Friaries: Carmelite friars of Nottingham

Pages 145-147

A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1910.

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The house of the White Friars or Carmelites of Nottingham was situated between Moothall Gate and St. James's Lane in the parish of St. Nicholas. It is generally reputed to have been founded about 1276, by Reginald, Lord Grey of Wilton, and Sir John Shirley, kt.; (fn. 1) but all the foundation that was permissible for a friary of the mendicant orders was the gift of a site. There is, however, an entry on the Close Rolls at the end of the reign of Henry III which shows that the Carmelites had been established here at a far earlier date. In 1272 they obtained a grant from the king of ten oaks to repair their church. (fn. 2) That Reginald de Grey was the donor of a site is, however, established by a confirmation charter granted by Edward II in March 1319, wherein he is mentioned as granting to the brethren of Mount Carmel two (adjacent) plots of land, the one described as being in the French borough of Nottingham and the other in St. James's Lane. The same charter mentions a variety of subsequent grants of adjoining plots of land for the extension of their site, which were the only gifts of land permissible to be held by friars, by William de Crophill and Agnes his wife, John de Wymondswold, William le Chaundeler, William de Watton, Henry Putrel, William de Lonnesdale, Ralph de Lokynton, Alice widow of John le Palmere, Henry Curtyse and Agnes his wife, Nicholas de Shelford, William de Strelley, John le Collier, William de Chesterfield and Claricia his wife with their sons and daughters, John le Netherd and Sarah his wife, Robert le Carter, Ranulph le Leper, John son of Walter de Thorneton, William de Mekesburgh, Thomas de Radford, chaplain, Cecilia daughter of Ralph de Ufton, and Robert de Ufton. The king concludes his confirmation charter by granting remission to these friars of all secular exactions, as well as a rent of 5s. 6d. due to the Crown from certain of the places, 'on account of the special affection that we have and bear to the said prior and brethren, and in order that they may the more freely and devoutly attend to divine services.' (fn. 3) These numerous small gifts of parcels of land or tenements, chiefly situated in Saturday Market and Moothall Gate, are clear evidence of the affection of the townsfolk for these White Friars.

Three years prior to this Edward II, when at Clipston, had made an important grant to these Carmelites, not recited in the confirmation charter, whereby he assigned to them the old chapel of St. James adjacent to their dwellingplace, which had belonged to the priory of Lenton, but which the king had induced that convent to exchange for another piece of land in order that he might bestow it on the Carmelites. (fn. 4)

In October 1319 licence was obtained for the bestowal on the friars of yet another plot of land, 80 ft. in length by 60 ft. in width, the donor being Hugh de Bingham, chaplain. (fn. 5)

Licence was obtained in 1327 for the Prior and friars of the order of Mount Carmel, Nottingham, to acquire a rent of 13s. 4d. in Nottingham and to convey the same to the parson of St. Nicholas, in exoneration of the same sum due from them to him as tithes for land within his parish, acquired for the enlargement of their house. (fn. 6)

The earliest reference in the town records to the Carmelities is under the year 1311, when an agreement that had been made on 25 March 1307, in the garden of the Friars Carmelite, as to an association for sustaining the light of Our Lady, is cited. (fn. 7)

On 3 April 1379 Brother Robert, Prior of the Nottingham Carmelities, made plaint in the local court against John Carter, his servant, on a plea of trespass and contempt against the statute. But John placed himself in misericordia, and swore before the mayor and bailiffs on the Holy Gospel to serve the prior and convent faithfully until the feast of St. Nicholas, and to be no more rebellious against them. (fn. 8)

Henry de Whitley of Nottingham in October 1393 killed his wife Alice in the night-time and fled to the church of the Friars Carmelite for sanctuary, and could not be taken as he kept to the church. Whereupon the town authorities seized his goods as those of a felon; they were valued at 11s. 2½d. (fn. 9)

Mention is made in 1442, in an action for the detention of goods, of Robert Sutton, B.D., who was at that time Prior of the Nottingham Carmelites. (fn. 10)

John Mott, Prior of the Carmelites, complained of John Purvis, in 1482, that on Monday next before the feast of All Hallows he came with swords and clubs and other arms and broke into the house and chamber of the prior and took away two copes, one of worsted and one of white say, valued at 6 marks; a violet scapulary of woollen cloth, valued at 15s.; a silvered maser, ornamented and gilded, 26s. 8d.; a silver cup, £4; a set of amber beads, 10s.; a gold signet, 40s.; and divers other things, £10; making a total damage of £23. The defendant appeared in person, justifying all that he did, and the court ordered the matter to be placed before a jury. (fn. 11)

