The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.
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OF THE MANY RELIGIOUS FOUNDATIONS, HOSPITALS, AND ALMS-HOUSES which were within the circuit of this city and its suburbs, most of them were exempt from the liberty of it; these therefore will be treated of hereafter, among those districts which are esteemed to be exempt from it, and to lie within the county at large. THOSE NOW HELD to be within the jurisdiction of the city, are as follows:
THE GREY FRIARS, which was a convent here, stood at a small distance southward from St. Peter'sstreet, of which there are remaining only some walls and ruined arches; the scite of it is very low and damp, among the meads and garden-grounds, (fn. 1) having two entrances or alleys leading to it, where formerly stood two gates; one called Northgate, in St. Peter'sstreet, facing that of the Black Friars; the other was called Eastgate, to which the entrance was by a bridge at the end of Lamb-lane, in Stour-street.
These friars, called at first Franciscans, from the name of their founder St. Francis; (fn. 2) the head of whom was called the guardian, were afterwards likewise called Grey Friars, from their habit, which, in imitation of their founder, was a long grey coat down to their heels, with a cowl or hood, (fn. 3) and a cord or rope about their loins, instead of a girdle. They were likewise called Minorites, from their being the lowest and most humble of all orders; and sometimes Observants, from their being more observant and strict to the rules of their order, than a more negligent and loose sort of them. They were stiled Mendicants, from their professing wilful poverty, subsisting chiefly upon alms, which they used to ask and receive from door to door; by which friars were distinguished from monks, who kept at home within their convents, and lived in common upon their own substance. These Franciscans came first into England in king Henry III.'s reign, about the year 1224. (fn. 4) How they were afterwards en tertained, or accommodated with a home, is told by the author of the Antiquities of the English Franciscans, entitled Collectanea Anglo-Minoritica; by this we learn, that these friars, viz. Aghellus de Pisa and his companions, on their coming to Canterbury in the year 1220, were charitably harboured and entertained for two days by the Benedictine monks, in the priory of the Holy Trinity, after which they were taken in at the Poor Priests hospital, where however they continued no longer than whilst a part of the school belonging to it was fitted up for their reception. Here some of them staid to build their first convent; for which purpose Alexander, the provost or master of the hospital, gave them a spot of ground set out with a convenient house, and a decent chapel or oratory, which by his care and charitable endeavours were there built for them, and here he placed these friars, and this was their first convent for this order in England, and was held in the name of the corporation or community of Canterbury, for their use, they being by their profession incapable of possessing it as their own right.
Here they lived for some time, increasing in numbers and popularity, having gained the esteem of many persons of dignity and consequence; among whom were archbishop Stephen Langton, his brother the archdeacon, and Henry de Sandwich, who became their first great benefactors and patrons. Among others who admired them for their sanctity, was a devout and worthy citizen, of a flourishing family then in this city, as they were afterwards in the county, one John Digg or Diggs, then an alderman of it, (fn. 5) into whose favour they had so far insinuated themselves, that he purchased for them a piece of ground, lying between the two streams of the river Stour here, then called the island of Binnewyth, (fn. 6) and shortly afterwards translated them thither. (fn. 7)
The friars being seated here, and there being many houses and much ground belonging to the priory of Christ-church, within the precinct of their convent, they laid claim to them, and they made themselves absolute possessors of the whole of this island; and the monks seeing the common people much inclined to favour them, and not willing to incur theirs, left it might bring with it the people's displeasure too, made a virtue of a necessity, and after the friars had been no small time in possession, without payment of any of the accustomed rents and services, which the former tenants of the monks were bound to pay; they, by a composition made, as they phrased it, through pure motives of charity, not only remitted to them all arrears past and for the future, an abatement of the one half of the rent; on condition of their paying in full of all services and demands, for the time to come, iii shillings yearly rent. (fn. 8) How this might stand with their founder's rule, and their own vow, appears strange; for by their rule set forth articulately in Matthew Paris, they were clearly debarred, not only by their vow of poverty, but by express precept besides, from all property, either house or ground, or any kind of substance, but as pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty and humility, by going and begging alms with considence, &c.
