In the mid 13th century a religious order called the Friars of the Sack settled in Norwich, in the parishes of St. Andrew and Peter Hungate. By the early 14th century, the group was in decline. In 1307 the Dominican Order, also called the Black Friars because of the colour of their habit, took over the site by royal licence under the condition they cared for the last remaining friar.
The first church and buildings were destroyed in 1413 in a serious fire which destroyed a large part of the city. The second church building which survives today was completed in 1470, with St Andrew's Hall forming the nave of the new church. There is also a Blackfriars' Hall as well as a crypt, chapel and cloisters.
During the Reformation, the site was saved by the City Corporation, which bought it from the king for use as a 'common hall.' Since then the complex has been used for worship, as a mint and as a workhouse. It has been used regularly for civic occasions since 1544, when the first Mayor's feast was held for the inauguration of Henry Fuller. The Norwich Triennial Festival, the third oldest in the country, began here in 1824.