Friaries: The Franciscans of Northampton

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.

'Friaries: The Franciscans of Northampton', in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, (London, 1906) pp. 146-147. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

In this section


The Franciscans or Grey Friars, otherwise known as the Friars Minor, established themselves at Northampton soon after their first arrival in England in 1224. (fn. 1) A small detachment made their way to this important central town from Oxford. (fn. 2) The first Franciscans who landed in England numbered four priests and five laymen; one of the priests was Richard of Kingsthorpe, an Englishman by birth and a distinguished preacher. (fn. 3) It seems natural to conclude that one of the causes of their speedy appearance at Northampton was the fact of its proximity to the birthplace of friar Richard. Northampton was grouped under the custody or wardenship of Oxford up to the time of the dissolution.

The Franciscans first established themselves in a house in the parish of St. Giles, which was outside the eastern walls of the town. Their first warden is said to have been Peter Hispanus. (fn. 4) In 1235 John de Reading, abbot of Oseney, resigned his charge, and putting on the Franciscan habit became a member of the Northampton house. (fn. 5)

The friars rapidly won the esteem of the townsmen, and afterwards moved to a good site to the north-east of the town, which was granted them by the burgesses. Leland thus describes it: (fn. 6) 'The Grayfreres House was the beste buildid and largest house of all the places of the freres, and stoode a little beyond the chief market place, almost by flatte north. The site and ground that it stoode on longid to the cite, whereupon the citizens were taken for the founders of it. There lay ii. of the Salysbiries buried in this house of Grey Freres. And as I remember it was told me that one of the Salisbyries doughters was mother to Sir Wylliam Par and his elder brother.' John Bungey, doctor of divinity of Oxford, and ninth provincial of the English Franciscans, was of this house and buried here. (fn. 7) Humphrey, duke of Buckingham, slain at the battle of Northampton in 1460, obtained a sepulchre within the church of the Grey Friars. (fn. 8)

Edward I. bestowed a cart and horse on the friars, and in 1277 the sheriff and coroners of the town were enjoined by the crown to restore to the Friars Minor of Northampton the cart and two horses which had been taken into the king's hands as deodands by reason of the death of Richard de Lilleford, lately slain by the said cart, as they had been given by the king out of charity. (fn. 9) On 4 January of the following year the king granted to the friars four oaks fit for timber out of his forest of Silverstone, (fn. 10) which indicates that their new buildings were in progress. A licence was granted in August, 1291, for the friars to unite the course of a spring called Triwell, then running in three directions between the towns of Northampton and Kingsthorpe, and to lead it by a subterranean conduit to their house, provided that they indemnified the persons through whose property the conduit would be taken for the damage, which was estimated by a jury at one mark if the lands should be sown at the time. (fn. 11)

Bishop Dalderby in 1308 pronounced sentence of excommunication against those who had abducted certain persons from the church of the Friars Minors of Northampton. Probably these persons were fugitives who had sought sanctuary. (fn. 12) A bequest of 3s. 'to our Saviour's ymage in the Gray Friars' is recorded in the will of Simon G. . . . dated 1526. (fn. 13)

Reference has already been made to the dissolution of the Northampton friaries. The Franciscans 'surrendered' on 28 October, 1538; the deed was signed by John Wyndlowe, warden, and by ten of the brethren. Ambrose Clerke and Roger Wall were appointed attorneys to receive and deliver the premises to Dr. London for the king's use. (fn. 14) A memorandum of Dr. London, drawn up early in 1539, states that the Grey Friars' church was covered with lead. (fn. 15)


Peter Hispanus, (fn. 16) 1224-5

John Wyndlowe, (fn. 17) surrendered 1538.


  • 1. Thomas de Eccleston, De Adventu Minorum (Rolls Ser.), ii. 9.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Leland, Coll. (Hearne ed.), ii. 341–2.
  • 4. Thomas de Eccleston, De Adventu Minorum (Rolls Ser.), ii. 9.
  • 5. Bridges, Hist. of Northants, i. 435.
  • 6. Leland, Itin. (Hearne ed.), i. 10.
  • 7. Stevens, Addition to the Monasticon, i. 97.
  • 8. Dugdale, Baronage, i. 166.
  • 9. Close, 5 Edw. I. m. 4.
  • 10. Ibid. 6 Edw. I. m. 15.
  • 11. Pat. 19 Edw. I. m. 5.
  • 12. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. of Dalderby, f. 112.
  • 13. Northants Wills, c. 126.
  • 14. L. and P. Hen. VIII. xiii. pt. 2, 705.
  • 15. Ibid. xiv. pt. 1, 3.
  • 16. Thomas de Eccleston, De Adventu Minorum (Rolls Ser.), ii. 9.
  • 17. L. and P. Hen. VIII. xiii. pt. 2, 705.