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The History of Greyfriars Cloisters in Great Yarmouth

Updated on March 8, 2018
Coffeequeeen profile image

I enjoy history, in particular local history, and history about my home county of Norfolk.

About Greyfriars Cloisters

Gt Yarmouth is a large town in Norfolk, England. Sat on the east coast, Gt Yarmouth is now largely known as a holiday resort with all the modern attractions of amusement arcades and fun fairs. But, there is also so much history to the town going back many centuries. With the help of the Tourist Information, local museums and volunteers, the history of the town is well documented and gives visitors and locals the ability to learn about the abundance of history in the town. Greyfriars Cloisters is set in the heart of the town, set just behind South Quay very close to the River Yare. Hidden away from public view, you could easily walk past it without even realising it's there. I myself had lived in the town for some 20+ years before I even knew of it myself. It's only when one of the local town guides told me about it that I went to see it one day.

The Cloisters are the remains of a 13th century Friary of Franciscan Grey Friars. From as early as 1270 a Friary was in the town, and this church was formed in 1291. From the very size of the church alone, it is said that this was one of the largest in the country. Then in 1538 Henry VIII dissolved the Friary and it was then that Thomas Cromwell Sir Richard Williams, his nephew. The Friary was eventually passed to Gt Yarmouth Council. Then, in 1569 the monastic church was torn down and some of the building was used in other buildings.

It was in 1887 that the cloisters were eventually opened to the public. When WW2 broke out, Gt Yarmouth suffered terribly with many heavy bombing raids on the town. And the cloisters suffered terrible damage from the bombing raids, along with a lot of the surrounding buildings. As you can see from the pictures, remains of the friary still stand, and there are guided tours in the summer season to give people an idea of what this once was.

In summary

Although the cloisters itself is locked off to the public, there are as I say, guided tours in the summer where the iron gates are opened and you can walk round and have a look. You can still walk down the alley way and get a good view of the cloisters, although it's locked by iron railings. As I said earlier, the world has since moved on and buildings have sprouted up around the cloisters, so it's not visible from the street view, but it is very close to the river. Sandwiched in between a busy road and car park the other side, this is indeed a very much hidden piece of local history which dates back centuries. It is also close to The Tolhouse Museum which also used to be the town gaol.

When you peel back the layers and see what is behind the bright lights and modern day shops and stores, it is interesting to see what history there is out there. Although I've been living in the town for more than 20 years now, I'm sure there is still so much more I could learn regarding the history. When I first learned about Greyfriars Cloisters, it made me think about the history the town has with the monks and the religious aspect with the churches they had in the town. There is so much history to Great Yarmouth, not just with the Friarys and the ruins of the old town wall around the town, but also with the fishing industry which sadly came to an end in the 50's and 60's. Each year there is a Maritime Festival in the town which promotes the local history of the town and encourages people to learn about the rich history that surrounds the town.

The Friary's of Great Yarmouth

Dominican Friary
The 1270's
Friars Lane, Gt Yarmouth
The Franciscan Friary
The river bank, Gt Yarmouth
The Carmelite Friary
North Quay, Gt Yarmouth
Benidictine Priory
The Priory Centre, Gt Yarmouth (next to St Nicholas Minster)
Augustinian Priory
The 1250's
Beccles Rd/Burnt Lane junction, Gorleston, Gt Yarmouth

Greyfriars Cloisters


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    • Glenis Rix profile image


      14 months ago from UK

      Many years have passed since I visited Yarmouth (used to have a relative in nearby Lowestoft) and I never got to see the cloisters, which made your article extra interesting. So sad that the cloisters were further damaged by bombing raids during WW2.

    • Coffeequeeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Louise Powles 

      19 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Thankyou Linda. Yes, it is very interesting. I love it.

    • Coffeequeeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Louise Powles 

      19 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Thankyou Flourish. I'm glad you have nice memories of visiting the UK. Yes, there is a lot of history around the whole of England. It's all very interesting.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      19 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I would love to visit Great Yarmouth and see the cloisters. It sounds like you live in a very interesting area, Louise.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      19 months ago from USA

      About 10 years ago my family visited England and drove around the countryside. We visited a friory that I swear might’ve been this one. Brings back memories. It’s amazing the age of some of your buildings. Very humbling in a historical sense. I enjoyed this article.

    • Coffeequeeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Louise Powles 

      19 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Oh I'd love to visit North Yorkshire. It's a lovely part of the country.

    • Coffeequeeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Louise Powles 

      19 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Yes, it's small but really nice to visit. =)

    • Coffeequeeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Louise Powles 

      19 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Thankyou Oliver.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      19 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      We were in some of the priories here in North Yorkshire and they indeed have stories to tell. The latest one we visited was that of the Cistercians. These cloisters and abbeys are quite huge so there must have been many monks living there at the time.

    • PageBeard profile image


      19 months ago from Always Moving

      Nice article Louise.

    • Claire-louise profile image

      Claire Raymond 

      19 months ago from UK

      Very interesting, we visited there on holiday once, I didn't appreciate it at the time as I was a kid, but I bet I would now.


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