Friaries: Dominicans, Cambridge

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1948.

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'Friaries: Dominicans, Cambridge', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2, (London, 1948) pp. 269-276. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]

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Almost from its beginning the convent of Black Friars in Cambridge was second only to the Oxford house in the system of Dominican education. In 1221 thirteen Dominicans came first to England; (fn. 1) but we do not know the date of their arrival in Cambridge or how they first acquired the land upon which they settled, (fn. 2) and where they remained until the Dissolution. It lay in the parish of St. Andrew, just outside Barnwell gate, (fn. 3) and the Hundred Rolls state that 'houses in which many inhabited' had been pulled down to clear the site. (fn. 4) Later the house gave its name to Preachers' Ward. The first record of the house is a royal gift of 3 oaks to build the chapel in 1238, (fn. 5) and this probably implies recent arrival; permission was granted in April 1240 for enlargement of the cemetery by closing a lane south of the church, (fn. 6) followed in August by a grant of money from the king. (fn. 7) In 1242 Henry III gave 5 marks to buy timber (fn. 8) and 20 marks for the fabric of the church, (fn. 9) and 6 tree-trunks were sent from Weybridge forest to the Friars Preachers in Cambridge to build their church. (fn. 10) In June 1244, 6 more oaks, with fallen wood, were given for the same purpose, (fn. 11) and by November 1248 the work had got as far as the choir, for which a further 6 oaks were granted. (fn. 12) Already the friars were exercising their special function of combating heresy, for a mandate to the sheriff 'to carry before the King's Council a certain heretic whom the Friars Preachers of Cambridge would deliver to him', in August 1240, (fn. 13) is one of the rare allusions to 13th-century unorthodoxy in England. In 1246 advantage was taken of the enlarged churchyard for another special function of the Order; Cardinal William of St. Sabina, going as Papal Legate to Norway, was delayed for 2 months at Lynn by contrary winds, and, coming to Cambridge, preached in the Black Friars cemetery before a great assembly on the love of the saints for the Holy Name of Jesus. (fn. 14)

It was laid down at the General Chapter of 1246 that a studium generale must be provided in each of the provinces of Provence, Lombardy, and England, and in each two friars must be sent to study, (fn. 15) and in 1261 the English studium generale was fixed at Oxford. (fn. 16) Nevertheless, within 20 years of the first appearance of the Black Friars at Cambridge, that university had become one of the very few to possess a faculty of theology; Dominican and Franciscan influence had brought about that in the English province alone two centres enjoyed this carefully guarded privilege. (fn. 17) The earliest reference occurs about 1259 in connexion with William of Kilkenny's students in theology, but this reference takes the existence of the faculty back to 1250, or little later. (fn. 18) There are also two stories of Cambridge lectors which, since they are found in the 'Lives of the Brethren', relate to a time before 1260. (fn. 19) One, indeed, may go back to the first period of the Order, when the brethren were more conscious of their close connexion with the Augustinian Canons. It relates how Brother William, lector in the University of Cambridge, appeared after death to Benedict, sub-prior of the Cambridge house, and with him 'one wearing a fair crown of gold'. Benedict asked the spirit how he fared, and the crowned companion answered in the words of St. Augustine (with whom he is evidently identified) 'Ecce decoratus est una stola, securusque de reliqua'. (fn. 20) The other story tells how Brother Seyer, 'well known for his life and learning and a lector in the University of Cambridge', knew an 'honourable personage' who had seen a glory descend from heaven upon the heads of the friars as they sang 'the anthem of Blessed Mary after Compline'. (fn. 21) About 1262 William Ringesham, their first Cambridge Doctor of Divinity, was admitted to that degree. (fn. 22)

Another sign of the secure footing of the friars in Cambridge by the middle of the 13th century is that people were depositing documents with them for safe custody, as with the older religious Orders. In 1253 the prior had on deposit charters concerning the manor of Ellerton-on-Swale, which belonged to Robert Sorel who was 'in France with the king's enemies'; (fn. 23) and in 1260 the bond by which Eustace, son of Hervey Dunning, mortgaged his land to Guy of Barnard Castle in acknowledgement of a debt of £100 was also deposited with him. (fn. 24)

Soon after the arrival of the Dominicans in England the province was divided into four Visitations or Vicaries, Cambridge being the head of one. Its exact limits are unknown, but it included the seven houses of Black Friars in Norwich diocese and certain others. (fn. 25) Nor is it exactly known when a royal pension was first paid to the Cambridge Dominicans for their maintenance, and especially for their advancement in learning. The earliest recorded disbursement is on 11 October 1289 when Edward I gave 50 marks each to the houses of Black and Grey Friars of Oxford and 25 marks each to those of Cambridge. (fn. 26) The £8 6s. 8d. for the half-year paid to Brothers William de Haselford and Nicholas de Stanton in 1289 appeared as a private royal alms, (fn. 27) but in 1304 Edward, being on his Scottish campaign, sent a mandate to the Exchequer for its annual payment, (fn. 28) and thereafter it was renewed at the beginning of each reign, (fn. 29) and the last renewal was that of Henry VIII in 1509. (fn. 30) The pension was specifically an educational grant, and though usually was not always paid to the Cambridge prior. In 1304 both half-yearly instalments, for Oxford and Cambridge alike, were paid to friars of the York convent; that in May through Thomas Middleton the prior. (fn. 31) In April 1331 William Malebraunche, the first Cambridge prior about whose name there is certainty, received the royal pension for his house. (fn. 32)

