Record Details

NHER Number:2036
Type of record:Monument
Name:Greyfriars or Walsingham Franciscan Friary


The Franciscan Friary at Walsingham was founded in 1346 and dissolved in 1538. Part of the buildings were excavated in the 1930s and some ruins still survive including parts of the Great and Little Cloister, the guesthouse and the base of the chapter house. Very little is left of the church. The main entrance to the friary led onto the southwest corner of the marketplace.


  • The Franciscan Friary, Walsingham.  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service
  • The Franciscan Friary, Walsingham.  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service


Grid Reference:TF 9330 3659
Map Sheet:TF93NW

Full description

Walsingham Franciscan Friary (or Greyfriars).
Founded: 1347
Dissolved: 1538
Protected Status: Sheduled Ancient Monument, Listed Grade I

1932. Excavation and building survey.
'Preliminary investigations' on the site of the church and a 'complete survey' of the surviving buildings in order to produce an overall site plan.
Finds include post medieval sherds, 17th to 18th century clay pipers, few medieval moulded stones, medieval tiles and much painted glass.
See excavation report (S1) for further details.
E. Rose (NAU), October 1990.
Revised D. Gurney (NLA), 31 March 2010.

April 1980. Field Observation.
Guesthouse walls are the largest standing remains. Built against the south end is a house of around 1840 and against east end of this another tall gable which is probably the cross gable of a staircase. Remains also of the kitchen, the Little Cloister, Great Cloister, projecting base of the Chapter House. Virtually nothing left of the nave or crossing of church and very little of the chancel. The boundary wall against the Fakenham Road contains blocked gateways in reused stone and brick. No public access.
E. Rose (NAU), 30 April 1980.
Site again open to public at times.
(S2) notes friary lies across former course of road to southwest corner of Market Place. Friary dissolved 1538.
E. Rose (NAU), 25 September 1981.

June 1992. Field Observation.
Heap of soil, flints, bricks and rubbish cleared from area east of Little Cloister and redeposited against roadside wall. No obvious damage to below ground deposits.
D. Gurney (NLA), 4 June 1992.

March 2005. Field Observation.
Brief inspection of east wall. Two arches have rough flint outlines. One blocked with bricks of 18th or 19th century date. This wall blocks an older opening but this may not be medieval. This might be the result of post dissolution treasure hunting.
See (S3).
E. Rose (NLA), 5 March 2005.

2006-9. Condition surveys and report on conservation priorities (S4) (S5).
D. Gurney (NLA), 1 April 2010.

August 2013. Architectural Survey.
Selective building recording.
Masonry details and joist pockets were revealed along the top of the wall of the South Range of the Little Cloister during a programme of repair and consolidation work . Selective recording of these features was rapidly carried out before they were covered and/or intruded upon by the necessary consolidation work.
The character of the window arches was recorded, revealing what was described as an ad-hoc approach to the use of medieval brickwork.
Evidence for a former ceiling or floor above the southern walk was recorded in the form of various sockets and scars which would once have supported joists for such a structure. This could indicate that there was once a first storey along the southern range.
See report (S6) for detailed description of wall fabric types and other details.
See also photographs (S7). A summary of historical development and statement of significance was also produced around this time as part of a management plan for the site (S10).
H. Hamilton (HES), 17 November 2014.

October 2013. Test-pitting.
A targeted test-pitting survey of the remains of Walsingham Greyfriars’ Chapter House was undertaken in order to inform future repair and consolidation work on this structure. Five small test-pits were excavated in order to allow a structural engineer to view and assess the Chapter House foundations and an archaeologist to assess the associated deposits. The northern and southern walls were each investigated via two test-pits: one along the interior and one along the exterior face. It was not possible to place a trench along the eastern wall as it had partially collapsed. A fifth test-pit was excavated at the exterior of the north-eastern corner in order to determine whether solid footings extend below the eastern wall.

