'The Greyfriars' in Friar Street is the finest half-timbered building in the City. From the 13th century until the Reformation the street was dominated by a Franciscan friary from which Friar Street and Greyfriars both get their names. It was suppressed in 1530s when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. Franciscan friars were sometimes called Grey Friars because of their grey habits. Greyfriars was built c1480-5, probably by Thomas Grene, an influential citizen and brewer, who was High Bailiff of Worcester on two occasions. The external shape of the two gables, with a long pitched roof level between them, is typical of merchant houses of the late 15thC. The remains of the very richly carved barge boards on the gables also suggest a very expensive and high quality building of the early Tudor period, as does the height of the archway which horses and riders would have been able to pass through into the courtyard.
In 1603, the Worcester Corporation granted a lease of the property for 400 years, and for many years it was the home of the Street family, one of which, George Street, a staunch Royalist, was removed from the City Chamber when the Earl of Essex entered Worcester in 1642. In 1643 he died, at the early age of 49, being followed by his widow in 1644. It was stated on their tomb in St. Andrew's Church, that 'she could not bear to be left behind', but as the plague was rampant in Worcester in that year, she probably had little choice. Their son, Sir Thomas Street, was a barrister, and filled many important offices. He was Town Clerk and Recorder of Worcester, and of Droitwich, and M.P for Worcester City in five Parliaments between 1659 and 1681. In 1659 the Puritans tried to turn him out of Parliament, and on the grounds that he had borne arms for the King and that he had used profane language, but the Committee of Privileges had to admit that he had not fought against Parliament, and that he had used no stronger language than, 'by faith and trothe'. Sir Thomas rose to high rank in his profession and became a figure of national importance, when he alone of twelve judges pronounced against the right of James II to grant Dispensation from the Test Act. Street's public career ended with the coming of William III, who would not even grant him an interview.
By 1698, the lease of Greyfriars had been sold to the Maris family and then, in 1724, it was let to Daniel George, a baker and maltster, who turned the top of the house, immediately under the rafters, into a tiled withering floor, the tiles being cemented down to the boards. Withering is part of the process of preparing the barley for malting. It was the George family who divided the Friary into four tenements, and built the row of ten cottages in the garden, eastward to the City Wall; the road through the Friary gateway became known as George's Yard. About 1870, Henry Schaffer, a German refugee from the 1848 Revolution, further damaged the building by converting the hall into shops despite sharp local criticism, especially from John Noake, the local historian. It was the beginning of the process whereby the Friary became one of the worst of the City's slum properties. The roof was in a terrible state of dilapidation, with rain coming through to the rooms below. Part of the building had become a green grocers, and the back rooms were filled with the vegetable debris of years. Part of the timber framing, that part of the building known as Thompson's Trust, actually fell into the street. It remained in that state until the 1940-50's, when the property was purchased by Mr. W. J. Thompson, and restored by Mr. M. Matley Moore.
Previous to Schaffer's ownership, the principal part of the building was occupied by Mr. Christopher Bardin, an old gentlemen of venerable aspect, who conducted a private school at modest fees, in the days when public elementary education was in its infancy. Just as the refectory of the Benedictines became the King's School, so the refectory of the Franciscans became Mr.Bardin's. There he trained more than one generation of small shopkeepers, continuing to keep the school long after it had ceased to keep him. The old gentlemen, in his later years fell on evil days, as was not uncommon with private schoolmasters, but he was a fine gentleman to the last, with his dignified bearing and old world courtesy. The ground floor and gardens are wheelchair accessible. A Braille guide and induction loop are available. There are Sensory experiences. Assistance dogs are welcome. Tours can be arranged. Worcester Cathedral is close by and well worth a visit.
The wonderful collection now housed at Greyfriars includes : Leather screen; The rustic brown and cream leather that makes up the screen started out as a wallhanging from a nearby house by the cathedral. The 17th-century Spanish leather hanging was rescued by Matley Moore in the 1930s. Being thrifty Matley chopped it up and made the screen and two small chests. One of the chests he made for his sister Elsie for her sewing work. Rescued brass plaque; The rectangular brass plaque above our Library shelves commemorates George Street. He was once the owner of the Greyfriars in the 1600's. It was in St Andrew's Church in Worcester, which was demolished in the mid 20th century, and was brought back here because of its association with Greyfriars and its owners. The ticking clocks; There are six working clocks throughout the house and two of them were made right there in Worcester. The longcase oak clock in the library was made by William Glover of Worcester c1770. It has an engraved golden brass face. The green parlour clock is a 36 hour winding clock from c1680 and is also Worcester made. Clock winding happens every Tuesday. Painted wallhanging; Within the garden in the Summer house, Elsie Matley-Moore's unique painted wall-hanging can be found. It is a scene of a house and garden in a mythical landscape and is dated 1976. Painted doorstops; Throughout Greyfriars over 70 doorstops can be found propping open doors or forming fireplace scenes. Elsie Matley-Moore heard that a Worcester foundry along the canal was ceasing production and walked along with an empty wheelbarrrow to see what she could acquire. She came back with all sorts, some of them broken and unable to stand. Many of them have been painted in her favourite colours, red, green and gold, the highlight being the Punch and Judy in the bedroom.
Location : Friar Street, Worcester, Worcestershire, WR1 2LZ
Transport: Worcester Foregate Street (National Rail) 9 minutes. Bus Routes : 26, 27, 32, 44, 303, 309, 332, 349, 350 and 363 stop near by.
Opening Times : Tuesday to Saturday + Bank Holidays 11:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £5.00; Children £2.50.
Tel: 01905 23571