A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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25. THE HOUSE OF GREY FRIARS (fn. 1)
A company of nine Franciscans arrived in England on 10 September, 1224, at the head of them being Agnellus of Pisa, the provincial minister. After staying two days at Canterbury, four of them proceeded to London, and at the end of the month two of these, Richard of Ingeworth and Richard of Devon, set out for Oxford. (fn. 2) Here they were kindly received by the Dominicans and 'ate in their refectory and slept in their dormitory, like conventuals, for eight days.' (fn. 3) They then hired a house in the parish of St. Ebbe from Robert le Mercer; (fn. 4) though they only occupied this house till the following summer, they were there joined by 'many honest bachelors and many eminent men.' In 1225 they hired a house and ground from Richard the Miller, who 'within a year conferred the land and house on the community of the town for the use of the Friars Minors.' (fn. 5) In the mayoralty of John Pady (1227-9) the citizens of Oxford subscribed 43 marks to buy from William son of Richard de Wileford his house in St. Ebbe's for the use of the Friars Minors; the property was vested in the mayor and good men of Oxford, who agreed to pay William yearly one pound of cummin in lieu of all services. (fn. 6) In or before 1236 Robert, son of Robert Oen, gave them a house adjoining their land on condition that he 'having been a free tenant of the prior and brethren of St. John of Jerusalem in the aforesaid place,' should have the same privilege attaching to his new house in the parish of St. Michael in the North Gate. This house of Robert Oen's in St. Ebbe's was one of the 'mural mansions,' on the occupiers of which the duty of repairing the city wall fell. This duty was now undertaken by the city. (fn. 7) All the houses acquired hitherto were within the city wall, lying between it and Freren Street (now Church Street).
Here the friars erected their first buildings. The infirmary was so low that a man could hardly stand upright in it. (fn. 8) After they had been nearly a year in Oxford they built a small chapel: (fn. 9) this seems to have been enlarged later; in 1232 the king granted the friars beams from Savernake Forest for the fabric of their chapel 'which they are having built at Oxford,' and encouraged others to do the same. (fn. 10) According to later tradition, which however contains chronological difficulties, the brethren worked at the building with their own hands, and a bishop and an abbot, who had assumed the Franciscan habit, 'carried water and sand and stones for the building of the place.' (fn. 11) In this chapel, which was pulled down after the erection of the new church, Agnellus was buried (1235). (fn. 12)
The royal benefactions in these early years consisted of several grants of fuel and timber, (fn. 13) a feast to the Friars Preachers and Minors, 30 September, 1233, which cost 26s. 8d., (fn. 14) a cask of Gascon wine in 1240 'to celebrate masses.' (fn. 15) The bailiffs of Oxford were ordered to give of the firm of their town 10 marks to feed a thousand poor men and the Friars Preachers and Minors of Oxford, 14 December, 1244, in memory of the Empress Isabella. (fn. 16) The only money grant before 1245 is a gift of 10 marks for the support of a provincial chapter in 1238. (fn. 17)
Albert of Pisa held his first chapter at Oxford on 2 February, 1237. (fn. 18) In 1238 two chapters were held here—a visitatorial chapter under the presidency of Friar Wygmund, a German, the emissary of the famous general minister Brother Elias, and a provincial chapter to protest against the tyranny of Elias and to appeal to Rome against him. (fn. 19)
In these years the Oxford Franciscans were distinguished by zeal for poverty no less than by zeal for learning. In the custody of Oxford pillows were not allowed, and the wearing of shoes or sandals was permitted only to the old and infirm. (fn. 20) When in 1241 a revision of the rule was under consideration, Adam Marsh, Peter of Tewkesbury, custodian of Oxford, and others were elected to draw up the report of the English province:—
Having marked some articles, they sent them to the general, in a schedule, without a seal, beseeching him by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, to let the rule stand, as it was handed down by St. Francis, at the dictation of the Holy Spirit. (fn. 21)
A bag of money sent to the Oxford friars was returned intact to the donor by Adam Marsh with a letter of expostulation. (fn. 22) For the management of their worldly affairs the brethren had a proctor, in accordance with the instructions of Gregory IX; one William le Cutler de Holland, merchant of Oxford, was proctor in 1232, when at the request of Friar Haymo of Faversham the king exempted him from all tallages for the rest of his life. (fn. 23)
Excessive austerity was discountenanced by the authorities in the Oxford convent. Friar Albert of Pisa, who was himself 'always cheerful and merry in the society of the brethren,' compelled the warden, Eustace de Merc, contrary to custom, to eat fish, saying that the order lost many good men through their indiscretion. (fn. 24) Grosteste's saying was remembered: 'Three things are necessary to temporal health—to eat, sleep and be merry.' (fn. 25) 'The brethren' says Eccleston, 'were so full of fun amongst themselves that when they looked at each other, they could hardly help laughing. So when the young friars of Oxford laughed too frequently, it was enjoined on one of them that as often as he laughed he should receive corporal punishment. Now it happened that, when he had received eleven punishments in one day, and yet could not restrain himself from laughing, he had a vision one night that the whole convent was standing in the choir as usual and the friars were beginning to laugh as usual, when behold, the crucifix which stood at the door of the choir turned towards them as though alive, and said "They are the sons of Corah who in the hour of chanting laugh and sleep." . . . On hearing this dream the friars were frightened, and kept their laughter within bounds.' (fn. 26)
Among the first masters who assumed the habit at Oxford was Adam of Oxford, who joined the order with the object of increasing his influence as a missionary, and who in 1233-4 was at his own prayer sent by Gregory IX to preach to the Mohammedans. (fn. 27)
In 1233 Walter, a canon of Dunstable, and John, a novice of the same priory, escaped from their house through a broken window and joined the Franciscans at Oxford. (fn. 28) John of Reading, formerly abbot of Oseney, and Ralph of Maidstone, formerly bishop of Hereford, were inmates of this friary about 1240. (fn. 29) William of Nottingham, the fourth provincial minister, and Friar Thomas the historian of the English province, generally called Thomas of Eccleston, were both students at Oxford, and the former, at any rate, seems to have attended Grosteste's lectures there. (fn. 30) Another attendant at Grosteste's lectures was Roger Bacon, who entered the order, probably at Oxford, between 1233 and 1245. (fn. 31)
The space within the wall was too narrow for the growing requirements of the friary, and in February, 1244-5, Thomas de Valeynes secured a large extension of the area on the south side of the wall. (fn. 32)
From Simon son of Benedict and Letitia his wife he obtained two messuages, granting them in exchange a messuage and building without the north gate; one messuage was acquired from John Costard and Margery his wife, two from Warin of Dorchester and Juliana his wife, one from William the Barber and Alice his wife, one from Henry 'le Teler' and Alice his wife, and a little later one curtilage in the parish of St. Budoc from John Aylmer and Christiana his wife. These eight tenements Thomas de Valeynes, 'at the petition' of the former owners, assigned to the increase of the area in which the Friars Minors dwelling in Oxford were lodged, in frankalmoin. They occupied the space from the city wall on the north to Trill Mill Stream on the south, and from Littlegate Street or Watergate on the east to a line drawn from the fee of the abbot of Bec in the parish of St. Budoc to the west gate or postern near the castle on the west. (fn. 33) As early as December, 1244, the king had authorized the friars to pull down part of the city wall between the Watergate and the postern near the castle, on condition that a crenellated wall like the rest of the city wall were built round their new area. (fn. 34) This however was not carried out, and in 1248 the king gave orders that the old wall should be restored, save that a small postern should be made to connect the new area with the old, and that 'the north side of the chapel built and to be built in the street under the wall may so far as it extends supply the breach in the wall.' (fn. 35) Henry III had already in 1245 granted to the friars the island in the Thames which he bought for 25 marks from Henry, son of Henry Simeon, with permission to make a bridge over the branch of the river, i.e. Trill Mill Stream, which divided it from their houses. (fn. 36)
Lawrence Wyth or Wych, mayor of Oxford, in 1246 gave a messuage to the king for the use of the Friars Minors; (fn. 37) and before 1278 they had acquired a place by grant from Agnes, late wife of Master Guido, for which they paid yearly one pound of cummin to Walter Goldsmith, and another plot from Master Richard de Mepham, who was archdeacon of Oxford in 1263. (fn. 38) The position of these lands is not known.
