Friaries: Boston

Pages 213-217

A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.

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The king having licensed the Austin Friars 1 January, 1316-17, to acquire five acres of land in Boston to build a house, (fn. 1) they obtained in part satisfaction of this grant a messuage containing 1a. 1r. of land from Andrew son of Robert atte Gote, or Gotere, in 1318, (fn. 2) 2a. 1r. from John de la Gotere in 1327, (fn. 3) and a messuage containing half an acre from John de Multon, parson of the church of Skirbeck, and John Mosse of Leek in 1342. (fn. 4) Thomas de Wike and others gave them three acres in Boston in 1361. (fn. 5) There were twenty friars here in 1328. (fn. 6)

Legacies were left them by Sir Henry Asty, kt., justice of the Common Bench (1383), John de Ravenser, rector of Algarkirk (1385), William de Thimelby (1385), William de Waltham, canon of York, &c. (1416), Ralph Lord Cromwell (1511), John Chove of Fleet, Edward Hevyn of Tattershall (1511), William Bornett of Alford (1525), and others. (fn. 7)

Leland notes that he was unable to visit the library of this friary on account of the pestilence there raging. (fn. 8)

In January, 1539, the Black, White, and Austin Friars were in great straits, 'piteously lamenting their poverty, and knowing not how to live till their houses be surrendered. The devotion of the people is clean gone, their plate and implements sold, so they have nothing left but the lead,' which they would have plucked down and sold too if they had not been prevented. (fn. 9)

The bishop of Dover received the surrender of the four houses in February, 1539—'very poor houses and poor persons,' but 'all meetly leaded.' The lead the visitor estimated at four score fother or more in the four houses. He urged Cromwell to let the friars have their capacities, for 'the bishops and curates be very hard to them without they have their capacities.' (fn. 10)

The site, estimated at ten acres, lying near St. John's churchyard, together with a tenement at St. John's Bridge, was leased to Thomas Browne of Boston, 2 June, 1541, at a rent of 78s. 8d. a year, subject to the obligation of keeping in repair 10 ft, 'in le Sedike versus le Wharffe Holmes,' and 80 ft. 'de la frontage apud le haven,' and was bought by the town in 1544-5. (fn. 11) The materials of the houses were probably used to keep up the sea walls. (fn. 12) In 1573 the site was leased to Anthony Kyme. (fn. 13)


The Dominicans had settled in Boston before 1288; for in that year (fn. 14) some miscreants, during the fair of St. Botolph, having set fire to the booths of the merchants, a great part of the town was burnt, including the church, refectory, and other houses of the Friars Preachers. The king gave them eight oaks for timber out of Sherwood Forest, 16 September, 1290. (fn. 15) In 1291 the abbot and convent of Kirkstead and these friars exchanged some land in Boston. (fn. 16) In the next year the friars acquired a plot of land 100 ft. by 18 ft. (worth 13s. 4d. a year) from John de Sutton and Petronilla his wife, and another plot containing 44 perches by 3 perches (worth 4s. a year) from Peter Gode of Boston; both plots were held ultimately by the Earl of Richmond. (fn. 17) By 1309 they had rebuilt their church and were licensed by Bishop Dalderby to have their altars dedicated by any Catholic bishop. (fn. 18) Dalderby granted an indulgence in 1314 to those who assisted in repairing the church of the Friars Preachers. (fn. 19) They had royal licence to construct a subterranean aqueduct from Bolingbroke to their house for the use of themselves and others in 1327, and in 1330 Bishop Burghersh granted an indulgence to those who helped in this work. (fn. 20)

In 1300, the provincial, while presenting to the bishop, for licence to hear confessions, twentyone friars from the convent of Lincoln, presented only two from Boston. (fn. 21)

In 1300 Edward I came to Boston and gave the Friars Preachers 19s. 8d. through Friar William de Basyngham for two days' food. (fn. 22) Edward II in 1312 sent them 12s. for one day's food. (fn. 23) Edward III, passing through Boston 12 September, 1328, sent an alms of 9s. 4d. to the twenty-eight brethren for one day's food. (fn. 24)

When Richard de Bernesley of Halton died, there came to this convent, probably by his bequest, £26 13s. 4d., which the crown owed him for four sacks of wool at 10 marks a sack; the money was paid to the prior out of the exchequer in 1343. (fn. 25)

