This section will provide a quick history of The Halls, some basic information to the history of medieval Norwich, medieval religion, the order of friars, including the black friars, and the importance of education and preaching.
A Quick History of The Halls
[Drawing dated 1796 by Benjamin Sewell (1774–1849) showing a reconstruction of the south front of the buildings as they might have appeared in late medieval times]
The layout of the present buildings is typical of a medieval English friary church, including a large nave
(now St Andrew's Hall) used for preaching to large congregations and a smaller chancel
(Blackfriars') Hall, where the friars held their own services. The nave and chancel were separated by a walkway, which would have allowed direct access to the cloisters on the north side.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Augustine Steward
(three times Mayor of Norwich) sent a petition to Henry VIII in London, asking if the City of Norwich could buy the Dominican friary buildings. By pledging to use the Halls for the good of the citizens, for fairs and feasting, Steward ensured the friary's survival.
The Halls now hold the country's largest collection of civic portraits
, totalling 127 late-sixteenth to nineteenth-century paintings of Norwich Mayors, Sheriffs and other dignitaries. Today both Halls host conferences, antique fairs, markets, weddings, concerts and even the largest provincial Beer Festival in the country.