In 1277, when he was at Waterbeach on 14 March, Edward I made the first of the moneygrants for the day's food, reckoned at 4d. a head, from which it is possible to estimate the number of friars in the Cambridge house from time to time. On this occasion he gave 38s. 3d. for 2 days' maintenance, implying 57 or 58 friars. In 1289 he gave 50s. and in February 1297, when he stayed for 2 days in the priory, he gave 39s. 4d. for 2 days' food, which should imply respectively 75 and 60. Edward II gave 18s. 4d. to Brother Henry de Sturgoil, in 1326, for 1 day's food for 55 friars; and Edward III, passing through Cambridge on 28 September 1328, gave 20s. 4d. to Brother John de Tykenhale, 'being a groat to each of 61 friars'. (fn. 33) Though the numbers fluctuate they probably never fell below 50 at this time. The trouble about incepting in theology without ruling in arts had already begun in 1253, and if, as seems probable, there were by the end of the 13th century between 150 and 200 Mendicants in Cambridge, the University may have feared being swamped by students who did not wholly conform to its system; and the reaction against them was increased by estrangement between the two original Orders. At the worst moment of this estrangement, which grew out of the controversy about Aquinas' doctrine of matter, (fn. 34) not only did some of the Dominicans speak evil of the Franciscans in general, but in 1285 Archbishop Pecham was attacked in a pamphlet by a Cambridge Dominican. (fn. 35) The Black Friars are said to have received support almost equivalent to a fresh foundation from Alice widow of Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford. (fn. 36) About this time they enlarged their site, and the great church which was destroyed at the Dissolution was so far finished by 1286 that it was consecrated by William de Fresney, titular Bishop of Edessa, during the vacancy after the death of Hugh Balsham, Bishop of Ely. (fn. 37) In 1293 the friars acquired 2 acres adjoining their precincts as part of the enlargement and rebuilding of the convent. (fn. 38)

In 1303 the quarrel with the University reached a climax in the excommunication of two Dominicans by the Chancellor and their expulsion from the University. (fn. 39) The friars appealed to the Pope and the parties appointed proctors, but both sets of proctors (as Fuller puts it) (fn. 40) 'taking wit in their way' and considering the costliness of the journey and of the court of Rome, remitted the case to Thomas de Jon, Cardinal of St. Sabina and Protector of the Order, a former English Provincial who was at Bordeaux. The cardinal's decision left the main question of the adjustment of the faculty in the air, but the practical outcome was a victory for the friars: no Act of the Regent House was to affect their rights, the Chancellor of the University was to retract the excommunications, and the expelled friars were to be readmitted if they so desired: although by the statutes of the University only the Chancellor or his assignee might preach on Advent Sunday, Septuagesima, and Ash Wednesday, yet the friars of each Order were to be free to preach on those days and at the same hour, within their own convents; and whereas all bachelors incepting in Divinity were bound to preach their sermon ad clerum in St. Mary's, friars might, on giving notice to the Chancellor, preach this sermon in their own convents. (fn. 41) The dispute shows that Cambridge was fully recognized as a place of study for Dominican theologians, although no Pope declared it a studium generale until 1318, (fn. 42) and that the Mendicants' houses were, as Caius remembered them after the Reformation, (fn. 43) considered in some sort as colleges.

The 14th century was a period of activity among the Cambridge Black Friars. Five General Chapters are known to have been held in this country, the last in 1335, but none of these at Cambridge. There were, however, Provincial Chapters there in 1309, 1324, 1336, possibly 1339, 1348, 1366, and finally in 1426. (fn. 44) In 1309 Edward II gave £10 through John de Wrotham, the London prior, being £5 for his own good estate and £5 for his father's soul. In October he gave a further £5 towards the expenses of the chapter on behalf of Queen Isabel, whom he had married in the interval. Each sum of £5 represented one day's maintenance for the whole of the friars assembled, and, if the allowance was at the usual rate of 4d. a day each, the attendance was reckoned at about 300. (fn. 45) The chapter was held for three days about the feast of the Assumption, and royal alms of £5 for each of the three days was again given in 1324, 1336, 1347, and 1366. (fn. 46) Simon Boraston, a Cambridge graduate, who was Provincial from 1328 to the chapter of 1336, was arrested in 1330 for complicity in the alleged plot of Edmund, Earl of Kent, against the regime of Isabel and Mortimer but seems to have suffered no further interference. (fn. 47)

