Grey Friars


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Grey Friars
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Lichfield (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 11582 09360

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.

Partial excavation at the site of Grey Friars at Lichfield has indicated that both structural and artefactual information will survive beneath the ground surface. Despite its urban context, Grey Friars has survived largely unencumbered by modern development and the importance of the site is further enhanced by written documentation detailing the conventual buildings associated with the friary.


The monument is situated 200m south west of St Mary's Church in the city of Lichfield and includes the standing and buried remains of Grey Friars, a Franciscan friary. Grey Friars was established in c.1237 by Bishop Alexander de Stavensby and, by 1286, the construction of the friary buildings, including a chapel and dwellings, had been completed. A fire destroyed buildings at the site in 1291 and the friary was rebuilt slightly to the west of the original site. The friary was dissolved in 1538. Documentary references to the `new lodging' or `new long-house' indicate that building work at the site was in progress on the eve of the Dissolution. The majority of the site has been incorporated within a formal public garden, while the south east part is overlaid by the road known as The Friary. Excavations have indicated that a large proportion of the site survives as buried features beneath the ground surface. The monastic church is sited in the north west part of the site and only part of the north wall of the nave, approximately 0.8m high, remains standing. This wall has been partly rebuilt, apparently reusing original priory stone. The remains of a doorway opening within the north wall of the nave is thought to have provided secular access into the church from Friars' Alley for the local population. This length of walling is thought to be of early 14th century date and is included in the scheduling. The church was partially excavated in 1933 and included a nave of five bays, the crossing tower and the choir. The church was unusually large and the nave measures approximately 33m south west-north east and 18m north west-south east. The foundations of the crossing indicate a tower of considerable size. The remains of the claustral buildings were situated to the south east of the church and a 2.5m wide passage provided access from the choir into one of the two cloisters. The little cloister was located immediately adjacent to the choir, while the main cloister abutted the south east side of the nave. An excavation in the north east part of the little cloister recovered evidence for a doorway leading from the cloister into a large chamber, thought to be the chapter house. The remains of the cloisters and the conventual buildings will survive as buried features beneath the formal garden and the road surface. Excavations at the site also recovered large quantities of ornamental floor tiles and two metal counters of 14th century date. The Bishop's Lodging, situated south east of the central core of the friary and south of The Friary road, was the only building standing at the site by 1541. It was enlarged in 1545 with a hall and chimney-piece being added to the original stone structure and was used as a dwelling. Since 1925 the Bishop's Lodging has been incorporated within the buildings of The Friary-Grange School and it is not included in the scheduling. The surfaces of all paths and that of the road known as The Friary, the portico, garden furniture, litter bins, inspection chambers and all drainage pipes are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Johnstone, H, The Victoria History of the County of Staffordshire, (1908), 269
Johnstone, H, The Victoria History of the County of Staffordshire, (1908), 268
Laithwaite, P, 'Transactions of the Birmingham Archaeology Society' in The Lichfield Friary, (1934), 54
Laithwaite, P, 'Transactions of the Birmingham Archaeology Society' in The Lichfield Friary, (1934), 53-55


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