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The Dominican Friary (Blackfriars) Norwich: Becket’s Chapel, Chapter House, North Range, standing remains in the East Garth, and buried remains

A Scheduled Monument in Thorpe Hamlet, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.6313 / 52°37'52"N

Longitude: 1.2959 / 1°17'45"E

OS Eastings: 623136.990528

OS Northings: 308823.547892

OS Grid: TG231088

Mapcode National: GBR W9C.J7

Mapcode Global: WHMTM.W484

Entry Name: The Dominican Friary (Blackfriars) Norwich: Becket’s Chapel, Chapter House, North Range, standing remains in the East Garth, and buried remains

Scheduled Date: 21 May 1915

Last Amended: 10 June 2016

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1004053

English Heritage Legacy ID: NF 4

County: Norfolk

Electoral Ward/Division: Thorpe Hamlet

Built-Up Area: Norwich

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Norwich St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Norwich


A medieval friary including the chapter house; Becket’s Chapel; the remains of the north range; the standing remains within glass panels within the East Garth; and the buried remains beneath the wider site including the church and claustral complex.

Source: Historic England


A medieval friary originally constructed by the Friars Penitential in the C13 but largely rebuilt by the Dominicans in the C14 and C15. The monument includes: the chapter house; Becket’s Chapel; the remains of the north range; the standing remains within glass panels within the East Garth; and the buried remains beneath the wider site including the church and claustral complex.

The Dominicans’ church is located south of the cloister; the nave is now St Andrew’s Hall and the chancel is Blackfriars’ Hall, with a cross passage (the ‘walking place’) between them. The cloister is situated at an angle to it, with a narrow space between, and forms a parallelogram rather than a square. It originally had four ranges with covered walkways on each side surrounding an open courtyard; the cloister garth. The east, south and west ranges remain as upstanding buildings (albeit with later alterations) but only low walls survive of the north range. The east range (now known as the East Garth) contained the chapter house and dorter (dormitory), and possibly the reredorter (lavatories), whilst the west range (now known as the West Garth) contained the frater (refectory) and possibly the kitchen. The south range may have housed the library, Prior’s quarters and infirmary, and the north range may have contained stores and a kitchen. Between the south-east corner of the cloister and the chancel of the church is a vestibule known as The Crypt (although it never served that purpose) and Becket’s Chapel, originally built by the Friars Penitential in the C13. Immediately south of the Dominicans’ church was a cemetery and a preaching yard. An outer court stood to the north of the cloister and contained a brewhouse, among other buildings.

The chapter house was built in the C14 and survives as upstanding and buried remains. It is situated immediately east of the east cloister walk and south of the East Garth building. The vault of the chapter house collapsed in the C16 and the remains were partially exposed through excavation in 1911. It is now roofless apart from three 1980s lean-tos. The remains of the chapter house extend to the east beyond a later retaining wall and beneath a car park. The walls are constructed of stone rubble, flint and brick, and have been partly heightened and infilled with C20 brick and concrete blocks. Internally it is partly covered with medieval lime plaster. The chapter house is two bays wide east-west by three bays long north-south. The original entrance doorway is situated in the centre of the west wall and is c1.4m wide with the remains of two windows, each c1m wide, to either side. A set of C20 brick and stone-paved steps lead down into the building, which is c1m below the level of the east cloister walk. It was originally covered by a groin vault; the bases of two supporting limestone piers are located towards the centre, each originally consisting of a triangular cluster of five shafts, and there are responds in the surrounding walls. The responds are formed of a cluster of three shafts but those at the angles have a single shaft. There is a later bricked-up opening between the chapter house and the vestibule now known as The Crypt to the south. A C20 timber staircase is located in the south-east corner. There are two early C20 timber braces supporting the later retaining wall at the east.

The 1980s steel and corrugated plastic lean-tos, the C20 timber staircase and plywood door at the south-east corner, and the two early C20 timber braces are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them is included.

The chapel adjoins the east side of the vestibule now known as The Crypt and survives as upstanding and buried remains. It was built, together with the adjacent vestibule, in the later C13 by the Friars Penitential and dedicated to St Mary but was altered by the Dominicans in the C14 and C15 and rededicated to St Thomas-a-Becket. The building was two storeys high in the C15, possibly with a further chapel on the first floor that later served as a library and then lodgings after the Dissolution. It was originally vaulted but the walls were demolished to the springing level of the vault and buried in 1874. An excavation in 1958 exposed the remains, which were covered by a polycarbonate roof in 1983.

The chapel is c17m by c 6m and extends six bays east-west by a single bay north-south. The walls are c3m high and built of brick with a flint rubble core resting on a flint foundation. They are rendered internally with lime plaster. The chapel is entered via the adjoining vestibule which appears to contain a stoup in its south wall. An inserted late C20 two-centred brick arched doorway provides access from the west. The chapel walls rise from a brick plinth and are supported externally by C15 brick and flint buttresses. The third bay of the north wall has a later entrance, probably inserted in the C18 or C19. A 1980s tiled staircase now provides access down into the chapel on this side. The floor is c1m lower than the external ground level and is now covered by late C20 concrete slabs. There are engaged piers to each side that originally supported the vaults. These carry responds formed of three chamfered ribs. In the east wall is a large C14 window infilled with brick and, to either side, a tall and narrow C13 niche. At the east end of the south wall is a C13 piscina with a pointed arch and chamfered jambs. There are the remains of several window openings in the north and south walls and a blocked archway in the north-east corner. Both the east and west walls have been heighted in brick in 1983 to form gables supporting the roof; there is a central oculus in the east gable and an off-centre segmental-headed window in the west gable.

