The Grey Friars of London. Originally published by Aberdeen University Press, Aberdeen, 1915.
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HISTORY OF GREYFRIARS, LONDON.
1. THE REGISTER.
FOR the history of the Grey Friars of London we have a singular advantage in the survival of the so-called "Register" of their house in Cotton. MS. Vitellius, F xii., the contents of which are now for the first time published in their entirety. It is not strictly speaking a "Register" in the sense of a record of deeds and documents relating to the Convent. It might rather in modern speech be described as a Collection of Materials for the History of the Grey Friars of London; and even this would be a mis-description in so far as the Collection includes some matter which, though of interest for general Franciscan history, has no direct bearing on the fortunes of the London house.
The "Register" consists of three sections: (1) A carefully compiled record of the tombs in the church. (2) The Register proper, giving a brief account of the foundation of the Convent and of its buildings, with a summary of deeds relating to the site. (3) Materials relating to general Franciscan history. The whole as it now stands was put together by a friar of the house about 1526; this date is fixed by the fact that the notices of interments later than that year appear to be additions to the original record; but an attempt seems to have been made to keep up this part of the record by the regular entry of further burials down to 1530; possibly the compiler himself died about that time. The few entries of later date appear to be in another hand. The volume may have been taken away from the Convent after the surrender in 1538 by one of the friars, to whom is perhaps due the addition of the so-called Chronicle of the Greyfriars, from 1189 to 1556, which is contained in the same volume. This Chronicle, which is written throughout in one hand, is in its earlier part (down to 1509) a somewhat brief London Chronicle of an ordinary type with only a few insertions relating to the friars. From 1509 to 1521 there is little more than the names of the mayors and sheriffs. Afterwards it is somewhat fuller down to the time of the Surrender in 1538. For the last eighteen years it becomes an original authority of great value, but the history of that period does not of course concern us here. We must regret that the compiler has not told us more of the last days of his Convent; all that he gives are a few bald statements of no great importance. The Chronicle of the Greyfriars was edited somewhat imperfectly by J. G. Nichols for the Camden Society in 1852, and in a better manner by Mr. Howlett in the second volume of Monumenta Franciscana in 1882. Even if it were an integral part of the "Register" there would be no occasion to reprint it again.
Turning to the "Register" it will be most convenient to deal with the second and third sections first, reserving comment on the list of burials till the end. The second section opens with a brief account of the early history of the Convent, borrowed from Thomas of Eccleston. There then follows a summary of deeds relating to the site, between 1225 and 1353. This was no doubt drawn up from the original documents preserved in the Convent. Next the compiler commemorates the donors of the early buildings, and the beginnings of the church during the thirteenth century. There then follows a brief account of the conduits, with a copy, as it would seem, of a fourteenth-century document describing the course of the water pipes. To this last chapter are appended various notes on the rebuilding of the "Studies," the benefactions of Henry Waleys, etc. The fifth chapter deals with the founders of the new church. In the next three chapters we have a list of the windows and their donors, notes on the dimensions of the church, with a record of the foundation of the Library, and of other benefactions procured by Friar Thomas Wynchelsey early in the fifteenth century. The second section closes with English versions of two fourteenth-century leases of the Newgate Street frontage of the site to the City, and a memorandum as to a further lease of a small strip of ground in 1529. All this part of the Register was no doubt drawn up by the compiler as a convenient memorial of the records of his house. It is clearly for the most part no more than a reproduction of older documents.
The third section contains lists of Martyrs of the Order, Saints of the Order, Bishops and Cardinals who were not Generals of the Order, Popes and Cardinals who had been Generals, Generals of the Order, Ministers of the English Province, Kings and Princes who entered the Order, Englishmen of rank and position who entered the Order, Sisters of the Order of Poor Clare who had been beatified, Tertiaries of the Order who had been canonised. This section is no more original than the previous one. Similar lists are to be found elsewhere, notably in Cotton. MS. Nero, A ix., a volume which belonged to the Franciscans of Hereford. In the list of Martyrs it is mentioned that the Acts of Friar Otto and his companions are preserved in the Convent; they are to be found in Nero, A ix.; no doubt the Grey Friars of London possessed a similar collection from which these lists were extracted. Some indication can be obtained of the dates at which these lists were originally compiled. The list of Martyrs contains no name of later date than 1391. The list of Saints must have been drawn up at the end of the fifteenth century, for it includes Giacomo della Marca, who died in 1476. The list of Bishops and Cardinals can be fixed to 1472–1473, for it refers to Pietro di Riario in the present tense. A similar reference to Sixtus IV. in the next list fixes it to 1471–1480. The list of Generals seems to have ended originally with Francesco di Savona (Sixtus IV.); the four last names, to judge from the absence of descriptive notes, are additions; even thus the list ends at 1506. These three lists were probably drawn up at the same time, and may therefore be assigned to 1472. The list of Provincials may probably have ended originally with Thomas Radnor, as does the list in Nero, A ix. (fn. 1) If that was so we have some explanation of the difficulties and apparent omissions in the concluding part of the list as now given in the Register. (fn. 2) The three final lists call for no special comment. They contain no names of later date than the fourteenth century.
