Blackfriars is one of the most complete Dominican priories to survive from the Middle Ages in England. The mendicant orders, established themselves across Europe in the early 13th century. They were particularly engaged with preaching and charitable work with the laity.
The Dominicans, or Blackfriars, first came to Gloucester in 1239 at the instigation of Sir Stephen de Hermshall. The building of the house began almost immediately, largely with materials and funds donated by Henry III, and was completed in about 1270 as home for some forty friars.
For three centuries the friars were a familiar part of the church establishment, enjoying a revival of popularity at the very end of the Middle Ages. Unfortunately for them, the property they owned was considerable and they were suppressed, along with the larger monasteries, in 1539. By this time the number of friars living in Gloucester had fallen to just six and a prior. A local alderman called Thomas Bell bought the Gloucester Blackfriars and converted the church into a mansion and the other buildings into a weaving factory. In the 19th century the west range became a row of terraced houses and the library range was used for bottling. Extensive conservation work has been carried out on the property since it came under guardianship in 1960.
The particular interest of Gloucester’s Blackfriars is the complete nature of its survival with several rare features, and its history of adaptation and use.