Greyfriars, Gloucester, Gloucestershire


North wall

Walls, windows and arches from the church of a medieval friary, founded around 1231 and rebuilt in 1531. Now surrounded by modern buildings in the city centre
East of Southgate Street in the centre of Gloucester; GL1 2TG
Gloucester contained three medieval friaries, all, as was the custom, named after the colour of the cloaks worn by the resident monks; Whitefriars, of which no trace remains, Blackfriars, which survives mostly intact following subsequent conversion to a mansion, and Greyfriars, a ruined structure in the care of English Heritage. This friary, dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, was founded around 1231, and soon had all the usual monastic buildings including a church, refectory, dormitory, chapter house and cloisters. In 1518 the church was enlarged and reconstructed, in the perpendicular Gothic style, using funds from the patron, Maurice Berkeley of Berkeley Castle, but the grand new building was in use for only two decades, until closed by order of Henry VIII as part of the Suppression of the Monasteries.

The church was soon partly converted to a beerhouse and its fabric survived relatively intact until 1643, when it was damaged by Royalist artillery fire during the siege of Gloucester, part of the English Civil War. The subsidiary buildings, which had been used for other purposes, were also mostly destroyed, and by the start of the 18th century all had been removed, leaving only the incomplete, ruined church - the nave, of seven bays, and the north aisle. In 1810 a three floor, classical-style house was built into the western section, while the rest survives to this day; a relatively substantial relic, retaining high walls and large windows with fragments of ornate tracery, though with a rather incongruous setting, overlooked by modern buildings on three sides. The remains were partly restored in the 1960s, and cleared of some later structures, including walls from several small dwelling houses erected within the building in the 18th century.

The Ruins

The friary was situated towards the south corner of the old Roman walled city of Gloucester, now at the end of a narrow, cobbled side street (Greyfriars Walk), off Southgate Street, behind the 12th century St Mary de Crypt Church. A small amount of parking is available nearby, in front of the 1810 house, which is now used as a library. The church ruin consists of the outer wall of the north aisle, and the north and south walls of the nave, plus a high arch at the east end of the nave, all surviving to their full height. The north aisle is only slightly narrower than the nave, which did not have a south aisle, instead adjoining the north cloister walk. The two external walls are supported by three-stage buttresses and contain large, arched, four-light windows, between which, on the inside, are a series of decorative blind panels. The dividing wall contains matching, floor-to-ceiling arches, some partially blocked by more recent masonry. The eastern nave arch once linked to the crossing, between north and south transepts, with the chancel beyond, but no trace remains of these sections, or of the other friary buildings, which extended to the south, all the way to the walls at the edge of the old city. On the south side of the nave, set in a concrete wall, are two original shields, of the Chandos and Clifford families, believed once to have been part of a funerary monument.