Friaries: Black friars of Chelmsford

Pages 179-180

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

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Nothing is known of the foundation of this house, which was situated in the hamlet of Moulsham; though it must have taken place after 1221, when the Black Friars (fn. 1) first came to England. Very little is known of its history.

Thomas Langford, (fn. 2) a native of Langford, near Maldon, who flourished about 1320, began his studies as a friar here, going afterwards to Cambridge, where he became a celebrated preacher. Four works by him are recorded.

On 20 June, 1341, the friars had licence (fn. 3) to acquire 3 acres of land in Chelmsford for the enlargement of their dwelling-place, and to make a conduit to it from a well in Chelmsford. Elizabeth de Bohun, countess of Northampton, bequeathed £20 to them in her will (fn. 4) in 1356.

The friary was returned in the Valor as being worth £9 6s. 5d. yearly. It was received to (fn. 5) the king's use in 1538 by Richard, bishop of Dover; and from an inventory (fn. 6) of its goods it appears that its debts amounted to £3 7s. 1d. at the time. The sum of 31s. 8d. was given to the friars, and also most of the stuff of the chambers and dorter, which is described as poor. The goods included a pair of organs and 86 ounces of plate, but were of no great value; though the buildings were fairly extensive, there being a church with choir and chapels, cloister, vestry, chapter-house, frater, buttery, kitchen and brewhouse.

The site of the friary with possessions belonging to it in Great Baddow, Writtle and Moulsham was leased on 2 July, 1539, to Thomas Myldemay to hold for 21 years at a rent of 32s. 2d. yearly; and on 6 September, 1542, the rent and the reversion of the premises were granted (fn. 7) in fee to Antony Bonvix or Bonvise, an Italian merchant of London.

Prior of Chelmsford

Walter Bayloul, occurs 1346. (fn. 8)


  • 1. Also called Dominican or Preaching Friars.
  • 2. Dict. Nat. Biog. xxxii, 99.
  • 3. Pat. 15 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 45; Inq. a.q.d. File cclix, Nos. 15, 18.
  • 4. Testamenta Vetusta, 60.
  • 5. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii, 2, 1021.
  • 6. Ch. Gds. (Exch. K.R.), x, 39.
  • 7. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvii, 881 (17).
  • 8. De Banco, Mich. 20 Edw. III, 230.