A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1954.
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15. THE FRANCISCAN FRIARS OF LEICESTER
The date of foundation of the Franciscan friary at Leicester is unknown, but the house was already in existence by 1230. (fn. 1) It is most unlikely that it can have been founded by Simon de Montfort, as has been stated, (fn. 2) for Simon did not obtain the lands of the Earldom of Leicester until 1231. (fn. 3) According to Stow, the founders were Gilbert Luenor and his wife Ellen, (fn. 4) but the basis for this statement is unknown. John Pickering is also said, by Francis Peck, to have been either the founder, or an early benefactor, of the friary, but no evidence has been cited in support of this view. (fn. 5) The Leicester Franciscan house was dedicated to St. Francis, and was included in the Custody of Oxford. (fn. 6) The chapel of the Leicester Franciscans is first mentioned in 1255. (fn. 7) In 1349 a licence was granted for the alienation in mortmain to the Franciscans of a dwelling-house at Leicester, for the enlargement of their dwelling-place. (fn. 8)
The sympathies of the Leicester Franciscans for Richard II brought serious consequences upon the friary in 1402. A Franciscan declared to Henry IV that he and ten other friars of the house at Leicester, together with a master of divinity, had conspired in favour of the deposed Richard. In consequence eight Franciscans of Leicester, with the master of divinity, were arrested and brought to London for trial. The remaining two friars escaped. After two juries had failed to convict, a third jury found the prisoners guilty, and they were executed. Two other Franciscans from Leicester, presumably the two who had at first escaped, were executed at Lichfield about the same time. (fn. 9) In 1402, at a general chapter of the Franciscans held at Leicester, it was forbidden to any of the Order to speak against the king. (fn. 10)
Apart from this grim incident, practically nothing is known of the history of the Leicester Franciscans. Richard III was buried in the friary church after his death at Bosworth. (fn. 11) In 1538 the house was surrendered by the warden and six others. (fn. 12) The possessions of the friary consisted of little else save the house itself, with its precincts. (fn. 13) The First Minister's Account shows a net revenue of only £1. 2s. (fn. 14)
Wardens of The Franciscans
Walter, occurs 1253. (fn. 15) No longer warden in
1279. (fn. 16)
Henry Tykesor, occurs 1378-9. (fn. 17)
John Holcote, occurs 1393. (fn. 18)
Richard, occurs 1479. (fn. 19)
Alan Bell, occurs 1520. (fn. 20)
William Gyllys, occurs 1538. (fn. 21)
The 14th-century seal of the Franciscans at Leicester is a small vesica, 1½ by ⅞ in. It depicts St. Mary Magdalene kneeling in the garden before the risen Christ. Of the broken legend all that can be deciphered is
'S' FRATRE . . . LEICEST' NOLI M' TANGERE.' (fn. 22)
16. THE DOMINICAN FRIARS OF LEICESTER
The house of the Dominican friars at Leicester is said to have been founded by an Earl of Leicester under Henry III. (fn. 23) The first reliable reference to the Dominicans at Leicester relates to 1284, when an inquisition was held concerning the proposed grant to them of two plots of land in the borough. (fn. 24) Their friary stood on an island formed by two arms of the River Soar. (fn. 25) According to Nichols (fn. 26) the Dominicans obtained the parish church of St. Clement, at Leicester, as their conventual church. Such an arrangement would have been very unusual, (fn. 27) and the evidence for it seems to be inadequate. (fn. 28) A 15th-century seal of the house bears the figure of St. Clement, (fn. 29) and the friary church is said to have been dedicated to the saint, (fn. 30) but these facts are hardly sufficient to prove that the friars acquired possession of a parish church.
In 1291 Queen Eleanor's executors gave £5 to the Leicester Dominicans, (fn. 31) and in 1301 they received a royal gift of seven oaks from Rockingham Forest, for house building. (fn. 32) Provincial chapters of the order were held at the Leicester house in 1301, 1317, and 1334. (fn. 33) Royal gifts of money to thirty Dominicans at Leicester in 1328-9, and to thirty-two in 1334-5, (fn. 34) indicate the size of the convent in the 14th century. The garden and cemetery of the friary are mentioned in 1336. (fn. 35) During the 14th and 15th centuries the Dominicans received many minor gifts and bequests. (fn. 36) In 1489 Henry VII ordered oaks to be delivered to the Dominicans of Leicester for the rebuilding of their dormitory. (fn. 37)
The friary was surrendered in November 1538 by the prior and nine others. (fn. 38) Part of the property of the house was being leased, in 1538, for a yearly rent of £2, and the remainder was valued at only 1s. 8d. The net yearly income, as given in the First Minister's Account, was only £1. 19s. 8½d. (fn. 39)
Priors of The Dominicans
The 15th-century seal of the Leicester Dominicans is a large oval, 2⅛ by 1⅜ in.; it depicts St. Clement standing under a canopy, his right hand raised in blessing, and his left holding a cross; The legend is:
'SIGILLF COMUNE FRATRF PREDICATORF CPVENTF LEYC'.' (fn. 43)
17. THE AUGUSTINIAN HERMITS OF LEICESTER
The house of the Augustinian hermits of Leicester is first mentioned in 1304, when Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, obtained a licence to alienate in mortmain 3 messuages in a suburb of Leicester to the Augustinian hermits for the enlargement of their dwelling-place. (fn. 44) The date of foundation of the friary, and the name of the founder, are both unknown. The house is said to have been dedicated to St. Catherine. (fn. 45) The church of the Augustinian friars at Leicester is first mentioned in 1306, (fn. 46) and in 1372 a general chapter of the Order was held at Leicester. (fn. 47) Thomas Ratcliffe, a friar of this house in the late 14th century, is said to have obtained renown as a preacher. (fn. 48) The house was surrendered in November 1538 by the prior and three others. (fn. 49) At the surrender the property of the friary consisted only of the house itself and a few small items of property in Leicester. The total net yearly Value is given as £1 in the First Minister's Account. (fn. 50)
Prior of The Augustinian Hermits
Richard Preston, occurs 1538. (fn. 51)
No other priors are known.
A seal (fn. 52) occurs on a 16th-century deed of surrender. It is a pointed oval 2½ by 1½ in., and shows St. Catherine standing crowned, with her wheel beside her, beneath a panelled canopy. The surviving part of the legend reads:
HOSPITALIS . . . VILLE . . .
18. THE FRIARS OF THE SACK OF LEICESTER
The Friars of the Order of the Penitence of Jesus Christ, commonly known as the Friars of the Sack, first reached England in 1257. (fn. 53) In 1274 the Council of Lyons provided for the gradual suppression of the Order, but some of its houses survived for many years. (fn. 54) The Prior of the Friars of the Sack at Leicester is mentioned in 1283. (fn. 55) The house of the Order at Leicester ceased to exist before 1295, when Bishop Sutton forbade the conversion of the site of the friary to secular uses. (fn. 56)
Prior of The Friars of The Sack.
Richard, occurs 1283. (fn. 57)
No other priors and no seal of the house are known.