Precincts exempted from the city liberty: White Friars

Pages 109-114

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 12. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1801.

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THE NEXT PRECINCT to be described within the circumference of the walls of this city, though exempted from the liberties of it, being esteemed to lie within the hundred of Westgate and jurisdiction of the county at large, (fn. 1) is that of
in which was a convent, situated at a small distance southward from St. George's street, in this city, to which it had an handsome gate or entrance; the friars who possessed it, being likewise called Augustine Friars, and Friars Eremite. (fn. 2)

The generality of these friars came first into England, says Bale, from Italy, about the year 1252.—These in particular came and settled themselves here; about the year 1325; for that very year the archbishop sent his mandatory letters, dated from Tenham, to his commissary concerning them, in which he recited, that these friars, of the order of St Augustine, had built themselves a chapel, and tolling a bell, had publicly celebrated mass in it, and as had been affirmed, had received oblations due to the parochial church, without licence from him, and the chapter of Christchurch, contrary to the privileges granted to the archiepiscopal see and the metropolitical church; and he therefore commanded his commissary to make enquiry into these matters, and to inhibit them by an ecclesiastical interdict from celebrating mass in that chapel, and to cite them to appear before him, &c. (fn. 3)

For the friars having purchased and taken possession of a house, with its appurtenances, of one Thomas de Bonynton, in the parish of St. George, in this city, (fn. 4) began immediately afterwards to build a church on it, and erect altars in it, entirely of their own authority; and so busily did they bestir themselves, that the convent of Christ-church, and the parson of St. George's, were in great danger of losing their interests in these premises, the one in a yearly payment of 20d. payable from them, and the other in the tithes and other ecclesiastical rights, payable out of them. At length, however, within about a year afterwards, the convent came to a composition with the friars for their pension, and the parson, John de Natynden, after having brought his action against them, before the archbishop's chancellor, and auditor of causes, to compel them, by course of law, to secure him and his church from any detriment, or prejudice, by reason of their alteration of the state and property of the premises they had bought, which before their time, besides first fruits, tithes and oblations, yielded other commodities to him; and his church came likewise to a composition with them, by which the house was quietly yielded and confirmed to them, with liberty for them to make their abode in it, and to obtain the dedication of their chapel, oratory or church and altars, already erected upon the place, and likewise a certain plat of ground laid out for a church-yard; and they agreed by it, that the sum of 9s. Should be paid by them yearly, for, and in lieu of all dues, to the parson of St. George's, for the time being for ever, subjecting themselves to the archbishop, or any other judge, ordinary or delegate, for compulsion in case of non-payment, the parson being tied to obey, under pain of excommunication, and the friars under pain of interdict.

The friars afterwards enlarged their habitation here, by purchasing of John Chicke, of Canterbury, a place or court within the parish of St. George, lying upon the highway or street, at the cloth market; upon part of which they built their outward gate, (fn. 5) and in the year 1356, they entered into an obligation and bound themselves and their house to the prior and convent of Christ-church, of whose see it was, to pay them yearly 2s. 4d. for it.

As for benefactors to this convent, I read of two, of some consequence; (fn. 6) of which, one was, a widow named Amabilia Gobyon, who made choice of the church of it for her burial-place, and gave by her will ten marcs to the repair of it in 1405. The other, Sir John Fineux, who, in king Henry VII.'s time, became a most liberal benefactor to it. He was lord chief justice of the common pleas, both in the reigns of king Henry VII. and VIII. and is highly commended as a person of singular worth and excellency. He had expended of his bounty much more than the sum of 401, in repairing their church, refectory, dormitory and walls; out of gratitude to so liberal a benefactor, the friars bound themselves by their indenture, anno 1522, that they would provide one chaplain from among their brethren, who should every day for ever, celebrate mass and other divine services, at the altar of the blessed Virgin Mary, in the chapel of the same name, for the souls of Sir John Fineux, Elizabeth his wife, and others mentioned in it. (fn. 7)

Richard Pargate, citizen of Canterbury, by his will in 1457, gave 40s. to these friars, towards making their new gate.

A great ornament afterwards to this place, and to the whole order, was John Capgrave; in his time, that is, about the year 1484, a noted friar of this house and provincial of the order. He was a great writer, the catalogue of whose works may be seen in Pitseus, who is very lavish in his commendations of him, as a man of most excellent parts. (fn. 8) In 1462, John Godewyn was prior of this house of St. Augustine friars.

After the dissolution, the scite of it, with its two orchards, a garden, and their adjoining appurtenances was granted, in the 33d year of king Henry VIII. in exchange to George Harpur, esq. and his heirs, to hold in capite by knight's service; (fn. 9) and he alienated these premises next year to Thomas Culpeper, of Bekesborne, (fn. 10) who in the 35th year of the same reign passed them away to Thomas Browne, (fn. 11) whose heir Robert died possessed of them two years afterwards, when John Browne was found, by inquisition, to be his son and heir, (fn. 12) and his descendant John Browne had livery of them in the 4th and 5th of Philip and Mary. (fn. 13) After which this estate came into the possession of the Berrys, who resided at it in queen Elizabeth's reign; many of whom lie buried in St. Mary Bredin's church. Sir Henry Finch, sergeant at law, resided here at the latter end of king James I.'s reign, and retired from hence to Boxley through fear of the plague; where dying, he was buried in the church of Boxley on October 13, 1625. It afterwards passed into the possession of the Turners, of whom William Turner, esq. of Gray's Inn, and of the Friars, died possessed of this house in 1729, and was succeeded in it by his son of the same name, (fn. 14) who afterwards resided here; and left by Elizabeth his wife, daughter of Thomas Scott, esq. of Liminge, an only daughter and heir Bridget, who in 1753 carried it in marriage to David Papillon, esq. of Acrise, (fn. 15) and he in 1791 alienated it to William Hammond, esq. of St. Alban's, in Nonington, who made great additions and improvements to the mansion of it, and afterwards resided in it for some time. He afterwards sold it to Mrs. Catherine Knight, widow of Thomas Knight, esq. of Godmersham, who now possesses and resides in it.