These Franciscans, or Minorite friars, had granted to them by several popes, many privileges, immunities, and indulgencies; (fn. 9) besides their exemption and immunities from episcopal and other ordinary jurisdiction; in the matter of tithes they were privileged from the payment of any, either of their house, orchard, or garden, and the nutriment, i. e. the herbage or agistment of their cattle, as in the decretals; in matters of burial, they had liberam sepulturam, i. e. might chuse wheresoever any of them would his place of burial, paying the fourth part of the obventions to the parish church; and as a thing of which multitudes were ambitious, numbers of persons of high degree and estimation were desirous of living, dying, and being interred in the habit of these Franciscans, believing that whosoever was buried among them, especially if in the holy and virtuous habit of a poor friar, he should not be only happily secured from evil spirits, which might otherwise disturb the quiet of his grave, but assure to himself an entrance into the kingdom of heaven. (fn. 10)
There is but little further to be mentioned concerning these friars and their house, only that in king Henry VII.'s reign, this convent became one of those which were called Observants, being those who put themselves under the more strict discipline of this order, in opposition to whom, the others gained the name of Conventuals, who continued under the former relaxed state of the rules of their primitive institution, though still in general they were called Franciscan friars. (fn. 11)
This house was dissolved in the 25th year of king Henry VIII. anno 1534, those of this order being the first that were suppressed by him. (fn. 12) Hugh Rich was the last principal of this house.
As to the benefactions to this convent, it should be observed, that whoever died of any worth always remembered these friars in their wills, and in general gave liberally both to their church and convent; among others, it appears by the wills in the Prerogative-office, in Canterbury, that William Woodland, of Holy Cross parish, anno 1450, by his will gave five pounds towards the reparation of their church, and five marcs besides to the repairing of their dormitory or dortor; and Hamon Beale, a citizen, and in his time mayor of Canterbury, chusing this church for his place of burial, as Isabel his first wife had done before, gave forty shillings in money to this convent.
There were several persons of worth and estimation, as well of the clergy as laity, buried in the church of this convent, which is so entirely destroyed, that the scite of it can only be conjectured. Weever, however, has preserved some few of them. These were, Bartholomew, lord Badlesmere, steward to king Edward II.'s houshold, who was hanged for rebellion in 1321, at the gallows at the Blean, near this city; Sir Giles Badlesmere, his son; Elizabeth Domina de Chilham; Sir William Manston, Sir Roger Manston, his brother; Sir Thomas Brockhull, and the lady Joan, his wife; Sir Thomas Brockhull, their son, and lady Editha, his wife; Sir Fulk Peyforer, Sir Thomas Drayner, lady Alice de Marinis; lady Candlin; Sir Alan Pennington, of Lancashire; who died in this city; lady Audry de Valence; Sir William Trussell; Sir William Balyol; Sir Bartholomew Ashburnham, and Sir John Mottenden, a friar of this house; (fn. 13) and by the register in the Prerog. office above-mentioned, it appears, that Hamon Beal, who is mentioned above as a benefactor to this convent, and who was mayor of this city in 1464, by his will anno 1492, appointed to be buried in the middle of the nave of the church of these Friars Minors, and to have a tomb three feet high, at his executors charges, set over him and Elizabeth his wife; (fn. 14) that Thomas Barton, of Northgate, in Canterbury, by his will in 1476, ordered to be buried in the church of this house, and that a little square stone of marble set in the wall over the place where he should be buried, with images and figures of brass of his father, mother, himself, wives and children, &c. Margaret Cherche, of St. Alphage, in the nave of the church before the high cross in 1486—John Forde, of St. George's, in the north part of the church, near the altar of St. Cle ment there, in 1487—and that Richard Martyn, bishop in the universal church, by his will in 1502, ordered to be buried in the church of these Grey Friars, to whom he devised his crysmatory of silver, and parcel thereof gilt, and the case thereto belonging, and mentions the chapel of St. Saviour, in this church.— Elizabeth Master was buried in the church of these Friars in 1522; Anne Culpeper, widow of Harry Agar, esq. by her will anno 1532, ordered to be buried, if she died at Canterbury, at the Friars Observants there.
Weever says, that this priory was valued at that time at 39l. 12s. 8½d. per annum, but there is no valuation of it either in Dugdale or Speed. (fn. 15)
The scite of this priory was granted anno 31 king Henry VIII. to Thomas Spilman, (fn. 16) who levied a fine of it in the 35th year of that reign, and then alienated it to Erasmus Finch and his wife, (fn. 17) after which, I find it next in the name of Lovelace, for it appears by the escheat rolls, that William Lovelace died possessed of it in the 25th year of queen Elizabeth, holding it in capite, in which year his son, of the same name, had livery of it; (fn. 18) Sir William Lovelace resided here and died possessed of it in 1629; (fn. 19) since which it has been for many years in the possession of the family of Hartcup; the present possessor of it being Thomas Hartcup, esq.