At the petition of the friars and the earnest prayers of John of Brittany, earl of Richmond, the pope conferred on them the place of the Friars of the Sack, which adjoined their lands on the west, in 1309. (fn. 39) The king assigned the same area to them 28 March, 1310, (fn. 40) and on the same day confirmed the grant of four other plots of ground to the Friars Minors, (fn. 41) namely, a piece of ground in Oxford, measuring 5 p. 2 ft. from east to west, and 2½ p. from north to south, given by John Wyz and Emma his wife; another measuring 6 p. by 5 p., lying between the site of the church of St. Budoc and the Thames, given by Henry Tyeys; a third measuring 14½ p. 5 ft. by 4 p. 3 ft. reaching from the Thames to the last-mentioned plot, and formerly belonging to Richard le Lodere; and a fourth measuring 16½ p. by 10 p. stretching from the Thames to the highway, the former owner of which is not named. In 1319 the friars obtained from John Culvard a plot of ground of the annual value of 2s., measuring 5 p. by 6 p. situate within the wall to the east of their habitation. (fn. 42) In 1321 Walter Morton granted them a place measuring 5 p. by 5 p. in the suburb, (fn. 43) and John de Grey de Retherfield in 1337 bestowed on them a tenement 6 p. by 5 p. lying next their habitation on the east side within the wall. (fn. 44)
In 1376 the friars petitioned the king to grant them a place in Oxford worth 2s. a year; (fn. 45) the result of this petition is not recorded.
Little is known of the buildings which arose on the newly acquired site. Royal grants of timber for the fabric of the house and church were made as early as 1245 and as late as 1272. (fn. 46) The church, which was of the invocation of St. Francis, (fn. 47) was in process of construction in 1246 and 1248. (fn. 48) In the latter year John of Parma, the minister general, held a provincial chapter at Oxford, 'in which he confirmed the provincial constitutions concerning poverty in living and buildings'—perhaps with special reference to the new friary. (fn. 49) The church, though of considerable length, was probably not a very rich or impressive structure. From the description given by William of Worcester (fn. 50) in 1480 it seems to have been about 240 or 250 ft. long, and about 30 or 36 ft. wide, with a slate roof; (fn. 51) there was one aisle, which extended the whole length of the nave (about 130 or 140 ft.) and which at its west end was of the same width as the nave, but narrowed to about 12 ft. at its east end. The north side of the church, by permission of Henry III, (fn. 52) formed part of the city wall; the direction of the wall, which at this point did not run due east and west, may account for the peculiar shape of the aisle. The ten chapels which in 1480 opened out of the north wall of this aisle were probably later additions. One perhaps was the chapel which William Lord Lovell ordered to be made for the tomb of himself and his wife in 1454. (fn. 53) Another may have belonged to the 'Gild of St. Mary in the church of the Friars Minors,' which is mentioned at the beginning of the sixteenth century. (fn. 54) There seems to have been no south aisle. Friar Henry Standish, bishop of St. Asaph, left £40 for the erection of an aisle in 1535, (fn. 55) but this was evidently never built.
The large number of monuments must have given the interior of the church an imposing appearance. In the choir 'under a sumptuous pyramid of admirable workmanship' was interred the heart of Richard Plantagenet, earl of Cornwall and king of the Romans, who was probably the chief founder and benefactor of the church. (fn. 56) Here too, before the great altar, rested the remains of his third wife, Beatrice of Falkenstein. (fn. 57) Several of the Golafres were buried in the church in the fourteenth century. (fn. 58) The body of Agnellus was translated from the original chapel to 'a fair stone sepulchre' in the new church; (fn. 59) and according to John Rouse, Roger Bacon was buried among the Friars Minors of Oxford. (fn. 60)
Among less distinguished persons who found their last resting-place here were Agnes wife of Michael Norton, who desired to be buried 'in front of the image of the Blessed Mary Virgin of Pity,' (fn. 61) (1438) and James Hedyan, principal of Eagle Hall (1445). (fn. 62) John Dongan (1464) was buried in the cemetery. (fn. 63) Richard Leke, brewer of Oxford, in 1526 left his body to be buried 'within the Grey Friars before the altar, where the first mass is daily used to be said.' (fn. 64)
In 1346 Edward III granted to the Friars Minors of Oxford 60 square feet of his quarry near Wheatley in Shotover Forest for the repair of their church and other buildings. (fn. 65)
They were so fervent in hearing the Divine Law and in scholastic exercises, that they hesitated not to go every day to the schools of theology, however distant, barefoot in bitter cold and deep mud. (fn. 66)
Agnellus however, who had been custodian of Paris before he became provincial of England, founded a school which seems to have been the largest of their early buildings. (fn. 67) According to Bartholomew of Pisa (fn. 68) he soon had cause for regret, for on entering the school one day he found the friars disputing Utrum sit Deus? and cried, 'Woe is me! simple brothers enter Heaven, and learned brothers dispute whether there is a God at all!' He secured the services of Robert Grosteste, the first chancellor of the university and the foremost scholar of his time, as theological lecturer to the friars. (fn. 69) Grosteste retained that office till his election to the bishopric of Lincoln in 1235. (fn. 70) His successors were Master Peter, who became a bishop in Scotland, (fn. 71) Roger of Weseham, who became dean of Lincoln in or before 1239 and afterwards (1245) bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and Thomas Wallensis, who lectured here till he became bishop of St. David's in 1247. (fn. 72) Adam Marsh, who succeeded Thomas, was the first friar to become lector to the Oxford convent, though some ten years before this friars had been appointed as lecturers to other convents in the province, and Elias the general minister had summoned English friars to teach abroad. (fn. 73)
Thomas of Eccleston says that under Grosteste the friars made rapid progress 'both in questions and in the subtle moralities suitable to preaching.' (fn. 74) Roger Bacon gives more information on the teaching of the first lectors, under whom he had studied. Grosteste and Adam Marsh understood that 'the power of mathematics,' which appears to mean the laws of physical forces, 'is capable of unfolding the causes of all things and of giving a sufficient explanation of human and divine phenomena.' (fn. 75) They did not follow slavishly the faulty translations of Aristotle:
The lord Robert neglected altogether the books of Aristotle and their methods, and by his own experiments and with the aid of other authors and by means of other sciences, employed himself in the scientific questions which Aristotle had treated, and he knew and described the questions with which the books of Aristotle deal a hundred thousand times better than they can be understood from the perverse translations of that author. (fn. 76)
