Blackheath Village

located in the heart of Surrey's beautiful heathland

The Friary

The largest property in the village is the Friary. The Franciscan Order had left England in times of persecution in the past and in 1887 they were established in Flanders. They resolved that year that they would restart the Order in England and in 1891 the Province in England officially began.

A site was needed for the Novitiate to get things started and a benefactor appeared in the form of the Reverend Arthur Wells who undertook to pay for the cost. On the 2nd April 1889 George Henry Drew of No. 1, Portland Place, London, sold them for £960 most of the present site less a small strip alongside the main road which was subsequently purchased for another £15 from Samuel Barrow and Lord Grantley (the Lord of the Manor) in May 1889.

In designing the new buildings study was made of the remains of the original church of the Order in Reading, and tenders were invited from seven local Builders Firms. The first requirement on the site was for water and in 1890 Messrs Duke and Ockenden from Littlehampton installed a wind driven Artesian Well drawing water from a clear source 110 ft below the present Friary. So bountiful was this source that for a time it supplied much of the village with water in times of drought.

On 6th October 1890 the foundation stone was laid and work began. The Rev Wells underwrote the cost and on 23 June 1892 it was complete and was opened. Monsignor Wells, as he had by then become, paid for it by defraying £7000 from the estate of his aunt Mary Anne Alliott. She had in fact arranged this payment just before her death on 18th January 1892 in Torquay, Devon. Mgr Wells paid £6500 of his own money to fit out the Friary and in 1894 he spent a further £450 on the construction of the extension to it.

On 12th November 1892 the Home Office authorised the Friars to open their cemetery for the Order, and on 29th December 1893 they were registered to solemnize marriages under the title of "Greyfriars Church, Chilworth".

In the centre of the cloister there is a large yew tree which was planted from a cutting taken from the Ancient Yew at the Friary at Muckross Abbey in Killarney, which is reputed to dated from the foundation of that Abbey in 1430AD. It was in the garden of the Friary that Ketelby wrote "In a Monastery Garden" whilst he was visiting one of the Fathers there.

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