Friaries: Crutched friars, Barham

Pages 291-292

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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From the time of the Domesday Survey until about 1250 Barham was the chief manor of the family of Furneaux, (fn. 1) who possessed a chapel there during the 13th century. This they had endowed in about 1250 with 32 acres of land and a messuage, which was therefore held by its chaplain, William de Haverhill, in alms in 1279, when the Abbot of St. Jacut in Brittany also held 32 acres of arable and ½ acre of meadow by the service of keeping the roof of the chapel thatched with reeds. (fn. 2) The earliest indication of a connexion with St. Margaret is the grant obtained by Simon de Furneaux in 1282 of a fair on the vigil, day, and morrow of St. Margaret. (fn. 3)

Certain fratres cruciferi had presented themselves at a diocesan synod at Rochester in 1244 seeking permission to settle in England: they were in London in 1249, (fn. 4) and in 1265 a simple protection was granted to the Friars of the Holy Cross. (fn. 5) About 1274 one of the de Bures family founded a house of Crutched Friars at Welnetham in Suffolk, (fn. 6) and in 1330 Andrew de Bures founded a chantry in the London house, conveying the property for its support to the Prior and friars of Welnetham. (fn. 7) Meanwhile, on 24 January 1293 a writ had been issued to the Sheriff of Cambridgeshire to inquire concerning a proposed grant of the chapel at Barham to the Friars of the Holy Cross of Welnetham. Robert de Furneaux, heir of Simon in Barham, had succeeded him as patron and consented; the jury, which found the chapel and its lands worth 2 marks a year, knew nothing of the consent of rector or diocesan; the chapel owed two appearances at the sheriff's turn and they assessed the loss to the king by its transfer at 12d. yearly. (fn. 8) No licence for the grant can be traced, but it is probable that not long after this date a small house of Crutched Friars was established at Barham, perhaps as an offshoot from Welnetham. In 1323 John, son and heir of Robert Furneaux, had licence to give 52 acres of land, ½ acre of meadow, and foldage for 120 sheep to the Prior and friars of the Holy Cross at Barham, the whole gift being valued at £20. (fn. 9) In 1339 the friars of Barham, having lost the original deed, obtained an exemplification of the patent. (fn. 10) After this the history of the small priory seems to have been uneventful, and little is heard of the friars beyond occasional records of the ordination of one of them, (fn. 11) or of bequests in their favour during the last 50 years of the house. In 1406 when, in addition to the clerical tenth, half a mark was required from all priests, John Westwode, frater crucis, was acting as chaplain at Linton. (fn. 12)

In 1487 William Harsent left 3s. 4d. to the 'house of St. Margaret at Great Linton', (fn. 13) and Thomas Clement, butcher, left 2s. to 'the chapel of the Crutched Friars of Barham' in 1503. (fn. 14) Nicholas Wykham, priest, left 10s. each to the 'Prior of Barham and Sir William' in 1507, (fn. 15) and in 1516 Thomas Rowning gave a sheet to St. Margaret of Barham: (fn. 16) all the testators were of Linton. In 1527 William Mylsent, founder of the Linton almshouses, and father of John Mylsent 'the puritan squire' who bought the priory from Philip Parys in 1540, left 3s. 4d. 'to Master Prior of Barham, to pray for me and all Christian souls in Linton Church'. (fn. 17)

In 1531 a terrier drawn up by John Bybe, the prior, accounts for 23 acres of ploughland, 2¾ acres of meadow, foldage for 120 sheep, and 2 swathes in Whless meadow, Ashdon, for thatching the priory church and strewing it on St. Margaret's day. (fn. 18) No houses or buildings are mentioned in this document, apart from the church, but there is a reference to 'Fryers' Green'. The acreage accounted for is less than John Furneaux's benefaction. In the following year John Bybe witnessed the will of William Ashby of Linton, by which 6s. 8d. was left to his priory. (fn. 19) Bybe was succeeded by Henry Reynoldes, (fn. 20) the only other prior whose name is known.

