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Greyfriars former monastic building

Case study: Greyfriars Pathway, Lincoln (East Midlands)

List entry numbers: 1005029 (scheduled monument); 1388472 (listed building)

Greyfriars building at risk - Greyfriars Hall
The Greyfriars building belonged to Lincoln’s Franciscan Priory, established in the 13th century. It has hosted several schools, a house of correction, and a museum over the last five centuries. It has been vacant and deteriorating for several years now.

Background and history

The first Franciscan Friars to arrive in England were greeted with great suspicion, risking execution as heretics. Nevertheless, The Bishop of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste, was soon able to send positive reports to the Pope. The Franciscans, he said, "illuminate our whole country with the bright light of their teaching and preaching".

Franciscan friars lived as part of the community, sharing the poverty and concerns of the common people. In addition to their piety, they brought intellectual prowess. In Lincoln they also brought a freshwater supply that was shared with the townsfolk. And here they established a priory, which came to serve the city in many different ways for centuries.

A magnificent hall with a vaulted undercroft, dating from the 13th century, is all that can now be seen of the priory. This building is almost certainly one of the oldest surviving Franciscan friary churches in Europe. It is certainly the oldest surviving friary building in England.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, the building housed various schools. At one time the grammar school occupied the hall while a house of correction occupied the undercroft beneath! In 1907, after renovation, the building opened as the City and County Museum.

Is it at risk?

The museum closed in 2004 and the building has been used only occasionally since then. For the last few years it has been completely vacant. This has led to its decline. Cages have been installed to catch falling tiles from the roof. Netting has been placed over the crumbling masonry of the south-west corner.

Sadly, the building entered the Heritage at Risk Register for the first time in 2015.

What's the current situation?

Greyfriars has been unoccupied since its temporary use by an arts project ceased two years ago. The City of Lincoln Council, Greyfriars' owner, recently repaired the roof of the Victorian annex. However, the roof of the main hall leaks and sheds tiles. It requires renewal. There are several other repair and maintenance issues to resolve.

In 2015 the City of Lincoln Council decided to dispose of Greyfriars. Historic England is convinced that this nationally important building has a key role to play in the heritage-led regeneration of Lincoln. Greyfriars could once again serve the community and visitors to the City. We have encouraged the Council to seek a partner to help undertake repairs and find new uses. It would be deeply sad if the foresight and investment that city authorities and new arrivals to the city achieved nearly 800 years ago could not be matched today.

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