Friaries: Franciscan friars, Preston

Page 162

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

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Edmund, earl of Lancaster, younger son of Henry III, has from the fourteenth century been considered the founder of the house of Grey Friars at Preston. (fn. 1) Leland, however, remarks that, though he was 'the Original and great Builder of this house,' the site was given by a member of the local family of Preston, an Irish representative of which became Lord Gormanston in 1390. (fn. 2) This is supported by evidence that the Prestons at a somewhat later date held the land adjoining the friary. (fn. 3) From an entry in the Close Rolls, hitherto overlooked, it would appear that the Franciscans had settled at Preston before Earl Edmund's connexion with the county began. On 25 October, 1260, Henry III granted to the Friars Minor of Preston five oaks in Sydwood, Lancaster, for building. (fn. 4) Presumably the site had already been obtained from one of the Prestons. Subsequent gifts by Edmund, who received the honour of Lancaster in 1267, towards the erection of the house doubtless earned for him the credit of being its founder. In September, 1291, the archbishop of York gave instructions that one of the friars should preach the Crusade at Preston itself, and a second at some other populous place in the neighbourhood. (fn. 5) Pope John XXII in 1330 on the petition of Henry, earl of Lancaster, forbad the authorities of the order to remove the house from the Worcester 'Custodia' of the English Franciscan province, in which Henry's father had had it included. (fn. 6)

The subsequent history of the house is a scanty record of small bequests for masses (fn. 7) until the time of the last warden, Thomas Todgill, whose dispute with the lessee of the hospital of St. Mary Magdalene over the 'Widowfield' is narrated elsewhere. (fn. 8) He was accused in the court of the Duchy of having made away with goods placed in his care during the nonage of one Elizabeth a Powell; but he denied the charge and the verdict has been lost. (fn. 9) The house was probably surrendered in 1539, (fn. 10) and the crown sold it with the friaries of Lancaster and Warrington to Thomas Holcroft, esquire of the body to the king, on 18 June, 1540, for £126 10s. (fn. 11)

Wardens Of The Friary

James, (fn. 12) occurs 1480
Philip, (fn. 13) occurs 1509-10
Thomas Todgill, (fn. 14) occurs 1528, surrendered 1539?


  • 1. Cal. Pap. Letters, ii, 345.
  • 2. Leland, Itin. iv, 22; G. E. C. Complete Peerage, iv, 55. Viscount Gormanston is the present representative of this family.
  • 3. Fishwick, Hist. of the Par. of Preston, 198.
  • 4. Close, 44 Hen. III, pt. 1, m. 1; information from Mr. A. G. Little.
  • 5. Let. from Northern Reg. (Rolls Ser.), 96.
  • 6. Bullarium Franciscanum, v, No. 882; Cal. Pap. Letters, ii, 345.
  • 7. Fishwick, loc. cit.; T. C. Smith, Rec. of the Par. Ch. of Preston, 244.
  • 8. See post, p. 164.
  • 9. Fishwick, op. cit. 199.
  • 10. On 23 Feb. 1539, Richard, bishop of Dover, informs Cromwell that he is about to proceed to the north to suppress some twenty friaries which are still standing there; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), 348, 413, 494.
  • 11. Ibid. xv, 831 (43).
  • 12. Whitaker, Hist. of Richmondshire, ii, 428.
  • 13. Harl. MS. 2112, fol. 115b; Smith, op. cit. 244.
  • 14. Smith, 239. In 1544 Todgill, then about fifty years old, was chaplain of Gray's Inn, London. Eight years later (16 July, 1552} he became rector of Holy Trinity, Chester, on the presentation of the Earl of Derby. He died before 1 Feb. 1565; Ormerod, Hist. of Ches. (ed. Helsby), i, 331.