At the onset of the Black Death, Thomas Lisle, Bishop of Ely, himself a Dominican who had made his mark as a theologian at Cambridge, was abroad. He appointed a large number of priests, friars among them, to act as confessors during the emergency, (fn. 48) but on 15 September he withdrew his licence from all the hastily appointed penitentiaries except the Sacrist and one other monk of Ely, the Cambridge Franciscan Warden, and three Cambridge Dominicans of whom one, Thomas Ringstead, was given special powers in cases usually reserved, while another Professor of Theology was to act for the Wisbech district. (fn. 49) On 30 November 1349 Robert de Bulmer, another Cambridge Dominican, was appointed penitentiary under the ordinary conditions, (fn. 50) and in March 1350 the Franciscan Warden and Henry de Kyrkeby, Dominican Professor of Theology at Cambridge, were similarly appointed. The bishop had returned and the situation was apparently normal.

There is no evidence about the incidence of the plague among the Cambridge Dominicans, but neither the Black Death, nor disturbances within the Order, did much to check their influence. At this time bequests to the 'Four Orders' were very common from people in every station of life and in amounts ranging from 5d. to £10. Small bequests to the four convents in Cambridge, (fn. 51) some of which discriminated in favour of the Dominicans, are far too many to enumerate, but in 1356 Elizabeth Bohun, Countess of Northampton, left the large sum of £50 to the Cambridge Dominicans. (fn. 52) Thomas Ringstead, himself one of their number, and a Professor of Theology in 1349, became Bishop of Bangor in 1357: he died early in 1366, leaving his missal to the convent, and his great breviary to be perpetually chained in the middle of the choir between the prior and the master-regent. He also left £20 to found a chest from which the students might borrow 10s. on sufficient pledge, the master-regent and master of the students to keep the keys and render yearly accounts. (fn. 53)

From 9 September to 7 October 1388 the only Parliament ever held in Cambridge sat at the Black Friars there, (fn. 54) and when it rose a sum of 20 marks was awarded to the friars in compensation for damage and inconvenience. (fn. 55) In the same year their own Provincial Chapter at Lincoln issued decrees regulating the promotion of Dominicans to degrees in both universities and appointing certain friars to read the sentences in Oxford and Cambridge. (fn. 56) In 1390 royal mandates were issued forbidding Dominican friars to cross the seas for degrees, (fn. 57) and these were probably aimed at the nominees of the Master General, against whom the king was acting with the Provincial Chapter and the University. In 1393 the Master General, Raymond of Capua, appointed two Visitors extraordinary, one for the vicaries of London and la Marche (i.e. Oxford) and one, William Bagthorpe, prior of the convent at Lynn, for those of Cambridge and York; (fn. 58) and in 1397 he appointed Richard Bachon Vicar of the Visitation of Cambridge. (fn. 59) Bagthorpe and Bachon are the only two vicars of the Cambridge Visitation (or 'Vicary') whose names have been found. It is therefore impossible to say whether in more normal times the Conventual Prior of Cambridge and the head of the Cambridge Visitation were two separate persons—on the analogy of the Franciscan Custos and Warden (fn. 60) —or whether the Cambridge prior normally exercised jurisdiction over the convents of the whole Visitation. By the beginning of the 15th century this included King's Langley, (fn. 61) Dunstable, and Stamford as well as the houses in the Norwich diocese, (fn. 62) and the registers of the Bishops of Ely show that the parishioners of Thorney and Whittlesey were within the limites of the Dominicans of Stamford, who were licensed as confessors and collected alms in that neighbourhood. The limits of the Cambridge convent itself are unknown, but they probably covered the rest of the diocese of Ely. Dominicans of Cambridge are found acting as penitentiaries for the deanery of Wisbech.

In 1399 the English Dominicans lost a friend in Richard II. Their disaffection towards Henry IV did not apparently bring serious trouble on the Cambridge house. In June 1402 John Norwych, its prior, and John Lakynhethe, one of the friars, were, it is true, committed as prisoners to the Tower of London, (fn. 63) but no more is heard of their punishment.

In March 1400 the Dominicans of Ireland petitioned (fn. 64) for a confirmation of ordinances made at the Chapter General in London in 1314, by which two Irish students of their Order might be maintained at Oxford, Cambridge, and London. (fn. 65) Walter Sorel, an Irish friar, had been assigned to lecture in Cambridge in 1350, (fn. 66) but the Chapter General had to ask the master to expedite his appointment. The friction continued, and in 1426 the Chapter General ordered that Irish brethren were not to remain in England, and in particular no Irish friar was to remain in Oxford or Cambridge on the excuse of study, except the two assigned to each university for the purpose. (fn. 67)

