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Austin friary, Ludlow
Where was the friary?
The Augustinian (Austin) friary stood in Galdeford. A visitors’ car park for a nearby school is now located on the central part of the site, whilst the eastern part contains a public car park and industrial units. The western part is occupied by Ludlow Police Station and police houses.
What was the friary like?
The Austin friary was built, like so many friaries in a suburb outside the town walls. It is not known which local people helped with the setting up of the friary, but later benefactors included Brian of Brampton, the lord of Kinlet and the Beauchamp family. One of the surviving tiles has the Beauchamp arms on it. The friars seem to have settled in without any friction with the clergy in St Lawrence’s parish church and no doubt were popular preachers. Later in the 13th Century, work began on a friary church and associated buildings. The church nave was 90 feet long and was linked to the chancel by an octagonal building that could have been a chapter house or “walking place” common to other friaries. It was linked to a cloister on the south side 110 feet by 70 feet surrounded by other friary buildings. The church would have been a very spacious building suitable for preaching for which friars were famous.
Little is known of the life of the Ludlow friars. They probably wore black habits, and seem to have led an orderly existence with little evidence of wrong doing or poverty (although the latter would in any case have, in theory, been regarded as laudable.)
What happened to the friary?
By the time of the dissolution in 1538, there is some indication that parts of the friary were disused with only a few of the rooms being mentioned in an inventory taken at the time. Whether the rest of the inventory is missing or whether the other buildings were disused or sold off is not known, however there was only the prior and three other friars in attendance when the friary was surrendered to Henry VIII’s commissioners.
After the reformation the site and its gardens were eventually granted to Robert Townsend in 1547. His widow Alice sold the stone steeple of the church which had stood in the north east corner of the choir. Other buildings may have become a house at this time. By the early 19th century much of the rest of the friary had been quarried away but the precinct wall and a gateway survived until 1817. Fortunately the site was surveyed in 1863 before it became the town cattle market and the plan of the whole friary is known. It is likely that substantial foundations still survive.
Medieval floor tiles
To look more closely at a selection of beautiful floor tiles found during the 1861 excavations, click on "Austin Friary Interactive Floor tiles" in the side menu.