When the Black Friars monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538, most of the buildings were left to decay, whilst some of those occupying the outer fringes of the grounds were given to people who happened to be in the King’s favour at the time. One such beneficiary was Sir Thomas Carwardine who on a nod and a wink came away from the royal chamber clutching the title deeds to the priory church and east gatehouse.
Having little regard for ancient buildings he promptly pulled down the church and was on the verge of doing the same with the gatehouse, but on seconds thoughts decided to make it his home. Later in the century the refurbished ’house’ was sold to William Ireland, a City haberdasher, who stepped out of his door one day only to be frightened out of his wits by a bearded gentleman cuddling a skull and spouting forth about ghosts. He was not aware of it at the time but this petrifying fellow was none other than William Shakespeare who, to Ireland’s dismay, was about to become his next door neighbour. Because buses were not too frequent in those days, Shakespeare moved into Ireland Yard in 1612 so as to be conveniently near to Richard Burbage’s new theatre where the great man regularly featured at the top of the bill.
A short flight of steps on the north side of Ireland Yard lead up to the churchyard of St Ann Blackfriars
where a Corporation of London notice board by the steps records that, ’on this plot of land stood, in the middle ages, part of the provincials hall of the Dominican Priors of Blackfriars
with the dorter over. When the priory was dissolved in 1538 the parish church of St Anne Blackfriars
was built on this site. The church was destroyed in the great fire of 1666 and not rebuilt. The parish was united with the parish of St Andrew by the Wardrobe. The site was thereafter used as a churchyard alternately with the one in Church Entry
. It was closed in 1849.’