In the accounts of John Botwright, Master of Corpus Christi 1443-74, (fn. 68) on three occasions, Nicholas Meryll, Friar Preacher, appears as contractor for putting in windows at the college, (fn. 69) and a Christmas alms of 4d. seems to have been given to the Black Friars at this time: John Botwright notes that he gave this amount 'to a certain Friar Preacher in alms, as at other times at Christmas', 'to the Friar Preacher with the Fellows' consent, as one year's alms', and once 'in alms to a certain Friar Preacher, so that he may not pester the Fellows of the College at Christmas'. (fn. 70) On 23 November 1463 Meryll, now Prior of the Cambridge convent, claimed £6 5s. 9d. of the royal grant due from the sheriff of Beds. and Bucks. (fn. 71) In 1475 he was at Lynn, and various privileges, over and above the coveted possession of a camera or study to himself and a little garden granted by the Order, were there confirmed to him by the Master General, in whose register it was recorded that Nicholas Meryll had many friends and relations who were benefactors of the Order, and were therefore received as participants in its prayers. (fn. 72) In 1487 he was again at Cambridge, and was licensed as penitentiary by the Bishop of Ely. (fn. 73)

William Edmundson is described as prior at Cambridge in a will dated 6 March 1464, by which he was left the De Regimine Principium of Egidius Romanus; (fn. 74) he paid his fee of £5 6s. 8d. on incepting in 1467 (fn. 75) and became Provincial in 1470. (fn. 76) On the other hand, hardly anything is known of Friar Clay, prior in 1484, except what can be found in the Grace Book, where his whole academic career can be traced. (fn. 77) Thus in 1482-3 he deposited the fourth book of the Sentences as his caution on entering for 'opposition' in theology, and in the following year, when he had become prior, he had a grace shortening his course in the faculty; in 1485-6 he was excused payment of the 20d. 'commons' and deposited 2 bibles and 'a little red book' on admission ad incipiendum; in 1486-7 the fee of 8 marks was received from Master Clay, doctor in theology.

The academic aspect of the Cambridge convent becomes increasingly prominent in late 15thand early 16th-century wills, although as early as 1361 Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, had left £10 to 'the students' in the Oxford and Cambridge friaries. (fn. 78) Thus in 1489 Alice Padington, widow of Thomas Padington, fishmonger of London, provided that 'oon welldisposed frere' of the London Black Friars 'exercising his lernyng in Oxford and in Cambridge in divinitie' should sing for her soul and for those of her two husbands in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge for the space of six years after her death: (fn. 79) in 1510 Richard Crispe of Northampton gave 'to them that be students in divinitie in Oxford ij and in Cambridge other ij every yere', among the four Orders in Northampton, 20s. apiece until £20 should have been spent for his soul; (fn. 80) at the same time the friars, like the 'possessioner' Orders, were becoming more lax in seeking licence to hold benefices and 'remain without the Order'. In 1497 Brother John Laknam, of the Cambridge convent, had such a licence, and was allowed to have a chapel or chantry. (fn. 81)

Membership of the confraternity of a friary and burial in its church was very general. John Brandon of Isleham in 1506 leaves 10s. to the 'friars dominike in Cambridge where I am a brother'; John Hals, rector of Orwell, was buried in the church of the Friars Preachers in December 1406; and in his will, dated 4 March 1448, Richard Warbulton, citizen and ironmonger of London, left 3s. 4d. to the Friars Preachers of Cambridge, where the body of his father lay buried. (fn. 82) The last 40 years or so of their existence afford some glimpses of this great church of the Black Friars, and the part which it and they played in the life of town and University. In 1500 John Hesewell of Cambridge left the Black Friars a considerable bequest, including a covered cup of silver-gilt, which he had redeemed for them for 66s. 8d., and a candlestick which was to be fixed before the altar of St. Nicholas; (fn. 83) and in 1506 Master Henry Rudde, a physician of Bury St. Edmunds, gave them 20 marks 'towards the peynting of the ix ordrys of aungelis'. (fn. 84) In addition to the other bequests given them in his will, made in 1509, the Cambridge Black Friars had, on his death in 1513, as their share of the stuff of the Earl of Oxford's private chapel, an image of St. Peter in silver-gilt, representing him as Pope with a tiara garnished with stones and pearls. (fn. 85) In 1515 comes the first mention of the image of Our Lady of Grace which for a few years drew such great crowds to the church. John Wartell of Bury St. Edmunds bequeathed 12d. to 'Our Lady of Grace in the Black Fryers in Cambridge'. (fn. 86) In 1517 Thomas Kersey of March left 40s. among the four Orders in Cambridge and 6s. 8d. to 'Our Lady of Grace in the same Towne'. (fn. 87) In 1521 Agnes Bowyer of Over willed that Thomas Wryght her 'gostly Father' should visit or cause to be visited 'Our Lady of Redybunde, St. Andrew and St. Pernell of Ely, Our Lady of Grace of the Black Fryers in Cambridge, and Our Lady of Whitehill' there to offer for her 'a halfpenny or a penny at his pleasure'; (fn. 88) and in 1527 John Baker of Fen Ditton left 12d. to a priest to say three masses before the image. (fn. 89) In 1491 Bishop Alcock had granted an indulgence of 40 days to all who visited the high altar of the Friars Preachers' Church on the Monday after Palm Sunday, Easter Monday, the Vigil of the Assumption, and the Sunday after the Feast of the Relics, at which times the Gilds of St. Peter Martyr and of St. Ursula held their devotions there. (fn. 90)