The first section of the Register, containing the list of monuments, to which we now return is, on the whole, the most interesting and valuable part of the collection. The repute of the Grey Friars Church made it a favoured place for the burial of persons of rank, of the upper class of London citizens, and of Italian merchants who died in London; many of these last were buried in the Chapel of St. Francis. Hence we get a record of extraordinary value for the historian and genealogist. But this does not exhaust its importance. The care and precision with which it was compiled enables us to derive from it information of the greatest value for a restoration of the plan and arrangement of the church. The list is in divisions according as the monuments were situated in the Choir, its Chapels, the Belfry or Walking-place, the Altars, the Nave, and the Cloisters. In each division the tombs are described according to position with such minute care that by carefully working out the place of each tomb, Mr. Shepherd was able to restore with practical certitude the whole of the internal arrangements of the church. (fn. 3) In the Choir the high altar and arcading furnish data for the placing of the tombs in the list, and the position of each tomb is commonly marked in relation to the one that went before, either as immediately adjoining on the left or right, or at an interval of so many feet. In the Chapels, where the tombs were more numerous, they were arranged in orderly rows. The compiler has described them accordingly, fixing each row by reference to one of the windows. A similar method is followed for the tombs in the Walkingplace. In the Altars the description is by rows, but with reference to the several chapels in which the tombs were situated. In the Nave we are given first the tombs in the centre by rows with reference to the arches and columns. Then we have the tombs in the north and south aisles respectively, the rows being described by reference to the windows. Since vacant spaces are carefully indicated, the laying down of the tombs would afford a tolerably accurate ground plan of the church. Smaller details are supplied by occasional references to doorways; (fn. 4) to the lectern (fn. 5) and stalls; (fn. 6) to the sedilia in the Chapel of the Altar of St. Mary; (fn. 7) to the scannum or low stone-table or bench against the wall; (fn. 8) to an image of St. Mary in the north aisle of the Nave; (fn. 9) and to the Altar (that of St. Louis) in the south aisle. (fn. 10)
In the notices of the tombs descriptions, such as in tumba elevata, sub magno lapide, are often given. These explain themselves. The point of the frequent description of a tomb as in plano is less clear; presumably it means on the level, but since a great part of the church must have been practically paved with tombstones this seems rather superfluous. In a few cases we meet with further descriptions, such as cum dupplici scriptura (Margaret de Redvers), lapidis exarati multis litteris (Peter Mounford), lapide insculpto litteris (Juliana Trug), lapis insculptus litteris quondam legibilibus (Henry Wodylston); (fn. 11) these tombs had presumably something peculiar, since the notices in the Register are clearly copied from the inscriptions. Other descriptions give the ornamentation: as lapide cruce exarato (William Wydford); lapide cum cruce (Nicholaa de Sulham, and John Newman); lapide cum armis Regine (John Vye); lapide bene ornato (Peter Pronan de Carignano); lapide insculpto imagine mulieris (Typhania); lapide cum semi-Imagine mulieris (Amy de Munchensi). (fn. 12) The monuments of Queen Isabella, Richard Hastings, Walter, Lord Mountjoy, Sir John Robsart, and John Norbury have the description tumba elevata de alabastro. (fn. 13) The tombs of Mountjoy and Robsart clearly had effigies, since we have the description in each case in liberata de Garteria. For another raised tomb (that of John, Lord Cobham) we have the addition sub cruce. (fn. 14)
There seems no doubt but that the Register commonly reproduces the actual inscriptions (or the essential part of them). This might be conjectured from the simplest formula, such as "jacet venerabilis vir Johannes Elmestede de Southsex," (fn. 15) where only "hic" is omitted. But very commonly the name appears in the genitive case, as "jacet sub lapide Stephani Gotchere, ciuis et carnificis Londonie"; (fn. 16) here the original must have had "hic jacet corpus," or "orate pro anima," or some similar phrase. This peculiarity (which is even retained in the Index) gives the list a certain interest as a faithful reproduction. But the reproduction was perhaps mechanical (or even ignorant) rather than deliberate; it is not always consistent, and as a consequence we get difficulties of grammatical construction, which it is hopeless to regularise. Another trouble of a similar kind is the use of "qui" apparently with reference to women; this may probably be due to