Friaries: Friars of St Mary, 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: Friars of St Mary, Cambridge', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2, (London, 1948) pp. 286-287. British History Online [accessed 21 May 2024].

. "Friaries: Friars of St Mary, Cambridge", in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2, (London, 1948) 286-287. British History Online, accessed May 21, 2024,

. "Friaries: Friars of St Mary, Cambridge", A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2, (London, 1948). 286-287. British History Online. Web. 21 May 2024,


When the Carmelites made their first settlement in Chesterton it was apparently in the nature of a group of hermits, each having his own cell (habuerunt singuli cellulas singulas). (fn. 1) On their removal to Newnham they took on more the form of a regular convent, building not only a church but also a cloister and dormitory. (fn. 2) It would seem that some of the original community disapproved of the change and refused to move to the new site, and that these became the 'Brethren of Blessed Mary'. The land formerly held by the Carmelites in Chesterton was in the hands of Sir Philip de Lisle by 1251 and was granted by him to Nicholas de Wynepol, (fn. 3) but in 1279 the 'Fratres Beatae Mariae' dwelling in the town of Cambridge held a messuage in which was their chapel, where divine service was celebrated; which messuage they had bought of Henry de Berton, paying him 12d. rent and he acquiting them of the 4d. hagable due from the site. (fn. 4) This purchase had been made in 1273 by Walter de Croxton, proctor of the Order of Blessed Mary in England, with the consent of the Prior General of the Order. (fn. 5) In 1290 the Brethren of Blessed Mary at the Castle began to build in the parish of All Saints by the Castle, but this was regarded by the canons of Barnwell Priory as trespass 'and the new work was denounced to them by the throw of a pebble'. (fn. 6) However, they came to terms and agreed to pay half a mark yearly to the Infirmarer of Barnwell. (fn. 7)

Apparently these brethren who clung to the earlier site and form of organization continued also to use the older 'pied' garments after the orthodox Carmelites had become White Friars. It was as Pied Friars (fratres de Pica) that Edward I in 1279 gave them 20s. for 3 days' pittance (fn. 8) — half the sum which he gave to the Carmelites; and in 1331 Roger Andrew conveyed to Sir John de Cambridge a tenement within the close formerly belonging to the fraternity of St. Mary called le Frerepyes at Cambridge Castle. (fn. 9)

References to tenements of the Brethren of Blessed Mary in All Saints and St. Clements and to their land on the Huntingdon road occur in the deed of 1314 by which Richard de Hokyngton founded a chantry in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, Cambridge. (fn. 10) In the following year Alan of Wells bequeathed 6s. 8d. to the gild of St. Mary, 3s. 4d. to the Carmelites, and 2s. to the Brethren of St. Mary by the Castle. (fn. 11) The brethren were still in existence in 1319 but seem to have been reduced by that time to William de Fakenham, who styles himself 'Prior of the Brethren of the Order of the Servants of Blessed Mary, Mother of Christ, in Cambridge', and Thomas of London, his confrater. In that year they attorned to John de Sutton, chaplain, to pay him during their lives 12d. rent which Cecily, widow of Henry de Berton, had assigned to him. (fn. 12)

The vesica-shaped seal used by William de Fakenham shows the Blessed Virgin seated on a panelled throne holding the Child; in a niche below is a kneeling friar. Legend: SIG. CŌVENTVAL' FRM. ORDĪS SERVOR MARIE MATIS XI CĀTEBRIG.


  • 1. Lib. Mem. de Bernewelle, 211.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Belvoir MSS. (Hist. MSS. Com.), iv, 62.
  • 4. Hundr. R. (Rec. Com.), ii, 360.
  • 5. Corpus Christi Coll. deeds, xxxi, nos. 9 and 10. The latter is endorsed—'When the said friars of the Order of Blessed Mary died without successors by law (per statutum) as it appears the chief lord of the fee sold it back to those who had given them the land.'
  • 6. An exact parallel occurred in 1368 when the parishioners of Newcastle-upon-Tyne started to rebuild the choir of their church; the proctor of Hexham Priory 'quemdam lapillum ad novum opus predictum projecit et . . . novum opus nuntiavit': Priory of Hexham (Surtees Soc.), i, illust. doct. no. lxviii.
  • 7. Lib. Mem. 218.
  • 8. Exch. K. R. Accts. bdle. 352, no. 18.
  • 9. Corpus Christi Coll. deeds, xxxi, no. 31.
  • 10. Cole MS. iv, fol. 129.
  • 11. M. Bateson, Cambridge Gild Records (C.A.S.), 133.
  • 12. Corpus Christi Coll. deeds, xxxi, no. 24.