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Yorkshire Beverley Friary

One of the few surviving Friaries in Britain which is now a Youth Hostel.

Friaries were built in growing towns where the friars, who had taken vows of poverty, ministered and preached to the local population. After the Reformation most of them disappeared. Beverley Friary is important as it is is the only Dominican Friary to survive with much of the original buildings still standing.

A Dominican Friary was founded in Beverley in 1233 on land given near the Minster. By 1310 there were just over 40 friars living in a walled complex of buildings surrounding a church and cloisters.


The brick walls enclosing the Friary can still be seen along Friar’s Lane and one of the original gateways survives on Eastgate.


The eastern part of the building is stone and probably C14th. The brick built western section is C15th, having been rebuilt after a fire in 1449.


After the Reformation and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the church and cloisters were destroyed (and their foundations now lie beneath the railway line). The guesthouse survived as it wasn’t used for religious purposes. It passed to Michael Wharton who came from a well known and wealthy family. After the death of his son, the property became tenanted and was later divided into three houses. From then on, it had a chequered history and was derelict by 1960. The buildings were in danger of being demolished, although a Public Enquiry ruled they should be preserved. The Beverley Friary Preservation Trust was set as a charity to restore them with the Youth Hostels Association agreeing to run them as a hostel. The exhibition area and the great hall remain for community use. A new ablutions block was added carefully designed to blend in with the medieval buildings.

On the south wall is a much eroded sculpture of a lady dating from around 1300 and may originally have been the top of a tomb.


The gardens have been landscaped with flowers. The circular brick structure was possibly the remains of a wash house.


The buildings are not normally open to casual visitors unless there is someone on site, usually from 5pm. They may be willing to let visitors have a look inside.

The exhibition room is on the ground floor in the brick C15th building. It still has oak beams with plaster infill on the end wall. The wood beam ceiling looks later, although the large brick fireplace survives and now contains artefacts found around the site. It would originally have burnt peat. There are information panels on the walls and a model of what the Friary may have looked like.


Also on the ground floor in the C14th stone building, is the self catering kitchen and refectory again with a large brick fireplace. Beyond is the male dormitory and ablutions block.


A new spiral staircase leads from the exhibition hall to a small lobby on the first floor. On one side is what is described as the great hall. On the other side is the antechamber.

The great hall is used as a meeting space and had chairs and folded tables stacked up. The oak roof is the original. The C16th wall paintings are on the end wall as well as to the wall to the left of the doorway. These are charcoal outlines of flowers covering the structural wooden beams as well as the plaster between them. The paintings date from after the Dissolution of the Friary when it became a private house and the stud and brick partitions were plastered and painted with flowers, fruits and leaves.



Later, the walls were covered with wood panelling and part of this can still be seen round the fireplace.


Don’t miss the antechamber - its easy to miss as you have to turn back on yourself away from the great hall. This has two remarkable wall paintings from the C16th. The larger depicts the Holy Trinity and Crown of Thorns.


The other is the Tree of Life and is probably all that remains of a larger painting that would have covered most of the walls in the room. The two blackbirds are a pun on the Dominican Order, the Black Friars, who wore black cloaks.


Through the anteroom is a small room referred to as the retiring room. This has another wall painting, which is different to the rest, not only in style but also it was filled in with colour which has oxidised to black over the years. There was no information about it and none of the volunteers were able to help.


Beyond the great hall is the lounge another inglenook fireplace and wood beamed ceiling.


Beyond this is the women’s dormitory. The massive wood beams are the originals although the roof is new. The showers and toilets are in the modern extension beyond.


There is little information about Beverley Friary on the web and it doesn’t feature in the tourist literature. The only indication is a small sign post near the Minster. They are reached down the narrow Friar’s Lane which leads off Eastgate, near Beverley minster.

Visitors can enter the gardens and admire the outside of the buildings. If there is a member of the Youth Hostel Staff around they may allow visitors to enter and look at the wall paintings. They are however usually open as part of the Heritage Open days each year, which is when I visited.

There is a limited amount of parking on site. The post code is HU17 0DF and the grid reference is
TA 039393.

This was a very well worthwhile visit and these are some of the best preserved domestic wall paintings in the country. It was also interesting seeing how an old friary had been adapted for a new purpose while still retaining many original features.

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