THE CONVENT, or PRIORY OF THE BLACK FRIARS, for the principal member of it was stiled prior, was situated on the opposite or north side of St. Peter's-street, at a small distance from it; great part of it is still remaining, being two sides of the quadrangle, together with the church on the other or western side of the river, the whole being now formed into houses and tenements, the property of different persons. (fn. 20) This convent had an approach to it by three gates; one, and that the most private, opening before the street by St. Alphage church; a second by the Waterlock, and the third in St. Peter's-street, being the principal one, built not long before the 30th year of king Edward III. it was beatifully built of squared flint, ornamented with carved stone works, and over the middle was a nitch, in which stood the figure of their patron saint; but this gate has been pulled down within these few years. These black friars, so called on account of their habit, which was a black cope and cowl, over a white coat, were likewise called Dominicans and black preaching friars; the former, from their order having been founded by St. Dominick, the latter, because they were the only preachers of all the friars. They came hither and settled in this city in the year 1217, being the 1st of Henry III.'s reign, seven years before the Franciscans. (fn. 21) It is said, that the king at their first coming, received them kindly, as did Stephen Langton, then archbishop, and placed them at Canterbury, where it seems he built this convent for them, which was the first in the kingdom of that kind. (fn. 22) Like the Franciscans, they and the monks of Christ-church, in the same year with the other, anno 1294, came to a composition about several houses and lands lying within their precinct. (fn. 23)
In the year 1394, the friars preachers celebrated their principal chapter at Canterbury, on the day of the Assumption, in their church here. (fn. 24) There were from time to time numbers of persons of note buried in the church of this priory. Weever (fn. 25) has preserved the memories of only these few of them, viz. Robert and Bennet Browne, esqrs. Bennet, daughter of John Shelving, and wife of Sir Edmund Haute, (afterwards remarried to Sir William Wendall) with her first husband here, in king Edward III.'s reign.
The following burials are from the wills in the Prerogative-office, in Canterbury; Thomas Peny, of St. Alphage, by his will anno 1481, ordered to be buried in the cloister of this house, near to William his son; John Sloden, brother of the hospital of St. John Baptist, by his will, the same year, ordered to be buried in the cemetery of these friars. John Nashe, of St. Alphage, by his will anno 1486, was buried in the church. Anne Baker, of St. Alphage, in the church here, in 1464. Thomas Baker, of the same, in 1473. John Whittill, in the cemetery, in 1749. Alice Elleryngton, in 1512, in the church-yard.
John Whytlok, of St. Alphage, gave by his will in 1503, to the brodered of Seynt Nicholas, holden in the Blake Frerys, yn Canterbury, the pich clarkys to bere him to church, viz. St. Alphage, and that he be set yn their bed-roll ten shillings.
This house of the Black Friars was dissolved in the 27th year of king Henry VIII. (fn. 26) and the scite of it seems to have remained in the crown for some years. (fn. 27) But in 1557 it appears that the scite and adjoining appurtenances belonging to it, were sold by the crown to John Anthony. (fn. 28) It was afterwards granted to Thomas Wiseman, and then, anno 2 Elizabeth to John Harrington, (fn. 29) after which it appears that this precinct and scite, with the gardens and land belonging to it, came into the poffesfion of William Hovenden, of Christ-church, in Canterbury, who died in 1587, and by his will gave this estate to Robert Hovenden, his eldest son, in tail male, remainder to Christopher and George, his sons. (fn. 30) It afterwards came into the possession of Peter de la Pierre, alias Peters, who was originally of Flanders, and coming to settle in England, had purchased it in 1658, and was, with his eldest son John, naturalized by act of parliament after the restoration. He was by prosession a surgeon, and resided here till his death, which happened in 1668; by his will he gave this estate among his five children; (fn. 31) but the principal part, being the house in which he resided, with the orchard, garden and inclosed slips of ground on each side of his house porch, being a part likewise of the Black Friars; he gave to his eldest son John de la Pierre, alias Peter, who after his father's death resided here, and being a physician, practised with much reputation. He died in 1689, (fn. 32) and by his will gave this his mansion here with its appurtenances to his eldest son Peter de la Pierre, alias Peters, who resided here, and practised likewise as a physician; he used the name of Peters only, and died possessed of this estate in 1697, as did his widow in 1722, and were both buried in St. Alphage church, in this city. (fn. 33) They left issue only two daughters, Anne and Elizabeth; to the former of whom he devised this mansion, but she dying unmarried, and before the age of twenty-one, her surviving sister Elizabeth Peters became her heir, and in 1722 carried it in marriage to Thomas Barrett, esq. of Lee, whose second wife she was, and he died possessed of it in 1757; upon which it descended to his only daughter and heir, by her, Elizabeth, who entitled her husband, the Rev. William Dejovas Byrche, to the possession of it; he died at his house in the Black Friars, æt. 62, on March 7, 1792, (fn. 34) leaving Elizabeth his wife surviving, who then again in her own right possessed this estate, and resided on it. (fn. 35) She died in 1798, and this house came by settlement to Samuel Egerton Brydges, esq. of Denton, who had married her only daughter, then deceased, and he now owns the scite of it. The mansion has been lately pulled down, and a new street is intended on the scite of the old garden.
