Ware Priory, Hertfordshire

Franciscan Friars

Confusingly Ware Priory is actually Ware Friary – the Priory was founded where the Church of St. Mary the Virgin now stands soon after the Norman Conquest.

Ware Friary – a Franciscan foundation – dates to 1338 and was started on a very small scale across the road from the Benedictine’s larger property. However, Henry V dissolved the Benedictine Priory as part of his on-going campaign against anything remotely French and although the Church survived, the remainder of the Benedictine Priory was demolished and much of the stone was reused to extend the Franciscan Friary.

Of the Friary Church nothing now remains, but a number of the cloistral and attendant buildings form the basis of the buildings which exist today.

At some point before the Dissolution the Friary became known as the Priory – whether this marks some change in the practices of the Franciscans at the Friary or not is unknown. However, the Priory fell victim to Henry VIII as surely as all the others had done.

The buildings then spent a few hundred years in private ownership and as was usual the buildings were amended and renovated to make them more comfortable. During World War I Ware Priory was used as a hospital and in 1920 the owner, Mrs Anne Elizabeth Croft, gave the Priory to the town.

Today the Town of Ware still owns the Priory and it was one of the first venues in Hertfordshire licenced for civil marriages. It has seven acres of public grounds and riverside walks.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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