Sunday, July 08, 2007

Bell Inn Nottingham, site of Friar Tuck's Friary?

The Bell Inn is situated at the opposite end of Nottingham Market Square from the Council House. This area became known as Beastmarket Hill, because of the open air cattle market that once occupied the Market Square. But decades before that it was known as Friar Row, due to the boundary wall of a Carmelite Friary.

The Carmelites originated from a congregation of hermits which formed the Order of Our Lady of Carmel, on Mount Carmel in the 12th Century. After being forced to leave Mount Carmel, they moved to Europe, coming to England in 1240. The first English Carmelite Friary was built in Kent, and their habits were white, hence the nickname of the "White Friars".

The Carmelite Friary in Nottingham was established c.1272 between Friar Lane and St. James's Street, even though the Friars had already been in the town some years beforehand. By February 1539, when the Friary closed, only the prior, Roger Cappe, and six friars were still in residence. In 1541 the Crown granted all rights to the building to James Sturley of Nottingham, (probably a descendant of the Sturley who had been joint founder of the Friary in 1272.) During the road widening works of 1923, several significant archeological items were found, together with skeletons, proving the site also incorporated a burial ground for the Friary.

The Bell Inn stands where the Carmelite Friary once stood. That Friary is one of the places often named in the tourism documents as a possible home to Friar Tuck, but is a far less likely candidate for that role than Foutaindale, Lynhurst, near Newstead Abbey.

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