Franciscan Friary church, 165m NNW of Friars Gate.
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. 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. 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 some later alterations, the Franciscan Friary Church in Priory Park survives well including well preserved upstanding masonry remains and architectural features. As a monument accessible to the public, the church forms an important educational and recreational resource. The site will contain below-ground archaeological and environmental information relating to the construction, use and history of the friary.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 29 October 2014. The 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 13th century Franciscan Friary church, known as Greyfriars, surviving as upstanding and below-ground remains. It is situated on flat ground in Priory Park recreation ground, within the walls of the old town of Chichester.
The chancel of the church, built between about 1270 and 1280, survives as upstanding masonry remains and is now part of the City Museum. It has five large pointed windows on the north and south side and stone walls strengthened by buttresses. At the south-west end is a lighted stairway. The east end features a late 13th century lance window with five lights.
The Franciscan Friary was originally founded on the site now occupied by St Mary’s Hospital, prior to 1231. In around 1269 it moved to the site in Priory Park. It was dissolved during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 and in 1541 the chancel of the former church was converted into a guildhall. It continued in use as such until about 1731 after which it became a law court. It was later used as a store and most recently as a museum.
In 1835, an area in the vicinity of the church was partially excavated. The finds from the excavation included Roman pottery, painted glass, Norman tiles, several abbey tokens, a chalice and patten of pewter, and several skeletons. In 1989, renovations in the church revealed medieval wall paintings, blocked doorways and a decorative niche.
The chancel of the church, now the City Museum, is Grade I listed.
Further archaeological remains survive within the vicinity of this monument. Some such as a nearby motte and bailey castle are scheduled, but others are not because they have not been formally assessed. In the late 20th century partial excavation revealed the remains of two wells, part of the precinct wall and a blocked doorway nearby. Cropmarks have been identified marking the possible site of walls and buildings of the friary. To the north-west are the remains of what may be the hospitum or guest house including the north and west walls.