Special importance was attached to philology and
the knowledge of languages, especially Greek
and Hebrew, with a view to understanding the
literal meaning of Aristotle and the Scriptures. (fn. 77)
Roger Bacon, while lamenting the exaggerated
respect paid to the Sentences in his day, states
the learned men of old, some of whom we have seen, such as Robert bishop of Lincoln and friar Adam Marsh, used only the text of Holy Writ, which was given to the world by the mouth of God and the Saints. (fn. 78)
Grosteste speaks of the 'irrefragable authority of the Scripture,' and when consulted by the theological faculty of Oxford, about 1246, recommended that all the morning lectures should be devoted to the Old and New Testaments. (fn. 79) Roger Bacon nearly always couples together Grosteste and his pupil Adam Marsh, and sometimes associates Thomas Wallensis with them. (fn. 80) The first two he describes as 'perfect in divine and human wisdom,' and ranks them with Solomon, Aristotle, and Avicenna. (fn. 81)
Adam Marsh, who had given up great possessions for love of poverty, (fn. 82) probably became lector to the Oxford convent in 1247, but he must have lectured as bachelor of theology long before this, and was doubtless doctor of theology before 1245, when Grosteste feared that the friars at Paris would try to secure him as successor of Alexander of Hales. (fn. 83) His letters (fn. 84) tell us little of his teaching work, which, though the main occupation of his life, must have been often interrupted by other claims. We find him at the council of Lyons with Grosteste, (fn. 85) attending the Parliament at London, (fn. 86) sent abroad on business of state, (fn. 87) acting as papal commissioner, (fn. 88) accompanying the archbishop on his visitation, (fn. 89) preaching the crusade, (fn. 90) defending the Jews from the rabble. (fn. 91) He was the trusted but not always welcome adviser of the king, who called him 'his father,' (fn. 92) the close friend of Simon and Eleanor de Montfort. (fn. 93) With all his other occupations he did not neglect the works of charity: he writes to his various correspondents on behalf of a poor widow, a repentant thief, a starving schoolmaster and penniless scholars. (fn. 94) He was often occupied in procuring facilities for study for the friars—books, parchment, scribes. (fn. 95) Himself the heir of two episcopal libraries, (fn. 96) he was constantly sending manuscripts to his friends, borrowing others, having them copied or collated. (fn. 97) From Italy he obtained the prophetical writings of Abbot Joachim of Fiore (fn. 98); he exchanged books with his friend Thomas, abbot of Vercelli, (fn. 99) and arranged to send a copy of the Ethics of Aristotle to Friar Hugo de Digna of Provence (fn. 100); a treatise of Richard of St. Victor he sent to Paris to be collated with the autograph MS. there. (fn. 101)
While Adam Marsh was the leading friar at Oxford, William of Nottingham, the provincial minister, organized what may be called a system of 'University Extension.' Every convent sent students to the universities, who were then as occasion demanded sent back to the various convents as lecturers; and before 1254 'there were thirty lecturers in England who solemnly disputed and three or four who lectured without disputation.' (fn. 102)
In 1253 a serious question arose on the presentation of Friar Thomas of York for the degree of Doctor of Theology. The constitutions of the two orders forbade their members to take a degree in arts. (fn. 103) The customs of the university required that the student of theology should have graduated in arts. (fn. 104) The question had not arisen before, because men like Adam Marsh and Eustace de Normanville (fn. 105) were Masters of Arts before they entered the Minorite Order. There was no doubt as to the ability and learning of Thomas of York, and he was allowed to incept, but a statute—the first of the university statutes —was passed providing that no one for the future should incept in theology unless he had previously been regent in arts in some university, the chancellor and masters reserving to themselves, however, the right of granting dispensation. Adam Marsh, who championed the cause of the friars, protested against the statute and objected that the promised graces were fallacious, 'since by the opposition of a single individual such a grace could be long delayed or altogether prevented.' (fn. 106) Complaints seem to have been made about the refusal of graces in 1294, when the Bishop of Lincoln wrote to the university on behalf of the Friars Minors. (fn. 107) As a result of the controversy between the Dominicans and the university on this subject early in the fourteenth century, (fn. 108) the right of refusing these graces was withdrawn from each individual member of congregation and vested in the majority of the regent masters of theology. (fn. 109)
From the time of Adam Marsh the lecturers to the friars were simply the regent masters in theology belonging to the order. (fn. 110) The senior bachelor in theology was normally appointed regent with the approval of the provincial minister, (fn. 111) and held office for one or two years. A list of the masters down to about 1350 has been preserved. (fn. 112) The most famous of them were (5) Richard Rufus of Cornwall, who was vigorously denounced by Roger Bacon (fn. 113); (6) John of Wales, whose works for the use of preachers were in high favour throughout the rest of the middle ages; (7) Thomas Docking, famous as a biblical commentator; (10) Thomas Bungay, the friend of Roger Bacon; (11) John Peckham, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury; (13) Robert de Cruce, afterwards provincial minister; (16) Roger de Marston, who became provincial and whose teaching bears strong resemblance to that of Peter John Olivi; (20) Hugh of Hartlepool, who was connected with the foundation of Balliol College, and who died when provincial minister, at Assisi in 1302; (25) William of Gainsborough, provincial minister, lecturer in the papal palace and afterwards bishop of Worcester; (34) Richard of Conington, provincial in 1310, and opponent of the 'Spiritual' Franciscans; (39) William of Nottingham, who as provincial minister in 1322 joined in the revolt of the order against the decrees of John XXII; (43) William Herbert, whose English hymns have been preserved, (fn. 114) c. 1320; (48) Robert of Leicester; (53) Walter de Chatton (fn. 115); (54) John de Rievaux; (56) John of Rodington; (61) Adam Wodham or Godham; and (65) Thomas Otterbourne who, however, probably did not write the chronicle ascribed to him. Simon Tunstede, who was regent master of the friars in 1351 and 'skilled in music and the seven liberal arts,' does not come into this list. (fn. 116) The most famous of the Oxford Franciscans do not appear in it. Roger Bacon, (fn. 117) Duns Scotus, (fn. 118) and William of Ockham (fn. 119) were certainly students at Oxford, where they seem to have taken the degree of B.D., but all took their doctor's degree at Paris.
