Historic Droitwich Its Streets and People

36-38 Friar Street, Priory House (St Nicholas' Parish)

This building is one which has been much photographed for at least the last century due to its impressive street frontage.  Its continuing existence owes much to the tireless work of the late distinguished conservation architect, F. W. B. Charles, who researched and published the medieval rear wing in 1967, drew public attention to the building’s perilous state and the need for its preservation, and enabled it to be saved from further neglect and deterioration. (It was acquired by Droitwich Preservation Trust which organised a programme of repair in the early 1970s). 

It was one of the first buildings in the country to be dated using dendrochronology in 1970, giving a construction date of 1580 for the street (north) range.  Subsequent further sampling and analysis as part of this or predecessor projects has given a date span for that range which fits with 1580, and for the south-east range 1568-1593; this range is thought to have been built after the north range.  The north range has very decorative external timber framing, and the ornamental chimney stacks at each end, once thought to date from the early 18th century, are now shown to be an integral part of the 16th century construction. 

The 'jewel in the crown' of this building complex is, however, the mediaeval south-west range with its first floor solar room, a magnificent timber-frame structure open originally (and now) to the roof with arched braces and high collars between the principal rafters, giving an impression of light and space.  (Freddie Charles drew comparisons with the roof of No. 31 High Street.)  On stylistic grounds this range is dated to around 1400.  It may have extended further to the south, or originally abutted another range of mediaeval date on its south side. 

The addition in the late 16th century of the north (street frontage) range seems to have led to changes in the mediaeval range either then or in later years, including some blocked doorways, but it retains much of its original appearance.

So, here we have a building complex which dates back to the mediaeval era and includes 16th century ranges also.  During the following centuries, some changes were made, perhaps mainly to the south east range, which had additions in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) has given us the date of construction of two of the three major parts of this building, but it seems the third and probably oldest (the south-west range) is not suitable for this type of analysis. 

We are grateful to the owner, Droitwich Preservation Trust, for their co-operation, and to the occupiers for allowing access to a busy office.  Necessarily, that access has been limited, and with the equally limited information available from dendrochronology, this means not all of the building's architectural history is fully understood.  In the future, perhaps more work can be done to extend our knowledge of this landmark Droitwich building. 

Documentary research has added to the picture and enabled us to put names to the owners and some occupiers. 

It is greatly to the benefit of Droitwich that this building has survived, and will continue to impress and astound visitors to the town (and to this website) with its many attractive features.

Click on the links below to see more detail about the various time periods

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