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Grey Friars

A Scheduled Monument in Lichfield, Staffordshire

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Latitude: 52.6818 / 52°40'54"N

Longitude: -1.8301 / 1°49'48"W

OS Eastings: 411582.095737

OS Northings: 309363.08595

OS Grid: SK115093

Mapcode National: GBR 4DN.S5L

Mapcode Global: WHCGN.VVPD

Entry Name: Grey Friars

Scheduled Date: 12 May 1939

Last Amended: 8 September 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008544

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21560

County: Staffordshire

Civil Parish: Lichfield

Built-Up Area: Lichfield

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Staffordshire

Church of England Parish: Lichfield Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield


The monument is situated 200m south west of St Mary's Church in the city of
Lichfield and includes the standing and buried remains of Grey Friars, a
Franciscan friary.
Grey Friars was established in c.1237 by Bishop Alexander de Stavensby and,
by 1286, the construction of the friary buildings, including a chapel and
dwellings, had been completed. A fire destroyed buildings at the site in 1291
and the friary was rebuilt slightly to the west of the original site. The
friary was dissolved in 1538. Documentary references to the `new lodging' or
`new long-house' indicate that building work at the site was in progress on
the eve of the Dissolution.
The majority of the site has been incorporated within a formal public garden,
while the south east part is overlaid by the road known as The Friary.
Excavations have indicated that a large proportion of the site survives as
buried features beneath the ground surface. The monastic church is sited in
the north west part of the site and only part of the north wall of the nave,
approximately 0.8m high, remains standing. This wall has been partly rebuilt,
apparently reusing original priory stone. The remains of a doorway opening
within the north wall of the nave is thought to have provided secular access
into the church from Friars' Alley for the local population. This length of
walling is thought to be of early 14th century date and is included in the
The church was partially excavated in 1933 and included a nave of five bays,
the crossing tower and the choir. The church was unusually large and the nave
measures approximately 33m south west-north east and 18m north west-south
east. The foundations of the crossing indicate a tower of considerable size.
The remains of the claustral buildings were situated to the south east of the
church and a 2.5m wide passage provided access from the choir into one of the
two cloisters. The little cloister was located immediately adjacent to the
choir, while the main cloister abutted the south east side of the nave. An
excavation in the north east part of the little cloister recovered evidence
for a doorway leading from the cloister into a large chamber, thought to be
the chapter house. The remains of the cloisters and the conventual buildings
will survive as buried features beneath the formal garden and the road
surface. Excavations at the site also recovered large quantities of ornamental
floor tiles and two metal counters of 14th century date.
The Bishop's Lodging, situated south east of the central core of the friary
and south of The Friary road, was the only building standing at the site by
1541. It was enlarged in 1545 with a hall and chimney-piece being added to the
original stone structure and was used as a dwelling. Since 1925 the Bishop's
Lodging has been incorporated within the buildings of The Friary-Grange School
and it is not included in the scheduling.
The surfaces of all paths and that of the road known as The Friary, the
portico, garden furniture, litter bins, inspection chambers and all drainage
pipes are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these
features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A friary is an institution housing a community of friars. The friars (from the
Latin "frater" meaning "brother") were a novel religious movement which began
in Italy in the late 12th century and which advocated a "mendicant" life-
style. Owning no property of their own, they lived by moving from community to
community begging for the alms and gifts of benefactors as they went. Unlike
the older monastic orders, who were dedicated to a continuous round of prayer
within a single monastery, the friars main concerns were preaching, evangelism
and learning as they moved from friary to friary. Friaries were established in
England from the early 13th century onwards, the first houses being founded in
Canterbury, London and Oxford during 1224. By the time of the dissolution of
the religious orders in the 1530s approximately 189 friaries had been founded
for a number of different groups of friars, each with their individual
missions. The most important groups were the Franciscans (the Greyfriars), who
eventually established some 60 houses, the Dominicans (the Blackfriars -
represented by 50 houses), the Carmelites (the Whitefriars with 41 houses) and
the Augustinians or Austin Friars who had a similar number. In addition to
these large groups there were a number of smaller ones: the Crutched Friars (9
houses), the Friars of the Sack (17 houses), the Pied Friars (3 houses) and
the Trinitarian Friars (5 houses).
The sites chosen by or for friaries were usually within towns, often in the
less valuable, marginal areas. Here the friars laid out groups of buildings
with many components found on older monastic sites, though the restricted
sites sometimes necessitated unconventional building plans. The buildings were
centred on a church and a cloister and usually contained a refectory (dining
hall), a chapter house and an infirmary (for the care of the sick). The
buildings were set within a precinct defined by other properties or by its own
purpose built wall, but the public were not totally excluded. The naves of the
friary churches, in particular, were designed to accommodate large public
gatherings assembled to hear the friars preach.
Friaries made a great contribution to later medieval life, in the towns
particularly, and their remains add greatly to our understanding of the close
inter-relationship between social and religious aspects of life in the high
Middle Ages. All examples which exhibit significant surviving archaeological
remains are worthy of protection.

Partial excavation at the site of Grey Friars at Lichfield has indicated that
both structural and artefactual information will survive beneath the ground
surface. Despite its urban context, Grey Friars has survived largely
unencumbered by modern development and the importance of the site is further
enhanced by written documentation detailing the conventual buildings
associated with the friary.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Johnstone, H, The Victoria History of the County of Staffordshire, (1908), 269
Johnstone, H, The Victoria History of the County of Staffordshire, (1908), 268
Laithwaite, P, 'Transactions of the Birmingham Archaeology Society' in The Lichfield Friary, (1934), 54
Laithwaite, P, 'Transactions of the Birmingham Archaeology Society' in The Lichfield Friary, (1934), 53-55

Source: Historic England

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