Each lector had a socius assigned to him—a younger friar who acted as his secretary and whose time was almost entirely at his disposal. (fn. 120) Even in the earliest times it was found necessary to modify the stringency of the Rule in favour of the lecturers. Visiting and good works were subordinated to their scholastic duties. (fn. 121) They had separate chambers, and their privacy was at certain times inviolable. (fn. 122) They were provided with the necessaries of life by the convents of the places where they lectured; but their other expenses, such as those connected with the necessary books, were (according to the constitutions of Benedict XII, 1336) to be assessed by the general and provincial ministers and to fall on the convent, custody, or province from which they were sent. (fn. 123) Nicholas Herford in a sermon at Oxford in 1382 asserted that the friars who had graduated as masters or bachelors, in addition to the ample allowance which they got from their community, begged for themselves, saying: 'I am a bachelor (or master) and require more than others, because I ought to be able to live up to my position.' (fn. 124) Roger Bacon evidently begged for means to carry on his experiments. (fn. 125)
Student friars were maintained at the university by a system of exhibitions. These were provided sometimes by private benefactors, (fn. 126) usually by the native convent of the student out of the 'common alms,' with the occasional assistance of other convents. (fn. 127) The exhibition seems to have been generally reckoned at £5 a year, and this sum covered the ordinary expenses of living. (fn. 128) There is no evidence of any general rule fixing the number or proportion of friars who might be sent from each convent, custody, or province to Oxford. (fn. 129) But the number was so large and the burden on the convent so heavy, especially during the long vacation (perhaps because the alms of the secular scholars were then withdrawn), that in 1292 the general chapter ordained, for the relief of the house at Oxford, that the foreign students should be equally divided among the convents of Oxford, London, and Cambridge. (fn. 130) All the provinces of the order had the right of sending students to Oxford. (fn. 131)
A friar generally completed the eight years' study of arts, which the university demanded, and sometimes began his study of theology, either at his native convent or in the special school of his custody, before being sent to Oxford. (fn. 132) Then after nine years spent in the study of theology, the student might, after election by the provincial chapter if he was a native, by the general chapter if he was a foreigner, (fn. 133) be admitted to lecture on the Sentences in the university, i.e. to take the degree of B.D. (fn. 134) Three more years were necessary to complete the studies and exercises (which included the preaching of several sermons at the Black or Grey Friars and at St. Mary's) required for the degree of D.D. or S.T.P. (fn. 135) In the period covered by the university registers, i.e. after 1447, the statutable requirements as to the period of study seem to have become little more than formalities. It frequently happened that a friar who had been admitted to 'oppose' on the ground that he had studied 'logic, philosophy, and theology' for twelve years, supplicated two years later or less for grace to incept on the plea that he had studied the same subjects for eighteen years. (fn. 136)
The exercises at vesperies and inceptions were the same for friars as for seculars. The expenses of inception were very heavy, and Benedict XII had tried to curtail them in 1336. (fn. 137) According to ancient custom every inceptor on the day of his inception feasted the regent masters, and often gave them a 'livery' or some present. (fn. 138) Wiclif inveighs against the Mendicant doctors for their 'great gifts and making of huge feasts of a hundred and many hundred pounds.' (fn. 139) This is obviously an exaggeration, but Friar William Woodford, Wiclif's contemporary, was robbed of £40 on his way from London to take his D.D. at Oxford. (fn. 140) It became usual to commute the expenses of the feast for a fixed money payment, generally £10, to the university. In 1460 the Mendicant Orders appealed to the king against the excessive fees demanded by the university. (fn. 141) The university authorities in their reply denied the statements of the friars (which were however substantially correct), and pointed out that the fees paid by the friars were far less than the expenses of the Arts course, from which they were excused. (fn. 142) In the case of Friar Richard Ednam, O.M., in 1463, the cost of inception was increased; he was required to pay £15 and give a separate 'livery' to the regents at his own expense. (fn. 143) In 1478 the composition of a friar was fixed by statute at ten marks, (fn. 144) and part of this sum was sometimes remitted. (fn. 145)
Oxford was the head of one of the seven custodies into which the English province was divided. The custodian admitted novices to profession, kept the provincial minister informed as to the state of the convents under his supervision, was ex officio a member of the provincial chapter, and joined with his fellow custodians to elect one of their number to the general chapter. (fn. 146) The custody of Oxford included in the fourteenth century the convents of Reading, Bedford, Stamford, Nottingham, Northampton, Leicester, and Grantham. (fn. 147) In each custody there was a special school to which promising students might be sent before they proceeded to the universities. The studium particulare for the custody of Oxford in 1336 was at Stamford. (fn. 148) Provincial chapters were frequently held at Oxford; some of these have already been noticed. In the chapter of 1248 John of Parma gave the brethren the option of confirming or deposing the provincial minister, William of Nottingham, and they unanimously asked that he might be confirmed; in the same chapter the general minister 'recalled to unity the brethren who had begun to surpass the rest in singular opinions.' (fn. 149) The king ordered the sheriff of Oxford to provide a cask of wine and the necessaries of life for this chapter. (fn. 150) The provincial chapter was held here on 8 September, 1289, when the king gave £17 17s. 11d. for two days' food, (fn. 151) in 1294, (fn. 152) and in 1301; towards the expenses of the last the king contributed £10. (fn. 153) Another chapter met here in 1405. At this time 'a great and scandalous schism' had arisen in the province owing to the arbitrary conduct of the provincial minister, John Zouche. The friars appealed to the Cardinal Protector of the Order, who appointed Friars Nicholas Fakenham and John Mallaert commissioners to deal with the crisis. They deposed the provincial and called a chapter at Oxford, 3 May, 1405, to elect a successor. (fn. 154)
The friendly relations between the Dominicans and Franciscans at Oxford soon gave place to rivalry and antagonism. The proselytizing tendencies of the two orders led in 1243-4 to quarrels which were carried on mainly by 'men of education and scholars,' (fn. 155) and in questions of politics and philosophy the two orders were found on different sides. (fn. 156) The Minorites claimed precedence over the other orders on the ground of their absolute poverty. This claim was generally admitted and led to the exaltation of the Minorites in the eyes of the world at the expense of their rivals. In 1269 a controversy arose between the Dominicans and Franciscans at Oxford on this point. (fn. 157) A Friar Preacher named Solomon of Ingham accused the Minorites of receiving money either with their own hands or through a third person. The Franciscans denied the charge and demanded the punishment of Friar Solomon. The Dominicans brought forward many instances in which they maintained the Minorites had actually received money. These, answered the latter, were merely personal transgressions, and affected the community no more than any case of carnal sin or disobedience. The Dominicans, however, based their contention mainly on the argument that money bequeathed to the Franciscans must be received either by them in person or by intermediaries on their behalf. The Franciscans answered that money so left never passed into their dominium, and declared, with a reference to Gregory IX's bull Quo elongati, that 'whoever said otherwise would be accusing the pope of lying.' 'Far from us be such presumption,' replied their opponents, 'but it is very clear that the pope's declaration of the Rule was not in accordance with the intention of St. Francis.' The chief disputant on the side of the Friars Minors seems to have been Thomas of Docking. Peace was eventually restored by the interposition of the chancellor and leading secular masters, at whose recommendation Friar Solomon withdrew his words. In philosophy the controversy between the orders centred round the Thomist doctrine of the 'Unity of Form' in man. If the individualizing principle were not form but matter, how, asked the opponents of Thomas Aquinas, could the individual exist in the non-material world? Though the doctrine was being taught at Oxford by Dominicans, it was the Dominican Archbishop Kilwardby who first condemned it there in 1277. Peckham repeated the condemnation in 1284, and being accused by the provincial of Black Friars in a congregation at Oxford in the same year of having sown discord between the orders, denied that he had consulted with the Franciscans on the subject. (fn. 158) Archbishop Peckham in the same year (1284) proclaimed the superiority of his order over the others when asserting the right of the Minorites of Oxford to receive an Austin friar into their order. (fn. 159) Peckham also appointed two Friars Minors and two Friars Preachers as confessors to the nuns at Godstow, (fn. 160) and in 1291 urged the prior of St. Frideswide's to confer the church of St. Peter le Bailey on some one devoted to the Franciscans and nominated by them. (fn. 161) Friar Richard de Slikeburne, the Franciscan confessor of Devorguila, induced her to establish 'the house of Balliol' on a permanent foundation, and the statutes of the college in 1282 were addressed to Friar Hugh of Hartlepool and Master William de Menyl, permanent visitors of the college. (fn. 162) One of the two visitors, who were called also 'rectors' and 'magistri extranei,' seems always to have been a Franciscan until the statutes of Bishop Fox were promulgated in 1507. (fn. 163)
In 1300 Hugh of Hartlepool, the provincial minister, presented twenty-two Oxford friars to the Bishop of Lincoln for licence to hear confessions. The bishop objected to the number as excessive, and was with some difficulty induced to license eight. (fn. 164) Their names were Adam of Hoveden, D.D., Philip of Bridlington D.D., William of Newport, William Mincy, Roger of Barnton, Robert of Gaddesby, John of Westburg, Roger of Moginton. While none of these became famous in the scholastic world, there were several among those rejected who afterwards obtained distinction as writers and teachers: Martin of Alnwick, Richard of Conington and John Douns who may be identified with John Duns Scotus. (fn. 165)
In 1358 Archbishop Islip, perhaps in consequence of the ravages of the pestilence, authorized five Franciscans of the Oxford convent and three of the Cambridge convent to preach in the diocese of Canterbury. (fn. 166)
In the middle of the fourteenth century Richard Fitz Ralph, archbishop of Armagh, declared that nearly all the youths in the university had friars as their confessors, and that the friars used their influence to entice these boys to enter the Mendicant Orders. (fn. 167) The university in 1358 passed a strongly-worded statute forbidding the reception of any students into the Orders under the age of eighteen. (fn. 168) The friars, whose chief champion was a Franciscan doctor, Roger Conway, (fn. 169) do not seem to have denied the charge, but defended their conduct, and exerted themselves to obtain a repeal of the statute. While a suit which they had begun in the Roman court was still undecided the provincials of the four orders laid their grievances before the king in Parliament, and in 1366 the obnoxious statute was formally annulled. (fn. 170)
At the same time the friars were denounced for obtaining degrees and graces by means of letters of influential persons. (fn. 171) In 1358 any one using such letters was declared for ever incapable of holding or obtaining any degree at Oxford, and the university determined to hold up these 'wax-doctors' to obloquy.