A commission of oyer and terminer was issued to William de Thorpe and others 10 December, 1345, on complaint of Robert de Kyrketon, prior, and Simon of Boston, friar of this house, that John Baret, parson of the church of Boston, Robert de Pykworth, chaplain, Walter Baret, William le Cook, and others, assaulted the said Friar Simon at Boston, so that his life was despaired of, and carried away his goods. (fn. 26)

Some thirty years later, November, 1376, the body of Sir William, lord of Hunyngfeld, or Huntingfield, was being buried in the church of the Black Friars of Boston. (fn. 27) The bishop wished to be present, but the friars to the number of 200, according to the account in the bishop's register, closed the chancel of the choir and defended it against him with swords and arrows, and refused to let him or any other bishop come to services in their churches without leave of the friars themselves. Only the discretion of the bishop and the humanity of the nobles present prevented bloodshed.

The next day the bishop came to celebrate mass for the dead in the same church, but the friars assembled round the belfry or tower built over the entrance to the choir, armed with heavy stones to throw down on people entering the choir. The prior and some other friars came to the bishop and refused to allow him to receive the oblations due to him and enjoyed by his predecessors, and said they would rather die than permit this. The nobles seeing the dangers which must ensue, resolved to abstain from all oblations, and made a public proclamation of the fact, and of the insult paid to the bishop and to all his fellow-bishops throughout England. Letters on the subject were sent to the archbishop of Canterbury, and to the provincial of the Friars Preachers. This account comes from the bishop's side. (fn. 28)

Soon afterwards the friars were again in trouble. A commission was issued 10 November, 1379, (fn. 29) to Robert de Willoughby and others to inquire touching the persons who, led by certain rebellious friars of the order, by night scaled with ladders the walls of the house of the Friars Preachers of Boston, broke their doors and windows, assaulted the prior, Roger Dymoke, and his friars in their beds, so that they were obliged to ring their bells to raise the commonalty of the town to come to their aid, and to cry fire for rescue—the evil-doers assaulting the constables and resisting arrest, besides carrying off the prior's goods; the commissioners were empowered to arrest offenders. Roger Dymoke, D.D., of Oxford, was afterwards regent of the Black Friars Schools in London, and an opponent of the Lollards. (fn. 30)

In 1396 Friar Hugh was elected prior here, and the election confirmed in 1397 by the master-general, as Thomas Palmer was no longer provincial, and could not act. The master-general at the same time confirmed to Friar John Birck all graces conceded to him by his superiors, and the chamber granted to him in this house. He also allowed one Friar Robert here to hold his rank according to his seniority, notwithstanding that his lectures on the sentences had been cursory. He transferred an Irish friar, John Pole, from Trim to Boston, and allowed him to assist at the obsequies of Lady Isabel of Friskney. (fn. 31) In 1422 Isabella widow of Sir Thomas de Friskney, kt., was buried in this convent. (fn. 32) Ralph Lord Cromwell, by will dated December, 1451, and proved February, 1455-6, left ten marks to these friars. (fn. 33)

Leland inspected their library about 1538, and noted the following books (fn. 34) : Turpin's History of Charles the Great; a volume containing Chronica summorum pontificum et imperatorum, De gestis Troianorum, Historia Graecorum, Historia Britonum, Albertus de mirabilibus (this was to be set aside for the king, and is now in the British Museum) (fn. 35); Peter of Tarantaise ('Lugdunensis') on virtues and vices, on the epistles of St. Paul, and the fourth book of the sentences; and Gorham on St. Luke.

The poverty of the Black Friars on the eve of the surrender of the house to the bishop of Dover, February, 1539, has already been mentioned. (fn. 36) The site comprising about five acres was valued at 21s. a year: a tenement with garden within the monastery was let to Thomas Crowe, chaplain, for 13s. 4d. a year, and a house and two gardens were let to William Spynke, John Bate, and John Nele, at rents of 4s., 5s., and 3s. 4d., respectively — the total annual value being 46s. 8d. (fn. 37) The property was granted 10 March, 1540-1, to the Duke of Suffolk. (fn. 38) It was situated in South Street between Shodfriars Lane and Spain Lane. A portion of the friary adjoining the custom house was used as a granary, and pulled down about 1820. The burial ground appears to have been in Shodfriars Lane near the grammar school. (fn. 39)


