Friaries: White friars of Maldon

Pages 182-183

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

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Richard Hely, prior of Maldon, in an account (fn. 1) of the Carmelite houses of England places Maldon twenty-sixth in order out of a total of forty, and states that it was founded in 1292 by Richard Gravesende, bishop of London, and Richard Iselham, rector of South Hanningfield. These had licence (fn. 2) on 20 June, 1293, to grant to the friars a plot of land in Maldon containing five acres.

The friary was situated in the parish of All Saints; and this appears to have excited the jealousy of the abbot and convent of Beeleigh, who were rectors of the church, and the vicar. The bishop, however, managed to bring about an agreement between the parties, and issued an ordinance (fn. 3) on the morrow of the Invention of the Cross, 1300. The friars were to have an oratory with a belfry where mass might be celebrated according to their order, saving the rights of the mother church in tithes and offerings. They should not bury anyone in their cemetery unless he should have chosen burial with them without their procuration, and then only when the dues had been paid to the mother church in masses and other things. They should not admit any parishioner of the church to confession without licence from the curate, nor confer the sacraments nor act as executors of wills. The prior and friars were to pay 5s. of silver yearly to the abbot and convent for their place, and if it should be enlarged in the future the rent should be increased. And if any rights of the church should be subtracted the bishop or the conservator of the privileges of the Premonstratensians might interdict the place and suspend the friars.

Edward II granted licence (fn. 4) on 4 December, 1314, for Thomas le Palmer of Maldon to grant to the friars a plot of land containing 60 ft. in length by 17 ft. in breadth adjoining their area, for its enlargement; the 'fine' to the crown for this licence being 100 masses. Pope Boniface IX on 22 July, 1391, granted (fn. 5) relaxation of penance to all persons who on the four feasts of the Virgin should visit and give alms for the conservation of the chapel of St. Mary in the friary church.

On 23 November, 1381, commissioners were ordered (fn. 6) by the king to arrest Edmund Barnton, an apostate friar of the house, and deliver him to Thomas, the prior, for punishment.

The Carmelites were the most learned of the religious orders, and Maldon could boast of several scholars. Thomas Maldon, (fn. 7) a native of the town, was professed here and was afterwards sent to Cambridge, where he became an acute thinker and disputant. One work by him is preserved, and the names of eleven others are recorded. He was afterwards made prior of Maldon, and died and was buried here in 1404. His epitaph is given by Weever, (fn. 8) who also records the burials of Richard Acton, prior, professor of theology, in 1446, William Horkesle in 1473, Robert of Colchester and Thomas Hatfield.

Maldon was one of the very poorest of the religious houses of England, its income being only £1 6s. 8d. yearly at the time of the Valor. It was received to the king's use in 1538 by Richard, bishop of Dover; (fn. 9) and on 17 June, 1543, was leased to William Harrys of Mundon. (fn. 10) On 8 October, 1544, it was sold to George Duke and John Sterre; (fn. 11) and in the patent there is mention of the church, belfry, cemetery, 'le litle courtyard,' 'le priours garden,' etc.

In the borough records, in a case of right of way 'over the gate, bridge and waye leading from Friary into Friars fields belonging to the earl of Oxford leading from Maldon to towns, hamlets and parishes of Dengie and Rochford hundreds,' the friary is spoken of in 1570 as 'the place or Mansion Howse of the said Vincent Harris in Maldon commonly called the Fryers, the which was the Howse or Cloyster of the White Friers in Maldon before the tyme of the dissolution of monasteries, cloysters and religious houses,' and mention is made of Prior Bale the predecessor of the last prior and Prior Brooke his predecessor as well as of 'several other priors whose names this examinate sayeth hee nowe well remembreth not.'

Priors of Maldon (fn. 12)

Thomas, occurs 1381.

Thomas Maldon, died 1404.

Richard Longe, occurs 1426. (fn. 13)

Richard Acton, died 1446.

Richard Hely.

— Brooke.

— Bale. (fn. 14)


  • 1. B.M. Harl. MS. 539, f. 143.
  • 2. Pat. 21 Edw. I, m. 10; Inq. a.q.d. File xix, No. 5.
  • 3. B.M. Cott. Ch. v, 33.
  • 4. Pat. 8 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 10.
  • 5. Cal. Papal Letters, iv, 399.
  • 6. Pat. 5 Ric. II, pt. 2, m. 11 d.
  • 7. Dict. Nat. Biog. xxxv, 417.
  • 8. Funeral Monuments, 611.
  • 9. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2), 1021.
  • 10. Ibid. xviii (1), p. 551.
  • 11. Ibid. xix (2), 527 (6).
  • 12. See above.
  • 13. De Banco, Mich. 5 Hen. VI, 249.
  • 14. He may not improbably have been John Bale, the most celebrated of all the English Carmelites.