The London Greyfriars, site of, Newgate Street, Farringdon
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1002002
Date first listed: 22-Oct-1974
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: Greater London Authority
District: City and County of the City of London (London Borough)
National Grid Reference: TQ 31973 81374
Remains of a Franciscan Friary, 90m north-east of Christchurch Court.
Reasons for Designation
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.
Despite having been largely destroyed above ground, the buried remains of the Franciscan Friary, 90m north-east of Christchurch Court survive relatively well. It was one of the most significant Franciscan establishments in medieval England, which received major civic and royal patronage. As such it is of considerable historical interest. The friary church was one of the largest in London and the remains of its layout provide an insight into the plan form of the medieval church. Archaeological and environmental information relating to the friary is known to survive on the site.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 24 March 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes a medieval Franciscan friary, which survives as archaeological remains. It is situated at the corner of Newgate Street and King Edward Street at Farringdon in the City of London. On the same site are the 17th century upstanding remains of Christ Church, which are Grade I listed and excluded from the scheduling. The tower and walls of Christ Church overly the chancel of the conventual church of the Fransiscan friary (Greyfriars). The bases of the eastern buttresses of the south wall and some of the original paving of Greyfriars’ church have been recorded on the site. The later building also reused the lower stages of the medieval walls and the foundations of the pier base. To the west of the tower are the remains of the nave of Greyfriars’ church.
The Franciscan Friary at Newgate was the second founded in England in 1225. Further building work was carried out in 1279-1290 and there was a major rebuild of the church at the instigation of Queen Margaret, 2nd wife of Edward I, in 1308-63. It was the second largest church in medieval London at 91m long by 27m wide. The nave and quire were aisled on the north and south sides for their full length, and separated by a walking space. A south porch was added in 1398. It was the burial of many important and royal figures such as Margaret of France, Isabella of France and Elizabeth Barton. The friary received support and donations from royal and civic patrons such as Dick Wittington who paid for the library in 1421-5. The precinct is thought to have extended as far as the city wall to the north, Newgate Steet to the south and the Swan Inn to the west, but the eastern boundary is less certain. The great cloister was situated to the north of the church, with the chapterhouse and studies dorter in the east range, the library in the north range, and the frater in the west range. The lesser cloister with its infirmary and hall lay west of the great cloister. The millhouse, bakehouse, brewhouse and gatehouse were in separate buildings along Newgate Street at the west end of the site. It was dissolved in 1538 and in 1547 the buildings were granted to the City of London. The former friary church became the parish church known as Christ Church and the rest of the claustral buildings were used by Christ Hospital. These buildings were largely destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. In 1687-1704, the current building on the site was built to the design of Sir Christopher Wren. It occupies the six eastern bays of the older church with a tower projecting to the west. It suffered bomb damage in 1940. Now only the tower and parts of the outer walls survive. In 1981, neo-Georgian brick offices were constructed to the south of the tower in place of an earlier building called Vestry House. In 1989, a garden was laid out between the walls of Christ Church.
Partial excavation on the site and in the vicinity in 1976, 1979, 1998-9 and 2001 recorded archaeological remains of the friary.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: LO 129
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
Greater London SMR 041214/00/00. NMR TQ38SW982. PastScape 405446.
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing