Do not accept a drink from the ghostly Friar
Jonathon Norton (1882) Myths and Tales of the North:
In the late 15th Century the tranquil Spa town of Scarborough was a centre for medieval commerce and naturally such a prosperous town would attract many adventurers. The Church was no different, four holy orders of monks were recorded as resident in the town and despite their message of tolerance and forgiveness, records suggest that they were not above the petty squabbles of their flock. One particular instance may have resulted in the death of one of the brethren at the hands of one of the towns people. Josiah Grieves a notable 17th Century chronicler recounts the tale of the black friar taken from the records of the diocese of Beverly. His 1680 account re tells the tale translated from this early manuscript, the following extract modified slightly by myself.
It was of some note that petitions made to the Archbishop of York of the behaviour of one Thomas of Worksop, a Dominican Friar, did regular abuse his office as cellarer and was often seen drunk and violent towards inhabitants whilst abroad in the town. His behaviour was such that both the Mayor of the Town and the Governor of the castle were prepared to make formal their petition to the king and the Bishop of York, but were persuaded from that course of action by the head Monk, who promised to put a stop to such incursions. It is known that there have been some quarrels betwixt the orders in the town. Also that the mayor and governor were entreated to make officious such claims by one or more of the their saintly orders to bring the Dominicans into disrepute. Of note the Carmelite order was already embroiled in a dispute with their Dominican neighbours over revenues from the local meat market. There is substantial evidence that the chief cellarer was indeed a drunkard, having faced many disciplinary hearings on such issues and was already known to the Archbishop of York.
What happens next appears to be opinion rather than fact, but is a report written by a junior member of the clergy and presented as evidence into an enquiry held at Beverley minster on the disappearance of one Thomas of Worksop. Again the transcript is a rendering by myself from the 1680 account of Josiah Grieves. William de Yaxley urges a full enquiry as to the whereabouts of Holy Brother Thomas of Worksop, preacher and cellarer of the Holy Dominican order in the borough of Scarborough. He entreats, my lord, that foul play is at hand and the work of the devil is evident. For some time he has warned both the Archbishop of York, and the Bishop of Beverley that some unholy disputer as arose over the apportionment of tithes and rents from the market stall holders selling meat in the town, arising from a boundary dispute. It is also known that the holy order of Carmelites had for some time tried to besmirch the name of our Holy order by encouraging others to make false testimony using bribery and favours in order to strengthen their claim. Fearing that their outlandish claims would be proved false their devils work they plotted to have Brother Thomas murdered and his body hidden. Through such trickery they had hoped to strengthen their accusations by claiming he had run away, thus claiming a greater guilt.
(At this point reference was made that no such case was outstanding or had been subsequently made against Thomas, William De Yaxley would not necessarily be aware of this and it is noted that the deliverer of the report assumes that one would have been made to fit in with the conspiracy and that it was the strong conviction that Thomas would have been able to defend himself as to the acquisitions, has he had managed to do many times before in other disciplinary hearings).
Notwithstanding the discrepancies Brother William would make it be known that he has heard tell of a plot to murder Thomas by spreading false rumours to the effect that he was having carnal relations with the wife of a local butcher. He per ports that such rumours emanate from the stench that is the Carmelite cesspool
and that through such dastardly devilry they were able to ensnare the said butcher to assist in their plan and to help to dispose of the body. Brother William further suggests that the body of the unfortunate monk was dismembered by the butcher, all trace of the deed been hidden by the remains of slaughter from the previous doings of the butchery that takes place daily at the market. That the parts of the body were then sealed in Herring Barrels to be disposed of at sea.
Whilst little else remains of the affair it has left many to speculate the fate of poor Thomas, some contemporary writers argue that he left in disgrace persuaded by the local Dominicans, this view is supported by several mentions of a monk of the same name in records in other parts of the country. Often the dates are several decades apart and it would suggest that the name was quite commonly used. Other argue that the Dominicans themselves did away with their wayward monk as a condition of the mayor and the Governor of the castle, certainly the head monk must have made some deal to prevent the issue going further. This hypothesis is supported by the great lengths William De Yaxley went to in order to divert attention away from himself and towards a rival holy order. Certainly this idea balances on how well Thomas would have been able to project an image of saintly godliness to an inquisition, whether he was persuaded to leave or murdered by his fellow brothers can neither be proven nor discounted but his previous track record and numerous complaint both ecclesiastic and secular would suggest that the Dominicans had a lot to lose by his continual presence and a lot to gain by inferring the complicity of the Carmelite order. Whatever the fate of poor Thomas of Worksop the residents of Scarborough were in no doubt. His ghostly figure was often seen in the old shambles area of Scarborough, now occupied by the new, market carrying a flask of wine and a horn cup placed on a wooden salver offering a libation to any who would drink with his pitiless spirit and slaying any who accept his offer and dragging their soles to hell. Others have purportedly seen him rolling barrels of wine to the site of the former Carmelite residence in St Helens Square requesting 30 pieces of silver from the Judas’s that had betrayed him and condemned his sole to eternal restlessness until he receives justice.
Whether true or not there is one piece of factual evidence. When excavations began for the foundations and cellars of the new market hall St Helens Square, the skeleton of a man and the remains of a rosary beads and crucifix were found at the east end of the building site. It was reported that he had not been buried in a Christian manner but hurriedly rolled into a ditch and covered. Whether this was the body of the unfortunate Dominican friar or another poor sole such as a plague victim or outlaw, as the site was near one of the old town gates, what is certain is that many people still believe that regular sightings of old Tom, the Black Friar of Leadingpost street, The Black Monk of St.Sepulchre street and the Barrel rolling Devil of the market vaults and St Helens Square is clear evidence of a grisly end to a Monk fond of a tipple of wine and betrayed by fiendish powers.
It is from this legend that the Black Friar Wine Cellar derives its names as it is reputed to be on this very spot these events happened.
Don't be afraid to come see us
Set in the historic back streets of the old town of Scarborough, the Black Friar wine cellar offers an authentic experience for adventurous explorers looking for some place special to enjoy a good glass of wine. Savour the convivial atmosphere of a genuine brick vaulted cellar that for over a hundred twenty years was used as a bonded warehouse for ageing whiskey and storing wine.
The Black friar wine cellar offers a range of wines for you to enjoy with a selection of antipasti and other cold snacks to accompany them. Come and join us, converse with friends or our sociable staff in a tranquil atmosphere. Relax and soak up the ambiance.... because you aren't afraid of ghosts, are you?