'Merchants of the Steelyard,' says Leland, (fn. 40) 'were wont greatly to haunt Boston; and the Grey Friars took them in a manner for founders of their house, and many Esterlings were buried there.' Among them was Wisselus de Smalenberg, merchant of Munster (1340), the slab of whose tomb is now in the parish church. (fn. 41) The date of the foundation is uncertain. The house was built before 1268, when one Luke de Batenturt complained that the wine and other goods which he had deposited in the church had been removed. (fn. 42) In 1300 the king gave them 20s. 4d. by the hands of Friar Gilbert of Lonsdale; (fn. 43) there seem to have been thirty friars in the house at this time. Edward III gave a pittance of 11s. 8d. to the 35 friars here in 1328. (fn. 44)

In 1322 William and Robert de Masham granted them a messuage and half an acre of land for the enlargement of their dwelling-place; (fn. 45) and they received a further addition to this land from John le Pytehede in 1348. (fn. 46) In or before 1354 they lost some of their muniments and other goods owing to a sudden inrush of the sea. (fn. 47)

The friary, which was situated in the southeast part of the town, was in the custody of York. (fn. 48)

In 1391 John Dunning, a vagabond apostate friar, was, with the help of the secular arm, restored to this house from which he had absconded. (fn. 49)

The tombs of one of the Mountevilles and six or seven of the Withams were noted here by Leland. (fn. 50) Richard Temper was buried here in 1515. (fn. 51) Bequests were made to these friars by Sir Henry Asty, kt., Ralph Lord Cromwell, and others. (fn. 52) By old custom the lords of the honour of Richmond granted to them annually eight quarters of wheat; these were valued in 1534 at 32s. (fn. 53)

John Tynmouth alias Maynelyn, friar minor of Lynn and titular bishop of Argos, was vicar of Boston 1518-24, but does not seem to have had any connexion with the Grey Friars of Boston. (fn. 54)

John Perrot, or Porrett, warden of this house, took the degree of D.D. at Oxford in 1526. (fn. 55)

The Grey Friars, though very poor at the time of surrender, February, 1539, do not seem to have lamented their poverty and inability to live, like the other friaries. (fn. 56) The site, valued at 44s. a year, was first reserved for the king, and subsequently, 1544-5, purchased by the town, subject to the obligation of keeping in repair 40 ft. of the sea-dyke, and 20 ft. on 'le frontage.' (fn. 57)


In 1293 the Carmelites obtained a licence from Bishop Sutton to have a chantry in the oratory at Boston, and in the same year Master Giffred de Vezano, papal nuncio and rector of the parish church of Boston, consented that the friars might have a church, houses, and churchyard in his parish, might celebrate divine service, and bury their brethren in the churchyard, provision being made as to the rector's rights to offerings. (fn. 58)

Edward I gave them 12s, for two days' food in 1300; this would be the allowance for eighteen friars. (fn. 59) There were twenty-two friars of the house in 1328. (fn. 60)

In 1305 the king pardoned them for having acquired in mortmain a messuage, adjoining their area, from Robert de Wellbek of Boston. (fn. 61) This pardon was repeated in 1307 by Edward II, who at the same time gave the friars permission to erect a church and other buildings. (fn. 62) This perhaps refers to the new site, on the west side of the river, which they acquired at this time. For in October, 1307, Clement V ordered Bishop Dalderby to license these friars to transfer themselves to another place in the parish of St. Botolph, granted to them by William de Ros; the bishop's licence was issued in 1308. (fn. 63) In this year the friars acquired a plot of ground from John Parleben; (fn. 64) in 1315 another measuring 81 ft. by 25 ft. from John Hervy of London and Boston, and Avice his wife; (fn. 65) and another in 1316 containing 18 perches by 2½ perches from Simon Gernon of Boston. (fn. 66) In February, 1349-50, Simon Lambert of Boston gave them three messuages to enlarge their house and graveyard; the messuages, held of Lord Roos, were of small value, 'because they are fallen' and in a deserted lane. (fn. 67) Sir John de Orreby, 1350, gave the friars four acres, and was afterwards reputed founder of the house. (fn. 68)

For 6s. 8d. paid by these friars in the hanaper they obtained licence in 1400 for the alienation to them in mortmain by Sir Ralph de Cromwell, kt., of five acres of land in Skirbeck adjoining their house, held of Ralph earl of Westmoreland, as of the honour of Richmond. (fn. 69) Ralph de Cromwell left them 10 marks by his will made in 1451. (fn. 70)

John Hornby, who wrote among other works a defence of his order against the attacks of John Stokes, was prior of the White Friars of Boston in 1374. (fn. 71) George or Gregory Ripley, the author of lives of St. Botolph and St. John of Bridlington, is said to have been an inmate of this house about 1400. (fn. 72) Friar John Viude of Boston was provincial of the English Carmelites in 1482, and was buried in his native convent. (fn. 73) Leland noted about 1538 there were many books here, but they either contained matter already printed, or they did not relate to divinity or the history of antiquity. (fn. 74) He does not mention any by name.