careless transcription through the use on the originals of the same abbreviation for "qui" and "que". However, these peculiarities seldom cause any real difficulty, and it has seemed best to let them stand without any attempt to restore a consistent system. They are at all events evidence of the literal accuracy of the Register. It would, of course, be difficult to check or detect errors in such a record. In a few cases I have been able to correct an error, as "Roger Baymon" for "Roger Beyvin". (fn. 17) The failure to identify a name may, in some instances, be due to some undiscovered error. But the proportion of names which have been identified in other places is so large as to put the substantial accuracy of the list beyond question. When the compiler had finished his list, he constructed an Index, partly alphabetical and partly based on the place of burial. In some respects this Index is made super fluous by the provision of a modern apparatus; but the classification by place is not without a certain value of its own, and in the defective state of the manuscript the Index is sometimes of value for determining doubtful points; moreover, it gives occasionally some description not contained in the text, and even adds a few names. It has, therefore, appeared worth while to print it in full, and so make the publication of the Register complete.
The tombs lay thickest in the Chapels of St. Mary and St. Francis, in the Walking-place, the Altars, and the north aisle of the Nave. In these parts of the church the floor must have been nearly paved with the tombstones. The All-Hallows Chapel was almost full, except for a vacant space at the west end, where was the passage to the Vestry. In all there are 765 interments recorded in the Register. Of these only 12 belong to the thirteenth century; 97 to the fourteenth; no less than 302 to the fifteenth; 162 to the sixteenth; the balance of 192 are of uncertain date. In the Choir lay buried Queens Margaret and Isabella, with other royal persons, people of rank and prominent benefactors, including five provincial ministers. About half of the tombs in the Choir can be assigned to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The next most honourable places were the Chapels, the Walkingplace, and the Altars. Here were nearly all the rest of the early tombs. In the Nave there were only three tombs of the thirteenth and three of the fourteenth centuries. The AllHallows Chapel was the favourite place for the burial of the Guardians; out of twelve recorded six were buried here, one in the Apostles Chapel, two in the Walking-place, two in the Altars, and Jule alone in the Choir. (fn. 18) Of the fifteenth-century tombs nearly half, and of the sixteenth-century tombs more than half, were in the Nave or Cloisters; of the tombs of uncertain date nearly two-thirds belong to these parts of the church and its precincts. The tombs in the Cloister were mostly those of friars, the majority of them being undated. It is not to be supposed that the burial of people of moderate rank in the church had begun only with the fifteenth century. This absence of ancient tombs in the Nave points to the probability that the old tombs of unimportant persons became defaced with age and were removed to make room for new burials. Probably some of the most ancient were destroyed when the church was rebuilt at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The only tombs which seem to have been preserved were those of royal personages, and of benefactors like Gregory Rokesley, whose monument was removed to the new Choir, and Henry Frowyk, who with his wife and son found a resting-place in the north aisle of the Nave. By the irony of fate the only ancient tomb which is now preserved in the church is one which was probably cast aside six centuries ago. Recently a stone was discovered, which is inscribed round the edge with the legend Bernart de Jambe gist icy. Dieu de sa alme eit merci, Amen. Pater Noster. (fn. 19) It bears a shield containing a leg couped at the thigh within a bordure. The inscription is of a Lombardic character, and from the style appears to be of the date of about 1300 or a little earlier. More recently another stone with Lombardic lettering is said to have been found, probably in the ground taken for the General Post Office, but broken up by the workmen, who sold the letters. The tomb of Bernart de Jambe was probably not visible when the Register was compiled.
From the great care with which the list was made it is not likely that there were many accidental omissions. Yet from other sources we can make numerous additions. The Index of Wills in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury has supplied identification for many of the names recorded in the Register. From the same source come others that are new:—
Thomas Horwell, (fn. 20) bishop of Killala and suffragan of Ely; Friars Minors, London; 1404. P.C.C., 7 Marche.