The polycarbonate roof and late 20th century railings are excluded from the scheduling.

The north range of the cloister was built in the C14 and C15 and survives as upstanding and buried remains. It was largely demolished sometime between 1762 and 1885; probably during the restoration of 1861. The remains were partially exposed and consolidated following an excavation in 1974, and the walls now stand up to c0.5m high. There are three main parallel walls built of flint rubble, which are orientated east-west. The two walls at the south form the north cloister walk, whilst that at the north is an external wall; the space between this wall and the cloister walk is partitioned into rooms. The partition walls are built of flint rubble and brick. A slype (passage) leads north to the site of the outer court of the friary. There are two phases of engaged piers or buttresses within the cloister walk. The earliest phase is formed of C14 or early C15 rectangular buttresses, which are bonded into the walls. The later phase is formed of ashlar piers built as part of the rebuilding of the friary following the fire of 1413, and match those within the south cloister walk. These piers originally supported a rib vault above. They rest on semi-octagonal ashlar bases and rubble foundations.

The building now known as the East Garth is Grade I listed and is excluded from the scheduling. However the monumentalised walls that survive as standing remains (contained in glass panels) within it, and the buried remains beneath it, are included. The standing remains were first uncovered during an excavation in 1911. Following a refurbishment in 2011 glass panels were erected around them. The walls are built of stone and brick rubble bonded with lime mortar and survive to c0.5m high. They formed part of the internal wall of the east cloister walk and the cross walls that partitioned the range into rooms. Partial excavation in 2011 showed that further buried remains survive. An auger survey undertaken at this time indicated that medieval archaeological deposits survive to over 4m deep beneath the East Garth building.

The buried remains and archaeological deposits across the site extend to over 4m deep and will include structural remains (buildings, walls, foundations, floor surfaces, road surfaces and pathways, and construction and demolition debris), inhumation burials, artefactual remains (such as small finds, coins, pottery and animal bones), and environmental material (such as the fills of wells, drains, culverts, pits, middens, ditches, garden areas). The structural remains of buildings extend beneath the garden west of the west range and beneath part of the car park east of the east range. A geophysical survey in 2009 identified several walls up to c1m wide beneath the car park.

A cemetery is located to the south of the church; excavation of a service trench and bollards on St Andrew’s Plain in 2007 partially exposed at least ten burials before the trenches were backfilled. Historical sources indicate that there was also a preaching yard to the south of the church by the late medieval period.

The buildings now known as St Andrew’s Hall and Blackfriars’ Hall (including the ‘walking place’), the East Cloister Walk, The Crypt, the south range (including the South Cloister Walk and infill ranges adjacent to St Andrew’s Hall), the East Garth (except the standing remains within glass panels) and the West Garth are all excluded because they are more appropriately protected by listing and are listed at Grade I. However the buried remains and archaeological deposits beneath them are included in the scheduling.

The monument also excludes all modern car park surfaces, road surfaces and pathways; lamp posts; bicycle stands; benches; bollards; railings; all modern signs, notices and notice boards; fences and fence posts; gates and gate posts; drains and drain pipes; water pipes and electric cables. However the ground beneath them is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Dominican friary (Blackfriars), Norwich, a medieval friary built from the C13 onwards, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: as the most complete surviving medieval friary in England;
* Rarity: as one of only 15 medieval friaries to retain substantial upstanding remains in England;
* Architectural interest: the claustral complex represents an early use of brickwork in medieval England, whilst Becket’s Chapel and the chapter house also retain C13 and C14 architectural details such as vault responds, a piscina, and window openings;
* Potential: archaeological investigation has indicated that the site retains a high degree of archaeological potential including buried remains and archaeological deposits surviving to over 4m deep;
* Documentation: the history and archaeology of the friary is well documented, which adds interest by providing a valuable contribution to our knowledge and understanding of the site;
* Group value: by association with the Grade I listed buildings of the friary and proximity with the adjacent listed buildings on Elm Hill, St Georges Street and Princes Street, including the St Peter Hungate Church.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, Wilson, B, The Buildings of England: Norfolk: 1 Norwich and North-East, (2002), 264-269
Sutermeister, H, The Norwich Blackfriars A History and Guide to St Andrews and Blackfriars Halls, (1978)
Elliston Erwood, F C, 'The Norwich Blackfriars' in The Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 106: 1 (Part III), (1949), 90-94
Nash, P A, 'The Sackfriars' and Blackfriars' Conventual Buildings in the parishes of St. Andrew and St. Peter Hungate, Norwich: Excavations in the winter of 1910-11' in Norfolk Archaeology, , Vol. 22, (1926), 370-382
Green, C, 'Becket's Chapel, Norwich' in Norfolk Archaeology, , Vol. 33, (1965), 298-309
J P R, , 'Excavations in Norwich 1974: 176N. The Dominican (Black) Friary. TG23120885' in Norfolk Archaeology, , Vol. 36 (Part 2), (1975), 102-104
Virtual Past, Norwich Blackfriars Online, accessed 1 February 2016 from
NAU Archaeology, Report 1409: An Archaeological Watching Brief at St Andrew’s Hall, St Andrew’s Plain, Norwich (2008)
NAU Archaeology, Report 1414: An Archaeological Evaluation at St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich (2009)
NPS Archaeology, Report 2727: An Archaeological Watching Brief at the East Garth Building, St Georges Street, Norwich (2011)
Purcell Miller Tritton, St Andrew's & Blackfriars' Hall: Conservation Management Plan (June 2009)

Source: Historic England

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