  • 1. This precinct of the White Friars is extraparochial. Several attempts have been made, to render it a ville, but without effect; and there have been great disputes between the guardians of the poor of the city, and the owners of it, from time to time, concerning their claim to a jurisdiction over it; this was brought to issue at a trial, had at the assizes at Maidstone in Lent, 1790; when it was determined, that this precinct was extraparochial, and wholly exempt from the parish of St. George. The bounds of it are to wards the east, a part of Sheepshank-lane. Towards the south, the gravel walk, or alley, leading from St. Mary Bredin's church towards the city wall eastward. To Rose-lane towards the west; and to the gardens behind the houses on the south side of St. George's-street, towards the north.
  • 2. They had the name of Augustine Friars, because St. Augustine, the famous African father, as is said, was their founder; who living in the wilderness, erected and instituted their order, and prescribed them a rule of living, whence they were likewise sometimes stiled friars eremite of St. Augustine; and they were sometimes called the white friars, (though properly and strictly, the Carmelites were understood by that name), because they wore a long white coat of cloth, down to their heels, all loose, with a cowl or hood of the same, when they were in their cloi sters; when they were abroad, however, they wore a black coat over the other, with another cowl, having both their coats then bound close to their bodies, with a broad leather girdle or belt.
  • 3. These letters are printed at large, in Battely's Somn. append. No. xxi. p. 17.
  • 4. Pat. 17 Ed. II. m. 18, pt. 2. Mr. Somner, p. 68, has given the bounds of these premises, which were, by a certain lane, sometime called Lambert's-lane, afterwards Brewers lane, that is, between the same lane and another tenement of the said Thomas, towards the north; and a certain place called Ealdgaole, and the tenement of Cicely at Gayole, towards the west; and the tenement of Thomas Chiche, towards the east; and the tenement of Thomas Clement and the hospital of priests, towards the south. Tanner, in his Monasticon, p. 225, says, that these friars obtained a settlement and house, in St. George's parish, by the gift of Richard French, baker.
  • 5. Pat. 11 Ed. II. p. 2, m. 4, pro domibus Construendis—Pat, 18 Ed. III. p. I, m. 4, pro manso elargando; and pat. 17 Ric. II. P. 2, m. 26, pro miss. et gard. pro manso elargando.
  • 6. Tan. Mon. p. 225, says, king Edward III. was a benefactor to it. The several authenticated pedigrees of the family of Haut, once so eminent in this county, affert, that one of them was the sounder of this convent; certainly it was for several descents the usual burial place for them, and they were good benefactors to it, particularly William Haut, esq. of Bishopsborne, who was buried in the middle of the choir here, in 1462, as appears by his will, before the image of St. Katharine, between his wives. He was likewise a great benefactor by it, to the church of Borne, to the prisoners of the castle of Canterbury, and of Westgate, &c. and to this convent, by repairing the church and refectory of it. I find by the wills, proved in the Prerog. office, Canterbury, several others buried here, viz. William Benet, citizen of Canterbury, anno 1464, in this church, beside Alys his wife; John Brempe, of St. Andrew's, in 1462, in the nave of it; William Bonyngton, of St. George's, in 1464, in the church; William Walpole, chaplain of the lord Thomas Arundel, in 1483, in the nave of it; William Faunt, of St. Mary Bredin's, in 1485, in the house of Augustine friars, near the burial-place of his father and mother there.
  • 7. Viz. of king Henry VII. John Morton, cardinal, formerly archbishop; William Apolderfield, Mildred his wife, and for the souls of all faithful people deceased. This instrument is recited at length, in Somner's Appendix, p. 18, No. xxii. it appears by it, that William Mallaham was then prior of this convent, and William Wederhall, S. T. P. was at that time provincial of this order.
  • 8. Battely's Somner, p. 68.
  • 9. Inrolled in Augmentation-office, on May 21, anno 34 king Henry VIII. Rot. Esch. 33 Hen. VIII. pt. 6.
  • 10. Rot. Esch. anno 34 Henry VIII. pt. 11.
  • 11. Rot. Esch. ejus an. pt. 4.
  • 12. Rot. Esch. ejus an. In all these rolls, the premises are said to be situated within the liberty of the city of Canterbury.
  • 13. Viz. the scite and priory of le Augustine brothers, in the city of Canterbury; and five messuages and four gardens, in the parish of St. George the martyr, in capite, by knight's service. Rot. Esch. ejus an.
  • 14. He left likewise by Anna Maria his wife, youngest daughter of Thomas Papillon, esq. merchant, of London, and afterwards of Acrise, two daughters, Anna Maria, married to Jeremiah Rawstorne, esq. of London, who died without issue; and Elizabeth, married to Charles Fagg, esq. of Mystole, grandfather of the Rev. Sir John Fagg, bart.
  • 15. See more of the Papillons under Acrise, in vol. viii. of the History of Kent.