Joan de Tibbay, (fn. 21) Friars Minors, London; Syngylford, Essex; 142. P.C.C., 6 Luffenam.
William Battisford, (fn. 22) clerk, Balsham, Cambridgeshire; Friars Minors, London; 1430. P.C.C., 13 Luffenam.
Joan Pomerey, (fn. 23) formerly Whalesburgh, Friars Minors, Clerkenwell, London; Marhamchurch, Devon; 1435. P.C.C., 19 Luffenam.
John Jakes, (fn. 24) gent., Asshen, Essex; Friars Minors, London; 1438. P.C.C., 25 Luffenam.
John Grenefeld, (fn. 25) gent., Southwelles, Hants; Clyfford Inne, Friars Minors, London; 1448. P.C.C., 35 Luffenam.
William Hert, (fn. 26) Friars Minors, All Hallows, Honey Lane, London; Penryn, Cornwall; 1450. P.C.C., 12 and 16 Rous.
Stephyn Preston, Freres Minoresse, (fn. 27) London; Sylton, Dorset; 1474. P.C.C., 14 Wattys.
Sir Henry Heydon, (fn. 28) kt., Baconthorpe, Norfolk; West Wickham, Kent; Grey freres, London; 1504. P.C.C., 23 Holgrave.
Jane Talbot, (fn. 29) dame, Mynores, London; Glossop, Derby; 1505. P.C.C., 38 Holgrave.
John Ryver, (fn. 30) gent., Freers Mynours, London; Kingston, Surrey; 1506. P.C.C., 14 Adeane.
Thomas Strangways, (fn. 31) Wimborne, Dorset; 1512. P.C.C., 13 Fetiplace.
The last three names are later in date than any included in the Register. It is possible that in the case of some of the others the testator's wish was not accomplished. The omission of the older names may be accounted for by the destruction of ancient monuments. But those which are of later date than 1500 at all events can hardly have vanished so soon. To this extent we must suppose that the compilation of the Register was imperfect. But for some of these persons there may have been no visible monument.
The Greyfriars Chronicle records that Elizabeth Barton, "the Holy Maid of Kent," and the two Observant friars—Hugh Rich and Richard Risby—who were executed with her, were buried here in 1534. (fn. 32) Also that in 1537 the bodies of Sir Francis Bigod, George Lumley, William Wood, prior of Bridlington, and Adam Sedbergh, abbot of Jervaulx, who were executed for their share in the Pilgrimage of Grace, were buried at the Grey Friars in the Cloister on the north side in the pavement. (fn. 33) An English List (fn. 34) of burials at the Grey Friars, which, though much shorter, seems to be of independent origin, adds a few names, viz.: William English, Sir Bartholomew Enfield, Sir Henry Enfield, Sir Bernard St. Peter, Sir Ralph Sandwich (d. 1308), Sir Andrew Sackville, Simon Ganis, Sir Philip Pickworth, Sir Richard Poncherdon, William Maynard, (fn. 35) and Thomas Grene.
Stow, (fn. 36) from a third list, adds Geoffrey Mandeville, Earl of Essex, and his Countess Athelard, and Sir James Salisbury. These three are said to have been buried in the Chapter-house or Cloister. The inclusion of the Mandeville tombs must be an error; the last Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, died in 1216 and was buried at Trinity Priory near Aldgate.