The disintegrating effect of the 'new learning' was already felt in the University convents, and in the country houses the Dominican educational system was breaking down. In 1525, too late to make much difference, Francis Silvester, the Master General, issued a mandate to the English Provincial and to the Priors of Oxford, Cambridge, London, York, and Salisbury (fn. 91) to enforce the rule that every house in the province must send a student to Oxford or Cambridge, paying 'two angels or three ducats' at least for the annual support of its own student. (fn. 92) At about this time Robert Buckenham, (fn. 93) who had taken his B.D. here in 1524 and then continued his studies at Bologna, became prior at Cambridge. In 1526 he, with another English Dominican, was sent back 'to restore the strict observance' in the Province of England. He answered Latimer's famous 'card sermon' in 1529, and was one of his chief opponents. In 1530-1, with Robert Ellis, a former prior, he took the degree of D.D. During the spring of 1534 John Hodgkin, the Provincial of the Black Friars, a Cambridge graduate and a member of the Sudbury convent, was superseded by the king's appointment of John Hilsey, the London Prior, who, with George Browne, Provincial of the Austin Friars, was given a commission to visit all 'Five Orders' with equal jurisdiction (fn. 94) and to act as Master General of his own Order within the kingdom. Buckenham fled, and John Gough wrote to Cranmer that, as he expected, 'Dr. Buckenham is an exile from our parts; he is one who will do mischief wherever he is.... In his place is appointed one of like fame, like judgement, I will not say learning, by name Olyver ... at Cambridge they cry out that it is a disgrace that he, who knows nothing but cookery, should be set over others. There are at that convent many young men whom his authority will easily lead from the truth. Certainly he has never favoured higher learning, and old bottles cannot bear new wine.' (fn. 95) Oliver's sermons against the divorce preached that Lent, and Gough's disparagement, convinced Cranmer that the prior was no true reformer and on 7 June he wrote to Cromwell that he was of all men most unfitted to bear rule in so noble a University, especially as there were among the Cambridge Dominicans 'men of good study, living, learning and judgement' and it was a pity they should have such a head. (fn. 96) Nevertheless, when Hilsey was rewarded with the see of Rochester in the following year, Oliver succeeded him as Prior of Bristol. He was in trouble again in 1537, and probably fled the realm. (fn. 97) During 1535-6 John Hardyman, Prior of the Austin Friars, and Gregory Dodds, Prior of the Dominicans, received graces to proceed at once to the B.D. degree; both were advanced reformers and each subsequently surrendered his convent. Dodds had studied 5 years at Cambridge and 5 at Louvain. He was apparently under the direct orders of Hilsey, who as Bishop of Rochester was still 'Master General, Provincial and Prior' and, with Browne, was at Cambridge preparing the way for the suppression of the friaries. In 1536-7 the Common Schools and the Library were being repaired and the Junior Proctors' accounts suggest that the Black Friars' buildings were already being dismantled. New lead was carried to the convent and there, it seems, wrought into webs, but £5 13s. 4d. was paid to 'Master Generall of the Blake Frers' for a fodder and a half of lead 'almost all in Webbs' already, (fn. 98) and 6d. to a carrier for bringing 7 cwt. of lead from the Blackfriars to Benet College 'which the University borrowed of them', and for carrying 'the gret long ladder from the scholys to the blake frers'. On 30 August 1538 Hilsey sent Gregory Dodds to Cromwell with the request that he might remove the image of Our Lady of Grace from the people's sight, because he could not well bear 'syche ydolatrye'. Large numbers of pilgrims were still coming to her shrine especially at the time of Sturbridge Fair. (fn. 99) It is perhaps worth remarking that the permission sought was for removal, not for destruction: there is some reason to think that it may have escaped destruction altogether and may be the late-15th-century wooden figure of the mater amabilis brought from Emmanuel, which is at present in the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs at Cambridge. At the same time that Dodds went upon this mission he asked that his house might itself be taken into the king's hand 'to be put to such use as his grace should think best', and shortly afterwards the priory was surrendered, but the surrender, which is subscribed by Gregory Dodds, Robert Parens the sub-prior, and fourteen others, is neither sealed nor dated. (fn. 100)

The surrendered priory was put into the hands of William Standyssh, Principal of St. Nicholas Hostel, to hold 'to the King's use', and when the commissioners came they found that here, as at the other friaries, the 'religious persons' and servants' were 'dispersed and gone'. The lands and site they valued at 20s.; the movables had been taken away by the Visitors at the surrender, and the debts of the house paid by them: the iron, glass, and stone remained 'and the house undefaced until the King's pleasure be further known'; there were also the bells and the lead. (fn. 101) On 12 December 1539 the Crown leased 'lez Blak Freres', with orchards, gardens, and dovecotes, to William Shirwood of Cambridge for 21 years, (fn. 102) but in 1544 the buildings (with the usual reservation of lead) were granted to Edward Elrington, (fn. 103) who must at once have set about pulling them down, for the spoils of the Black Friars appear in the churchwardens' accounts of Great St. Mary's for 1545, when 4d. was paid to Mr. Dowsey for viewing the timber, and 48s. to 'Mr. Bedell' for stone at the Black Friars; a further payment of 40s. to Mr. Meere, the Bedell, for stone from the Black Friars appears in 'the charges about the churchyard wall'. (fn. 104) When Sir Walter Mildmay founded Emmanuel College on the site in 1584, he was at pains that his 'spearhead of puritanism' should preserve as few traces as possible of the former priory, and in particular that the chapel should not stand upon the site of the friars' church; considerable remains of the foundations of that church are, however, incorporated in the present buttery.

