Friaries: House of the Dominicans, Winchester

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

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'Friaries: House of the Dominicans, Winchester', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2, (London, 1903) pp. 189-191. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

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At the second general chapter of his Order held at Bologna in May, 1221, St. Dominic decided to send thirteen friars to England to establish the Dominicans in that country. This first missionary band of friars-preachers journeyed in the train of Bishop Peter des Roches, who was then returning to his diocese. The bishop first endeavoured, in 1225, to establish these Dominicans at Portsmouth; but the project fell through, probably owing to his absence from his diocese from 1226 till 1230. The date of their establishment at Winchester is somewhat uncertain, but it was between 1231 and 1234. (fn. 1)

According to Matthew Paris, it was one of these friars who preached the crusade in Winchester in 1234, when Richard, Earl of Cornwall, the king's brother, and many other magnates took the cross. The site assigned for their convent was in the High Street, near the Eastgate, with the river Itchen on the east and Busket Street on the west. The ground round the house, exclusive of the buildings, was about 2½ acres, for which they paid to the Crown the yearly rent of 3s. 5d.

Henry III. was their munificent patron throughout his reign, particularly in helping them with their buildings. In 1235, he gave forty oaks for building out of the forest of Bere; in 1236, ten oaks out of the same forest for fuel; in 1239, 100s., and in 1240, 20 marks for building; in 1246, 15 marks for the works; in 1256, ten oaks to finish the frater; in 1260, six oaks fit for timber towards their church, then in progress; in 1261, six oaks fit for timber out of Pembere Forest, which the bailiffs of Southampton were to deliver; in 1262, ten oaks; in 1265, twelve oaks fit for timber; in 1269 ten good oaks for the repair and ornamenting of the church (fn. 2); in 1270, six good oaks for ceiling the church, then approaching completion; and in 1271, ten more oaks, five from Porchester Forest and five from Pembere, for the construction of the farmery.

The king further bestowed on the Winchester Dominicans other gifts in kind, the record of which affords information as to their number. In 1239, each of the twentyeight friars received from Henry III. a pair of shoes and four ells of cloth for tunics. Like gifts of clothing were made for the next five years, when the friars numbered thirty-one. In 1261 they had a royal grant of £10 to buy winter clothing and shoes. Cartloads of wood or dead oaks for fuel were frequently granted them by the Crown, and on one occasion a tun of wine. (fn. 3)

In 1266 licence was granted by the Crown for the friars to enclose a small lane which was adjacent to their site.

The church of the friars-preachers of Winchester was dedicated to St. Katharine, the patroness of the Order. The buildings when finished could accommodate from forty to fifty of the friars. Edward I. did much for the house, but now that it was finished there was not the same necessity for royal bounty. He gave them on several occasions leafless or dead oaks for fuel, and in 1298 ten oaks fit for timber out of the forest of Bere. (fn. 4)

When the king visited Winchester in 1302, he gave this convent an alms of 38s. for three days' food. When Edward II. visited the city on 29 April, 1325, he gave to the forty-six Dominican friars an alms of 15s. 6d. for a day's food, being at the rate of 4d. a head. Edward III. on his arrival in Winchester on 23 November, 1331, found thirty-six friars in the convent, and rendered an alms of 12s. for the like purpose. (fn. 5)

When the provincial chapter was held at Winchester in 1259, Henry III. gave the friars 100s. towards their expenses. In 1315 a provincial chapter was again held at Winchester, when Edward gave 100s. or three days' food for himself, and the like amount both for his queen and for his son Edward. When the Order assembled here on 16 February, 1339, Edward III. gave the like sum of £15; and on 21 October he diverted to the same purpose the £20 which the Crown usually bestowed on the general chapter, as the chapter of that year was held at Clermont, France, with which country England was then at war. (fn. 6)

Some information has already been given with regard to episcopal licences to the Dominicans and other friars for preaching and acting as penitentiaries. (fn. 7) It may be of interest to note that the episcopal registers show that during the episcopacy of Bishop Asserio (1320-3) three acolytes, two sub-deacons, six deacons and six priests were ordained from this convent; that during Wykeham's rule of the diocese (1367-1404) two acolytes, one deacon and ten priests were ordained; and that from 1511 to 1527 thirty-six received orders from this house.