These [begins a proclamation of the same year (fn. 172)] are the names of the wax-doctors, as they are called, who seek to extort graces from the university by means of letters of lords sealed with wax, or because they run from hard study as wax runs from the face of fire. Be it known that such wax-doctors are always of the Mendicant Orders . . . for (fn. 173) by apples and drink, as the people tell, they draw boys to their religion, and do not instruct them after their profession as their age demands, but let them wander about begging, and waste the time when they could learn in currying favour with lords and ladies. . . . These are their names: Friar Richard Lymynster, incepted in theology by means of the prince's letters, and his grace contained the condition that he should not incept or lecture, but that Friar John Nutone his predecessor should continue lecturing: and Friar Giuliortus de Limosano of the Order of Minors, who asserted that he was secretary of the king of Sicily, extorted from the university or rather the theological faculty, by letters of the King, grace to oppose.
The attack on the friars begun by Richard Fitz Ralph was continued by Uthred de Boldon, monk of Durham, who was probably warden of Durham College about 1360. (fn. 174) Friar John Hilton, O.M., 'determined' against him, (fn. 175) and the Franciscan Tryvytlam in his poem De laude Oxoniae denounces his blasphemies against the Minorite Rule. (fn. 176) Wiclif's hostility to the friars was confined to the last years of his life. (fn. 177) Earlier he spoke well especially of the Franciscans, with whom he agreed in ecclesiastical politics (fn. 178) and whom he described as 'very dear to God.' (fn. 179) He was on terms of friendship with Friar William of Woodford, with whom he exchanged note-books and arguments when they were lecturing in the schools together. (fn. 180) His doctrines on the Eucharist led to his quarrel with the friars. John Tyssyngton, regent master of the Friars Minors, took part in the condemnation of Wiclif's twelve conclusions on the sacraments in 1381, (fn. 181) and promptly replied to his Confessio in an elaborate lecture delivered in the Franciscan schools at Oxford. (fn. 182) This lecture was subsequently issued as a treatise, and was considered of great value, and ordered to be kept in the University Archives, (fn. 183) an honour which it hardly deserved. Friar William Woodford became the most determined opponent of Wiclif among the Minorites; he delivered a course of lectures against the Confessio in 1381 (fn. 184); as regent master of the friars in 1389 he lectured against the adherents of Wiclif, (fn. 185) and continued to write and lecture against the Lollard doctrines till the end of his life. (fn. 186) William Butler, when regent master of the Friars Minors in Oxford in 1401, 'determined' against the translation of the Bible into English. (fn. 187)
The Oxford friaries being bound to receive students from other provinces fell under suspicion of harbouring foreign spies in time of war. The suspicion seems to have attached chiefly to the Dominicans, but the warden and convent of the Minorites in 1388 sought and obtained a royal writ forbidding them to receive any foreign friars for whose loyalty they would not answer. (fn. 188) There seem, however, to have been very few French friars among the Oxford Minorites in the fourteenth century. The most distinguished was William de Prato, who studied here before 1363, and was in 1370 sent to the Tartars by the pope, as bishop of Pekin and head of the Franciscan mission in Asia. (fn. 189) The names of several Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and German friars have been preserved. Among them were Peter Philargi of Candia (before 1378), afterwards Pope Alexander V (fn. 190); Jacob Fei of Florence, who transcribed a MS. at Oxford in 1393, fell under ecclesiastical censure for joining the sect of the Fraticelli, but recanted his errors and was made Inquisitor in his native land (fn. 191); and Matthias Döring, afterwards champion of the council of Basel against the pope, and general minister, who studied at Oxford in his youth. (fn. 192)
The heads of the four orders at Oxford joined in protesting against the reports that the friars were responsible for the peasant revolt in 1381, and appealed to John of Gaunt for protection (fn. 193); and in 1385 the king ordered the chancellor of the university to protect the Friars Minors. (fn. 194)
Many Franciscans were implicated in conspiracies against Henry IV. In 1402 eight
friars of Leicester were executed at Tyburn.
