Friaries: Franciscan (Hartlepool & Durham)

Pages 109-110

A History of the County of Durham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.

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In a letter written by Master Layton, one of the visitors of the northern abbeys before the dissolution, (fn. 1) it is stated that the 'Friarage of Hartlepool was founded by the same Robert de Brus' [sc. founder of Gisburn]. (fn. 2) This is manifestly impossible, because the Brus who founded Gisburn died long before the birth of St. Francis; but the house at Hartlepool may have owed its origin to another Brus, possibly to Robert, the sixth of that name. (fn. 3) In an order of 10 February, 1344-5, relating to a rent claimed by the friars, it is stated that they had the said rent 'of the grant of one Robert de Brus, of whom there is no memory,' (fn. 4) and this may possibly be the founder.

The first mention of the house occurs in 1240, when Henry III granted to each of the friars (out of the issues of the bishopric of Durham, then vacant) 'a tunic, namely, four ells to make a tunic, of the price of twelve pence, of our gift.' (fn. 5)

In an Assize Roll of 1243 we read of a robber fleeing for sanctuary to the church of the Friars Minor of Hartlepool, and there abjuring the kingdom. (fn. 6)

At a general chapter of the order held at Narbonne in 1258, a list of the Franciscan establishments in England was drawn up. The country was divided into seven custodies: the custody of Newcastle contained nine friaries, and of these Hartlepool was one. (fn. 7) A year later Martin of St. Cross, master of Sherburn, left half a mark to the Friars Minors at Hartlepool. (fn. 8)

Very little is known about the establishment. At the dissolution it consisted of a warden and eighteen brothers, who appear to have been strict followers of St. Francis so far as poverty was concerned. (fn. 9) In 1335 they had a chapel with two bells, (fn. 10) in which was held an ordination service (first tonsure only). (fn. 11) In 1358 the king granted a licence to John, son of Elias of Brancepeth, to bestow upon the warden and brethren three acres of land adjoining their house for the enlargement thereof; and at the same time Roger de Clifford granted them an annual rent of 5s. 8d. in Hartlepool. (fn. 12)

Besides these somewhat unusual grants—for Friars Minors were not supposed to hold lands or rents—we find occasional small bequests of money left to the brethren; e.g. ten marks by Walter de Merton in 1275; (fn. 13) a small legacy by William de Menneville in 1371-2 (fn. 14); five marks by John Oggill in 1372. (fn. 15) The last-mentioned benefactor desired to be buried in the friars' cemetery, as did John Trollop of Thornley in 1476. (fn. 16) In Trollop's will the names of two of the friars occur: John Fery and William Durham. Amongst other small legacies of the fifteenth century are '1 quarterium frumenti,' (fn. 17) and 'one towel.' (fn. 18)

In February, 1344-5, the friars appealed to the king that they might be allowed to have yearly the sum of £5 4s. of the issues of the town oven, granted to them by the forgotten Brus. This rent had been taken into the king's hands with the other possessions of the late Robert de Clifford, during the minority of the heir; but the friars' claim was proved to be good, and their request granted. (fn. 19)

In 1479 William, warden of the house, granted a letter of spiritual confraternity to Sir Robert and Lady Anne Claxton; on the back is the usual form of absolution. (fn. 20)

The friary was dissolved in 1547, when the clear value of its possessions, over and above annual reprises, was given as £4 5s. 8d. and the clear money remaining after paying the brothers' pensions was 4s. 8d. The house was granted to John D'Oyley and John Scudamore. (fn. 21)

Wardens of Hartlepool Friary

William, occurs 5 July, 1479 (fn. 22)

Thomas Trewhit, occurs 4 June, 1507 (fn. 23)

Richard Threlkeld, last warden, occurs 1547 (fn. 24)

The seal of the house had for inscription:



In the thirteenth century there was for a short time a Franciscan Friary at Durham. In November, 1239, the king directed the custodian of the bishopric to make a grant to the friars of food and clothing. (fn. 26)


  • 1. Surt. Hist. Dur. iii, 119.
  • 2. Cott. MS. Jul. c. 2, 318.
  • 3. Sharpe, Hist. Hartlepool, 134-5.
  • 4. Close, 19 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 24.
  • 5. Liberate Roll, 25 Hen. III, m. 23.
  • 6. P.R.O. Assize R. 223, m. 2.
  • 7. Bourne, Hist. Newcastle, 83.
  • 8. Wills and Invent. (Surt. Soc.), i, 8.
  • 9. Surt. Hist. Dur. iii, 119.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Reg. Palat. Dun. (Rolls Ser.), iii, 167.
  • 12. Pat. 30 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 9.
  • 13. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. (ed. 1846), vi, 1511.
  • 14. Dur. Epis. Reg. Hatfield, fol. 115.
  • 15. Hunter's MSS.
  • 16. Wills and Invent. (Surt. Soc.), i, 97-9.
  • 17. Ibid. 64.
  • 18. Dur. Epis. Reg. Langley, fol. 238.
  • 19. Close, 19 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 24.
  • 20. Surt. Hist. Dur. i (2), 27.
  • 21. Ibid. iii, 119.
  • 22. Ibid. i (2), 27.
  • 23. Arch. Aeliana.
  • 24. Harl. MS. Printed by Surt. Hist. Dur. iii, 119.
  • 25. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. (ed. 1846), vi, 1511.
  • 26. Liberate Roll, 24 Hen. III, m. 25.