The Friaries of Medieval London

October 2017
30 black and white, 61 line illustrations
384 pages
24x17 cm
Studies in the History of Medieval Religion
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS037010, ARC005000, REL086000

The Friaries of Medieval London

From Foundation to Dissolution

Nick Holder

A lavishly illustrated account of the buildings of the friars in the middle ages, bringing them vividly to life.
with contributions from Ian M. Betts, Jens Röhrkasten, Mark Samuel, and Christian Steer.

Nominated for the Current Archaeology Book of the Year Award 2019

The friaries of medieval London formed an important part of the city's physical and spiritual landscape between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. These urban monasteries housed 300 or more preacher-monks who lived an enclosed religious life and went out into the city to preach. The most important orders were the Dominican Black friars and the Franciscan Grey friars but London also had houses of Augustine, Carmelite and Crossed friars, and, in the thirteenth century, Sack and Pied friars.
This book offers an illustrated interdisciplinary study of these religious houses, combining archaeological, documentary, cartographic and architectural evidence to reconstruct the layout and organisation of nine priories. After analysing and describing the great churches and cloisters, and their precincts with burial grounds and gardens, it moves on to examine more general historical themes, including the spiritual life of the friars, their links to living and dead Londoners, and the role of the urban monastery. The closure of these friaries in the 1530s is also discussed, along with a brief revival of one friary in the reign of Mary.

Nick Holder is a historian and archaeologist at English Heritage and the University of Exeter. He has written extensively on medieval and early modern London.

Ian M. Betts is a building materials specialist at Museum of London Archaeology; Jens Röhrkasten is Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Birmingham; Mark Samuel is an independent architectural historian; Christian Steer is an independent historian, specialising in burials in medieval churches.

Table of Contents

The First Black Friars in Holborn, c. 1223-1286
The Second Black Friars, 1275-1538
The Third Black Friars at St Bartholomew's, 1556-1559
Grey Friars, 1225-1538
White Friars, c. 1247-1538
Austin Friars, c. 1265-1538
Crossed Friars, c. 1268-1538
Sack Friars, c. 1270-1305
Pied Friars, 1267-1317
Precincts and the use of space
Architecture and architectural fragments of the London friaries [Mark Samuel]
Floor tiles and building materials from the London friaries [Ian Betts]
Water supply
Spiritual life and education in the London friaries [Jens Röhrkasten]
Burial and commemoration in the London friaries [Christian Steer]
London friars and Londoners


Holder's use of a combination of documentary, cartographic, archaeological and architectural evidence is helpful to students of history who are learning to gather multiple kinds of material, not only for their evidentiary value, but also to determine how those many and different materials speak to each other and inform each other to provide us with helpful understandings about the past. READING RELIGION

There is an immense amount of information in this attractive and readable monograph. It should stand as the 'go to' study for many years. MEDIEVAL REVIEW

Holder and his team are able to come up with vivid re-creations of the [friaries'] buildings and precincts that would do justice to the late Alan Sorrell or a Time Team Special. This is a fascinating book which makes a major contribution to the history of the London mendicant communities not only as sites in an historic landscape but also as functioning communities which lay at the heart of a busy and densely populated city. JOURNAL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY

A marvel of hard-won synthesis [and] a splendid survey of religious complexes which formed a significant feature of the medieval city. THE LONDON JOURNAL

Nick Holder has given scholars and those interested in the religious life of medieval England, in particuliar London, a valuable resource. Using maps, architecture, archeological discoveries, and written records, he has produced a valuable study of London friaries and their numerous influences on the city's population. AMERICAN BENEDICTINE REVIEW

[An] important study. [The authors have] done a considerable service to monastic studies in London, and nationally, with this fine, clear and eminently readable book. CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY

Author Bio

Nick Holder is a Senior Properties Historian for English Heritage and a Honorary Research Fellow for University of Exeter. He has previously graduated from University College London and Paris-Sorbonne University, with his PhD from Royal Holloway.

Also in Series

Related Titles