One of these was Roger Frisby, an old man and
master in theology. His head was brought to
and in the presence of the procession of the University, the herald proclaimed: 'This Master Friar Minor of the Convent of Leicester in hypocrisy, adulation and false life, preached often, saying that King Richard is alive, and roused the people to seek him in Scotland;'and his head was set on a stake there. (fn. 195)
Oxford Franciscans had a share in combating the Great Schism; Nicholas Fakenham by order of the king 'determined' at Oxford on the subject, 5 November, 1395, arguing that the church could only be reformed by the punishment of those who had disturbed its peace, namely, the cardinals; and he appears to have written to the king of France in the same sense. (fn. 196)
In the fifteenth century some of the friars roused the anger of the university by preaching that tithes need not be paid to the person legally entitled to them, but given in pios usus pauperum. The chief offender was William Russell, O.M.; his teaching was condemned by the university in 1425, and all graduates were bound solemnly to abjure his conclusions. This oath remained in force till 1564. (fn. 197)
For a similar offence Friar William Melton, D.D., was arrested at the instance of the university in 1427, and compelled to recant. (fn. 198) In 1482 Friar Isaac Cusack, D.D., a Franciscan, and Dionysius Tully a Dominican, were causing disturbances in Ireland by preaching the doctrine of evangelical poverty; the university cited them to appear on pain of degradation, but there seems no authority for Wood's statement that they were captured, sent to Oxford, degraded and expelled the university as vagabonds and heretics. (fn. 199)
Among the chief sources of income of the house was a royal grant of 50 marks a year during the king's pleasure, to be paid in equal portions at Easter and Michaelmas. It was first instituted by Edward I in 1289, and was continued by all the kings (except Edward V) to the Dissolution. (fn. 200) The sum was sometimes paid direct from the exchequer, but generally the whole or part of it was made a charge on the revenues of some sheriff or other official. Thus in December, 1313, Edward II ordered Richard Kellaw, bishop of Durham, 'to send to our exchequer at Westminster within fifteen days of the feast of St. Hilary' 10 marks in partial satisfaction of the grant. But though this sum was to be the first charge on the arrears in the Durham diocese of the tax imposed on the clergy by Edward I in 1294, and though writs were repeatedly issued to enforce payment, nothing had been paid by 4 June, 1315, 'unde vehementer admiramur.' (fn. 201) The annuity was on several occasions in arrear. The friars petitioned Richard II for the more regular payment of it, (fn. 202) and Henry IV in the first year of his reign granted the friars 'of his abundant favour' all the arrears which had accumulated during the reign of his predecessor. (fn. 203) In 1450 Parliament passed a general act of resumption, annulling all grants made since the king's accession, and the annuity to the friars ceased. The brethren represented to Henry VI the hardships which this loss of revenue inflicted on them, and in 1453 the king ordered the arrears to be paid 'that the warden and friars may be in a happier frame of mind to offer up special prayers for us to the Highest.' (fn. 204) The annuity was exempted from the three acts of resumption under Edward IV. (fn. 205) The friars often took legal measures to recover the debts due to them. Richard Clyff, custodian of the Grey Friars, Oxford, in 1466 sued John Broughton, late sheriff of Kent, in the court of exchequer, for 100s. due to him from the preceding year and claimed damages to the amount of 10 marks. (fn. 206) In 1488 Richard Salford, warden, sued John Paston, knt., late sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, in the court of exchequer, for a debt of £10 18s. and £10 damages; he recovered the debt, but the damages were reduced to 26s. 8d. (fn. 207) On the same day he sued Edmund Bedyngfeld, knt., late sheriff of the same counties, for a debt of 'seven pounds of silver' and 100s. damages; the amount of the debt and 20s. damages were awarded him. (fn. 208) Next year he sued the same Bedyngfeld before the barons of the exchequer who awarded him the amount of the debt (£4 2s.), but reduced the damages from £4 to 10s. (fn. 209)
The Friars Minors further received 10s. a year from Durham College, Oxford; (fn. 210) 6d. a year from St. Ebbe's parish; (fn. 211) 8d. each fortnight or fourteen loaves 'for the soul of Roger Writtell' (who lived in the time of Edward I), (fn. 212) and a gift of 3s. 4d., a peck of oatmeal and one of peas in Lent, from the nunnery of Godstow; (fn. 213) 4d. a week from Oseney Abbey and 5s. at Christmas as the price of a quarter of an ox. (fn. 214)
To what extent the friars subsisted on alms in kind it is impossible to say. (fn. 215) The friar in Chaucer's 'Somnour's Tale,' himself a master in the schools, after preaching in the church went round the village begging:—
Alms were also given in money. On 2 October, 1340, Richard de Whitchford, 'minor,' receiver of moneys for the friary, received 60s. or more from various persons, including 13s. 4d. from the servant of John de Couton, and 12s. from Thomas of London; as he refused to give up the money, the warden sued him in the Mayor's Court, and he was sentenced to imprisonment. (fn. 216)
A large proportion of the wills of Oxford citizens contain bequests to the Friars Minors, and many persons throughout the country left them legacies; for the convent, like the university, occupied a national position. The earliest bequest recorded is one of 6s. 8d., in the will of John of St. John, clerk, about 1230. (fn. 217) Martin de Sancta Cruce, master of the hospital of Sherburn near Durham, in 1259 left 10s. to the friary and a complete habit and copy of the canonical epistles to Friar Richard of Cornwall. (fn. 218) Boniface of Savoy, archbishop of Canterbury, left the friars 15 marks in 1270; (fn. 219) Walter of Merton, bishop of Rochester and founder of Merton College, 25 marks in 1277; (fn. 220) Nicholas de Longespee, bishop of Salisbury, 40s. in 1297; (fn. 221) John de Doclington 10s. in 1335; (fn. 222) Nicholas Acton, parson of the church of Wyanstowe (Salop), 40s. in 1337; (fn. 223) John, son of Walter Wrenche of Milton, spicer, ten quarters of corn in 1349; (fn. 224) Edmund de Bereford 30s. in 1354; (fn. 225) Elizabeth de Burgh, lady of Clare, £8 to the four Orders in 1360; (fn. 226) John de Bereford, sometime mayor of Oxford, 13s. 4d., and other small sums in 1361; (fn. 227) Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, £10 in 1361; (fn. 228) Walter de Berney, citizen of London, £5 in 1377; (fn. 229) Richard Carsewell, butcher of Oxford, 10 marks in 1389; (fn. 230) John Okele of Oxford, skinner, 20s. a year for three years to Friar John Schankton to celebrate masses in this church; (fn. 231) Sir John Golafre, knt., £10 in 1394. (fn. 232) Small sums were bequeathed by Richard de Garaford (1395) and other citizens of Oxford; (fn. 233) John de Waltham, bishop of Salisbury (1395); (fn. 234) John Maldon, provost of Oriel (1401); (fn. 235) Lady Eleanor de S. Amando (1426). (fn. 236) Agnes wife of Michael Norton in 1438 desired to be buried in this church, and gave instructions that her tenement in St. Ebbe's should be sold and the money should be applied to keeping the anniversaries of herself and her former husband Thomas Clamifer, in the Franciscan church, for twenty years. (fn. 237) William Lord Lovell left the friars 200 marks in 1454. (fn. 238) Reginald Mertherderwa, LL.D., left them 6s. 8d. in 1447, and 3s. 4d. 'to provide one breakfast or dinner among them that they may the more devoutly pray for my soul.' (fn. 239) William Chestur, merchant of the Staple of Calais and citizen and skinner of London, bequeathed 33s. 4d. to them in 1476. (fn. 240) Robert Abdy, master of Balliol College (1483), Alice Dobbis, wife of John Dobbis sometime mayor of Oxford (1488), Thomas Banke, rector of Lincoln College (1503), Sir Robert Throckmorton, knt. (1518), Sir Richard Elyot, knt. and judge (1520), were among their benefactors. (fn. 241) James Blackwood of Oxford left them 5s. and one goblet of silver 'pounced' in 1490. (fn. 242) John Tynmouth, Minorite, bishop of Argos and parson of Boston, left them £5 in 1523. (fn. 243) Richard Leke, brewer, of Oxford, bequeathed 4d. to each friar being a priest and 2d. to each friar being no priest; 6s. 8d. to the friars 'to make a dinner in their own place'; 6s. 8d., to the warden 'to provide for the premisses'; 20s. 'to provide the altars to be ornated with apparel,' and 10s. at his burying and anniversary. (fn. 244) Henry Standish, Minorite and bishop of St. Asaph, in 1535 bequeathed £40 for the exhibition of scholars in the university of Oxford, £40 for building an aisle in the Grey Friars Church in Oxford, 10 marks for their church and '5 marks to buy books to be placed in the library of the scholars of the Friars Minors of Oxford.' (fn. 245) Almost the last bequest recorded is one of 20s. to each of the four orders from John Claymond, first president of Corpus Christi College, 'that they might celebrate in their churches for his soul.' (fn. 246)
There were two libraries in the friary in the fifteenth century—the library of the convent and the library of the student friars. (fn. 247) The most valuable collection of books was probably that bequeathed to the friars by Grosteste. (fn. 248) These were still in the library when Thomas Gascoigne (c. 1450) had access to it. He mentions particularly having seen there a complete copy of Grosteste's letters, (fn. 249) his autograph commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul, (fn. 250) two MSS. of his commentary on the Psalms (one of these an autograph), (fn. 251) a treatise on luxury (fn. 252) and another Super textum, (fn. 253) both written with his own hand. Boston of Bury notices his translation of the Testamenta xii Patriarcharum in the same place. (fn. 254) Friar Thomas Netter of Walden refers to a book De Studio by Grosteste, with autograph notes by the author, which he had seen in the Minorite convent. (fn. 255) St. Jerome's 'Catalogue of Illustrious Men' (fn. 256) and his commentaries on Isaiah and Ezekiel, (fn. 257) and the book called Speculum laicorum (ascribed to John Hoveden) (fn. 258) were also seen here by Gascoigne. Leland makes frequent uses of a bibliographical compilation of considerable value which he found in this house— namely the 'Catalogus illustrium Franciscanorum.'
