Friaries: Lynn

Pages 426-428

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

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The priory of Friars Preachers was founded at Lynn, towards the end of Henry III's reign, by Thomas Gedney, on the east side of the town, between Clow Lane and Skinner Lane. The church was dedicated to St. Dominic, and the house was large enough to accommodate forty religious as early as the beginning of the reign of Edward I. (fn. 1)

The priory site was enlarged in the fourteenth century. (fn. 2) The house was supplied with fresh water from a spring called Brookwell, at Middleton, nearly four miles distant; the site of the well being the gift of William Berdolf. (fn. 3)

When Edward I was at Gaywood in 1277 he sent these friars 13s. 4d. for a day's food, and also 12s. for another day. John de St. Omer, mayor of Lynn, in 1285, gave them wine to the value of 11s. for the feast of St. Dominic. When Edward I passed through Lynn in 1300 he sent an alms of 15s. for a day's food. Edward II on arriving at Lynn in 1326 gave a like sum for the day's food of forty-five friars; and Edward III, when passing through the town in 1328, sent 14s. 8d. to the forty-five friars who were then in the house. Father Palmer also sets forth at length numerous bequests to the four orders of friars of this town, and to the Black Friars in particular up to the year 1505.

Provincial chapters of the Dominicans are known to have been held here at this house in 1304, 1344, and 1365; on the first occasion Edward I gave 20 marks towards the expenses, whilst Edward III gave £15 on the second occasion, and £10 on the last. (fn. 4)

About the year 1486 the priory suffered severely from fire. Twenty years later the buildings were not fully restored, and the mastergeneral, on 24 June, 1476, empowered the prior for five years to admit as many as he would to the benefits and suffrages of the order, provided their alms were applied to the repair of the convent. (fn. 5)

When the Valor of 1535 was drawn up there was but rare mention of friars, as their only property was, as a rule, the land on which their house and church stood. In this case, Thomas Lovell being prior, the Dominicans held a tenement in Lynn let at 10s, a year and a parcel of meadow at 8s. (fn. 6)

This community was destroyed in 1538. The day and month are left blank on the surrender, which is signed by Thomas Lovell, prior, Robert Skott, bachelor, and trustees of the order. (fn. 7)


(Mentioned by Father Palmer)

William de Bagthorpe, 1393

John Braynes, 1488

William Videnhus, 1497

Thomas Lovell, 1535

The site of this house, as well as of the other three friaries of Lynn, was granted by the king to John Eyre, who was one of the king's auditors or receivers. Eyre obtained a large share of monastic lands, including much of the great abbey of Bury St. Edmunds; but he did not prosper and died childless. (fn. 8)


The house of the Grey Friars was founded at Lynn by Thomas Feltham in the latter part of the reign of Henry III. (fn. 9)

John Stanford, provincial of his order, who died in 1264, was buried at the Franciscan house of Lynn. (fn. 10)

Licence was obtained in 1314 for the warden and Friars Minor of Lynn to retain a mill in North Runcton, called 'Bukenwelle,' which they had acquired without the leave of the late king, from Thomas Bardolf and Robert de Scales, and to lead the water from the well by an underground conduit to their house in Lynn. (fn. 11)

In 1365 the friars obtained a patent to add two messuages to their sites. (fn. 12)

The house was surrendered on 1 October, 1538; the surrender was signed by Edmund Brygat, warden, and nine others. (fn. 13)


The house of the White Friars or Carmelites stood on the south side of the town, close to the River Lynn. According to Blomefield it was founded by Lord Bardolph towards the close of the reign of Henry III. (fn. 14)

The earliest record mention of it occurs in 1261 in a document relative to the obstruction of a lane. (fn. 15)

In 1277 Edward I gave the Carmelite Friars of Lynn six oaks for timber from the forest of Sapley, for the works of their church in that town. The order for these trees was dated 17 March, and addressed to Roger de Clifford, justice of the forest on this side Trent. However, Roger reported that there were no trees fit for timber for such a purpose in the Sapley forest. Whereupon, on 17 April, the king ordered Richard de Holebrok, his steward, to let the Carmelites have six suitable trees from the king's woods in his bailiwick, wherever it might be done with least damage to the king and greatest convenience to the friars. (fn. 16)

Licence was granted in 1285 to the Carmelites of Lynn to close a lane adjoining the churchyard of their church on the north, and to enclose the same with a wall for the enlargement of the churchyard; on condition that they make another lane of the same length and breadth over their own land adjoining the wall. (fn. 17)

In the 9 Richard II, William Lord Bardolph died and was buried in the church of the Carmelites of Lynn. (fn. 18)

From a deposition made by Friar Peter of Lynn, sub-prior of the Carmelites, it appears that the family of Hastings were benefactors of the house. He swore, at a trial begun 9 Henry IV, that the arms of Hastings were painted in the priory for forty years past, and that they had a banner of the arms fortyeight years before; Friar Alleyn, aged fifty-nine, deposed to the like effect. (fn. 19)