Of the sixteen friars who signed the surrender Dodds (fn. 105) and John Scory (fn. 106) attained some distinction. To the former Cranmer gave the living of Smarden in Kent: he became Dean of Exeter in 1560 and in 1562 sat in Convocation and signed the 39 Articles. He was a signatory to the 'Petition for Discipline' and to another petition, sent up from the lower house to the bishops, which desired the disuse of 'curious singing, and playing on organs', the cross in baptism, and copes and surplices. He died about 1570. Scory became Cranmer's chaplain and prospered under Edward VI. He preached at the burning of Joan Bocher, was made Bishop of Rochester in 1551 and translated to Chichester in 1552. He had married, but conformed under Mary and dismissed his wife. Later he fled to Geneva, where he ministered to a refugee English congregation. He returned to England under Elizabeth and became Bishop of Hereford in 1559. His chief claim to fame is that he took part in the consecration of Archbishop Parker. He died in 1585 at a great age.

By some means a number of the Dominicans' books, like those of the Cambridge Franciscans, found their way to Rome before 1545. The manuscripts now in the Ottoboni collection which can be assigned with some degree of certainty to the Cambridge Dominican library are contained in 10 volumes, and of these 8 bear inscriptions which make their provenance indisputable. (fn. 107) They include the Cur Deus Homo and De Similitudinibus of St. Anselm; Boethius De Trinitate; the Itinerary of St. Clement; two copies of the Dialogues of St. Gregory (one bound up with the Itinerary); the Summa of Alexander Hales; Hugh of St. Victor's De Institutione Noviciorum; the Summa Casuum of Bartholomew de S. Concordio, a tractate of metaphysics; Aquinas on the Four Books of the Sentences; the 'Distinctions' of Nicholas Gorham, who may himself have been a Cambridge Dominican; and L. Curtii de rebus gestis ab Alexandro Magno. There is less biblical matter and more scholastic theology among these volumes than in the corresponding books from the Franciscan house; but, on the other hand, Leland (fn. 108) found that the Friars Preacher, had, in 1536, a complete vernacular Bible. In addition to this he notes only Fishacre's Commentary on the Sentences, a Bartholomew Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum, and Nicholas Trivet super Valerium de non ducenda Uxore. As none of these found their way to the Vatican it may reasonably be supposed that those volumes which had gone abroad by 1545 had already gone by 1536, and that Leland's list represents all, or almost all, that were left. Prior Buckenham was author of a treatise De reconciliatione locorum S. Scripturae, which exists in manuscript in the English College at Rome. (fn. 109)

Priors of the Dominicans (fn. 110)

[Henry de Strigoil 1325] (fn. 111)

William de Malebraunche, occurs 1331

William de Morden, occurs 1338, 1340 (fn. 112)

John Norwych, occurs 1393, 1402

John Markant, or Markham, occurs 1416-1428

Robert Gazeley, occurs 1455

Nicholas Meryll, occurs 1463

William Edmundson, occurs 1464-1473

John Miriell, occurs 1477

— Clay, occurs 1484-7

Robert Jullys, occurs 1508-10

John Pickering, 1525(?) (fn. 113)

Dr. Ellys (fn. 114)

Robert Buckenham, D.D., c. 1531-4

William Oliver, appointed 1543

Gregory Dodds, B.D., surrendered 1538

A vesica seal of the early 14th century ascribed to the Black Friars shows in the upper part Christ seated under a canopy, of which the supporting pilasters enclose two friars kneeling face to face; below them are two arches of a bridge. Legend: .... CĀTABRIG.

A somewhat later seal shows a half-length figure of the Blessed Virgin with the Child between censing angels. Above is a half-length figure of Christ, and below a friar in adoration. Legend: s' PRIORIS PRE ..... CANTEBRIG.

