Friaries: The Franciscans of Southampton

A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1903.

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'Friaries: The Franciscans of Southampton', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2, (London, 1903) pp. 193. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

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The Franciscans or Grey Friars were established at Southampton probably as early as 1237, as it would appear by certain deeds printed by Madox. (fn. 1) The convent at Southampton must therefore have been among the earliest of their English houses, for they were not introduced into this country until 1224. Their house was in the midst of the poor, and closely adjoined God's House. The Franciscans were forbidden by their original rule to have more substantial buildings than those made of clay and timber, but the goodwill of the Southampton burgesses soon supplied them with a cloister of stone. On this coming to the knowledge of Albert of Pisa, the provincial of England, about 1236, he insisted on the destruction of so strong a building and carried his point. (fn. 2)

In the middle of the eighteenth century, there existed a brief register of this convent among the corporation archives of Southampton, but it has long been missing. Fortunately Dr. Speed made a transcript of the more important parts, and they are reproduced by Mr. Davies in his admirable history of Southampton. (fn. 3)

Isabel de Chekebull, who granted the site for the building, was considered the chief founder; she died in 1253. Walter le Flemyng, bailiff of the town in 1237, was one of the earliest benefactors. The first stone of the chapel was laid on 8 July, 1280, the rigidity of the rule as to building being now relaxed; it was first used on the feast of St. Francis, 16 July, 1287. This chapel or church must have been of considerable size, for Bishop Sandale held a large ordination therein on 26 February, 1317. (fn. 4) Interments within the church were much sought after by the burgesses, from whom the friars received many small bequests. On Christmas Day, 1291, the friars entered their new dorter, and in the same year their chapter house was built.

In 1290 the convent was granted a water supply by Nicholas de Barbeflet from his manor of Shirley; but it was not until 1304 that they began to bring the water down to their house. In 1374, John le Fouster and William Putton obtained licence for giving the convent a toft with its appurtenances for the enlargement of their premises; (fn. 5) and in April, 1368, the friars obtained licence for adding to their cemetery an area of 120 feet by 100 feet, to the west of their church; it was consecrated by Thomas, Bishop of Achaden, acting as suffragan for Wykeham. (fn. 6)

Prior Robert Horewood, in 1420, conveyed to the town all the rights of his house in the conduit-head and pipes for the supply of water. (fn. 7)

In July, 1499, this Franciscan house was changed by Henry VII. into a house of the reformed order of Observant Franciscans. The curious story of the resistance to a wouldbe visitor in 1534 has already been told. (fn. 8)

After the dissolution the site passed by purchase, in 1545, to John Pollard and William Byrt, and in 1551 to Sir A. Darcy. Nothing is now left of the priory buildings.

Priors or Wardens of The Franciscans of Southampton

Jordan de Downton, (fn. 9) about 1326
Robert Horewood, (fn. 10) about 1420


  • 1. Madox's Formulare Anglicanum, 196, 279, and Davies, Hist. of Southampton, 442.
  • 2. Monumenta Franciscana, Rolls Series, 55.
  • 3. Davies, Hist. of Southampton, pp. 444-8.
  • 4. Winton. Epis. Reg., Sandale, ff. 52, 52b; not on 18 March, 1317, as stated by Davies.
  • 5. Pat. 48. Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 8.
  • 6. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, iii. f. 194.
  • 7. Davies, Hist. of Southampton, p. 115.
  • 8. Supra, p. 54.
  • 9. Winton. Epis. Reg., Stratford, p. 15.
  • 10. Davies, Hist. of Southampton, p. 115.