In 1685, a suit for substraction of tithes, against the proprietor of these precincts was instituted in the court of exchequer, by John Stocker, rector of St. Alphage; but after a full hearing, the exemption was allowed. (fn. 36)
THE NUNNERY OF ST. SEPULCHRE, of which some ruins are still visible, it was founded by archbishop Anselm, about the year 1100, (fn. 37) and although situated within the boundaries of the fee of the abbey of St. Augustine, and on the soil belonging to the archbishopric, yet it is held to be within the liberties of the city and county of Canterbury. (fn. 38)
The district of it was once a parish, having its own parochial church within it, but it has been for a long time esteemed extraparochial. This nunnery was founded for a convent of black benedictine nuns, and was under the immediate protection and patronage of the archbishop, being built contiguous to the church dedicated to the Holy Sepulchre, from whence this house assumed its name.
Among other benefactors, who out of their charity endowed this house with revenues, was William Calvel, a citizen of Canterbury, of whose name there was antiently a flourishing family in this city, of which he had the reputation of being the chief; (fn. 39) and after king Richard I. had given the wood of Blean to the prior and convent of Christ-church, Walter, the prior of it, and his convent, granted to this nunnery, as much wood as one horse, going twice a day, could fetch thence, where the church wood reeves should appoint; but there being much uncertainty in this grant, the nuns in 1270 releasing it, procured in lieu and by way of exchange for it, a certain portion of the above-mentioned wood to be assigned and made over to them; (fn. 40) which wood retains from these nuns the name of Minchen wood at this time. (fn. 41)
In 1184, the church or parsonage of St. Edmund, of Ridingate, was appropriated to this nunnery, by the abbot and convent of St. Augustine, as will be further mentioned hereaster; which church was afterwards in 1349, with the consent of the nuns, being patrons, united by the then commissary of Canterbury to the church of St. Mary Bredin; as will be further noticed under that church.
In the year 1227, Julian, then prioress of this convent, granted to the hospital of Eastbridge, one-fourth part of an acre of land, (fn. 42) and in 1224 the nuns engaged not to appropriate to themselves any lands or rents in any of the possessions of the abbot of St. Augustine, without the special licence of the convent; (fn. 43) and king Henry III. in his 40th year, made a grant of divers liberties to the prioress of this convent. (fn. 44)
Time and the indulgence of superiors bringing their corruptions, nuns became in process of time, not such recluses as their order required. Whence, as well upon the command of pope Boniface VIIIth. by his letters to archbishop Winchelsea, and his suffragans, as by his decretal, concerning the consining of nuns to their cloysters, the archbishop, in the year 1305, inclosed these nuns of St. Sepulchre, according to that constitution. (fn. 45) In 1365, Cicily Thornford, prioress, resigned her office into the hands of the archbishop, who upon this sent his letters to the prior of Christ-church, to constitule another in her room; the prior accordingly proceeded to the nunnery, where calling the nuns together, he elected, confirmed and installed Joan Cheriton, a sister of the house, prioress.
Archbishop Morton, by his last will, dated in 1500, settled and assigned for ever, lands lying within the park at Maidstone, called the More, and a mill near it, for the yearly payment of eight marcs to this nunnery, to find a priest to celebrate mass in it, in the chantry founded by John Bourn, rector of Frakenham, in the time of archbishop Wittesley. (fn. 46)
The temporalities of this nunnery, in the taxation made in 1292, were thus rated, in Canterbury, Thanington, Hackington, Bishopsborne, and Little Hardres, at 12l. 10s. 5d. and in an old custumal of the manor of Northsleet, these nuns had a pension from it of 13s. 4d. yearly, and the like from that of Bixley, of five shillings. (fn. 47)
In king Henry VIII.'s reign, this nunnery was esteemed a corporation, consisting of a prioress and five black veiled nuns, whose habit was a black coat, cloak, coul, and veil; and it had a seal and all other requisites of a compleat nunnery; in which state it remained till it at length tasted of the common calamity and ruin, which besel the other religious foundations of the like sort throughout the kingdom, being suppressed in the 27th year of king Henry VIII.'s reign, by the act of that year, which gave to the king all such religious houses as had not 200l. a year clear yearly income; (fn. 48) at which time its revenues were estimated at 38l. 19s. 7½d. per annum, according to Speed; and according to Dugdale, 29l. 12s. 5½d. the latter being probably the clear value. (fn. 49) It seems, says Somner, that the parish church of St. Sepulchre was torn down in the same fall with the nunnery; for however mention may be found both of the parish church and church-yard before, yet, since the suppression, the place of the two latter is unknown.