What is called 'the counter-seal of the Black Friars' shows the Annunciation under a double canopy. Above is the Rood and below a kneeling friar. Legend indecipherable. (fn. 115)


  • 1. Trivet, Annales, ed. T. Hog (1845), 209.
  • 2. The Hundred Rolls (ii, 360), assign the gift of the site to 'many people', and no individual founder is known.
  • 3. Lyne's map of Cambridge, 1574, shows the '8 acres and more' of 1274 occupying a little more ground than was covered soon after by Emmanuel College.
  • 4. Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), ii, 360.
  • 5. Cal. Close, 1237-42, p. 61. The King had been at Ditton on June 10 and issued this order at Royston.
  • 6. Ibid. p. 185.
  • 7. Cal. Lib. 1226-40, p. 501; the amount was probably 10 marks, but the record is mutilated.
  • 8. Ibid. 1240-5, p. 115.
  • 9. Ibid. p. 121.
  • 10. Pipe R. 27 Hen. III.
  • 11. Cal. Lib. 1240-5, p. 244.
  • 12. Cal. Close, 1247-51, p. 128.
  • 13. Cal. Lib. 1226-40, p. 485; cf. Matth. Paris, Chron. Majora (Rolls Ser.), iv. 32.
  • 14. B.M. Royal MS. 7. D. I, fol. 87.
  • 15. Mon. Ord. Praed. iii, 34-5, 110-11, 117.
  • 16. Ibid. Cf. V.C.H. Oxford, ii, 110.
  • 17. A. G. Little in Mélanges Mandonnet, ii, 389 seq.
  • 18. Ibid. 391. Cf. Liber Memorandorum (ed. J. W. Clark), 71, 94-6 and Shirley, Royal Letters (Rolls Ser.), ii, 165-6.
  • 19. 'Vitae Fratrum', in Mon. Ord. Praed. (ed. B. M. Reichert), i; it was written 1256-9 and the author, Gerard de Francheto, died 1265. See op. cit., p. xi, and translation by J. P. Conway (ed. Bede Jarrett, 1924), p. vi for date.
  • 20. Mon. Ord. Praed. i, 273; Conway, op. cit. 257. 'Brother William' has been identified with William Ringesham; cf. Pits, De Rebus Anglicis (Paris, 1619), p. 344, and Little, op. cit. 393, where a later date is assigned to him.
  • 21. Mon. Ord. Praed. i, 63; Jarrett, op. cit. 29. The early reference to the Salve Regina is of interest.
  • 22. Pits, loc. cit.
  • 23. Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.), 130.
  • 24. J. M. Gray, School of Pythagoras, 46.
  • 25. A. G. Little in Engl. Hist. Rev. xxxiv, 208.
  • 26. See V.C.H. Oxford, ii, 111, and C. F. R. Palmer 'Black Friars of Cambridge' in Reliquary, xxv, 138.
  • 27. Ibid. quoting a Wardrobe Account.
  • 28. Cal. Pat. 1301-7, p. 239.
  • 29. Ibid. 1307-13, p. 8; 1327-30, p. 21; 1377-81, p. 501; 1399-1401, p. 56; 1413-6, p. 161; 1422-9, p. 13; 1452-61, p. 385; 1461-7, p. 267, as from 39 Hen. VI; 1485-94, p. 38.
  • 30. L. and P. Hen. VIII, i (2), 132 (21).
  • 31. Yorks. Arch. J. vi, 403.
  • 32. Reliquary, xxv, 140.
  • 33. Palmer, in Reliquary, xxv, 140, quoting Wardrobe Accounts. The figure for 1289 is probably misleading; an identical sum was granted to the Friars Minor (q.v.).
  • 34. For a fuller account of the whole matter see Ehrle, Zeitschrift Kath. Theol. xiii, 173 seq.
  • 35. Little, Grey Friars in Oxford, 74; See Reg. Epist. J. Pecham (Rolls Ser.), iii, 896-901, 943.
  • 36. Leland (Itinerary, iv, 147), says that she founded the house; and her descendant John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, in his will in 1509 names it as of his ancestor's foundation. Alice became a widow in 1296 and died in 1317.
  • 37. C. F. R. Palmer in Reliquary, xxvi, 113.
  • 38. Cal. Pat. 1292-1301, p. 52.
  • 39. A. G. Little, in Eng. Hist. Rev. 1935, pp. 686-96; cf. Documents relating to the University . . . of Cambridge (1852), i, 308, 397, 398.
  • 40. Hist. Univ. Camb. (ed. 1840), 54.
  • 41. Liber Procuratoris Antiq. in the Registry of the University, fol. 121, printed in Documents, p. 397.
  • 42. G. Dyer, Privileges of Univ. Camb. i, 60.
  • 43. Caius' Works (ed. C. S. Roberts), 'Historia Cantabr. Acad. Lib. 1', pp. 40-1.
  • 44. Bede Jarrett, English Dominicans (ed. Gumbley), Appendix II.
  • 45. Reliquary, xxv, 139-40.
  • 46. Ibid.
  • 47. C. F. R. Palmer, 'Provincials of English Friar Preachers', in Arch. Journ. xxxv, 150.
  • 48. Ely Epis. Reg. Lisle, fol. 19 v; E.D.R. (1892), p. 14.
  • 49. Ibid. The five special cases were as usual still reserved.
  • 50. E.D.R. (1892), p. 107.
