Blue plaque commemorates Great Yarmouth monastery

Great Yarmouth mayor John Burroughs unveils the plaque, marking the spot of the White Friars Monastary. Pic LC Great Yarmouth mayor John Burroughs unveils the plaque, marking the spot of the White Friars Monastary. Pic LC

Monday, April 14, 2014
9:50 AM

Great Yarmouth’s history was relived with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque to mark the spot of an ancient friary.

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White Friars Monastery stood on the town’s North Quay for more than 230 years and parts of its ancient structure still remain on the site, which is now home to flats.

And its long standing in the town was marked when members of the Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society gathered last Friday to watch as a blue badge, commemorating its heritage was unveiled by mayor John Burroughs.

White Friars was one of four main orders of friars in the town - alongside Blackfriars near the fire station, Greyfriars in South Quay and the Austin Friars in Gorleston - and is the last to be commemorated with a plaque.

Adrian Gibson, who owns the flats at White Friars House where the plaque was place, arranged for it to be fitted after learning about the history of the site.

He said: “Although I’ve been connected to the town since 1947 I hadn’t really gone too deep into the history. Our neighbour Terry [a society member] stimulated my interest in it and got us talking about the place and I thought ‘let’s do something’.

“Hopefully as more and more of these plaques go up it will stimulate more and more interest in the town.”

The monastery was founded in 1278 and stretched from the quay back into the town centre and across the rows.

It was home to the Friars of the Order of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel, commonly known as the Carmelites, who lived and worked in the town where they concentrated on preaching and hearing confessions.

They were also known as the White Friars because of their white habit and mantle.

The order was popular in the town and built up wealth but they came to an end soon after 1509 when the friary burnt down. Historians do not think it was rebuilt, indicating that by the early 16th century it was in decline.

Margaret Gooch, secretary and vice chairman of the society, said: “Although it was burnt down, some walls may have been left standing and were incorporated in buildings on the site.

“No 20 Broad Row has a late 15th century groined cellar, which was almost certainly part of the friary, and the rear wall of No 26 - accessible from Whitefriars Court - is of early 16th century brick and flint, and to the west of the court is a round arch in brick.

“Certainly building materials from the friary have been reused in buildings on the site.”

Great Yarmouth’s monasteries owned about a fifth of the land in the town in the middle ages and were important because people believed priests and monks could intervene with God to look after them both in this life, and the next.

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