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Shrewsbury’s Friaries in the spotlight at National Tourism Week event

Shrewsbury Tourism’s chairman is inviting local people and visitors to delve into the town’s intriguing religious history at a free event planned for the start of National Tourism Week from March to April 2nd.

Michael Connor is hoping to pack out The Wightman Theatre in The Square, Shrewsbury on Saturday, March 25 at 2.30pm to hear three well known personalities speak about the ‘Three Friaries of Shrewsbury’. Shropshire Magazine correspondent Louise Acton will speak about the Augustians, Tom Jenkins, Shropshire Council’s partnership and economic strategies manager, will focus on the Franciscans and Father Jonathan, Dean of Shrewsbury Cathedral, will speak about the Dominicans.

Each will speak for around 10 to 15 minutes and will be introduced by Mr Connor, who holds an MA in Modern History and Political Science and has researched the little known subject. The talks will be followed by a question and answer session.

The Augustian, Franciscan and Dominican Orders all settled in Shrewsbury between the town walls and the river banks between 1232 and 1538.

The speakers will explore the problems they encountered, how they raised funds, how they lived, their relationship with the town’s burgesses and other clerical establishments and how the orders impinged on national affairs.

The Augustinians settled in the area around where the Priory School was built, while the Franciscans made their base on the town side of Grey Friars Bridge, where part of the building still stands and is used today. The Dominicans settled in the area between Traitor’s Gate, Water Lane and the English Bridge. “They all received help from the crown, the local council, who often took the initiative to welcome the orders to the town and local wealthy tradesmen, besides receiving the patronage of local nobility and dignitaries,” said Mr Connor.

“Friars were different to the local clergy and monks at the Benedictine Abbey Foregate monastery. They had to beg for their food and alms and had to administer to the poor. However, all three orders had a different outlook and a different purpose in life. “Their buildings were of considerable size and stature, especially the churches of the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the latter of which was some 48 metres long. However, by the 15th century, friaries were beginning to feel the pinch and the Augustinian monks were constant visitors to the local courts for burglary, fighting and even murder.

“At the dissolution by Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII, the friaries were in a very poor state with few friars, very little possessions and hardly any income.”

Hear the full story of the ‘Three friaries of Shrewsbury’ on March 25. Anyone seeking more information should contact Mr Connor on 01743 355047.

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