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Somerset Historic Environment Record

12435

Site Name: Franciscan Friary and later mansion, Bridgwater
Civil Parish: Bridgwater
Comprises:
PRN 12442Excavation (1983), 43 Friarn Street, Bridgwater
PRN 15965Human burials, Friarn Avenue, Bridgwater
PRN 17085Excavation (2003), Friarn Meadow, Bridgwater
PRN 22527Watching brief (2007), Albert Court, Albert Street, Bridgwater
PRN 26280Watching Brief (2007), St John Ambulance HQ, Albert Street, Bridgwater
PRN 28133Building recording and archaelogical investigation (2006, 2007, 2008), 31 Friarn Street, Bridgwater
PRN 28222Evaluation (2008), Sion Chapel, Frian Street, Bridgwater
PRN 30365Watching brief (2011), Friarn Street, Bridgwater
PRN 31971Watching brief (2012), Friarn Avenue, Bridgwater
PRN 32274Duplicated site (see PRN 32347)
PRN 32347Watching brief (2013), Albert Street, Taunton
PRN 32407Watching brief (2013), Penrose School, Albert Street, Bridgwater
PRN 57184Watching brief (1934), Bridgwater Friary
PRN 57186Evaluation (1999), Friarn Meadows, Bridgwater
Grid Ref: ST 2963 3676 (ST 23 NE)
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Public access:

The public accessibility of this site is unknown or has not been checked. Please ask locally and do not visit without permission. [Information last updated on 21 May 2003]

Details:

The Franciscan Friary at Bridgwater was founded AD1245 and dissolved in AD1538. Excavations in 1934 (see PRN 57184) revealed an aisled building and another building with traces of a tiled floor. A fragment of a ?C15 pillar and tiles from the site are in the Blake Museum. There is also a plan of the 1934 excavations which does not give a location. There are now no surface indications. {1}

The precinct is likely to lie between outside the walls between West Street and the Durleigh Brook. {3}

Some of the tiles recovered are also found at Cleeve Abbey (PRN 33918). {5}

The best remnant of the friary is an old door in Silver Street. {6}

Leland states that the friary was founded by William Brewere (d1233) and moved in 1245 to its present location. There are reports of wood being ordered in 1250, 1278 and 1284 for building. In 1349 a license was obtained to acquire 6 acres of land in Bridgwater. The church was rebuilt in C15 and consecrated in 1445. It was surrendered 13 Sept 1538. The surrender deed mentions chambers, frater, kitchen and buttery as well as the church.

William Worcester describes an aisled building with nave and quire of approx equal length, probably with "walking space" between. Total length in late C15 c210 feet, nave width 52 ft with aisles, nave itself 24 ft. A dormitory mentioned 1278. {7}

Excavations (PRN 12442) by Western Archaeol Trust in Nov 83 at 43 Friarn St showed no medieval buildings in area. This together with the great size of the church as described by Worcester suggests that the friary lay outside the walls. There are references to 9 burgages "where the grey friars used to dwell" in late C14 which may suggest that they moved from Friarn Street (so called from at least 1298) before that date.

After the dissolution the site became a "mansion house" by 1571 with subsidiary buildings sold off. {8}

Further remains were revealed in 2003 (PRN 17085) Including a probable part of the friary church. This building was oriented north west to south east and was over 20m long and at least 9m wide. The building appeared to be cruciform in plan and had two aisles. {10}

There were two fragments of Ham Stone pillar recovered in 1934 from ST 29633679. {11}

An evaluation (PRN 28222) was undertaken on part of the site in 2008. Medieval features included eleven pits, two ditches and a buried soil. {13}

The inventory from Bridgwater Friary has been published by WAJ Archbold. {14}

Strachey's map of Bridgwater (early C18) shows three fields in the area called 'The Fryery', 'Lower Fryery' and 'Garden' which appear to indicate the former lands of the friary. The map shows a bridge, which still exisits, crossing the Durleigh Brook. {15}

References:

1 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 23 NE 4 (1964) Location: HER files
2 Mention - Knowles, D and Hadcock, RN. Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales.  (1953), 189, 322-3.
3 Mention - Aston, M and Leech, R. Historic Towns in Somerset.  (1977), 13.
4 Mention - Page, W. Victoria History of the County of Somerset.  Vol. 2 (1911), 151-2.
5 Mention - Ward Perkins, JB. A late thirteenth-century tile-pavement at Cleeve Abbey. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  87 (1941), 39-55
6 Mention - Anon. Report of paper given by Mr G Parker at meeting. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  23 (1877), 47
7 Mention - Martin, AR. Franciscan architecture in England. British Society of Franciscan Studies.  18 (1933-4), 211-218 Copy in HER file.
8 Excavation report - Ellis, P. Excavations at Friarn Street and West Quay, Bridgwater 1983/84. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  129 (1985), 69-80
9 Map - Hagley, RA Somerset County Council. 1:500 plans. (July 1983) HBC 1.8.22 - 25.
10 Detailed records - Anon. Friarn Meadow, Bridgwater, Somerset: Summary of Excavation Results and Assessment of Potential for Analysis and Publication.  Unpublished Wessex Archaeology report No: 52779.03 (2004) Location: HER file 17085.
11 Mention - Bridgwater Excavation Committee record card. (1974) Location: Unknown or non-existant.
12 Mention - Ellis, P. Bridgwater. In Burrow, I, Minnitt, S and Murless, B. Somerset Archaeology 1983. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  128 (1984), 1-23 at 17.
13 Detailed records - Moffat, W. Sion Chapel, Friarn Street, Bridgwater, II: Archaeological Assessment.  Unpublished William Moffat report (2008) Location: HER file 28222.
14 Description - Archbold, WAJ. Somerset Religious houses.  (1892), 225-229.
15 Correspondence - West, H (Hannah),, email to Somerset County Council Historic Environment Record (28/10/2011). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained
16 Historical reference - Map of Bridgwater.  (c.1720-30) Available at Archives and Records at Somerset Heritage Centre. Reference: DD/SH/149
17 Detailed records - Wright, J and Armour Chelu. The Franciscan friary and Civil War defences at Friarn Meadows, Bridgwater. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  151 (2008), 97-116. Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.

Record created in November 1982

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