A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1971.
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17. AUSTIN FRIARS, DROITWICH
The Augustinian Friary was founded here in 1331, when Thomas Alleyn of Wyche obtained licence to alienate in mortmain to the Provincial Prior and Austin Friars in England a plot of land three hundred feet square in Wyche to build thereon an oratory and habitation. (fn. 1)
The prior and brethren of Droitwich in 1343 received from John, son of William Dragoun of 'Wiche,' a plot of land in that town two hundred feet long and sixty feet broad for the enlargement of their dwelling place. (fn. 2)
John Bush and William Mercer, chaplains, obtained letters patent, dated 20 November, 1351, authorizing them to grant the friars certain plots of land, five acres in extent, adjoining the friary, for the further enlargement of their house. The friars paid 6s. 8d. in the hanaper for this privilege. (fn. 3)
These three donations were confirmed by letters patent in 1385 for 40s. paid in the hanaper. (fn. 4)
A deed dated 8 July, 1388, recording the founding of an anchoret's cell in connexion with the convent presents features of special interest. It is in the form of letters patent issued in the name of the convent by Friar Henry Duke, presumbly the prior, and addressed to all the sons of Holy Mother Church. Brother Henry makes known 'that the house, which Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, founder of our convent, has recently built at his own expense, next the choir of our church on the south side, for the inclusion and habitation of brother Henry de Stokebrugge, where he may lead the life of an anchoret to the honour of God, and pray for the good estate of the founder and his kin, shall henceforth be at the disposition of the said earl and his heirs, who shall have the right of presenting to the same house, after the death of Henry de Stokebrugge and on each vacancy caused by death, religious and devout persons wishing to profess the anchoretic life and to be enclosed there: provided that they be friars of our order, or at least be willing to assume the habit of our religion, and to submit themselves to the obedience and correction of our prior in those things only which pertain to the anchoretic life and to the good name of our order: in such wise however that our convent is bound to perpetual poverty, for our convent may by no means in future be burdened with heavy expenses.' (fn. 5)
Henry Wakefield, bishop of Worcester, left the friars of Droitwich ten marks in 1395. (fn. 6)
The bishop of Dover visited the house early in 1531 and found great poverty there as elsewhere. He wrote to Cromwell at length on the subject. (fn. 7) 'Touching "Wheych," the which is the principal cause of my writing, it is not able to continue a house of religion to keep above one friar, for all is sold. He that was prior, by whom at Easter you sent your letters to the bailiffs to see all their stuff delivered again into the house, he hath in less than one year that he hath been prior there felled and sold seven score good elms, a chalice of gilt of 70 oz., a censer of 36 oz., two great brass pots, each able to seethe a whole ox as men say, spits, pans, and other, so that in the house is not left one bed, one sheet, one platter or dish, nor for all the promise that be made to your lordship he is not able to bring home anything again, nor yet to make a true account where this is spent by 20 marks truly. And in his coffer I found eleven bulls of the bishops of Rome, and above an hundred letters of pardons, and in all the books of the quire the bishop of Rome still standing as he did twenty years past. I have charged the bailiffs that he be forthcoming; and for the house I have set a poor friar to keep mass there, and I have provided for his board and living to be paid 16[d.] a week, till your further pleasure be known in it.' 'The house,' he goes on, 'is meet for no man to dwell in, without great costs done on it. It standeth in a good air, and it hath so many "tenauntreys and closeis" about it that be letten for 5 li. by year. There be two good bells, a chalice, and a few vestments of little value; the stuff beside is not worth 40s. Lead there is none, except in two gutters, the which the prior hath conveyed into the town, but it is sure. It is meetly wooded in "hege rowys."' Several gentlemen of the county were eager to secure the site—Sir John Russell, the sheriff of Worcester, Mr. Pye, and Mr. Newell, 'servant with my lord of Worcester.' The bishop of Dover favoured the suit of the last, 'for and except he have it I think he shall lose a marriage of forty marks by the year.' Latimer was also soliciting the site on behalf of a lady, with good hopes of success. (fn. 8) But on 25 June, 1538, he wrote to Cromwell: 'With an honest gentlewoman my poor honesty I pledged, which is now distained . . . for that in Durtwych and here about the same we be fallen into the dirt and be all to dirted even up to the ears; we be jeered, mocked, and laughed to scorn. A wily Pye hath wilily gone between us and home, when we thought nothing less, but as good simple souls made all cocksure.' It was now too late to 'call yesterday' again, as Mr. Pye said the king had given the property to him. Mr. Pye did not obtain the property, however, till 1543, at which time it was let out to a number of yearly tenants. The site of the house with all buildings necessary to the farmer together with a close called 'the Conyngre' was let at 13s. 4d. a year; the Friars' Orchard, two acres, was let to William Borne at a rent of 8s.; three tenements with gardens were held by Bray, William Bere, and Lawrence Barbour at rents of 8s., 8s., and 5s. respectively; 'the Barley Close,' one acre and a half, was let to John Geffreys for 10s.; 'the Vine Close,' one acre, to Gilbert Wheler for 5s.; half of the Friars' Meadow, two acres in extent, was let to William Newport for 12s. (the other half belonging to Willian Parkyngton, Esq.), and the close of one acre called 'Friars' Shellengers' was leased to William Wheler for a term of years at an annual rent of 7s.
The total annual value was £3 16s. 4d. In estimating the price the valuer, Richard Rose, deducts a tenth as rent to the crown, leaving £3 8s. 8d. net; this is divided into 'Howsing' 41s. 8d. 'which being decayed rated at thirteen years purchase doth amount to the sum of £27 20d.: and Lands, 27s., which at twenty years' purchase doth amount to the sum of £27.' Total, £54 1s. 8d. (fn. 9)
John Pye of Chippenham in the county of Wilts, Esquire, (fn. 10) in purchasing the Austin Friary of Droitwich at this price was acting in partnership with Robert Were alias Brown of Marlborough; the former paid for the Droitwich property, the latter for the property of the White Friars of Marlborough, and the partners became joint owners of the two estates, holding each of the king for the twentieth part of one knight's fee and paying a yearly rent in the one case of 7s. 8d., in the other of 9s. 5½d. (fn. 11) It is probable that these gentlemen were speculators in monastic lands and bought to sell again. (fn. 12)