A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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21. THE DOMINICAN FRIARS OF SALISBURY
The false move of the Dominicans in founding a house in Wilton, which declined rapidly throughout the latter part of the 13th century, must have caused some anxiety from 1270 onwards, so the legend that their move from Wilton to Salisbury was encouraged by Kilwardby, then Archbishop of Canterbury, may be well founded. On 12 May 1281 Edward I granted land, which he had acquired from William Dun, to Brother William of Faversham as a dwelling-place for the Friars Preachers, said to be already living at Fisherton Anger. (fn. 1) Brother William was possibly the prior of the Wilton house. This site lay in the west suburb of Salisbury, divided from the city by the River Avon, but connected with it by Fisherton Bridge. It was opposite the sites on which the jail and the infirmary were later built. (fn. 2)
At this time the kings and other members of the royal family had Dominicans as their confessors, so it is not surprising that for the first 50 years royal gifts poured in, nor that the local nobility followed the king's example. May being late in the year for hedging, it was not until the November in the year of their foundation that Edward ordered the bailiff of Clarendon to allow the Friars Preachers of Salisbury to have thorns and other hedging materials to enclose their plot of land. (fn. 3) More hedging material was provided in the following April, (fn. 4) and again in 1293. (fn. 5) In 1284 the king gave the friars 6 oak stumps from Clarendon Forest. (fn. 6) Five years later, in 1289, Edward, who was then at Christchurch (Hants), sent £2 16s. 4d. for the friars' food on the vigil, feast, and morrow of All Saints which he had spent at Clarendon. (fn. 7) In the following April, 1290, Queen Eleanor gave an annual gift of 16s. (fn. 8) Seven oak stumps were presented by the king in 1292 (fn. 9) and 6 in 1294. (fn. 10)
In June 1295 Henry FitzAnger assigned 1½ acre of meadow for the enlargement of the friars' plot. (fn. 11) They were visited by the king in 1296-7. He had spent Lady Day at Clarendon and later gave them £2 15s. 8d. for his time there. (fn. 12) Throughout these years the friars continued to build their conventual buildings and church. In March 1297 the king gave 6 oaks from Clarendon Forest (fn. 13) and in the following May he gave permission for the friars to fell and carry 13 oaks which the Earl of Lincoln had given them in Panchet Wood (Clarendon Forest). (fn. 14) This timber was to build their church.
By 1297 the building must have been virtually finished, for the Provincial Chapter arranged to meet there on 8 September 1298. (fn. 15) In August, in anticipation of the great numbers coming, the king ordered the sheriff to provide the food for two days, one day for himself, and one for Edward his son. (fn. 16) In 1300 (fn. 17) and again in 1302 (fn. 18) the king gave oakstumps for fuel from the forest of Clarendon. In May 1302 Thomas and Edmund, the king's sons, gave 5s. through Friar Ivo de Langeton (perhaps once a member of the convent) to the Dominicans of Salisbury for celebrating masses for their prosperity. (fn. 19) This ends the history of the house in this reign, and as in the subsequent reigns we find no mention of oaks we can assume that at this date the building of the church and convent was finished. In 1328 Edward III issued a charter confirming the gifts of May 1281, April 1290, and June 1295. (fn. 20) The friars' church was dedicated to the Trinity. (fn. 21) To crown this work Boniface IX, a century later, in 1392, granted an indulgence of two years and two lents to anyone who visited the church on the festival of St. Peter Martyr. (fn. 22)
Edward II was devoted to the Dominicans. In 1310-11 he gave Friar John Baldwin, Prior of Salisbury, and Friar John Everard, Prior of the Dominicans at Oxford, £2 for the expenses of the friars who were to carry abroad the royal gift of 10 marks towards the food of the General Chapter to be held in Naples. (fn. 23) No doubt in these two friars we see the diffinitor from the English Province and his socius. As in 1298, so in 1319 the Provincial Chapter was held in Salisbury, (fn. 24) and Edward II ordered the sheriff to give Friar John Bristol (perhaps the prior) £15 towards the expenses. (fn. 25) In 1326 the royal power was invoked to force Thomas de Cotes to acknowledge a debt of £10 to the prior of the Salisbury house. (fn. 26) Early in the following reign the last two royal benefactions took place; in August 1334 the king gave the Salisbury house 13s. 4d. (fn. 27) and in November of the same year he gave 14s. to Friar John de Camol for the 42 friars there. (fn. 28)
Looking back over the first 90 years of the history of the Dominicans in Wilton and Salisbury it is interesting to notice that in the 13th century gifts in kind, which were allowed by the Constitution of the Order, were the rule, and gifts of money the exception, while after the turn of the century money was always given, and that money played an ever-increasing part in the friars' lives. Corporate poverty, copied unwillingly by St. Dominic (fn. 29) from the Franciscans, had proved unworkable, and was abandoned by the General Chapter a generation later.