Few only of the MSS. which formed part of the library can be identified. Bodley MS. 198 contains a copy of St. Augustine De civitate Dei which formed part of Grosteste's bequest; and the illuminated copy of the Gospels in Greek now in Caius College came to this friary probably from the same source. The same is probably true of the Greek Psalter with the Canticles in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, (fn. 259) and of the Greek MS. of the Testamenta xii Patriarcharum in the Cambridge University Library. (fn. 260) The unique MS. of Adam Marsh's letters (fn. 261) perhaps belonged to this house, and a number of Franciscan works (including Thomas of Eccleston De Adventu Fratrum Minorum, Grosteste's sermons on poverty, the account of the quarrel between the Dominicans and Franciscans at Oxford in 1269), now preserved in the Phillipps Library at Cheltenham. (fn. 262) A treatise called 'Quatuor principalia Musice,' composed in 1351 by a Friar Minor of the custody of Bristol, and presented to the Oxford convent by Friar John of Tewkesbury in 1388, is now in the Bodleian Library; (fn. 263) and several MSS. transcribed in this house are extant. (fn. 264) Books were also deposited at the Grey Friars for safe keeping, or lent; and their owners seem sometimes to have had difficulties in getting them returned. (fn. 265)
The library was in process of dispersal in the fifteenth century, when Thomas Gascoigne obtained a number of the volumes. (fn. 266) Leland visited the friary shortly before the dissolution, and we have from his pen the last description of the once famous library:— (fn. 267)
At the Franciscans' house there are cobwebs in the library, and moths and bookworms; more than this— whatever others may boast—nothing, if you have regard to learned books. For I, in spite of the opposition of all the friars, carefully examined all the bookcases in the library.
The university records furnish some details about the convent on the eve of the dissolution. Friar Brian Sandon acted as attorney for the house; between 1507 and 1516 and between 1527 and 1534 he appeared as plaintiff or defendant in some fifteen suits in the Chancellor's Court. (fn. 268) At one time he sued his proctor, John Morys, for failing to bring corn to the house of the friars; at another he sued Margery, widow of John Lock, for the price of 'certain cheeses which her husband bought from the aforesaid Brian Sandon'; at another he acted as attorney for a secular priest; at another he had to answer a charge of wrongfully keeping a knife. In 1531 he accused his tailor of purloining a quarter of a yard of woollen cloth, 'in consequence of which his clothes were too short and tight.' In 1532 and 1534 he appeals to the court for protection against bodily injury, and in 1535 for protection against a libel on his character, which was not above suspicion. Robert Beste, another Minorite, was summoned before the court (1530), on grave suspicion of incontinence and disturbance of the peace. (fn. 269) Friar Arthur was seen 'in a chamber at the sign of the Bear with a woman in a red cap . . . both locked together in a chamber.' The case was heard before Dr. Baskerfeld, warden of the Grey Friars, who was acting for the commissary, and the evidence has been carefully obliterated from the register and is almost illegible. (fn. 270)
Early in the sixteenth century, the warden leased one of the gardens of the convent to Richard Leke, brewer of Oxford. The friars thought the agreement very injurious to their interests, and in 1513-4 demanded the repudiation of the contract. Feeling ran high and Leke was in personal danger; the warden was bound over to keep the peace and promised to keep his friars in safe custody if they molested the brewer. (fn. 271)
The friars of Oxford seem to have resisted the introduction of the New Learning, Friar Henry Standish, D.D., of Oxford, provincial minister 1508 to 1514, and afterwards bishop of St. Asaph, tried to organize a combined attack on the writings of Erasmus and probably instigated Friar William Roy to write the 'Montfort Codex' of the New Testament and insert the forged passage in 1 John, v. 7. (fn. 272)
On the other hand Friar Nicholas de Burgo, of Florence, was a protégé of Wolsey's and was perhaps one of the Italian Humanists whom the cardinal brought to England. He was public reader in theology at Cardinal College. He was an active champion of the king in the matter of the divorce, and became in consequence obnoxious especially to the women of Oxford, who pelted him with stones; in retaliation the friar had about thirty of them locked up in Bocardo. (fn. 273) Dr. Thomas Kirkham, a Franciscan, is mentioned as one of the doctors of divinity who opposed the divorce and were ready to write against it. (fn. 274) Dr. Kynton seems to have been on the same side at first, but was afterwards one of the committee which issued in the name of the university the qualified declaration in favour of the king. (fn. 275)
We have in visiting the religious students [wrote Layton, 12 Sept. 1535 (fn. 276)] amongst all other injunctions, adjoined that none of them for no manner of cause shall come within any tavern, inn, alehouse, or any other house whatsoever it be within the town and suburbs of the same, upon pain once so taken, by day or by night, to be sent immediately home to his cloister where he was professed. Without doubt we hear say of this act to be greatly lamented of all the double honest women of the town, and specially of their laundressess, that now may not once enter within the gates, and much less within their chambers, whereunto they were right well accustomed.
It is probable that between this time and the
summer of 1538 many of the Oxford Franciscans had left their house. Of the nine Minorites
who were admitted to opponency or the degree
of B.D., between 1534 and July 1538, only
one appears in the list of those desiring 'capacities' at the dissolution. (fn. 277) The commission to
visit the Oxford friaries in 1538 was issued to
Dr. John London, Mr. Banaster the mayor,
and Mr. Pye and Mr. Fryer. On 8 July
Dr. London sent to Cromwell an account of
their proceedings. (fn. 278) After visiting the White
and Austin friars, they came to the Grey Friars,
have pretty islands behind their house well wooded, and the waters be theirs also. They have one fair orchard and sundry pretty gardens and lodgings. It is great huge house containing much ruinous building. They have impledged and sold most of their plate and jewels forced by necessity as they do say, and what remaineth is in the bill. Their ornaments of their church be old and little worth. Their other stuff of household is in the bill worth £10. They have taken up the pipes of their con duit (fn. 279) lately and have cast them in sows to the number of lxvii whereof xii be sold for the costs in taking up the pipes, as the warden saith. The residue we have put in safe guard. But we have not yet weighed them. And there is yet in the earth remaining much of the conduit not taken up. In their groves the wind hath blown down many great trees, which do remain upon the ground. These friars do receive yearly out of the exchequer of the king's alms 50 marks. This house is all covered with slate and no lead.'
