THE Dominicans, or Black Friars, were one of the four orders
of mendicant or begging friars. (fn. 1) They received their name
from their founder, St. Dominic, a native of Cologna in Spain.
They were also called Preaching Friars. from their office of
preaching and converting heretics; and Black Friars, from the
colour of their upper garment. In France they were called
Jacobins, from having their first houses in St. James' Street at
Paris. At Newcastle they appear to have had the title of
Shod Friars, in contradistinction, as it should seem, to their
neighbours, the Grey Friars, who went barefooted. This
order was founded in 1198, approved of by Pope Innocent III.
in 1215, and entered England in 1221. Their habit was a
white cassock, with a white hood over it; and abroad they
wore a black cloak and hood over all. They were enjoined silence, poverty, and
almost continual fasts; also abstinence from flesh and from wearing linen, with several other austerities. They boast of having produced a great many martyrs and
confessors, three popes, sixty cardinals, one hundred and fifty archbishops, and eight
hundred bishops; and to have furnished in this kingdom eighty writers of eminence.
They enjoyed a higher degree of power and authority than any of the other monastic
orders; but then they enjoyed peculiar advantages, being confessors in all the courts
of Europe, and every where presiding over the tribunals of the Inquisition. (fn. 2)
The precise date when the house of the Black Friars in this town was erected is
unknown. It is said to have been founded by Sir Peter Scot, and his son Sir Nicholas Scot, about the year 1260. The ground on which it stands was given by three
pious sisters, whose names have been consigned to oblivion.
It appears that, in 1264, the friars of this house had made, under a royal grant, art
aqueduct from a fountain beyond their court-yard to their monastry, and from thence
into the town. In 1280, they obtained the royal license to make a postern gate
through the town-wall, to communicate with that division of their property which
had been placed in the suburbs by the building of the said wall; and in 1312, king
Edward II. permitted them to make a draw-bridge of wood, five feet broad, over the
new fosse of the town, for a passage to their garden in the suburbs, with pale-work
in lieu of the garden wall, on condition that the whole should be removed on the
appearance of any imminent danger. When the king passed through the town in
1299, the pittance of these friars for one day was eleven shillings.
In 1318, the king granted to the brethren of this house, for the purpose of enlarging their house and burial-ground, a messuage contiguous thereto, which had belonged to Gilbert de Middleton, and had escheated to the crown on his being hanged
for felony and treason; (fn. 3) and in 1330, the king granted a license of mortmain to John
Baroun, impowering him to assign to this fraternity a piece of ground, 60 feet long,
and as many feet broad, for the purpose of enlarging their monastry.
On June 19, 1334, Edward Baliol, king of Scotland, did homage to king Edward
III. for the kingdom of Scotland, in the church of this house. The ceremony was
peculiarly splendid and imposing. (fn. 4)
On December 6, 1342, the king granted the brethren of this house power to set up
certain gates on their ground, which had been demolished during a dispute between
the townsmen and the men of Northumberland, while the Earl of Warren, Warden
of the March of Scotland, lodged in their house, and which they had been prevented
from setting up again.
The bishop of Durham, in 1380, granted a license to the prior and convent of this
house to celebrate mass in the church of St. Nicholas in Newcastle, on asking leave
of the vicar, although such leave should be refused them. King Richard II. in 1390,
prohibited the conferring of the degree of Master on certain apostate brethren belonging to this order; and in 1397, there seems to have been held a provincial chapter at Newcastle, to deliberate respecting these apostates. In 1415, Lord Scroop
bequeathed 13s. 6d. to the recluse in this house of Friars Preachers.
An indenture, dated October 9, 1537, passed between Rolande Hardynge, the last
prior of this house, for himself and the convent, and Robert Daval, clerk, archdeacon
of Northumberland, by which the former bound themselves and their successors for
ever, on condition of receiving £6, 18s. from the said R. Daval, to sing daily an anthem and perform certain other services, and pray "for the sowles of William Davel
John Brigham late of the towne of Newcastell merchant their wyfes and children
with their benefactors and all Christeyn soulls."
This house, which appears to have been dependent upon the priory of Tynemouth,
surrendered June 10, 1539. It then consisted of a prior and twelve friars, and its
annual value was £2, 19s. 4d. No account has been found of any pensions granted
to the prior or monks. (fn. 5) Their houses and ground were granted by king Henry VIII.
March 10, 1544, to the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle, in consideration of the
sum of £53, 7s. 6d.; reserving to himself and successors for ever a yearly rent of
5s. 11½d. together with the bells, lead, stones, iron, and timber of the church and
other edifices. The property specified in this grant, which is preserved in the
archives of the corporation, consisted of a close within the West Gate—two gardens
and a close on the north—the field still called the Warden's Close on the west, and
without the town's wall, that anciently had a lodge or house in it—and a house called
the Gate House, near New Gate Street, from whence the great entrance seems to
have been to this monastry. Bourne says that a mill at the Barras Bridge also belonged to this house, which, in 1558, paid a rent of 2s. per annum to the town of
In the year 1552, the mayor and burgesses demised this house of Black Friars, (fn. 6)
with its appurtenances, of orchards, gardens, &c. to nine of the mysteries, or most
ancient trades of the town, at the yearly rent of 42s.; a ninth part to be paid by each
company, to the respective uses of which were portioned out the several apartments
of the monastry, with the adjacent grounds. This grant has saved the monastry from
destruction; and though it has undergone many alterations, yet it still retains a considerable share of its ancient monastic character, as will be noticed hereafter.