Tel: +44 (0)1452 396386
The Dominican of Black Friars order was founded in 1217 by St Dominic and first arrived in England in 1221. The Friars Preachers were essentially teachers and evangelists, either travelling alone about the countyside or living communally in urban friaries. The Gloucester Black Friars was founded in 1239 on a site that had once been part of the bailey of the Norman castle. King Henry III became a major benefactor of the friary, granting timber for the roofs, not only from the nearby Forest of Dean but also from royal forests in Shropshire and Dorset.
In accordance with their role as teachers, the friars at Gloucester had the distinction of establishing a library, which is the oldest surviving in Britain today. The friary prospered through the next two centuries despite a series of scandals relating to the indiscipline of the brethren. The house was in decline by the early sixteenth century with the former complement of between thirty and forty friars reduced to a prior and six brethren living in extreme poverty at the time of the Dissolution.
In 1539 Sir Thomas Bell, a wealthy Gloucester capper and clothier, purchased the property for £240.5s.4d. and set about remodelling the church into a private dwelling house with other buildings being converted into a cloth manufactory providing employment for over 300 townspeople. Bell died in 1566 and his wife a year later; the property then passed into the
hands of the Dennis family who held it until the late seventeenth century. Part of the cloistral ranges were turned into dwellings in the eighteenth century and other buildings housed a woolstapler and a stonemason’s workshop. The great hall was leased to an independent
church in 1780 and, by the early nineteenth century, a private school had been established here.
By the 1930s, Bell’s mansion had been divided into two separate houses and other tenants of the site included a printing firm and a mineral water manufacturer. The building is recognised as the finest surviving example of a Dominican Friary in Britain.
In 2012 Gloucester City Council will be operating the site as a cultural centre, available for meetings and conferences, exhibitions, weddings and other private hires and events.
With various spaces around the site and a beautifully enclosed traditional cloister garden, capacities range from 10 people in one of the smaller rooms, to 240 in the main North Range.
For further information please contact Sarah Gilbert on 01452 39 63 86 or email Blackfriars@gloucester.gov.uk.
Abstract from ‘Historic Gloucester’ by Phil Moss.
This book is available to purchase from Gloucester Tourist Information Centre and local book shops.
- Visit England Code of Practice 2013
- In town/city centre - In the city centre. Five minutes from the Cross.
- Of historic, literary or architectural interest - Built between 1239 and 1270, it is the most complete Dominican priory to survive from the middle ages.
- Guide Dogs Permitted
Parking & Transport
- Car parking - The nearset car park is Blackfriar/Ladybellegate in Ladybellegate Street.
- Groups Accepted - Essential to prebook.Prior bookings must be submitted at least 6 weeks in advance
- Max group size - maximum 50.
- Min group size - minimum 11
Tours and Demonstrations
- Educational Visits Accepted
- Guided Tours Available for Groups
|Ticket Type||Ticket Tariff|
|Adults||£3.50 per ticket|
|English Heritage Members||£3.00 per ticket|
Meet at the Priory at 3pm prompt where you will be greeted by a tour guide.
Pre booked group tours are available throughout the year.
Heritage Open Days is a free event.
From the North: Get off the M5 at Junction 11, at the roundabout take the 3rd exit onto the A40 (signposted Gloucester/Cirencester). At Elmbridge Court roundabout take the 4th exit (signposted Ross). At the next roundabout take the first exit onto the A38 and then at the next roundabout take the 3rd exit onto the A417 (St. Oswald's Road). At the next roundabout take the 2nd exit onto the A417. Keep left around Westgate Island and take the first left into Westgate Street. Follow the road around into Upper Quay Street and then turn left into Bearland. Follow the road into Ladybellegate Street, turn left and the Priory is just to your right.
From the South: Get off the M5 at Junction 12, at the roundabout take the first exit onto the B4008. At the Cross Keys roundabout take the 3rd exit onto the A38. At the next rounabout continue forward. At the traffic lights continue forward (stay in the left hand lane, signposted Ross) onto the A430, Secunda Way. Continue forward on this by pass until you come to a roundabout, stay in the right hand lane and take the 2nd exit (on to Hempstead Lane). Turn right into St. Ann Way and continue forward at the next 2 sets of lights. At the major cross road turn left into Southgate Street. Follow Southgate Street and continue on to Commercial Road. Take the first right onto Ladybellegate Street and then the next right, the Priory will just be on your right.
Public Transport Directions
Short stroll from Gloucester Train and Bus Station. Come out of the Train Station and cross Bruton Way into the Bus Station. Walk through the Bus Station and out onto Station Road. Continue forward into Clarence Street. At the end of Clarence Street turn right into Eastgate Street. At the end of Eastgate Street you will come to 'the cross' which joins the four main gate streets. Turn left into Southgate Street until you reach the Tourist Information Centre on the corner of Longsmith Street. Turn right onto Longsmith Street and left onto Ladybellgate Street. Continue until you see the Priory on the left hand side.