The flint and mortar walls of the Chapter House currently stand to up to 3m above the modern ground level. However, these walls currently act as retaining walls for a large quantity of imported material. Pressure from this material combined with natural erosion through weathering had caused the partial collapse of the eastern wall noted above. The top of the Chapter House walls have been capped in modern times and the present angle buttresses are modern, sited where much larger medieval buttresses would have been. A brief visual examination of the face-work of the outer walls indicated that there has been much post-medieval and modern intervention. At the time of the investigation, the external facework of the eastern wall was in imminent danger of peeling away as it was untied into the fabric of the wall. This in itself indicates that the facing is likely a much later skin that was applied in post-medieval or modern times.

The wall footings revealed in the test-pits were found to be particularly deep and in good condition. The construction generally consisted of regular courses of well-sorted flints and occasional medieval brick fragments bounded by a hard, gritty lime rich mortar. The walls were raised in a series of lifts, using temporary platforms of rammed earth to gradually raise the floor to the desired level. The lower lifts were noticeably splayed, with rough and bleeding mortar, and only the uppermost lift was vertical and fair faced. This change from rough to fair construction remains the best available evidence for the level of the Chapter House floor. No invasive scarring or other evidence for robbed out decorative masonry was observed.

The Chapter House floor and its mortar bed appears to have been very thoroughly robbed away. The base of a cut for robbing and/or demolition activity was observed in both interior test pits, but the exact nature of these robber trenches could not be ascertained within the confines of the excavated area. A much later, post-medieval phase of robbing/dumping was also identified by the presence of clay tobacco pipe and occasional post-medieval building materials including ceramic and stone tile, brick fragments, and York stone fragments. Further significant deposits of well sorted demolition waste were also noted and these have been interpreted as possible remnants of 18th to 19th century clearance work within the monastic complex (particularly clearance of the cloister to create an open garden) or the construction of a post-medieval house at the site.

The exterior of the footings also appear to have been previously exposed, likely during 20th century repair and consolidation work. The deposits exposed by the partial collapse of the eastern wall appeared to have a similar sequence to those recorded in the test pits. A concave vertical scar was observed in the fabric of the external face of the eastern wall. It appears to have been made to receive a vertical shaft or respond of some nature and it located off-centre, indicating that it could have been one of a pair of features.

The small finds assemblage from the test-pits included medieval and post-medieval pottery, two sherds of post-medieval clay smoking pipe, butchered animal bone, and shell. Medieval and post-medieval buildings material recovered includes brick, clay and stone roof tile, floor tile, mortar, and worked stone. Finds associated with the Friary itself were limited to two 11th to 14th century pottery sherds, one sherd of Flemish tile with a white slip and yellow glaze, and six fragments of finely tooled limestone including one likely fragment of tracery and several moulding fragments from mullions or voussoir pieces.

A small assemblage of residual pottery sherds was collected from the make-up deposits, dumped deposits and modern soils. Two medieval sherds (11th to 14th century) were recovered from the earliest deposit in test pit 2 and may coincide with early activity at the Friary. Three 15th to 16th century sherds may all belongto the same jar/pipkin. The remaining sherds are typical of a 19th to early 20th century household. A small assemblage of ceramic building material included 13th to 14th century brick, one sherd of Flemish tile with a white slip and yellow glaze, medieval and post-medieval roof tile, and post-medieval brick.

See (S8) for further information.
H. Hamilton (HES), 11 September 2014.

October 2013 to January 2014. Building Survey.
The standing remains of the Friary were inspected on several occasions during on-going repair and consolidation work.
Typical friary plan of walks within ranges and a 'passing place' despite its rural position. Great Cloister and Little Cloister may have been owing to narrow site on the sloping land. The added 15th century Guest House is very large with accommodation at first floor at the head of a stately straight stair. Access to this was along along a corridor from the south, along the west walk of the little cloister.
See report (S9) for further details.
S. Heywood (HES), 20 January 2014.

August to September 2014. Building Survey.
The remains of the Guest Hall were inspected on several occasions during on-going repair and consolidation work. This building had been inaccessible during prior inspections 9October 2013 to January 2014).
The evidence shows that the Guest Hall was constructed initially as a ground floor hall with tall windows and two hearths. After or even during the building of this there was a radical change of plan which involved inserting an upper floor which became the principal floor served by a grand staircase from the cloister. The hearth was moved to this floor also. The tall windows of what became the basement remained. One of the windows was turned into a cart entrance whilst some others were blocked.
See report (S9) for further details.
S. Heywood (HES), 23 December 2014.

