The lost priories of London

July 3rd –  On this day in 1322, hundreds of needy poor people were crushed to death in a rush to beg food and money at the gates of Blackfriars’ (Dominican) Priory.

Blackfriars

Blackfriars (Dominican) Priory

The Blackfriars’ was one of a number of monastic houses established in London in the early Medieval period, which altogether included those of the  mendicant friars not only of the Dominican order (the Black Friars) but also of the Carmelite and Franciscan orders (the White  and Grey Friars, respectively); the hermit monks and nuns of the Benedictine, Cluniac and Carthusian orders; the monk- and nun- like regular and friar-like secular canons and canonesses of the Augustinan order(s); and the Knights Templar and  Hospitaller.  The monastic houses came to dominate not only the religious life, but also the philosophical and indeed even the physical life of the City, becoming wealthy and powerful in the process, and making many enemies as well as friends.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VII in 1536-41, the assets of all the monastic houses in the City and indeed country were disbursed, under the auspices of Henry’s  Vicar-General and Vice-Regent in Spirituals Thomas Cromwell, and his Court of Augmentations.   In London, the change in land ownership and usage is evident in the marked contrast between the map of 1520, from before the event, and the  “Copper Plate” one of 1556-8, the “Agas” one of 1561-70, and the Braun and Hogenberg one of 1572, from after the event.  Many of the former monastic properties here evidently became parish churches, hospitals, orphanages or schools, or combinations thereof, or Inns of Court, or  play-houses, while others passed into private ownership.    Of the  former monks, nuns and priors, many went to work in the newly created parish churches, while others moved to monastic houses on the continent, and still others were forced to seek out entirely new ways of life.  All were apparently offered pensions, although none of their servants was.

The site of the Blackfriars’ Priory, and later Theatre, is visited on our “London Wall”, “Tower to Temple” and “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London” themed special.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of this web-site. Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

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