In 1354 Mary, Countess of Norfolk, was licensed to found a fraternity of secular brethren in honour of St. Mary, St. Anne, and All Saints in Fisherton Anger, and also to found a chantry of six chaplains to celebrate masses for the welfare of the king, the countess, and the fraternity. These foundations were to be set up within the house of the Friars Preachers, a curious proposal. Licence was also granted for the brethren to acquire lands and rents to the value of £40 a year, (fn. 30) but neither of these foundations appears to have been made, for there is no mention of the fraternity in the returns of 1388 nor in the chantry certificates of 1548. While it is possible that the chapel by the choir, described at the dissolution of the house, belonged to this fraternity, this is improbable and we are bound to assume that the countess did not in fact achieve her proposed foundation.
Apart from the information about bequests, little is known of the history of the house in the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1303 William of Cirencester, one of the Preachers in Salisbury, was appointed penitencier to the nuns at Lacock, (fn. 31) and later the same year their prior, William of Brighthampton, was appointed penitencier at Salisbury. (fn. 32) In 1318 some of the friars became involved in an event which took place in Salisbury. A certain John, son of William of Tinhead, had been condemned to death: great indignation arose in the house of the Preachers, who evidently thought the verdict unjust, and when John, on his way to the gallows, had to pass through Fisherton, five of the friars (presumably five of the younger, stronger, and more hot-headed members of the community) set upon the officers of the Crown and forcibly rescued the prisoner. John made good his escape and the friars were subsequently pardoned by the king for their intervention. (fn. 33)
In the 14th century the Friars Preachers and the Friars Minor were often considered as equally deserving. In 1360 Elizabeth de Burg, Lady Clare, left £4 to the two Orders of Friars in Salisbury. (fn. 34) A few years later Thomas Boynton bequeathed the proceeds from the sale of his holding opposite the wool-market towards the upkeep of the churches of the two Orders. (fn. 35) In 1406 Alice, widow of William Teynterer and wife of George Meriot, left to each house a bowl mazer for drinking. (fn. 36) In 1348 Elias Home ordered that his body was to be buried in the church of the Friars Preachers (fn. 37) as did Robert Strode of Fisherton (fn. 38) and John Denburg in 1361. (fn. 39) Again, in 1406 Sir Roger Beauchamp asked to be buried in the church of the Friars Preachers, (fn. 40) and in 1410 Thomas Meriot desired to be buried behind Sir Roger's tomb. (fn. 41) Thomas Sextayn, who in 1401 had given similar orders, also left certain gifts to the friars; a piece of silver gilt plate for the high altar, £10 for glazing the windows of the choir, and £20 to pay six of the friars to celebrate masses for a whole year for the good of his soul. (fn. 42) Adam Inwys, a trader, left legacies for the upkeep of the friars' churches at Wilton and Salisbury, (fn. 43) and in 1462 William, Lord Botreaux, left £2 to the Salisbury house. (fn. 44) In 1529 pardon was granted to a thief who had sought sanctuary in the church of the Friars Preachers of Fisherton Anger. (fn. 45)
The visitor commissioned by Thomas Cromwell with the visitation of the houses of the Mendicant Friars in Wiltshire was Richard Ingworth, Bishop of Dover. He examined the Dominican house in Salisbury in July 1538 and wrote to Cromwell that he found the friars of Salisbury 'in good order and so left them'. (fn. 46) It was but a temporary respite, however. He returned, and on 2 October (fn. 47) the following document was drawn up and signed. 'We, the prior and convent of the Black Friars of Salisbury with one assent and consent and without any manner of coercion or counsel do give our house into the hands of the lord visitor to the king's use desiring his grace to be good and gracious to us.'
The debts were heavy—£80; the assets few. The prior and other creditors received £8 16s. The visitor took with him silver weighing 303 oz. The other chattels listed in the inventory he left in the safe keeping of the men who had made it, John Shaxton and John Goodall. (fn. 48) In 1539 the property formerly belonging to the friars was said to include the prior's lodging, a small house within the precinct, another house over the gate, and outbuildings. Besides the gardens adjoining these buildings there was a tenement near 'Cannyngmersh' and the property at Wilton (see p. 331). The friars also had fishing rights in the Avon near Fisherton Bridge. (fn. 49) The site of the house was sold in 1545 to John Pollard and William Byrte. (fn. 50)