Streetwise: Black Friars’ Convent

Name Plate

The Black Friars’ Convent was perhaps one of the latest foundations of the kind in Dundee. It stood on the West side of the Franciscan Monastery, which was situated on the ground now occupied by the Howff, and was separated by the street, Friars’ Vennel, afterwards the Burial Wynd, but now known as Barrack Street.

The site of the Black Friars’ Convent has been long occupied by other buildings, and at present the building, formerly Willison Church, stands on part of the ground which its precinct enclosed.

The brethren of the Order of St. Dominic were called Black Friars from the colour of their habit, and Preaching Friars from their custom of preaching sermons. The erection of the convent is attributed to Andrew Abercromby, a burgess, but there is no mention of the time, though the date of the foundation is supposed to be during the 14th century.

Of the endowments and properties which the Friar possessed, very little is known, yet it may be supposed that the field immediately on the north side of the site called the “Laigh Ward” or Low Hospital Ward and perhaps the ground beyond that on part of it which was chiefly occupied by the Constitution Road Cemetery, had belonged to it.

The convent, with its precincts, including garden and orchard grounds, extended downwards along the west side of the Vennel and thence westwards in the direction of Windmill Hill, which was quarried away to make room for Lindsay Street. Some old sasines mention the convent as a boundary to several properties in both Barrack Street and Overgate.

Source: ‘The People’s Journal’, D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd.