Friaries: Crossed friars of Colchester

Pages 181-182

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

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This house first appears as a hospital, probably founded by the lords of the manor of Stanway, to which the advowson pertained. Morant quotes an undated charter of William de Launvalei granting to the hospital pannage for twelve pigs in his wood of Shrub and Wildenhey and pasture for two cows. John, prior of the hospital of the Holy Cross, Colchester, received a grant of land in Birch by a fine (fn. 1) in 1235. Protection was granted (fn. 2) to the brethren of the hospital in 1251.

Later it is described indifferently as a free chapel or hospital, probably because on account of its poverty the master had squeezed out the brethren, as happened in other cases. In 1401 or 1402 the archbishops of Canterbury and York and several bishops granted indulgences to all persons who should visit and help it, as owing to the smallness and scarceness of its lands and rents the poor needy men for whom it was founded could not properly be sustained there. (fn. 3)

Richard II on 13 September, 1392, granted licence (fn. 4) for Ralph Algar, Stephen Baron and Henry Bosse to grant two messuages and four acres of land in Colchester and the advowson of the hospital to the bailiffs and commonalty of the town. But the grant of the advowson seems not to have taken effect, for Henry IV on 11 November, 1400, granted (fn. 5) it to John Doreward, describing it as having pertained to his manor of Stanway, but now forfeited, and not exceeding the value of 100s. yearly. The same king, however, made a grant of the wardenship in 1406, as also did Edward IV in 1468. Henry IV also on 21 November, 1407, granted licence (fn. 6) for the foundation of a fraternity or guild of St. Helen in the chapel with the maintenance of five chaplains to celebrate divine service and thirteen poor men. Presentations to the chapel or hospital by the wardens of the fraternity are recorded.

Towards the end of the fifteenth century the Crossed (fn. 7) Friars Regular of the order of St. Augustine claimed that the hospital had formerly belonged to them and that they had been expelled from it. They produced papal bulls and other evidences in support of their claim, and were admitted by an indenture dated 30 September, 1496, by the masters and brethren of the fraternity of St. Helen, with the consent of Edward Knevit, esquire, lord of the manor of Stanway and founder of the house. There were to be four Crossed Friars there, who should all be natives of England. The bailiffs and commonalty of Colchester on 1 March, 1499, granted (fn. 8) to them the messuages and land mentioned in the patent of 1392.

The question of sanctuary at the house arose (fn. 9) in 1526 in connexion with a murder. One William Gilbank took sanctuary at St John's Abbey, and afterwards broke it and went to the 'Crowche Freerys.' Sir John Vere went there with Sir Geoffrey Gates and asked the prior to deliver him until he could be examined by Cardinal Wolsey; but the friars refused, saying that their privilege was as great as St. John's. Gilbank was in the choir near the high altar, where Vere 'durst not to enterprise.' A watch was set, and on 9 August Vere went there again with a judge and others. The prior showed a transcript of a bull declaring his privilege; and when asked if he had any grant of the king's ancestors for liberty of sanctuary he said he had none to show, but supposed there was one in the head house of the order. Gilbank confessed felony before a coroner, but Vere advised the latter to defer the abjuration until Wolsey's pleasure should be known.

On 26 June, 1528, the convent made a lease for eight years to William Branche of Norwich of all the privilege and pardon granted to them by bulls within the diocese of Norwich, except the town of Hadley, at a rent of £4 6s. 8d. yearly. (fn. 10)

The house is returned in the Valor as being of the value of £7 7s. 8d. yearly. On 24 April, 1542, it was granted (fn. 11) to Sir Thomas Audeley.