The Valor of 1535 gives 33s. as the annual value of the parcel of land within the precinct wall, whilst a plot without it was worth 2s. 4d. (fn. 20)

The house surrendered on 30 September, 1538. The surrender was signed by Robert Newman, prior, and ten others. (fn. 21)

The fourteenth-century circular seal (1 in.) of this house has two canopied niches; on the left is the standing Virgin and Holy Child; on the right is the standing figure of St. Margaret trampling on the dragon, piercing his head with a long cross held in the right hand and holding a book in the left. Legend:—



The Austin Friars settled at Lynn early in the reign of Edward I, on the north side of the town. They were well established by 1295, for in that year Margaret de Suthmere obtained licence to alienate a messuage in Lynn to the Austin Friars of that town, containing 100 ft. by 80 ft. of land. (fn. 22)

In 1306 Thomas de Lexham obtained licence to alienate to the friars a messuage adjoining their site. (fn. 23) There was a further licence to the same benefactor, for a like purpose, in 1311, (fn. 24) and in 1329 Humphrey de Wykene gave the Austin Friars a plot of land adjoining their house for its enlargement. (fn. 25)

Soon after this there was evidently a considerable extension of their premises, followed probably by a rebuilding of their house and church; for in 1338 licence was granted to Robert de Wykene to add to their premises a plot 100 ft. by 60 ft., and there were other extensions about the same date. (fn. 26)

In 1364 the friars were permitted to add five tenements to their site, the gift of Thomas Drewe and others. (fn. 27) The bishop of Norwich, in 1383, granted the friars a plot of land in Gaywood, 24 ft. by 16 ft., of the yearly value of 1d., for making a subterranean conduit from a spring in that plot through the bishop's demesnes to their house. (fn. 28)

There were further extensions of their premises in the reigns of Henry IV (fn. 29) and V. (fn. 30)

In 1535, when Thomas Potter was prior, this house had three tenements in Lynn of the annual value of 26s. 8d. (fn. 31)

The surrender of the house, dated 30 September, 1538, was signed by William Wilson, prior, and ten others. (fn. 32)


The Friars of the Sack, or De Penitentia, had a house at Lynn in the thirteenth century. This order, which never attained to much prosperity, was suppressed in France in 1293, the members being obliged to join the Austin Friars in consequence of the smallness of their numbers. In England they came to an end in 1317, when the members were obliged to join one or other of the four chief orders of the mendicants. At the time of their suppression Robert Flegg, the prior of the house at Lynn, was superior of the whole order in England. (fn. 33)

There is a reference in the Norfolk Fines of 1277 to the right of the prior 'de Penitentia Jesu Christi in Lenn' to certain messuages. (fn. 34)


  • 1. Reliquary (new ser.), vol. ii, p. 1. This article, pp. 1-8, is by the late Father Palmer.
  • 2. Cal. Inq. a.q.d. 3 Edw. II, No. 57; Pat 30 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 9.
  • 3. Cal. Inq. a.q.d. 21 Edw. I, No. 71.
  • 4. Reliquary (new ser.), ii, 4.
  • 5. Reg. Mag. Gen. Ord. cited by Father Palmer. Various minor particulars as to fifteenth-century friars of this house are also given from this source from the same chronicle.
  • 6. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 397.
  • 7. Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. 2, 30.
  • 8. Spelman, Hist. of Sacrilege, 247.
  • 9. Blomefield, Hist of Norf. viii, 526.
  • 10. Collect. Angl. Min. cited by Tanner; Notitia, Norf. xli, 8.
  • 11. Pat. 7 Edw. II, pt. ii, No. 3.
  • 12. Ibid. 38 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 16, 8.
  • 13. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2), 196.
  • 14. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. viii, 525.
  • 15. Escaet Norf. 45 Hen. III, n. 31, cited in Tanner, Notitia. A document of the same year quoted by Blomefield, making a benefactor give these friars lands in six different parishes, must be a blunder; none of the mendicants could accept such a gift.
  • 16. Cal. of Close, 5 Edw. I, m. 10.
  • 17. Cal. of Pat. 13 Edw. I, m. 1.
  • 18. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. viii, 523.
  • 19. Le Neve MS. cited by Blomefield.
  • 20. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 297.
  • 21. Dep. Keepers Rep. viii, App. 2, 3.
  • 22. Pat. 23 Edw. I, m. 12.
  • 23. Ibid. 34 Edw. I, m. 34.
  • 24. Ibid. 4 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 14.
  • 25. Ibid. 3 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 27.
  • 26. Pat. 12 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 15.
  • 27. Ibid. 38 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 16.
  • 28. Ibid. 6 Ric. II, pt. ii, m. 23.
  • 29. Ibid. 7 Hen. IV, pt. ii, m. 31.
  • 30. Ibid. 1 Hen. V, pt. i, m. 17.
  • 31. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 398.
  • 32. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2) 182.
  • 33. MS. Coll. Wren, fol. 125, cited in Tanner's Notitia.
  • 34. Tanner, Notitia, Norf. xli, 10.