The number of friars whose burials are recorded in the Register—under 100—can be but a small proportion of those who died in the Convent during the three centuries of its existence. The humbler brethren were not given a place in the church or even in the Cloisters, but rested in the cemetery at the west end of the church. It is possible, however, that some were buried elsewhere. During the course of excavations in July and August, 1905, on a site outside the City Wall bordering on the town ditch, where the Postern led out from the Great Cloister, a large oblong pit, 50 feet by 20, and 20 feet deep, was found. In this pit were upwards of 400 uncoffined skeletons in eight layers. On about 100 of the skeletons rough leaden crosses, a few inches in length, were found. It was a custom at the burial of a friar (and also of other persons) to place a leaden cross inscribed with the formula of absolution on the dead man's breast. It is possible that some of these skeletons were those of friars. (fn. 37) But the burials were clearly made near the same time during some great epidemic, perhaps in the first visitation of the Black Death in 1348–1349. It is hardly credible that anything like a hundred Grey Friars died in London during those years; such a number would have involved the virtual extermination of the whole brotherhood. It would no doubt be natural that any friars who died during the epidemic (whatever its date) should have been buried in a common grave so close to their own dwelling-place. However, the Churchyard of the poor of St. Bartholomew's Hospital seems to have been situated here. (fn. 38)
All the monuments in the Greyfriars Church were destroyed early in the reign of Edward VI. The Greyfriars Chronicle relates simply that "all the tombs, great stones, were pulled up and sold". (fn. 39) Stow gives us fuller information: "there were nine Tombs of Alabaster and marble, environed with strikes of iron in the Quire, and one Tomb in the body of the Church, also coped with iron, all pulled down, besides seven score grave stones of marble, all sold for fifty pounds or thereabouts by Martin Bowes, Goldsmith and Alderman of London". (fn. 40) Bowes had no doubt acquired the tombstones from the corporation of London, to which they were granted in the Letters Patent for Christ's Hospital. Those which had brasses may have been purchased by the monumental brass-makers to be used as palimpsests; one has recently been discovered at Magdalen College, Oxford, (fn. 41) and it is possible that others may yet come to light. The tomb of Henry Standish apparently escaped, but only to perish in the Great Fire of 1666.
The celebrity of Greyfriars as a place of burial seems to have attracted attention early in the sixteenth century, when there were clearly persons who for genealogical reasons compiled lists of notable persons buried at churches in London or elsewhere. Stow had seen at least two lists of burials at Greyfriars, besides that contained in the Register. One of these lists seems to have resembled one still preserved in Harley MS. 6033, ff. 14–16, which was independent of the Register. This list, which is in English, is much less elaborate, containing only 122 names. It is confined almost entirely to persons of some social importance. It records only eleven burials in the Nave, (fn. 42) and of these one alone appears in the Register. In the other part of the list there are occasional variations, and a few additional details of interest; for a few entries it supplies some useful correction. Anything worthy of notice is quoted in the footnotes below.
The Register now forms part of Cotton. MS. Vitellius, F xii., ff. 274–337. The whole was no doubt compiled in, or very soon after, 1526. Entries of burials of later date than that year appear to be additions, though down to 1530 it is at least probable that the additions were made by the original compiler. (fn. 43) The few entries of later date than 1530 are cer tainly in a different hand, (fn. 44) and have not been as well posted into the Index as the entries for 1526 to 1530 have been. In the second section the deed of 1529 (fn. 45) is an addition, probably, though not certainly, made by the original compiler. It is natural to assume that all the added entries of burials are of later date than 1526, and this is probably true of the majority, but some may have been omissions corrected by the original compiler. (fn. 46)
The Cotton. MS. was badly damaged by the fire in 1731, and the margins have often been destroyed. But by good fortune John Stow copied out a very considerable portion, including nearly all the list of burials, and most of the second section; though for part of the latter he was content to give a translation. Stow's copy is now contained in Harley MS. 544, ff. 33–64, and by its aid most of the gaps in the original can be made good. In Stow's copy the names of persons buried are not always entered in the margin, even when they appear in the original; as these marginal entries seem to have been part of the plan of the compiler, and are in themselves so convenient, it has seemed best to restore them throughout.
Though the Greyfriars Register is now printed in full for the first time, there are few historical records which have received more attention. Stow made considerable use of it in his Survey of London, (fn. 47) and after him Weever consulted the burials for his Funeral Monuments. (fn. 48) Much of the second and third sections was translated by John Stevens for his Continuation of Dugdale's Monasticon, (fn. 49) which appeared in 1722. Stevens' translations from the second section were included in the standard edition of the Monasticon. (fn. 50) The list of burials was printed in an abridged form by J. G. Nichols in Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica in 1838. (fn. 51) In 1858 the second and third sections were edited by J. S. Brewer in the first volume of Monumenta Franciscana, (fn. 52) where the text was not reproduced quite so faithfully as more recent standards of editing require. In 1902 the late Mr. E. B. S. Shepherd printed some part of the second section, together with a list of the burials as an appendix to his invaluable article on The Church of the Friars Minors in London, which is contained in vol. lix. of the Archæological Journal. Finally, Mr. A. G. Little, in 1907, included a considerable part of the second section in his edition of Thomas of Eccleston, De Adventu Fratrum Minorum.