A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1930.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
There were a great number of religious gilds and fraternities in Northampton on the eve of the Reformation. In the church of All Saints there were the following. The Gild of St. Mary, stated in 1388 to have been founded before 1272, supplied three chaplains for the saying of daily masses and other services. (fn. 1) The Gild of St. John Baptist, founded in 1347 for the maintenance of one chaplain, and also, if funds permitted, for convivial purposes, (fn. 2) was closely connected with the craft gild of the Tailors. (fn. 3) The Corpus Christi Gild, founded 1351, was for the maintenance of one (later three) chaplains and the organisation of a Corpus Christi procession. (fn. 4) The Gild of the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary, founded in 1392, maintained four chaplains to say mass. (fn. 5) The craft gild of the Weavers came to be connected with this gild. (fn. 6) The Fraternity of the Rood was for the adornment of the Rood beam. (fn. 7) The Fraternity of St. George found a priest to sing mass in St. George's chapel, and was the owner of St. George's Hall, which later became the property of the corporation. (fn. 8) The Fraternity of St. Katharine appears to have existed for the purpose of assisting the burials of those who died of the plague and were buried in St. Katharine's churchyard (between College Lane and Horsemarket). (fn. 9) The chaplains of these several fraternities formed the college of All Saints, described in the previous volume. (fn. 10)
In the church of St. Gregory there was the Gild of the Holy Rood in the Wall, founded by the Hastings in 1473 for the maintenance of chaplains to celebrate mass. (fn. 11)
In the church of St. Mary there was the Gild of St. Katharine, (fn. 12) founded in 1347 for the maintenance of one chaplain (later two) to celebrate mass, and to keep the gild Feast on St. Katharine's Day, and attend at the funeral of the gild brethren.
In the church of St. Giles there were the Gild of St. Clement, in existence by 1469, (fn. 13) for finding one priest, (fn. 14) and the Gild of the Holy Cross, mentioned in a will of the year 1521. (fn. 15)
In the church of St. Sepulchre's there was the fraternity of St. Martin, mentioned in a will of the year 1500. (fn. 16)
The PRIORY OF ST. ANDREW, (fn. 17) founded by Simon I c. 1100 for Cluniac monks, was at first, according to the statement of its prior in 1348, located in a house adjoining the chapel of St. Martin, probably on the present Broad Street. (fn. 18) Later, at a date to which we have no clue, it was translated to the site in the north-west corner of the medieval borough which it occupied till the Reformation, as shown in Speed's map. The estate map of 1632 (fn. 19) shows that the priory wall ran from St. Andrew's mill along the site of the present St. George's Street to the Northgate, then west along the present Grafton Street to Grafton Square, where the great gate of the priory probably stood, then south along Lower Harding Street, west along Spring Lane to St. Andrew's Road and thence north to St. Andrew's mill. (fn. 20) The priory church stood between Brook Street and Lower Priory Street, and Monks' Pond Street runs across the site of the fish pond. The cemetery lay across Upper Harding Street, Priory Street and Francis Street, where stone coffins were found in 1838, 1852, and 1880, some architectural fragments are now in the Northampton Museum. (fn. 21)
ST. JAMES' ABBEY, (fn. 22) was a house of Austin Canons, founded at the beginning of the 12th cen- tury by William Peverel. It lay outside the liberties, but in the suburb, and owned much property in the town. The only trace remaining to-day is the name Abbey Street; a small part of the Abbey wall on the Weedon Road, near the point where the roads to Duston and Upton divide, was entirely taken down in 1927. (fn. 23) The great barn of the abbey was described by Henry Lee (1715) as 'one of the greatest and stateliest barns of England. A carriage with grain could stand in one of its southern porches, as I have seen, before it was shaken down and the material sold.' (fn. 24) He adds that the abbot of St. James' entertained travellers coming from the west, as the prior of St. Andrew's entertained those coming from the north, the town inns being often 'very ordinary.' From early in the 13th century the two houses were much used for monastic gatherings. Twenty at least of the triennial general chapters of the Austin Canons were held at St. James' between 1237 and 1446, and thirty-nine of the forty general chapters of the Benedictine order between 1338 and 1498 were held at St. Andrew's, though a Cluniac house. (fn. 25)
