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The Greyfriars came to Kings Lynn in the 1230s. By 1250 the building of the friary was well underway. In the early 1300s a water supply was brought by a conduit from a spring at North Runcton, over a mile away.
The friary was closed by order of the King Henry VIII in 1538 along with 800 other monasteries and friaries in England and Wales. Greyfriars Tower is all that remains above ground.
The drawing of Greyfriars shown in the picture above shows how the friary would have looked from the gatehouse. In 1325 there were 38 friars here. However by 1538 only a warden and nine friars remained, showing that the popularity of the Greyfriars had declined.
The friary was surrounded by a high wall. The entrance to the grounds was through the gatehouse drawn in the picture above, which survived until 1806.
Nine Franciscan friars first arrived in England in 1224. They were followers of Francis of Assisi, who became the patron saint of animals. The friars were called Greyfrairs because of the greyish-brown robes they wore.
They took a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience and relied on gifts of food and money from local people.
Friars greatly valued learning. Unlike monks, they devoted their lives to preaching and teaching amongst the ordinary people in towns across Europe.
Kings Lynn in the middle ages was a busy seaport and market town, and one of the wealthiest towns in medieval England. Cargoes from all over Europe were landed at its quays. You can still see many of the fine buildings owned by its wealthy merchants.
Friars were attracted to towns with larger populations. Greyfriars was one of four friaries established in Kings Lynn by 1300.