Before the Henry VIII and his right hand man, Thomas Cromwell embarked upon the Dissolution more than thirty monasteries, convents, priories and hospitals jostled for room within the City’s ‘square mile’ or sheltered outside in the shadow of the still surviving Roman wall.
Two of these orders that are commemorated with statues are the Roman Catholic Crutched Friars found in the street that bears their name and the Augustinian Friar based in Austin Friars.
The Crutched Friars take their name from the wooden staff that they carried, which was adorned with a crucifix. They went barefoot to emphasise their piety. but records show that in later years the order was a little suspect.
The order seems to have been a little corrupt with many schemes to line the pockets of the Frairs. Just prior to the dissolution of the monasteries it appears that Thomas Cromwell had his eye on them and in what might have now been known as a honey trap Cromwells spys caught the Prior in flagrante delicto. The Friary was closed and all their possessions confiscated by the Crown. The site of the church was turned into a Tennis court until it burnt down in 1575.
The Augustinians of Austin Friars do not seem to have been as blatant as their Crutched neighbours but that didn’t stop Cromwell from putting them out of business as well. Their lands which can still be visited today in Austin Friars were sold off at a very cheap price to……. You’ve guessed it, Thomas Cromwell.