THE FRANCISCANS (fn. 26) first settled in Northampton in 1226. Valuable details as to the foundation of the house are to be found in the Phillips MS. of Eccleston, not yet in print when the previous volume of this history was written, which contains a number of marginal notes specially bearing on Northampton. The first two friars arriving in the town in 1226 were received by Sir Richard Gobion, 'who settled them outside the east gate on his own hereditary estate near St. Edmund's Church.' (fn. 27) The knight's own son John was one of the first to take the habit, and in consequence the angry parents ordered the friars to depart. The humble acquiescence of the brothers and their poverty, however, so touched Gobion's heart that he relented and allowed them to stay. About 1235 the friars moved into the town, where the townsfolk had given them a site in St. Sepulchre's parish, and thenceforward a series of grants from their devoted patron Henry III of timber for building are found on the Close Rolls. (fn. 28) By 1258 the friary was complete, and the brothers began building a house for their schools. The Greyfriars' site, 'the best builded and largest House of all the places of the freres,' according to Leland, (fn. 29) was almost due north of the market place, near the present Greyfriars Street. Traces of interments were found in 1849, 1887 and 1889, (fn. 30) in Princess Street, showing conclusively that the cemetery lay between Newland and the south side of Princess Street, on the site of the present Temperance Hall and Masonic Hall. The well also was discovered, and is under the present Masonic Hall.
A house of POOR CLARES or SISTERS MINOR, the first in England, existed for a short time in Northampton. From 1252 to 1272 the sheriff of Northants is ordered to provide the sisters with five tunics of russet every two years. They are described as dwelling near the Friars Preachers, that is, not far from the Mayorhold. Nothing is known of the house beyond the references on the Close and Liberate Rolls, first noted by Mr. Serjeantson in 1911. (fn. 31)
The FRIARS OF THE SACK (fn. 32) also had a house in Northampton, founded by Sir Nicholas de Cogenhoe in the reign of Henry III. In 1271 they received a grant from the king for the building of their church. (fn. 33) From the returns to the inquest of 1274–5 it appears that their house was in the south-east quarter, between the Derngate and 'Dandeline's court,' wherever that was. (fn. 34) The friary came to an end before 1303, (fn. 35) and the order itself was suppressed in 1307.
THE DOMINICANS (fn. 36) first settled in Northampton about 1230, and began building about 1233, assisted by a series of grants from Henry III, from 1233 to 1270. (fn. 37) The house was large enough for a provincial chapter to be held there in 1239. (fn. 38) The building of 'studies' is mentioned in 1258. (fn. 39) Building continued through the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, and in 1310 the friars obtained a license from the bishop to have six superaltars in their church. (fn. 40) The royal chancery was established in the Blackfriars' Church from 31 July to 6 August 1338. (fn. 41) No traces of the house are left; it was situated on the east side of the Horsemarket and its precincts came down to Gold Street. (fn. 42)
If the later tradition can be trusted, (fn. 43) by which Simon de Montfort was one of their first benefactors, THE WHITE FRIARS (fn. 44) must have settled in Northampton by 1265; they were certainly here by 1270, when Simon de Pateshull was bestowing lands on them. (fn. 45) An inquest of 1278 (fn. 46) shows that their house was near the town wall, and they were making additions to it both at that date and in 1299. (fn. 47) In 1310 they obtained leave to have six altars in their church, (fn. 48) and four provincial chapters were held in it in the course of the 14th century. The site of their house was in the parish of St. Michael, (fn. 49) near the top of Wood Street, formerly called Whitefriars Lane, lying between Newland, Ladies' Lane, and the Upper Mounts of to-day. (fn. 50) The foundations of the church were uncovered in 1846, under the road now known as Kerr Street (fn. 51)
The house of THE AUSTIN FRIARS (fn. 52) was founded by Sir John Longevile in 1322, (fn. 53) and was situated on the west side of Bridge Street, opposite St. John's hospital, on the site now occupied by Augustine Street. No traces of it remain.