  • 51. Reliquary, xxv, 206-10.
  • 52. Ibid. 206.
  • 53. Ibid.
  • 54. Cooper, Annals, i, 133.
  • 55. Reliquary, xxv, 140.
  • 56. B. Formoy, Dominicans, Appendix, p. 136; Mortier, Maîtres gén. iii, 655; B.M. Add. MS. 32446, fol. 5.
  • 57. Cal. Close, 1389-92, p. 217; Cal. Pat. 1388-92, p. 330.
  • 58. Add. MS. 32446, fol. 5.
  • 59. Engl. Hist. Rev. xxxiv, 207.
  • 60. See account of the Franciscans, below, p. 278.
  • 61. V.C.H. Oxford, ii, 112.
  • 62. Dunwich, Ipswich, Lynn, Norwich, Sudbury, Thetford, and Great Yarmouth.
  • 63. Cal. Close, 1399-1402, p. 529. Norwych had been licensed in 1393 to confess the nuns of Swaffham.
  • 64. Cal. Papal Letters, v, 323-4.
  • 65. Cf. Ripoli, Bullar. Pred. viii, 74.
  • 66. V.C.H. Oxford, ii, 115.
  • 67. Ibid. 118.
  • 68. E. C. Pearce, 'Accounts of John Botwright', C.A.S. xxii, 76 seq.
  • 69. Ibid. 88, other windows were put in by a freemason and a builder.
  • 70. Ibid. 83.
  • 71. Reliquary, xxv, 1401.
  • 72. Ibid.
  • 73. Ely Epis. Reg. Alcock, fol. 17; Cole MS. xxvi, fol. 9.
  • 74. P.C.C. Godyn, 17.
  • 75. Grace Book A, 59.
  • 76. Arch. Journ. xxxv, 160.
  • 77. Grace Book A, 168, 183, 201-2, 205.
  • 78. Nichols, Royal Wills, 47.
  • 79. P.C.C. 22 Milles.
  • 80. P.C.C. 35 Bennett.
  • 81. Reliquary, xxv, 141.
  • 82. Father Palmer's MS. collections, entitled 'Anglia Dominicana'.
  • 83. Ibid.
  • 84. Bury Wills (Camden Soc.), 107.
  • 85. Archaeologia, lxvi, 280, 312, 329.
  • 86. Bury Wills (Camden Soc.), 114.
  • 87. Gibbon, Ely Records, 213.
  • 88. Reliquary, xxv, 208.
  • 89. Ibid.
  • 90. Ely Epis. Reg. Alcock, fol. 70, 71; Cole MS. xxvi, fol. 27.
  • 91. Possibly also Exeter—the scribe has written 'Oxonie' twice in error. These would seem to represent the four original Visitations, with two others, and to show that at this time the prior of the chief house of each Visitation was vicar with visitatorial jurisdiction within it.
  • 92. Mortier, Maîtres gên. v, 270, from Reg. Franc. Silvestri, fol. 107.
  • 93. Dict. Nat. Biog.; Reliquary, xxv, 141.
  • 94. L. and P. Hen. VIII, vii, 530, 665.
  • 95. Ibid. 805.
  • 96. Ibid. 807.
  • 97. Ibid. xii (1), 508, 1147; V.C.H. Gloucs. ii, 109.
  • 98. At the surrender of the house in 1538 there was little lead but small gutters (L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii (2), p. 180), although there had been about 70 fodders of lead there: Exch. K. R. Church Goods, 12, no. 37.
  • 99. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2), 224; H. Ellis, Original Letters, 3rd Ser. iii, 98-9.
  • 100. Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. 14.
  • 101. Exch. K. R. Church Goods, 12, no. 37.
  • 102. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, p. 561.
  • 103. Ibid. xix (1), 442 (16).
  • 104. T. E. Foster, Churchwardens' Accts. (C.A.S.), 107, 109; cf. 125.
  • 105. C. H. Cooper, Ath. Cant. 291.
  • 106. Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 107. Collect. Francisc. i, 126-36.
  • 108. Leland, Collectanea, iv, 15-16.
  • 109. Reliquary, xxv, 142.
  • 110. From Palmer's List in Reliquary xxv, 140-1. Cf. above.
  • 111. He received the royal alms for the friars, but may not have been prior.
  • 112. Cole MS. xxiii, fol. 45.
  • 113. Said by Palmer (loc. cit.), quoting Register of the Master General, to have been prior at Cambridge 5 July 1525 when empowered to take the degree of B.D. in any university. But he is definitely called Prior of the Dominicans of York when he proceeded to that degree at Cambridge in 1525 (Grace Book I, 218), and as such was involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace and executed in 1536: V.C.H. Yorks. iii, 285.
  • 114. A former Prior of the Black Friars of Cambridge to whom Dr. Buckenham wrote after he had fled from England, in 1535 (L. and P. Hen. VIII, ix, 1097). Presumably identical with Robert Ellys, Prior of the Black Friars of Stafford in 1523-4: Grace Book I, 213; cf. ibid. 254.
  • 115. All three seals are represented by casts in the FitzWilliam Museum, but the whereabouts of the originals is unknown.