Great Yarmouth: Priories and Friaries

There were five religious houses in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston: Three friaries and a priory were founded inside the Town Walls in Great Yarmouth, while one priory was founded at Gorleston.

The Dominican (Blackfriars) friary was founded in the early 1270s at the south end of the town, on Friars Lane, under the present Fire Station. The friary took up all the land between Friar's Lane and the Town Walls, until it was dissolved during the Reformation (around 1534). The friary buildings were demolished around 1600 to make way for Drury House, but are visible on a plan of proposed defences for Yarmouth, drawn in 1588, in the collections of Hatfield House. Excavations by Great Yarmouth Archaeological Society revealed building remains, several inhumations and a stone coffin in the friary precinct.

The Franciscan (Greyfriars) friary was founded in 1271 on the Medieval river bank. The friary was dissolved in 1534, and parts of the buildings converted into private dwellings. Other parts of the friary were used for training the local militia. Today, parts of the friary remain standing, including the only remaining vaulted Franciscan cloister in the UK.

The remains of both the Dominican and Franciscan friaries are visible on the 1588 map of Great Yarmouth in the British Library (Shelf Mark Cott.Aug.I.i.74).

The Carmelite (Whitefriars) friary was founded in 1276 along the North Quay. The friary was dissolved in 1538, and the area is now occupied by a series of 17th and eighteenth century houses and warehouses (NHER 42985, NHER 42986, NHER 42971, NHER 42972).

Herbert de Losinga founded a Benedictine Priory in Great Yarmouth, on the site of the Priory School, with St Nicholas's Church as the Priory church. The Priory was founded as a cell of Norwich Cathedral and was linked closely with the Cathedral. The Priory contained up to 15 monks until its dissolution in 1539, and was host to King Richard II in 1382. The early 14th century refectory survives as The Priory Centre.

A major Augustinian Friary was founded in Gorleston in the 1250s, at the junction of Burnt Lane and Beccles Road. The friary was famous for its library, and some scholars link Gorleston Priory to the East Anglian school of illuminated manuscripts (including the Gorleston, Macclesfield and Douai psalters). The friary had a cell in Great Yarmouth, on the site of the Quaker meeting house (in fact, some of the masonry associated with the cell survives). The church of St Nicholas in Gorleston is alleged to have been the friary church. The adjacent Burnt Lane is allegedly named for a fire started in the friary kitchens. Today, one piece of standing masonry survives.

Click here for the Great Yarmouth bibliography.

Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2017 Norfolk Historic Environment Service