There is very little remaining of the ruins of this nunnery; a high arched gateway of stone, (fn. 50) sufficient for a carriage to pass, this being the common usual entrance to it, with a building of flint, containing some few small rooms on the north side of it, and part of a small court within it, of the same appearance, are all that are left of it. Within these few years, some of the walls of the precincts of it were standing, on the north side of the Watling-street way, which have been lately removed.
In this nunnery Elizabeth Barton, more vulgarly known by the name of the holy maid of Kent, the great impostor of her time, was a veiled nun and voteress, in king Henry VIII.'s reign; who being tutored by the monks and other papalists, pretended to divine inspiration, and spread her prophecies about, of the destruction of those who were going forward with the reformation, and of the king, if he went on in his divorce and second marriage; for this, she and her accomplices were attainted by act of parliament, anno 25 Henry VIII. seven of whom suffered death with her, being executed at Tyburn for treason; and six others of them were punished with fine and imprisonment. (fn. 51)
After the dissolution of this priory, in the 29th year of king Henry VIII. the scite of it and all manors, lands, pensions and emoluments thereto belonging (except the advowsons of churches and patronages not particularly mentioned) and subject to the payment of forty shillings to the archbishop, and of three pounds to the vicar of St. Mary Bredin, were granted by the king, ult. Nov. in his 29th year, to the archbishop of Canterbury, in lieu of other lands, (fn. 52) who, by deed, dated 7th Dec. anno. 37 Henry VIII. confirmed by the chapter, the 22d of that month following, reconveyed to the king the scite of this priory, the rectories of St. Sepulchre and St. Maries, and all estate there late belonging to the priory. (fn. 53) — After which the king, in the 38th year of his reign, granted the scite of this late dissolved priory, and all the possessions belonging to it, spirituals as well as temporals, of whatsoever fort, and wheresoever situated within the realm, to James Hales, esq. of the Dungeon, to hold in capite; (fn. 54) he was afterwards knighted, and one of the justices of the common pleas. He died in 1555, anno 1 and 2 Philip and Mary, possessed of this estate, leaving Humphry Hales, esq. his son and heir. (fn. 55) He died in the 10th year of queen Elizabeth, and was succeeded in it by his son Sir James Hales, of the Dungeon, (fn. 56) and he sold it in the 14th year of queen Elizabeth, to Sir Thomas Kempe. (fn. 57)
In king James I.'s reign, one third part of it was in possession of Sir Christopher Mann, of Canterbury, who, by fine levied, conveyed it to Sir James Hales, in exchange for the manor of Bonnington, and other lands. (fn. 58)
Sir Edward Master, of Canterbury, appears to have died possessed of this estate in 1690, for he gave by his will, (fn. 59) to his grandson Harcourt, son of his son Giles Master, his messuages, with the barns, stables, malthouse, &c. commonly called the Nunnery houses, alias St. Sepulchre's, and ten acres of land adjoining, in St. Mary Bredin's parish.
After the family of Master was become extinct here, it passed, after some intermediate owners, into the name of Francis, one of whom, Mr. Thomas Francis, of the Lime-kilns, near this place, died possessed of it, leaving his widow surviving, and several children; she afterwards married Mr. Wm. Slodden, gent. of Canterbury, whom she likewise survived, and is at present in the possession of this estate. (fn. 60)
In April 1760, as some workmen were digging in the orchard belonging to Mr. Basil Harrison, near St. Sepulchre's remains, for brick-earth, at the depth of about five feet, they found a leaden coffin much decayed, containing the skull and bones of a woman, as supposed; the coffin was six feet long, the head of it fifteen inches over, twelve deep, and the foot nine inches over. It lay upon some small tiles, which had some marks on them, though so much defaced as not to be understood; under the middle of the coffin was a stone sixteen inches by fourteen, with a hole in the centre, four inches square, full of small coal and dust. Some time before there was found in digging near the same place, an urn, fourteen inches deep, and twelve inches over, which was likewise full of small coal and ashes. Many more human bones have at times been dug up in the same orchard; which from this, is supposed to have been the burying-place of the nunnery near adjoining to it.