The jewels and plate consisted of a cross of silver and gilt (54 oz.), a chalice all gilt (14 oz.), another all gilt (15 oz.), two chalices parcel gilt (13 oz. and 14½ oz.), a pyx of silver gilded, without a cover (15 oz.), a censer of silver (32 oz.), a pair of small cruets gilt (2¾ oz.), five old masers with bonds of silver, weighing with the trees 92 oz.; a black horn with silver bond and foot, weighing with the horn 10½ oz.; three dozen spoons (33 oz.), a knob of the cover of a maser (2 oz.). (fn. 280)
Dr. London urged Cromwell to let the friars have their capacities at once, for meantime the visitors had to find them meat and drink, and 'the longer they tarry the more they will waste.' (fn. 281) He wrote to Cromwell 31 August, 1538:— (fn. 282)
I have caused all our four orders of friars to change their coats, and have despatched them as well as I can till they may receive their capacities, for the which I have now again sent up this bearer Dr. Baskerfield (the warden) to whom I do humbly beseech your lordship to stand good lord. He is an honest man, and caused all his house to surrender the same and to change their papistical garments. . . . He hath been a visitor of divers places which they do call custodies, and knoweth many things as well in London as otherwise, which he hath promised me to declare unto your lordship if it be your good pleasure he shall do so.
The list of Oxford Grey Friars 'who would have their capacities' contains eighteen names: (fn. 283) Edward Baskerfield, S.T.P., warden; Brian Sandon, Richard Roper, B.D., Ralph Cresswell, (fn. 284) Robert Newman, William Brown, John Comre, James Cantwell, Thomas Capper, John Staffordeschyer, William Bowghnell, James Smyzth, Thomas Wythman, priests; John Olliff subdeacon; Simon Ludforth, Thomas Barly, William Cok and John Cok, not in holy orders. On 6 November Dr. London was still asking for the 'capacities.' (fn. 285)
The subsequent fate of most of the disfrocked friars who studied at Oxford is obscure. Some obtained benefices—such as Dr. Thomas Kirkham, Edmund Brycott, John Joseph, perhaps Thomas Tomsun; a few rose to positions of some importance in the church; John Taylor, alias Cardmaker, became vicar of St. Bride's, Fleet Street, chancellor of Wells, was a prominent reformer in the time of Edward VI, and was burnt at Smithfield in 1555; John Crayford became canon of Durham; Hugh Glasier held various preferments, the rectory of Hanworth (1538), that of Harlington (1546), that of Deal (1553); in the reign of Edward VI he was' an eager man for reformation,' in the reign of Mary he was one of the commissioners for the suppression of heresy in the diocese of Canterbury. Gregory Basset and Edward Ryley seem to have remained true to the old religion and held preferment in Mary's reign; Simon Ludford became an apothecary in London, and after many attempts fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1563. (fn. 286)
The site was of considerable value: and Dr. London hearing that' divers of the guard' intended to beg these houses of the king petitioned (8 July, 1538) Cromwell to secure them for the town. (fn. 287)
If by your good lordship's mediation the town might have the Grey and Black Friars' grounds, after the king's grace hath been answered for the wood and buildings and other things upon the same, . . . it would marvellously help the town and give them great occasion to fall to clothing; for upon the Grey and Black Friars' water be certain convenient and commodious places to set fulling mills upon, and so people might be set to work.
This plan was not carried out. On 10 August, 1540, William Frewers and John Pye of Oxford obtained a lease of the house and site of the Grey Friars, together with the grove containing by estimation 5 acres, for twenty-one years at a rent of 20s. a year. (fn. 288) Much of the Grey Friars' property was expressly excluded from this lease: namely the close called 'le Churcheyarde,' now held by Richard Gunter of Oxford at an annual rent of 3s. 4d., the orchard or garden called 'Paradise,' and a garden called 'Boteham,' now held by William Thomas at an annual rent of 6s. 8d. Further, all large trees and shrubs were reserved to the king, together with all those buildings within the precincts 'which the king had commanded to be levelled or taken away.' (fn. 289)
In 1544 the tenants seem to have opened negotiations for the purchase of the property, but were probably not able to give the price demanded. For in the same year Richard Andrewes of Hales, esq., one of the largest speculators in monastic lands, acting in partnership with John Howe, made a successful bid: and on 14 July the king granted to these two, in consideration of £1,094 3s. 2d. paid by Andrewes, various monastic lands in the counties of Derby, Middlesex, Oxford, &c., including the sites of the Black and Grey Friaries in Oxford. An annual rent from each parcel of property was due to the king, the rent of the site of the Grey Friars being 3s. (fn. 290) Next month (26 August, 1544) Andrewes and Howe obtained from the king licence to alienate the whole of the Grey Friars to Richard Gunter, alderman of Oxford, and Joanna his wife. (fn. 291)
In Wood's time the property belonged to
several owners: part of it was occupied by tanners; the island or grove on the south of Trill
Mill stream belonged 'to Sir William Moorton,
knt., Judge of the King's Bench, in right of his
wife Anne, daughter and heir of John Smyth
of Oxford, gent.' (fn. 292) Writing about a century
later, Peshall (fn. 293) states that the site
now forms the messuage or tenement and large yard of Charles Collins, gent: the garden orchard and tenement of Swithin Adee, M.D., late Sir James Cotter's, bart.; and the large garden and orchard called Paradise Garden. The island in their possession . . . is occupied by Mr. Shirley, which serves partly for a tanyard and buildings necessary thereto.
In a short time little was left of the buildings. In 1578 Agas in his map puts the Graie Friers where the house of the Black Friars stood. 'The ruins of this college are gone to ruin,' wrote Wood, 'and almost lodged in obscurity:' (fn. 294) and the 'scanty fragments' which were visible to Hearne and Parkinson as they walked towards the Water-gate have long since disappeared. (fn. 295)
Custodians (fn. 296)
William of Esseby (fn. 297)
Peter of Tewkesbury, (fn. 298) c. 1236-47
John of Stamford, (fn. 299) c. 1247-56
Gregory, (fn. 300) 1300
Richard Clyff, (fn. 301) 1465-66
Edward Baskerfield (?), (fn. 302) c. 1534
Wardens (fn. 303)
William of Esseby, (fn. 304) c. 1225
Eustace de Merc, (fn. 305) c. 1237
Martin, (fn. 306) c. 1250
Adam of Warminster, (fn. 307) 1269
John de Codynton, (fn. 308) 1300
John of Okehampton, (fn. 309) 1340
Richard Salford, (fn. 310) 1488, 1489
William Vavasor (?), (fn. 311) c. 1500
Robert Burton, (fn. 312) 1508
Walter Goodfield, (fn. 313) before 1513
John Harvey, (fn. 314) 1514, 1515
Edward Baskerfield, (fn. 315) 1528, 1538