THE HOSPITAL OF ST. JOHN, (fn. 54) founded by William de St. Clare, Archdeacon of Northampton, about 1138, is the only one of the religious houses of Northampton still standing. (fn. 55) It is on the east side of Bridge Street, within the line of the town wall, near to the site of the south gate, and consisted originally of an almshouse and chapel, with a master's house about 60 yards to the northeast. The site of 3¼ acres was bounded on the north by St. John's Lane, on the south by the town wall, and on the west by Bridge Street. The master's house has been pulled down, but the chapel and almshouse, or domicile, still stand. In 1871 the property was sold to the Midland Railway Company, and the master's house was demolished to make room for the Midland Station. The infirmary and chapel were resold to Mr. Mulliner, from whom they were purchased in 1877 for a Roman Catholic community, in whose possession they now are. The inmates of the hospital were transferred to a new building at Weston Favell, opened in 1879.
The almshouse is a building of red sandstone standing east and west, in plan a parallelogram, measuring internally 62 ft. 6 in. by 22 ft., except that the west wall is slightly skewed in order to accommodate itself to the direction of the street, and it is attached by its north-east angle to the south-west angle of the chapel. The building is of two stories, but has been a good deal rebuilt and altered. (fn. 55) The roof is now covered with blue slates: the interior is in a bad state of repair. The west end, (fn. 56) with its gable to the street, is apparently of early 14th century date, its chief feature being a wide and lofty recessed pointed arch of two moulded orders, the inner springing from shafts with moulded capitals and bases, within which is set the continuous moulded west doorway, and over it the remains of a niche with bracket for a statue. In the gable above the arch is a large circular window of four pairs of trefoiled lights radiating from a quatrefoil, the spaces between having sexfoil cusping: the window is surrounded by a hoodmould which dies into the apex of that of the great arch. Probably no other part of the building is contemporary with the west front, but parts of the north wall and the middle part of the south wall, which contain pointed windows, are apparently of late 15th century date, and the square-headed windows on the north side are perhaps a century later. The greater part of the south wall and the whole of the east wall were rebuilt in the 18th century, when wooden-framed windows were introduced on both floors and alterations made in the interior arrangements. A 4 ft. passage runs down the middle of the building from the west to the east door, with staircase and a series of bedrooms on the south, and four larger rooms on the north side. There is reason to believe that originally the building did not extend so far to the east. (fn. 57) the buttresses of the south-west angle of the chapel having been cut away to allow for the erection of the east end of the north wall of the almshouse, which appears to be not earlier than the end of the 16th century. The side walls are about 16 ft. to the eaves, and in the middle of the south side is a window of three cinquefoiled lights with depressed head and hollow chamfered jambs, lighting the staircase, its sill about 6 ft. above the ground. This window contains the figure of a man and the name of 'Richard Sherd,' who was master in 1474, (fn. 58) and it formerly contained also fragments of painted glass, including shields of Grey, Hastings and Valence, but these have been lately taken out. The stairs are not centrally placed, being slightly nearer the east end: from a landing below the window they lead east and west to two large upper rooms, one at each end of the building, said to have been for the 'co-brothers' or chaplains. (fn. 59) On the north side of the ground floor passage is a room at the west end with a square-headed two-light window, and next to it one with a small pointed external doorway. Next to this is a larger room, or hall, lighted by two three-light windows similar to that on the staircase, and open to the roof, and at the east end the kitchen, which has a large projecting fireplace and a two-light square-headed window in the north wall. The roof of the building is of six bays. Although the division of hall and kitchen is apparently modern the construction of the two bays of roof over the hall seems to imply that this part of the building alone was always open its full height. (fn. 60) Of the two upper rooms, which are 22 ft. by 20 ft., that at the west end is lighted by the circular window and by two square-headed mullioned windows on the north, and two wooden-framed ones on the south side, and has a fireplace in the south-west angle. The eastern room has also mullioned windows on the north and wooden ones on the south side, and a fireplace with moulded jambs. Both rooms extend the full width of the building, and occupy two bays of the roof.