The town in 1544-5 purchased the site of 'le White fryers,' containing five acres, together with a tenement in the tenure of Thomas Waltehewe, fishmonger, of Boston, and a pasture in Skirbeck in the tenure of John Turpham, the whole property being at that time demised to William Heydon at a rent of £4 a year, and subject to the obligation of keeping in repair 130 ft. of the dyke towards 'le Wharffe.' (fn. 75)


  • 1. Pat. 10 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 34. The king asked for papal confirmation of the grant 4 April, 1319. Rot. Rom. 12 Edw. II, m. 8. The house is said to have been founded by one of the Tilney family. P. Thompson, Hist. of Boston, 3; Leland, Collectanea, i, 122; cf. Gibbons, Early Linc. Wills, 83.
  • 2. Ibid. 2 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 1; 12 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 16; Inq. a.q.d. 130 (8).
  • 3. Ibid. 1 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 26.
  • 4. Ibid. 16 Edw. III, pt, i, m. 1; Inq. a.q.d. 258 (10).
  • 5. Ibid. 25 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 17; Inq. a.q.d. 34 Edw. III, 25.
  • 6. P.R.O. Exch. Accts. bdle. 383, No. 14.
  • 7. Gibbons, Early Linc. Wills, 26, 68, 81, 142, &c. Test. Ebor. ii, 197; P. C. C. Fetiplace, fol. i, 5; Linc. N. and Q. i, 4.
  • 8. Royal MS. App. 69, fol. 7.
  • 9. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), 101.
  • 10. Wright; Suppression of the Monasteries, 192; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv, (1), 348, 413.
  • 11. Mins. Accts. 30-1 Hen. VIII, No. 110, fol. 83 (Linc.); Partic. for Gts. file 143; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvii, 696.
  • 12. Cf. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), No. 342; Stowe MS. 141, fol. 37.
  • 13. P. Thompson, Hist. of Boston, 111.
  • 14. Reliq. xxii; Bart. Cotton, Hist. Angl. 170; Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), iv, 315; Walsingham, Hist. Angl. (Rolls Ser.), i, 30; Lanercost Chron. 122, &c.; Pat. 17 Edw. I, m. 22 d, 16d.; 18 Edw. I, m. 37d. &c.
  • 15. Close, 18 Edw, I, m. 3.
  • 16. Pat. 20 Edw I, m. 29.
  • 17. Ibid. m. 12, Inq. a.q.d. 18 (20).
  • 18. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Dalderby, fol. 129b.
  • 19. Ibid. fol. 276.
  • 20. Pat. 1 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 14; Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Burghersh, fol. 228.
  • 21. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Dalderby, fol. 19b. Cf. fol. 13b.
  • 22. Reliq. xxii, 88; Liber Quotid. &c. 28 Edw. I, 36 (ed. Topham).
  • 23. Ibid. Lib. Gard. Reg. 5 Edw. II; Cott. MS. Nero C. viii.
  • 24. Exch. Accts. bdle. 283, No. 14.
  • 25. Reliq. xxii, 88; Exit. Scacc. Easter, 17 Edw. III, m. 17, &c.
  • 26. Pat. 19 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 9.
  • 27. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Bokyngham, fol. 142, The entry is not dated, but see Dugdale, Baronage, ii. 7-8.
  • 28. Leland, Itin. vi (p. 53), notes that one of the Huntingfeldes was buried here, 'and was a late taken up hole and a leaden Bulle of Innocentius Bishop of Rome about his nek.'
  • 29. Pat. 3 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 19 dorso.
  • 30. Reliq. xxii, 89, Tanner, Bibl. 242.
  • 31. Ibid. 90, from Reg. of the Master of the Order preserved at Rome; cf. Pat. 18 Ric. II, m. 34.
  • 32. Gibbons, Early Linc. Wills, 150.
