A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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30. THE HOUSE OF TRINITARIAN FRIARS
The Trinitarian Friars seem to have been making efforts to obtain a house in Oxford as early as 1286, or already had students at the university, for in this year (23 February, 1285-6) Ralph of Reading and three others were 'proctors of the house of St. Robert of Knaresburgh and Oxford, and of the Order of the Holy Trinity for the redemption of captives in the Holy Land.' (fn. 1) In 1293, after an inquisition held in this or the previous year, Edmund earl of Cornwall conferred on the minister and brethren of the Holy Trinity at Oxford a plot of land 156 yards long and 78 yards wide, extending from the East Gate at Oxford to the gate of the canons of St. Frideswide or Teckew Gate (i.e. lying between Trinity Lane, now Rose Lane, and the City Ditch), and built a chapel for them. The city claimed a rent of 13s. 4d. from this land. (fn. 2)
According to the rule of the order approved by Innocent III a friary consisted normally of the minister, three clerks and three lay brothers; but these numbers were omitted in the revised rule of 1267. (fn. 3) Wood says:—
The constant number that were here to reside were a
minister and five brethren, who had liberty also given
them to take in novices of their order to be there
trained up in Academical Learning,
at the expense of the convents that sent them hither. (fn. 4)
Before the death of Edward I the Trinitarian Friars acquired from the prior and convent of St. Frideswide without royal licence the chapel of the Holy Trinity within the East Gate, together with a shop and two plots of vacant ground within the walls. (fn. 5) The breach of the statute of Mortmain was pardoned (1 February, 1310-11) after an Inquisitio ad quod damnum on payment of a fine of 20s. (fn. 6) and at the same time the mayor and commonalty of Oxford granted to the friars in mortmain three plots of vacant land in the town, already held by them for a term of years; the commonalty reserved the right of free access to the town walls when necessary to repair or guard them, and free entry through two posterns to lands extending from the Smithgate to the East Gate of the town. These plots, forming a long narrow slip 473 yards long and about 8 yards wide, were known as 'the Underwall.' (fn. 7) Two years later the friars had licence to remove from their dwelling-place without the East Gate to their new site within the walls subject to the above conditions and to the obligation of making a chantry in the chapel of the Holy Trinity by the East Gate for the founders and benefactors—the chaplains to be maintained out of the place beyond the gate. (fn. 8) The friars had already obtained permission from the warden and scholars of Merton College and the vicar of St. Peter's in the East to have a free oratory for their use and a chantry and cemetery for the burial of brethren of the order, (fn. 9) and the Bishop of Lincoln confirmed this grant. (fn. 10)
In 1314 William de Parys, the minister, and the brethren of the house, with the permission of Henry de Ledes, provincial, purchased from the mayor and commonalty a tenement and plot of ground, probably within the wall, subject to a yearly rent of 13s. 4d. (fn. 11) Thus for the various lands which they held of the town they paid a rent of 26s. 8d. (fn. 12)
The friars of this house were authorized to solicit alms in 1314; (fn. 13) and again in 1329 Edward III granted them protection for two years while collecting alms once a year in the churches by virtue of an indulgence from the pope. (fn. 14) At the request of Henry, earl of Lancaster, they obtained licence in 1331 to acquire in mortmain land and rent, not held in chief, to the yearly value of 100s., (fn. 15) but it does not appear whether they actually acquired such land. William of Allerton, the minister of the house, demised a plot of vacant ground between Runceval Hall and the East Gate for fifty years to Merton College in 1327 for 18d. a year. (fn. 16) In 1333 John de Drayles, rector of St. Mildred's, mentioned them in his will, (fn. 17) and in 1349 John son of Walter Wrenche of Milton, spicer, bequeathed to them five quarters of corn. (fn. 18)
The Black Death seems to have been specially fatal to these friars. They did not entirely cease to exist, for in 1361 Henry of Malmesbury bequeathed 13s. 4d. to the Trinitarian Friars of Oxford. (fn. 19) But from about 1351 the chapel without the East Gate was served only by one brother of the order, who was sent from the house of the Trinitarian Friars at Hounslow. (fn. 20) Their possessions within the walls, from the postern near Smithgate to East Gate (i.e. the Underwall), were sold to the founder of New College in 1379. (fn. 21) The king took possession of their land without the East Gate as an escheat in 1351 and held it till 1391, when, upon the complaint of the burgesses that the friars held this plot of them at a rent of 13s. 4d. which for many years had not been paid, Richard II allowed the mayor and commonalty to seize the land as a distraint. (fn. 22)
In 1447 John Wodell or Wodale, minister of the friars of Hounslow, granted to the mayor and commonalty of Oxford all his lands, rents, and tenements within and without the town of Oxford, known as 'Trynytees,' and also the chapel of Holy Trinity, first on a seven years' lease (fn. 23) and subsequently on a ninety-nine years' lease. (fn. 24) John Dobbis, mayor of Oxford in 1471, conferred the chapel with its lands and rent on Robert Alrede, hermit, for the term of his life, on condition that he should maintain a chaplain there. (fn. 25) In 1486 Robert Gaguin, general or 'greater' minister of the order, wrote to the university that the chapel of the Holy Trinity, long in possession of the order, had been dishonestly sold to the town by Friar John Wodell, and prayed the university to assist the provincial minister to recover it. (fn. 26) Two years later the mayor and burgesses, 'moved not only by scruples of conscience but rather by zeal and devotion desiring to rejoice in the suffrages of the order, at the special request of very many venerable men, and also for a certain sum of money,' agreed to surrender the chapel and land to Richard Lancing, provincial of the Trinitarian Friars and minister of Modenden, reserving the annual rent of 13s. 4d. (fn. 27) The friary now became known as Trinity Hall; its head appears to have been appointed by the provincial or minister of Modenden; (fn. 28) and secular students were among its inmates. Thus Edward Chamber of Trinity Hall, who was bound over in 1510 to keep the peace towards Master Slepinden the principal, and towards all scholars of the hall, was not a friar. (fn. 29) John Gregory, of the order of the Holy Trinity, B.Can.L., who was dispensed from taking part in general processions in Lent, 1526-7, because he had to hear confessions, was the last principal. He was also minister of Modenden. (fn. 30) According to Wood, the hall was at the dissolution occupied only by a priest, an anchoret, and other scholars who lived by alms from the colleges. (fn. 31)
Trinity Hall passed into the king's hands as part of the possessions of Modenden Friary, and in 1540 was leased for twenty-one years to Robert Parette of the household. (fn. 32) Wood identifies him with Robert Perrot or Porrett, B.Mus., of Magdalen College, and states that in Mary's reign he converted part of it into a barn and stable, and the other part with the chapel into several tenements, paying rent to the city towards the relief of four poor bedesmen called 'Trinity men,' who wore a habit resembling that of the Trinitarian Friars and went begging about the city. But in 1563, 'being by the mayor and his brethren reformed, they were appointed to be bedells of beggars, and each to take a ward every Friday to beg in (though they still use some kind of prayers) and to wear a badge of tin and a new ox upon their coats.' (fn. 33)