Priors, Masters, or Wardens of St. Cross, Colchester (fn. 12)

John, occurs 1235. (fn. 13)

Thomas de Colecestre, occurs 1283. (fn. 14)

John Bacun, presented 1285. (fn. 15)

William Stanewey. (fn. 16)

John de Stebbenhith. (fn. 17)

John son of Richard Bastard, presented 1307. (fn. 18)

John de Wyston, presented 1332. (fn. 19)

Richard de Botyngham, presented 1336. (fn. 20)

Robert Claypole, presented 1348. (fn. 21)

John Stansted, exchanged 1381. (fn. 22)

John Rauf, presented 1381. (fn. 22)

Thomas Aldebury, presented 1394.

John Pygot, presented 1395, (fn. 23) occurs 1399. (fn. 24)

William Kynwalmerssh, collated 1406. (fn. 25)

Thomas Wafare, resigned 1438. (fn. 26)

John Stevyn, presented 1438. (fn. 27)

John Quene, presented 1445. (fn. 28)

John Wilton, collated 1468. (fn. 29)

John Turnour, occurs 1471. (fn. 30)

George Walker or Fuller, died 1472. (fn. 31)

John Downe, presented 1472, (fn. 31) resigned 1473. (fn. 32)

John Combys, presented 1473. (fn. 32)

Roger Churche, occurs 1499. (fn. 30)

John Colonie, occurs 1510. (fn. 33)

John Dowalt. (fn. 30)

John Dryver. (fn. 30)

Richard Deryks, (fn. 34) occurs 1522. (fn. 30)

William Crochon, occurs 1528. (fn. 35)

Henry Bek. (fn. 36)

— Tompson, the last prior. (fn. 36)


  • 1. Cal. Feet of F. (Essex Arch. Soc.), 112.
  • 2. Pat. 35 Hen. III, m. 5.
  • 3. Printed by Morant, Essex. A copy in Stowe Ch. 603 is followed by statements that St. Helen, the discoverer of the Holy Cross, placed it and other relics in the hospital, and St. Thomas of Canterbury hallowed the hospital in 1200 (sic); and also that thieves broke the locks in 1401 and stole the relics away.
  • 4. Pat. 16 Rich. II, pt. 1, m. 6.
  • 5. Ibid. 2 Hen. IV, pt. 1, m. 32.
  • 6. Ibid. 9 Hen. IV, pt. 1, m. 14.
  • 7. Crucesignati. They are also called cruciferi.
  • 8. Morant, Essex.
  • 9. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, 2385.
  • 10. Deeds and Evidences (Ct. of Wards), 84. 31.
  • 11. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvii, 285 (2).
  • 12. Some of the names are taken from a list in Chanc. Misc. 16, 1.
  • 13. Cal. Feet of F. (Essex Arch. Soc.), 112.
  • 14. Pat. II Edw. I, m. 21.
  • 15. By Thomas de Belhous and Floria his wife.
  • 16. Presented by Thomas de Belhous.
  • 17. Presented by Floria de Belhous.
  • 18. By Sir John de Belhous.
  • 19. Lond. Epis. Reg. Baldock, 81. By Sir Robert de Rochford.
  • 20. Ibid. 90. By the same.
  • 21. By Isolda de Belhous.
  • 22. Pat. 5 Ric. II, pt. 1, m. 10. An exchange for the prebend of West Thurrock in the chapel of Hastings.
  • 23. Pat. 18 Rich. II, pt. 2, m. 21.
  • 24. Ibid. I Hen. IV, pt. 1, m. 34.
  • 25. Ibid. 7 Hen. IV, pt. 2, m. 6.
  • 26. Lond. Epis. Reg. Gilbert, 13.
  • 27. Ibid. By the wardens of the gild of St. Helen.
  • 28. Ibid. 61. By the same.
  • 29. Pat. 8 Edw. IV, pt. 1, m. 17.
  • 30. Morant, Essex.
  • 31. Lond. Epis. Reg. Kemp, 135 d.
  • 32. Ibid. 141 d.
  • 33. Deeds and Evidences (Ct. of Wards), 84. 32.
  • 34. Ibid. 49.
  • 35. Ibid. 31.
  • 36. Ibid. 3.