  • 33. Test. Ebor. ii, 197. For other legacies see Gibbons, Early Linc. Wills, 26, 44, 68, 81, 83, 87, 142; Linc. N. and Q. i, 4; P. C. C. Fetiplace, fols. 1, 5, 7.
  • 34. Royal MS. App. 69, fol. 7b.
  • 35. Ibid. 13 A.V.
  • 36. See under Austin Friars.
  • 37. Mins. Accts 30-1 Hen. VIII, No. no, fol. 83 (Linc.); Partic. for Gts. file 1080.
  • 38. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvi, m. 678-9.
  • 39. Reliq. xxii, 91-2; P. Thompson, Hist. of Boston, 109. Some remains of the friary are incorporated in the new buildings of the Boston Club.
  • 40. Leland, Itin. vi, 53.
  • 41. Murray, Lincs. 138; Thompson, Hist. of Boston, 112.
  • 42. Abbreviatio Placitorum (Rec. Com.), 176. See also Magd. Coll. Archives (Oxford), 'Swaby A. 150'.
  • 43. Liber Quotid. &c. 28 Edw. I (ed. Topham), 36. Simon Jorz was lecturer to the convent in 1300 (Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Dalderby, fol. 15).
  • 44. P.R.O. Exch. Accts. bdle. 383, No. 14.
  • 45. Inq. a.q.d. 218 (11); Pat. 6 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 12.
  • 46. Tanner, Not. Mon. 'ex. rec. 22 Edw. III.'
  • 47. Pat. 28 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 12.
  • 48. Eubel, Provinciale Vetustissimum.
  • 49. Pat. 15 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 14 d.
  • 50. Leland, I tin. vi, 53: Leland was unable to inspect the library owing to the absence of the 'prior'; Royal MS. App. 69, fol. 7b.
  • 51. P.C.C. Holder, fol. 2.
  • 52. Gibbons, Early Linc. Wills, 26, 44, 68, 81, &c.; Test. Ebor. ii, 197; P. C. C. Fetiplace, fol. i, 5; Linc. N. and Q. i, 4.
  • 53. P. Thompson, Hist. of Boston, 113.
  • 54. Cooper, Athenae Cantab, i, 31; Little, Grey Friars in Oxford, 271.
  • 55. Grey Friars in Oxford, 277.
  • 56. Wright, Suppression, 192; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), 101, 342, 348.
  • 57. Partic. for Gts. file 143; Mins. Accts. 30-1 Hen. VIII, No. 110, fol. 83 (Linc.). For the subsequent history of the site see Thompson, Hist. of Boston, 113.
  • 58. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Sutton, fol. 80, 83b.
  • 59. Liber Quotid. &c. 28 Edw. I, 36 (ed. Topham).
  • 60. P.R.O. Exch. Accts. bdle. 383, No. 14.
  • 61. Pat. 33 Edw. I, pt. ii, m. 22.
  • 62. Ibid. 1 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 11, sched.
  • 63. Cal. Papal Letters, ii, 30; Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Dalderby, fol. 109b.
  • 64. Pat. 2 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 15; Inq a.q.d. 66 (14).
  • 65. Ibid. 9 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 14.
  • 66. Ibid. m. 25.
  • 67. Ibid. 24 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 36; Inq. a.q.d. 23 Edw. III, No. 21.
  • 68. Ibid. 24 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 23; Speed, Hist. fol. 1061; Harl. MS. 539, fol. 143.
  • 69. Ibid. 2 Hen. IV, pt. i, m. 30, 29.
  • 70. Test. Ebor. ii, 197.
  • 71. Tanner, Bibl. 414; MS. Bodl. E. Mus. 86, fol. 176; Harl. MS. 3838, fol. 76b.
  • 72. He does not appear to be identical with George Ripley, alchemist, who was canon of Bridlington, and died c.1490, Tanner, Bibl. 634; Dict. Nat. Biog. xlviii; Ripley's Life of John of Bridlington is inserted in Capgrave's Nova Legenda Anglie.
  • 73. Stevens, Mon. 159 (from Bale).
  • 74. Royal MS. App. 69, fol. 7b.
  • 75. Mins. Accts. 30-1 Hen. VIII, No. 110, fol. 83 (Linc.); Partic. for Gts. file 143 (36 Hen. VIII); L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, No. 1032. For the later history of the site see Thompson, Hist. of Boston, 110.