The Crutched Friars were included with the 'four orders' whose convents were not suppressed with the lesser monasteries in 1536. When Ingworth was commissioned on 6 February 1537 to visit all houses of Mendicants in England the Crutched Friars were expressly included in the five Orders under his jurisdiction, (fn. 21) but it was not until 12 November 1538 that the Crutched Friars house in London was surrendered with all its possessions in England and Wales, including land in Welnetham (fn. 22) and the site of the late priory of Barham. No separate surrender of Barham Priory has been found, but during the same year all its possessions were farmed by John Miller, (fn. 23) and on 3 July 1540 the site was granted to Philip Parys and his wife Margaret as parcel of the possessions of the Crutched Friars in London. (fn. 24) On 20 February 1551 Parys sold the whole of the Barham property to John Mylsent for £40. (fn. 25)

All trace of St. Margaret's Priory is now gone, though until the 18th century the priory still retained much of its original form, being built round a square court, having on the south side 'a cloister terminated by a small chapel, a hall, buttery etc.', and the chapel was still in use as a church. (fn. 26)

A 14th-century seal of a prior of Barham (fn. 27) is oval, and shows St. Margaret, crowned, standing upon the dragon, transfixing his jaws with a long cross held in her right hand and having in her left hand a book; before her kneels the prior, his large tonsure and the detail of his habit clearly shown: the latter seems to be a tunic without scapular or girdle of any kind: the hood, which hangs behind, is small. Over the prior's head there is a cross fleury; under the dragon is a diapered cushion. Legend: S' . PRIORIS . IBĒ. CRUCIS . DE . BERHAM


  • 1. Farrer, Feudal Cambs. 59, 60. Barham is a hamlet about 1½ mile south of Linton.
  • 2. Hundr. R. (Rec. Com.), ii, 419: see below for the alien Priory of Linton, a cell of St. Jacut-in-the-Isle.
  • 3. Cal. Charter R. ii, 262.
  • 4. Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. (Rolls Ser.), iv, 393.
  • 5. Cal. Pat. 1258–66, p. 456.
  • 6. S. H. A. H[ervey], Great and Little Welnetham (Bury St. Eds., 1910), p. 384.
  • 7. V.C.H. London, i, 514; Cal. Pat. 1330–4, p. 197.
  • 8. Inq. ad q.d. 19/14.
  • 9. Ibid. 150/13; Cal. Pat. 1321–4, p. 262.
  • 10. Ibid. 1338–40, p. 307.
  • 11. Bp. Lisle's vicars-general licensed Alexander Cressenes of 'Kelyngham', sub-deacon, a brother of the priory of Barham, to be ordained deacon by any Catholic bishop (Ely Epis. Reg. Lisle, fol. 17 d; Cole MS. xxiii, fol. 71); Richard Heyne, another brother, was ordained deacon 1 April 1346 (ibid. fol. 121).
  • 12. Ely Epis. Reg. Fordham; E.D.R. (1899), p. 138.
  • 13. Cole MS. xxii, fol. 84.
  • 14. W. M. Palmer MS. (C.U. Lib.), Wills.
  • 15. Cole MS. xxii, fol. 85v.
  • 16. Palmer MS., Wills.
  • 17. Ibid.
  • 18. [Reference mislaid.]
  • 19. Cole MS. xviii, fol. 134 v.
  • 20. a Early Chan. Proc. bdle. 744, no. 7; 1492, no. 37.
  • 21. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 225.
  • 22. Ibid. xv, 436 (88).
  • 23. Particulars for Grants Hen. VIII, 842: no details are given, but at the foot of the document is written: 'Mr. Chanceler I praye you to be good for my sake to the berer maister Philip Paris and to goo thorow wt hym: Your assured freend, Thomas Cromwell.' The farmer's account for 1538 is P.R.O. Ministers' Accts. 30 & 31 Hen. VIII, Camb. no. 88, m. 177.
  • 24. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, 942 (19).
  • 25. Cal. Pat. 1550–3, p. 434.
  • 26. Bodleian MSS. Gough, Camb. 76, fol. 97.
  • 27. Matrix in FitzWilliam Museum, Cambridge. Described in Brit. Mus. Cat. of Seals, no. 2593. A second seal (ibid. no. 2592) has been attributed to the priory, but on what grounds does not appear.