The Blackfriars Dominicans arrived in Norwich in 1226 and settled north of here in the parish of Colgate, and when they moved here in 1307 they took over the buildings of a junior order of monks from Marseilles called the Sack Monks. These early brick buildings, built between 1270 and 1307, are still largely intact and are now the Crypt Café Bar and the covered remains of Thomas A 'Beckett's Chapel, 'deliberately demolished' in 1876.


The cloister church, dedicated to St John the Baptist and the largest of the city's four male monasteries, was begun in 1326 but not completed until 1470 due to a fire which destroyed much of the building in 1413. The five original windows at St Andrews Hall. and the large east window at Blackfriars were incorporated into the new building. The roof beams for Blackfriars and the hammerhead beams on the roof of St Andrews were a gift from the Paston family along with the magnificent fifteenth century doors with the Paston and Mothby crest on the South Porch. The family of Sir Thomas Erpingham, hero of Agincourt, donated large sums of money to rebuild the church. Erpingham's son, Robert, was a monk in this church. The Erpingham crest can be seen between each of the lantern windows when viewed from the Preachers' Yard at the front of the building, in the glass of the west window, and in the Victorian doors to Blackfriars Hall. The large preaching nave is separated from the private choir of monks by a pathway leading directly to the cloisters. The pathway was originally topped by a tower built in 1462 by Sir Simon de Felbrigge, who is buried in Blackfriars Hall. The tower was destroyed by a storm in 1712.


1712. Behind the north door of Blackfriars Hall are the remains of an anchorage or cell where a woman was walled at her own request to devote her life to God and give spiritual advice. The names of two hermits, Catherine Foster and Catherine Mann, have come down to us.

At the time of the Reformation in 1538 the city asked King Henry VIII to buy a monastery and 'to make a church a fayre and a large hall with good paths for the mayor and his brethren ... for their general meetings ...". The town chamberlains paid £81 in June 1540, but then had to pay another £152 for the lead they had already bought for the roof.

The nave of St Andrews Hall was refurbished and named New Hall and has been used for public events ever since. The first recorded event was Mayor Henry Fuller's feast in 1544. As well as being used for guild meetings, as a jury trial, corn exchange and corn hall, the hall has been involved in all aspects of the town's history. The Earl of Warwick stabled his horses here when he came to put down the Kett Rebellion in 1549, Sir Thomas Brown was knighted here by Charles II in 1671, and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, which began in these halls in 1824, continues to this day. More modern traditions include the largest regional beer festival in Britain, which started in 1978.