With its origins dating back to 1239 and a long and turbulent history that included a spell as a hostel to accommodate King Henry III, Blackfriars confidently lays claim to being the oldest dining room in the UK!
Dominican Friars were sent around the world to establish their religious order and arrived in the UK in 1221 where they set about building Monasteries and Friaries. They settled in Newcastle in 1239.
The ‘Black’ Friars
When they arrived in Newcastle they had little money and the site where Blackfriars now stands was donated by three anonymous sisters and the first Mayor of Newcastle, Sir Peter Scot, who raised funds to build their first shelter.
Offers of more land came in and they were soon established with money from local people and grants from King Henry III.
King Henry III goes large at Blackfriars
King Henry III spent quite a lot of time at the Priory during his efforts to fight the Scots. As there was no inn to accommodate royalty in the town he used to stay at the Priory and in return provided the Dominicans with ells of white cloth to help them to get established. A right rousing time is recorded and times when the King had to make good the damage that was caused by his retinue.
The Friars were forever busy teaching, converting and helping the needy and there was an extensive garden which extended right up to the church that supplied the necessary herbs and potions for their infirmary.
Why the Toon Army wears black and white
The Friars had an extensive library, many of the books being written and illuminated by the Friars themselves.
They wore white tunics and black cloaks, which gives rise to their name. They were also referred to as Shodfriars because they wore shoes. The story goes that the Dominicans gave Newcastle United its idea of wearing black and white.
There were several orders of Friars in Newcastle – the Dominicans at the Priory, Franciscans at the top of Grey Street and the Whitefriars, Sackfriars and Carmelites around the Central Station area. The Nuns of Bartholomew were also at the top of Clayton/Nun Street.
Dominican friars still live in Newcastle
King Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509 and having had trouble with the Pope on many occasions he decreed that all Monasteries should be closed and their wealth confiscated. This ruthless programme started in 1536 and the Dominicans had to go.
The church was completely stripped and fell into disrepair. The church was finally flattened and built upon until its restoration.
The Friars didn’t re-appear in Newcastle until 1860 when they moved into their present site – Off New Bridge Street. There are five remaining Dominicans living in Newcastle.
In 1552 the buildings were granted to the most ‘ancient trades and mysteries of the town’. Over the centuries the preservation of the Priory is due to these Guilds including the bakers, butchers, brewers, cordwainers, fullers, dyers, saddlers, skinners, glovers, smiths, tanners and tailors.
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