Blackfriars is one of the few remaining monastic structures from several that once existed in Bristol. Like all “Blackfriars” this one was a Dominican priory founded in this instance around 1227 by Maurice de Gaunt. The site at the time was just outside Bristol’s town walls. It took more than forty years to completed the church and priory buildings and Henry III supported the Priory greatly during its construction period.
In 1287 the last native Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Dafydd died in Bristol Castle and was buried in the churchyard of Blackfriars.
John Hilsey, prior of Blackfriars in 1534 was appointed by Thomas Cromwell as one of the ‘visitors’ charged with inspecting monastic houses in the region and administering the oath of allegiance to Henry VIII. This would, no doubt, have made Hilsey most unpopular, particularly as only four short years later the Dissolution arrived at Blackfriars and the remaining four monks were moved out.
In 1540 the buildings were bought by one William Chester and later by the Smiths and Cutlers Company of Bristol who then leased parts of the building as a workhouse for poor girls to the Bristol Corporation. Eventually the Quakers bought the premises and it became known as Quakers Friars – a name it is often referred to as today. In 1681 a mob led by one John Hellier attacked the Quakers’ meeting hall here after the Conventicles Act 1670 which banned any religious gatherings other than Church of England ones and was followed by a wave of religious persecutions.
In the 20th Century the much altered buildings of Bristol Blackfriars have been a Register Office, a Theatre and most recently a restaurant.
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