article in Serial: Cozens-Hardy B. 1934. Norfolk Crosses. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXV Pt II pp 297-336. p 335.
---Monograph: Page, W. (ed.). 1906. The Victoria History of Norfolk. The Victoria History of the Counties of England. Vol 2. p 426.
---Map: Bell, H. 1680s. The Groundplat of King's Lynn.
---Photograph: I & RS. Digital finds image.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Publication: Messent, C. J. W. 1934. The Monastic Remains of Norfolk and Suffolk. pp 34, 37.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. King's Lynn.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
---Article in Serial: James, E.M.. 1982. An inscribed stone from the Lynn Blackfriars' site. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXXVIII Pt II pp 213-214.
<S1>Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 62 SW 9.
<S2>Monograph: Clarke, H. & Carter, A.. 1977. Excavations in King's Lynn 1963-1970.. pp 454-455.
<S3b>Article in Serial: Beloe, E. M.. 1884. A Cemetery Cross of the 'Blackfriars' at Lynn. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol IX pp 346-358.
<S3>Monograph: Taylor, W.. 1844. Antiquities of King's Lynn, Norfolk.
<S4>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1954. King's Lynn finds may be monastic remains. 9 April.
<S6>Map: Rastrick, G.. 1725. Ichnographia Burgi perantiqui Lennae Regis in Agro Norfolciensi accurate delineata.
<S7>Map: Wood. 1830. Map of King's Lynn.
<S8>Monograph: Hillen, H. J. 1907. History of the Borough of King's Lynn. p 655.
<S9>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1980. Skulls found on Lynn site. 11 September.

Related records

41951Parent of: Probable remains of Dominican friary, medieval and post-medieval features (Monument)

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