Monument Types

  • FRANCISCAN FRIARY (14th Century to 16th Century - 1346 AD to 1538 AD)
  • HOUSE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Unknown date)
  • BUILDING MATERIAL (Unknown date)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DRESSED STONE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Medieval to 14th Century - 1066 AD to 1399 AD)
  • ROOF TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STAINED GLASS (WINDOW) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BRICK (12th Century to 14th Century - 1200 AD to 1399 AD)
  • FLOOR TILE (14th Century to 16th Century - 1350 AD to 1599 AD)
  • POT (14th Century to 16th Century - 1400 AD to 1599 AD)
  • BRICK (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • RIDGE TILE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • ROOF TILE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (16th Century to 17th Century - 1580 AD to 1700 AD?)
  • FLAGSTONE (16th Century to 19th Century - 1600 AD to 1899 AD?)
  • ROOF TILE? (16th Century to 19th Century - 1600 AD to 1899 AD?)
  • POT (17th Century to Mid 20th Century - 1700 AD to 1950 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building
  • Scheduled Monument
  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TF9336 A-C,AD,AF,AG,AK,AL,ACX,ACY (Unit), V-Y, AA (AAF).
---Designation: [unknown]. Ancient Monuments Form. SAM Record. DNF93.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 93 NW 13 [6].
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1997. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. p 595.
---Illustration: Walsingham Franciscan Friary..
---Photograph: Thursfield, H. G.. Little Walsingham Greyfriars.
---Monograph: Thompson, A.H.. 1924. Programme Archaeological Institute of Norwich..
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Walsingham (Little).
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Monograph: Longcroft, A.; Brown, S.J.; Brown, M.; Barr, D. and Hinton, I. (eds). 2015. Little Walsingham: A study of historic buildings in a medieval pilgrimage centre. Journal of the Norfolk Historic Buildings Group. Vol 6. pp 242-243.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
---Designation: [Various]. Scheduling and/or Listing Correspondence. Correspondence. DNF93.
<S1>Article in Serial: Martin A. R. 1934. The Greyfriars of Walsingham. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXV pp 227-271. pp 227-271.
<S2>Leaflet: Bond, A.. Walsingham Friary. Its Story..
<S3>Unpublished Document: Rose, E. (NLA). 2005. Building Report.. Building Report.
<S4>Unpublished Document: Watt, D.. 2006. Condition survey of the standing remains.
<S5>Unpublished Document: Watt, D.. 2009. Report on conservation priorities.
<S6>Unpublished Contractor Report: Emery, G. 2014. Selective Recording at the Southern Range of the Little Cloister, Walsingham Greyfriars, Norfolk. Norvic Archaeology. 40.
<S7>Photograph: Emery, G. 2013. Photographic recording of the Southern Range of the Little Cloister, Walsingham Greyfriars, Norfolk. Norvic Archaeology. digital. RAW (CR2) and JPEG, Colour.
<S8>Unpublished Contractor Report: Emery, G. 2013. An Archaeological Evaluation through Test-Pitting at the Chapter House of Walsingham Greyfriars, Norfolk. Norvic Archaeology. 35.
<S9>Unpublished Report: Heywood, S. 2014. The Greyfriars, Little Walsingham, Norfolk. History and Significance of the remains of the Friary, Little Walsingham.
<S10>Unpublished Contractor Report: Hutton and Rostron. 2014. Summary of the historical development and statement of significance for St Mary's Friary (Greyfriars), Little Walsingham. Norfolk. Hutton and Rostron. 431.60.

Related records

53949Parent of: Possible site of Walsingham Friary gatehouse (Monument)
MNO5985Related to: Flint boundary wall enclosing St Marys Friary Fakenham Road WALSINGHAM (Revoked)
MNO5983Related to: Remains of St Mary's Friary Fakenham Road WALSINGHAM (Revoked)

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