Priories in Gloucester
In the 13th century a town's status was measured by the number of religious houses it contained.
At that time Gloucester not only had the most Foundations but five out of the six were different orders. The Benedictines were at St Peter's (later Gloucester Cathedral); the Franciscans were at Greyfriars, the Carmelites at Whitefriars, the Dominicans at Blackfriars and the Augustinians at St Oswalds and Llanthony.
The monasteries were responsible for bringing a piped water supply to Gloucester and Greyfriars handed over three-quarters of their supply to the local populace.
St Oswald’s Priory
Near the cathedral, in a park off Archdeacon Street, are the remains of the oldest priory in Gloucester. This is the spot where a saint and one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon queens, Lady Aethelflaed, are buried.
The priory was founded by the last King of Mercia, Aethelred II, and his formidable wife, Lady Aethelflaed, in about AD 890 on the site of a Royal cemetery. Beautifully carved crosses have been unearthed and can be seen in the Gloucester City Museum & Art Gallery.
St Oswald was the King of Northumbria and he had been killed in a battle with the Viking raiders at Berkeley Castle. His body lay unnoticed by the Danes and was retrieved by Lady Aethelflaed’s brother in a daring raid on Viking territory. He brought the body to his sister at Gloucester.
Aethelflaed was the daughter of the king of Wessex, King Alfred the Great. After her husband died, she ruled West Mercia for many years, keeping the Viking raiders at bay. She was responsible for rebuilding Gloucester’s city walls and devising the street plan which survives today.
She founded several churches in Gloucester, but St Oswald’s was her favourite. She gave them the bones of St Oswald, important Christian relics, and much treasure. She died in AD 918, aged 38, and was buried beside St Oswald in the priory church.
English Heritage Membership - Join here:
Blackfriars (English Heritage)
Located in Blackfriars Lane, off Ladybellegate Street. This is the best surviving example of a medieval Dominican priory in the UK.
The building is complete and has a magnificent timbered roof built of oaks from the Royal Forest of Dean. There is a Scriptorium in the 13th century cloister where the monks worked on their illuminated manuscripts. It is believed to be the oldest surviving library in England.
In 1539, following the dissolution of the monastery, the priory was bought by Sir Thomas Bell who made the church into a private residence and the cloister buildings into a factory manufacturing knitted caps. The gateway to the residence is marked by Ladybellegate Street, in tribute to his wife.
The buildings have been home to various commercial enterprises and are currently being considered for a cultural centre.
Blackfriars is under the control of English Heritage. Guided tours are conducted during the summer months. For details go to Web: English Heritage website
Greyfriars Street off Southgate Street. Ruins of a Franciscan friary built in 1518, bounded by St Mary de Crypt Church and the back entrance to the Eastgate Market. Opposite is the Society of Friends (Quakers) Meeting House (1834).
Now completely demolished but probably sited under the current Gloucester Bus Station.
Llanthony Road - See Llanthony Secunda Priory page on this website.
Google Maps - Gloucester