Various friars of the Winchester convent were distinguished in their Order. Brother Matthew was prior or warden of Winchester in 1242, and also English provincial. Brother William of Southampton, who died about 1278, was head of the Winchester house, and elected provincial in 1272. He was a distinguished theological writer. (fn. 8) Robert de Bromyard, who was licensed to preach in the diocese in 1300, was doubtless prior of the Winchester convent, for he was elected provincial in 1304; he was also penitentiary of the diocese from 1307 until his death in 1310. Nicholas de Stratton, D.D., who was provincial from 1306 to 1311, and also diocesan penitentiary, was a Winchester prior. William de Horleye was prior in 1326. Thomas de Lisle, who was ordained in St. Elizabeth's chapel in 1322, was the next prior. He was employed in an embassy to the papal court in 1340-1, and was consecrated Bishop of Ely on 24 July, 1345, at Avignon, where he died in exile in 1361. William Alton, born at Alton, Hants, a renowned preacher and writer, a doctor of Paris University who flourished about 1350, was probably of the Winchester convent. John Payne was prior in 1373. The Court Rolls of Winchester name as prior John Derle, 1377 and 1387; Nicholas Monk, 1404 to 1426; and Walter Alton, 1455.

James Cosyn, B.D., who was prior in the time of Henry VIII., adopted the most extreme tenets of the reformers. He preached a sermon from St. John xvi. 23, in the parish church of 'Chusel' on 27 February, 1536, of which the following are passages: 'If thou put an whole stoup of holy water upon thy head, and another stoup of other water upon thy head, the one shall do thee as much good as the other in avoiding of any sin. As much other bread of thine own blessing shall do thee as much good as so much holy bread. And as for confession, I will not counsel thee to go to any priest to be confessed, for thou mayest as well confess thyself to a layman, thy Christian brother, as to a priest, for no bishop or priest have any power to assoil any man of any sin. And I myself have shriven a woman this day here in this church, but I did not assoil her, no, I will never assoil none.'

Whereupon this 'soul-murderer,' as the vicar of Stoke styled him, was arrested and indicted for heresy, and committed by the sheriff to the custody of Dr. Edmund Steward, the chancellor of Winchester. But on 31 March William Basing, prior of St. Swithun, wrote to Cromwell beseeching his favour 'to a friar named Cosyn, wrongfully vexed in these parts.' Soon after a testimonial in Cosyn's favour was forwarded to the same quarter by certain gentlemen and yeomen of Winchester. The result was that on 24 April, Hilsey, the ex-friar who had just been made Bishop of Rochester, wrote to Dr. Steward informing him that 'Mr. Secretary' had discharged Prior Cosyn, and allowed him 'to use his licence to preach by the authority granted to him by the king, our supreme head next to Christ.' (fn. 9)

Cosyn appears to have resigned the priorship, and was succeeded by Richard Chessam, D.D., who was prior when the convent was suppressed in 1538, as already set forth in detail. (fn. 10)

Richard Ingworth, the suffragan bishop of Dover, as commissioner for suppressing the friars, forwarded to Cromwell an inventory of all the goods of the Winchester Dominicans, with their value as appraised by Alderman Burkyn and Master Knight, chosen by the mayor. The inventory, as might be expected of a convent of friars, is a singularly poor and simple one and therefore does them much credit. So few friars' inventories remain that it is well to give it in extenso; it is somewhat surprising to find a pair of organs in a church so sparsely furnished. The church goods were:—

