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GLOUCESTER BLACKFRIARS

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  BLACKFRIARS
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Gloucester Blackfriars is a Dominican Priory that was founded in 1239 by Sir Stephen de Hermshall and consecrated in 1284. It is thought to be the most complete survival of a medieval Dominican priory in Britain. The buildings were constructed of stone rubble with dressed stone features. It was built under the patronage of King Henry III using royal funds and materials. The oak of the church roof came from royal forests including those at Dean and Gillingham. The buildings were arranged around a cloister and included a church, library (or 'Scriptorium' as it was known), buttery and infirmary. The Scriptorium is thought to be England's oldest surviving library building. The church was originally cruciform in plan comprising a long chancel, crossing with north and south transepts, and an aisled nave. It had an impressive open timber roof (still extant) with close-set scissor trusses.

The priory was dissolved as part of the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539 and the buildings were purchased by Sir Thomas Bell, a merchant cloth maker and draper. Between 1540 and 1545, Bell remodelled the church for conversion into a Tudor mansion. The north side of the church became the main front of the house; the chancel and nave were truncated and closed by gable-end walls with central projecting chimney stacks. The north nave aisle was completely demolished and the south aisle partly demolished. A large canted bay window was added in the north wall, the chancel remodelled to form the great hall, and floors and partitions added to the transepts to form chambers. The other claustral buildings became a cloth manufactory. In the 19th century the west range became a row of terrace houses. There were various alterations to the buildings from the 18th century for a range of commercial uses. The site underwent restoration from around 1960, first by the Ministry of Works and later by English Heritage.

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Further information about monuments may be obtained by contacting Archive Services, through the English Heritage website.