Friaries: The Franciscans of Bedford

A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1904.

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'Friaries: The Franciscans of Bedford', A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904), pp. 395. British History Online [accessed 17 June 2024].

. "Friaries: The Franciscans of Bedford", in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904) 395. British History Online, accessed June 17, 2024,

. "Friaries: The Franciscans of Bedford", A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904). 395. British History Online. Web. 17 June 2024,

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The house of the Grey Friars at Bedford was said by Leland to have been founded by Lady Mabel de Pattishall (fn. 1); the Valor Ecclesiasticus however gives the name of John St. John as the first founder. (fn. 2) It is uncertain at what date the Grey Friars came to Bedford, but their church was completed and dedicated on 3 November 1295, (fn. 3) when indulgences were granted by Bishop Sutton to those who should visit it. In 1300 (fn. 4) some of the friars of Bedford received licences from Bishop Dalderby for hearing confessions. Like their Dominican brethren, they seem to have met with more kindness from the nuns than from the monks of the older orders: for in 1310 the prioress and convent of Harrold (fn. 5) joined with some of the citizens of Bedford in making them a grant of divers small plots of land within the town for the enlargement of their area.

The friars of Bedford (fn. 6) signed the acknowledgment of the royal supremacy on 14 May 1534, John Vyall, S.T.P., (fn. 7) being at that time warden of the house; his name appears again in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535. The warden of the Friars Observants of Greenwich was sent to this house in 1531, when the brethren of his own order were dispersed, and was kept there under some kind of restraint. (fn. 8) The deed of surrender, (fn. 9) which is dated 3 October 1538, gives the names of a warden, vice-warden, and ten other friars (fn. 10); it is in the form which seems to have been offered to the friars only, beginning 'Forasmuch as we the warden and friars of the house of Saint Francis in Bedford . . . do profoundly consider that the perfection of Christian living doth not consist in dumb ceremonies, wearing of grey coat, . . . ducking and becking and girding ourselves with a girdle full of knots, and other like pharisaical ceremonies'; and has no seal. (fn. 11) The value of the house in 1535 was £3 13s. 2d. (fn. 12)


  • 1. Quoted Dugdale, Mon. vi. 1509.
  • 2. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 190.
  • 3. Linc. Epis. Reg., Memo. Sutton, 127.
  • 4. Ibid. Memo. Dalderby, 11d.
  • 5. Pat. 4 Edw. II. m. 18.
  • 6. L. and P. Hen. VIII. vii. 665.
  • 7. This can scarcely be the same as the warden who signed the deed of surrender; though the Christian name of the latter is John, his surname certainly begins with 'M' and ends with 'er.'
  • 8. There is a letter printed in Beds N. and Q. i. 191 from the vicar of the Observants to Sir John Dyve, a knight dwelling in Bedfordshire, asking him to find out how the warden is being treated, whether his friends may resort to him or write. The writer wishes the king knew his virtue and religious conversation and loyalty; and promises to find money, if Sir John will see that he has all he needs.
  • 9. Deeds of Surrender (P.R.O.), No. 19.
  • 10. The confiscation of the conventual seal was one of the means employed to obtain the surrenders of the friars (Canon Dixon, History of the English Church, ii. 38). It would be interesting to know why the friars surrendered in English and the monks in Latin; and also why the special humiliation of signing such a document as this was reserved for friars.
  • 11. The friars, as well as the nuns of Elstow and Chicksand, seem to have been usually known by their family names; the majority of the Cistercians and the Austin canons are called by placenames.
  • 12. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 190.