Viij corporas caasys wythout the corporas, xxd.; iiij surpelys, ijs,; v Coopys for men and ij for chyldren, xijs.; a sute of dune sylke wythout albys, amycis, or stoolys, iijs.; Item, deakyn and subdeakyn of whyet branchyd sylke, without albys, amycis, or stoolys, iijs. iiijd.; a sewte of Whyet chamlet lacking deakyn, xiijs. iiijd.; a syngle vestyment of the same, iiijs.; a complet sute of Whyet bustyan, lacking ij albys, viijs.; iiij syngle vestyments of the same viijs.; a sewte of red sylke xs.; a sewte of blue sylke xvjs.; a sewte of coarse grene xs.; a complete sute of dune sylke without albs, vjs. iiijd.; a syngle vestyment of blue satten, iijs. iiijd,; ix vestyments without albys or stoolys, xs.; ye hangyngs of ye quere, vjd.; a paynted clothe for the Rode, xijd.; a frontelet, xxd.; an albe, xijd.; iij aulter clothys, xiiijd.; ij frontelets, viijd.; ij candelstycks, viijd.; a payre of organs, vs.; an altare (sic) of nedylwerke, xs.

The house contained:—

iij father bedds with iij bolstors ij pillows and j pillow bere and one blankett, xvjs. viijd.; vj payre of scheytts, iijs.; vj Coverletts, xviijd.; a flocke bedde and a mattres, ijs. iiijd.; ye hangyngs and ye tester in ye provyncyalls chamber, iijs.; iij table clothys, j towell, ij tabylls, v chearys, ij joyned stooles, j cupburde, and j oyst' borde, iij formys, j long cheyar, vijs.; a chafyng dysche, vjd.; a possenet, xijd.; a pan and a kettell, xijd; iij platters, iij pottyngers, j sauser, and iij dysshes, vjs. viijd.; a colender, ij candelstycks, and a sake, xiiijd.; ij dryppyng panys, a fryeng pan, and a gyrdyren, ijs.; iij broochys, ijs.; iij brasse potts, vjs. viijd.; a baasen and an ewer of laten, xvjd.; iiij Cobyrons, iiijs.; a yeryn and hangells to hange on potts, xiiijd.; ij handyryns, vjd.

A special chamber assigned for the use of the English provincial points to this convent being considered one of importance in the Order. The total value of church and house goods came to only £9 15s. 2d. To the inventory is appended a note in the suffragan's handwriting to the effect that 'thys house with ye stuff is in the custody of Master Arthur Roby and a chalis with it. Richard Dovoren.' (fn. 11)

The church and the buildings of the cloister, the prior's lodging (20 ft. in length by 16 ft. in breadth), with the churchyard, gardens and all within the precincts, were let by the Crown to Arthur Roby, a fuller of Winchester, for 20s. a year. In 1543, Winchester College, by exchange, became possessed of the site of all the four Winchester friaries. (fn. 12)

Priors or Wardens of the Dominicans of Winchester

Matthew, 1242
William de Southampton, elected provincial, 1272, died 1278
Robert de Bromyard, about 1300
Nicholas de Stratton, about 1306
William de Horleye, 1326
Thomas de Lisle
John Payne, 1373
John Derle, 1377, 1387
Nicholas Monk, 1404-26
Walter Alton, 1455
James Cosyn, in the time of Hen. VIII.
Richard Chessam, 1538


  • 1. Reliquary, iii. (n.s.) 207 (Rev. C. F. R. Palmer).
  • 2. Ad ecclesiam suam inde reparandam et lambruiscandam.
  • 3. The references to the Close and Liberate Rolls for all these grants are given in Father Palmer's article on this house, Reliquary, iii. (n.s.) 207-15.
  • 4. Close, 27 Edw. I. m. 13.
  • 5. Expense Rolls, cited by Father Palmer.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Supra, p. 16.
  • 8. His works were: Postilla in Isaiam, In moralia Gregorii, Sermones de Sanctis, Sermones de tempore, Super IV. libros sententiarum, and Questiones Theologicœ (Seriptores Ordinis Prœdicatorum [1719], i. 602 b).
  • 9. Cott. MSS. Cleop. E. iv. 127; Cleop. E. vi. 257; Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII. x. 512, 513, 588.
  • 10. Supra, p. 58.
  • 11. Misc. Books, Excheq. T.R. cliii.
  • 12. Mins. Acc. 30-1, Hen. VIII. 136; Partic. for Grants, 35 Hen. VIII.; Pat. 35 Hen. VIII. m. 16.