Richard III and the Augustinian Friary in York

Dorothy Mitchell outside York Minster

During a branch visit to York during the 1990s the Worcestershire Branch went on a tour of York led by Dorothy Mitchell. Dorothy was the Chairman of The Friends of Richard III, which was based in York. We met her at the Minster which was our first port of call and then we went on to the Yorkshire Museum. After several fascinating talks about various sites Dorothy took us to a coffee bar on the Lendal, which she explained was the only remaining part of the site of the Augustinian Friars. We walked through the coffee bar to a door at the back and there inside was all that remained of the Augustinian Friary. Down some stone steps and we went back to medieval times in a room built of grey stone with a small window it was obviously very old probably pre 15th century.
“The Augustinian Friary in York was granted protection by Henry III and Richard III when Duke of Gloucester. It was renowned for its library of books on philosophy, theology and music. Situated in the Lendal, it was founded in 1272. By Richard III’s time it stretched most of the way along the Lendal from roughly where the Post Office is today to Museum Street.
The Friary may have been hidden from the street behind a row of houses but there would have been one or two entrances through to the Friary itself which occupied the land between the Lendal and the river.” John Oxley York City Archaeologist, York Press 9th of October 2013
While we were there Dorothy told us about a record in the York Records which told of Richard arriving in York late one night on his way back to Middleham. I am not sure if this was while he was King or Duke of Gloucester. As we know when Richard was in York he always stayed at the Augustinian Friary. It was late when he arrived, and he was tired. While attempting to sleep he was disturbed by a drunken resident of York who was making a loud noise outside. After asking them to quieten down and go away, Richard asked for the man to be arrested so that he could sleep.
The following morning Richard and his retinue left York early in order to continue his journey to Middleham. They had travelled quite a long way towards Middleham when Richard remembered that he had not authorised the release of the young man, so he immediately turned around and went back to York to order the young man’s release and then set off again for Middleham.
Dorothy’s question to us was “Do you think that a man who did that would murder his nephews?” Unsurprisingly the answer was no he would not.
We all have good memories of Dorothy, who sadly died in 2007. Dorothy was an ardent Ricardian and we ended the day at Micklegate Bar where the Friends of Richard III had a museum. Unfortunately, the museum at Micklegate Bar is now the Henry VII museum.
Dorothy and the The Friends of Richard III presented a chalice and a stained glass window to York Minster in memory of Richard III.
At the time of the visit we did not question Dorothy about where in the York records this could be found. I have Lorraine Attreed’s York House Books and it does not appear to be recorded there.

This is an extract from a leaflet “A Guide to Ricardian Yorkshire” by The Society of Friends of King Richard III, written by Dorothy:

THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS OF KING  RICHARD III

Achievements to date include:

Minster Medieval Spectacular, June 1980

Commemorative Plaque erected to Edward Prince of Wales upon the Minster Library once the Archbishop’s Chapel, Dean’s Park York.

Promotion of the Richard III Public House, December 1980.

Children’s All England Literary Competition December 1978

Wars of the Roses Exhibition, Castle Museum, York.

Richard III Lecture Tours.

Organised Tours of Ricardian York.

Richard III Fairs at Sheriff Hutton.

Library Exhibitions.

And now in The Quincentenary Year:

Commemorative Plaque in the Guildhall.

Commemorative Coat of Arms to Prince Edward in The Cross Keys, Dringhouses, York.

Lecture tour to Teachers Training Centres.

Children’s Competition Literary/ Acting/Costume Competitions

Minster Play.

Recital of Ricardian Poetry.

Presentation of Minster Chalice, 1985

4 comments

  1. Super blue, what a wonderful post and Dorothy sounds like a charming guide – the anecdote, I admit, made me think “quick! where are the York House Books?” sigh, oh yea, still on my ‘wish’ list; but in defense of Dorothy, that probably isn’t the sort of thing that would have been recorded in the House Books – or – not recorded in quite those terms? Perhaps Richard, while duke, merely had the man ‘detained’ with the sheriff, (or one of the many, many close associates and friends R had in York) rather than arrested as Richard would have been aware of what an actual arrest would have meant for the young man (fines, etc) … it’s an amusing anecdote but I can’t imagine your Dorothy would have made it up whole cloth, I’m betting on the wording was more ‘retained’ and not arrested?
    (yes yes yes, I really want this little story to be true, and it shows!)

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  2. Interesting about the remains of the Friary behind a coffee shop.I have never seen that The R3 museum used to be in Monk Bar. A real labour of love Now jazzed up as Richard III Experience since Richard became Box Office.

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  3. Really enjoyed this read, especially the story of Richard riding back to York to order the man’s release. Wish I could’ve seen the old museum at Micklegate Bar. It’d be a treat if there are any photographs from inside the museum at that time.

    I wonder, does anyone remember the name of the coffee shop on the site of the old Friary?

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    1. This has been e-mailed to Worcestershire Branch Members and hopefully someone will remember dates and details that I have not remembered. I will check through some old photographs as I visited the Museum another time with a friend and I think I might have some photographs.

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