The Greyfriars

Click for a better look at this impression of the friary by Ridsdale Tate

1230AD - 1538AD

The Order of the Franciscans, also known as the Greyfriars, first came to York in 1230.  No Franciscan buildings remain in York today, though part of the Friary outer wall is still standing.  The Friary was located between the River Ouse and the moat of the Castle, around the 'Lower Friargate' area. 

Typically the order would consist of about 40 to 50 friars.  As an order based on the teachings of Francis of Assisi, who preached poverty, the Friary started off with one acre of land, which included a vegetable garden, but they soon grew and moved in 1243 to larger premises, which became ‘nothing short of palatial’. 

The sheer size of the Friary is illustrated by the visit of Edward III and his mother, Isabella of Valois, who stayed in Friars' Manor in 1327.  They had over 600 knights and ladies between them, so by that time the Friary must have had extensive accommodation and have been sumptuous enough for royalty.  It was clearly felt to be more appropriate than the nearby royal castle.

The Friary also housed Parliaments and in 1319 held King Edward II’s Court and Headquarters following his abortive siege on Berwick, again showing the magnitude of the buildings.

Unlike some other orders, the Franciscans appear to have enjoyed broad and enduring popularity with the citizens of York, with testators (those who left the Friary money in their Wills) from as far away as 30 miles.  The Friary also received food and alms from both Edward I and Edward III up until 1320.

The Friary was came to an end during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.  On 27 November 1538, after more than 300 years of monastic practice, the house was signed over to Henry's commissioners with 'no murmer of grudge'.  The goods of the Friary were sold for £20, which was split between the outgoing Franciscan friars.


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