Religious Place In Newcastle City Centre, Tyne And Wear
A restored Grade I listed, 13th Century Friary and ruins in the centre of Newcastle, now partly used as a restaurant and craft workshops.
In the early part of the 13th Century England began to see Orders of Friars establish themselves around the country. Newcastle was no exception and by halfway through the 14th Century, five orders had made their home there; the Blackfriars (Domincan Friars) 1239, the Whitefriars (Carmelite) 1262, the Austinfriars (Augustinian) 1290, the Greyfriars (Franciscans) 1274 and the Trinitarians who were established in 1360.
The Domincan Order, founded by St Dominic shortly after 1200, unsurprisingly set up their base in what we know today as Blackfriars. The Friary, set just inside the City Walls, was founded by Sir Peter Scott, a wealthy merchant, and covered 7 acres (2.83 hectares), with two gardens, used for food and medicinal purposes, and four small closes that provided the Friars with a small income.
Friars of the Dominican Order were forbidden from owning and land or buildings, but it could be held in trust for them, which was the case in Newcastle. They differed from Monks in that their daily routine featured less worship and they tended to be clerics who got by solely through begging. This is why they preferred urban locations.
Despite its austere inhabitants Blackfriars accommodated royalty more than once, including Edward III of England in 1334.
The Reformation, which was set in motion by Henry VIII in 1536, saw the dissolution of all five of the Friaries in Newcastle and in 1539, the land was sold to rich merchants and the Corporation. The Church, Sacristy, half of the Chapter House and the Cloister were all demolished, leaving only remnants of their existence today, and the Convent was sold to Mayor and Burgesses of the City.
In 1552 they started leasing the remaining buildings to nine of Newcastle's craft guilds who used it as their headquarters, which no doubt explains why they are the only religious order whose building survives to the present day.
Throughout the 16th and 17th Century the Guilds carried out extensive renovations to make the buildings more useable for their needs, including the alteration of floor levels and introduction of new windows. The meeting houses within Blackfriars were used well into the 19th Century although some such as the Tailors and Cordwainers moved out of the site before moving back again. The meetings only took place once every 3 months so the rooms in Blackfriars were used the rest of time by others, either as dwellings for people employed by the Guilds or for the poor and needy who could live there rent free.
As with many historic buildings Blackfriars fell into disrepair during the later 19th and 20th Century, and in 1937 the Saddler's property was declared unfit for human habitation. The Newcastle Corporation acquired Blackfriars in 1950.
Between 1973 and 1981, the buildings of Blackfriars were restored and only those of the Cloisters remain, housing a restaurant, which is well worth a visit, and a range of craft workshops, which links back nicely to some of the previous occupants of the site, along with an exhibition on the history of Blackfriars.
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Head north from Blandford Square to Westgate Road, walk down past the Tyne Theatre and turn left by the Town Walls to head towards Chinatown. Turn right onto Stowell Street, between the Town Walls and then turn right again onto Friar Street, Blackfriars is a short distance down the street. To access the ruins at the rear, continue down Stowell Street to Dispensary Lane and turn right through a narrow alleyway.
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There is parking nearby at Blandford Square (as shown on the W3W plan) or Grainger Town. Both are a short walk from Blackfriars which is tucked in behind The Gate and the Town Walls.
Contributed by Andrew Gardner
I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.
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