The chapel is in plan a plain rectangle, 16 ft. wide internally by 44 ft. long, built of local red sandstone, and the roof covered with blue slates. The three-light east window is of the early 14th century with cusped intersecting tracery and moulded mullions and jambs, and the chapel was probably wholly rebuilt in that period. The entrance is at the west end. The north wall is blank. The west wall is of the 15th century and has coupled buttresses at the angles standing wholly beyond the face of the north and south walls, i.e., the west end is nearly 6 ft. wider than the body of the chapel, and it is possible that the whole of the north, south and east walls have been rebuilt on a narrower plan, leaving the west end as it was and re-using the east window. (fn. 61) The building was extensively restored in 1853–4 by the Charity Commissioners, the whole of the south wall being then taken down and rebuilt in its present form with two two-light windows in the 14th century style, (fn. 62) below the westernmost of which is a small pointed doorway. (fn. 63) The roof of five bays and the wooden bell turret are modern. The building was renovated in 1882, to which date the present fittings belong. The buildings are now undergoing further repair.
The moulded west doorway has an almost semicircular two-centred head under a square label, the spandrels of which contain quatrefoils with square-leaf flowers. The original double doors remain. Above is a large four-centred five-light window with Perpendicular tracery and moulded jambs and mullions. The two-armed cross on the gable is said to be original. The doorway and west and east windows are of oolite. In the east windows are considerable remains of 15th century glass, including saints, a head of the Blessed Virgin, an angel holding a shield, and a kneeling figure.
The Master's House, now demolished, is said to have contained work of every century from the 13th to the 19th, and its architectural history was complicated. (fn. 64) It was rectangular in plan with a south porch and north-west wing, and had a frontage of about 87 ft. The hall, 26 ft. 3 in. by 19 ft. 2 in., had been divided in the 18th century. The kitchen and offices were at the west end.
THE HOSPITAL OF ST. LEONARD, (fn. 65) founded by Richard de Stafford in the 11th century, was in Hardingstone parish, outside the liberties, on the west side of the road leading to Queen's Cross. The hospital buildings, of which no description is extant, included a chapel and churchyard which served the inhabitants of Cotton End as a parish church. The Lazar House is mentioned in the Assembly Books from 1623 to 1823, when it was finally pulled down; it can have been little more than a cottage at this time, when there was only one recipient of the charity.
THE HOSPITAL OF ST THOMAS, (fn. 66) founded apparently in the 15th century, stood on the east side of Bridge Street, just outside the south gate. In 1834 the residents removed to a new house in St. Giles' Street, and the buildings were used for a carriage-builders' shop until, in 1874, they were pulled down to make room for a road to the new cattle market. (fn. 67) It was a rectangular 15th century stone building, consisting of a large hall, 22 ft. 3 in. wide internally with upper floor, and a chapel at its east end 15 ft. wide by 16 ft. 9 in. long, the south wall of which was continuous with that of the hall. The roofs were covered with Collyweston slates. At the time of demolition the hall, or domicile, was 54 ft. 8 in. long internally, but it had been shortened some 3 ft. or 4 ft. at the west end, probably for street-widening purposes. The original west elevation facing Bridge Street, as shown in Bridges' History, had a central arched doorway, with window on the south side, and above these a row of quatrefoils containing blank shields. Over the doorway was a four-light window and on each side of it a canopied niche containing a figure. The hall was, no doubt, formerly divided by screens in the usual way, with cubicles arranged round the walls: several lockers (fn. 68) remained in both the north and south walls, but some had been converted into windows. In the middle of the north wall was a large fireplace, one jamb only of which was original, and two square-headed two-light windows. There was no arched wall opening to the chapel at the east end of the 'domicile' and no trace of any division between the chapel and the lower room, though probably a screen had existed. (fn. 69) The upper room had several windows. The chapel had an east window of four cinquefoiled lights with vertical tracery and a canopied niche on either side within: in the south wall was a piscina and a window of three lights. Both chapel and domicile had open timber roofs, the former of two, the latter of five bays, with wind braces under the upper and lower purlins.
After its vacation in 1834 the building was used for business purposes. (fn. 70)
Two hospitals stood outside the north gate of the town in Kingsthorpe parish; the Leper hospital of Walbeck (fn. 71) and the hospital of St. David and the Trinity, (fn. 72) founded in 1200 by the prior and convent of St. Andrew's on the petition of Peter, son of Adam.
THE COLLEGE OF ALL SAINTS, (fn. 73) founded in 1460, stood on the west side of College Lane, opposite the end of College Yard, and consisted of a priest's house for the warden and fellows and a garden. It was used as a hospital for the sick during the plague of 1603 to 1605, being then the property of Abraham Ventris. (fn. 74)