In March 1494-5 Thomas Gregg, Prior of the Carmelites, took action in the Nottingham court against Thomas Newton, draper, for having on 6 November last, by force and arms, to wit with clubs and knives, entered the house and inclosure of the White Friars, dug up the soil with the plaintiffs' spades and picks, pulled down a large tenter, (fn. 12) broke a furnace of lead, and done other grievous damage to the extent of 40s. At the same time Gregg brought a second action against the same defendant for neglecting to well and sufficiently repair, within a certain time according to promise, the plaintiff's house or mansion wherein he dwelt, at the gates of the house of friars, whereby he had sustained damage to the value of 20s. (fn. 13)

In the following year an action was brought against Prior Gregg by William Stark, mason, to recover the sum of 10s. alleged to be due as balance for the repair of the east window of the quire of the Carmelite church, over the high altar. Stark and another had convenanted to do the work for £3, but they had only received 40s., and the prior would not pay the balance of 20s. due to Stark, though frequently asked. (fn. 14)

In 1513 an action was brought by Thomas Smithson the Carmelite prior, in conjunction with Thomas Bradley his brother friar, against Thomas Marsh, clerk of the vicar of Marnham, for a debt of 2s. 8d. which he owed them. The friars stated through their attorney that whereas Marsh had engaged Thomas Bradley to celebrate mass in the chapel of St. James on the bridge over the Trent for three days a week during five weeks, and although Bradley had duly celebrated for the five weeks and for one day besides, at the rate of 4d. for each mass, the sum of 2s. 8d. was still owing, although payment had often been asked. (fn. 15) No friar could receive personal payment: the mass money would go to the community; hence the action to recover was taken in the name of the prior as well as in that of the friar who had performed this service.

When Henry VIII was at Nottingham in August 1511, in the days when he was zealous for the unreformed faith, he made an offering, doubtless in person, at the Rood of the White Friars. (fn. 16)

Richard Sherwood, Prior of the Nottingham Carmelites, obtained a pardon from the king on 10 May 1532 for having killed William Bacon, one of his brother friars, by a blow given in a quarrel which arose when they were drinking in a chamber of the house. The blow was struck on 21 February, and the recipient died on the following day. (fn. 17)

The general popularity of both houses of Nottingham Friars throughout their history is attested by the frequency of small bequests, such as they were allowed to receive. Among such bequests by will may be mentioned those of Simon de Stanton, 40s. in 1346; Thomas de Chaworth, 6s. 8d. in 1347; Richard Collier, 20s. in 1368; (fn. 18) John de Wollaton, 40s. in 1382; (fn. 19) Robert de Morton, 5 marks in 1396; John Tannesley, 5 marks in 1414; (fn. 20) Sir Henry Pierrepont, 40s. in 1419; (fn. 21) Sir Gervase Clifton, 22s. in 1508; Robert Batemanson, 10s. in 1512; (fn. 22) Roger Eyre, of Holme, Derbyshire, ten fodder of lead and 40 days' work of a mason, in 1515; Sir R. Basset, of Fledborough, 6s. 8d. in 1522; Thomas Willoughby, alderman of Nottingham, 10s. in 1524; and John Rose, alderman of Nottingham, £5 in 1528. (fn. 23)

The surrender of the house of the Nottingham Carmelites was made on 5 February 1539 and signed by Roger Cappe, prior, and six of the brothers, namely William Smithson, William Frost, Robert Wilson, William Cooke, John Roberts, and William Thorpe. Ambrose Clarke and John Redyng were appointed their attorneys to deliver possession to John London and Edward Baskerfield, clerks, for the king's use. (fn. 24)

In November 1541 the Crown granted the late priory of White Friars in Nottingham, with a garden and other lands in the parish of St. Nicholas and certain lands in the parish of St. Mary, to James Sturley of Nottingham. (fn. 25)

Two of the Carmelite Friars of the Nottingham house were of some celebrity during the 14th century. Philip Boston, a native of Nottingham and a Carmelite Friar of the same town, 'studied Philosophy and Divinity at Oxford, but returned again to Humanity and became a famous poet and orator, yet so as that he was a frequent preacher to the people, and according to Leland, left behind him in writing learned Sermons and Epistles and died in 1320.' (fn. 26)

John Clipston, a Carmelite Friar of Nottingham, was also born in this town. He was Doctor and Professor of Divinity at Cambridge: 'he taught Divinity there long and explained Divine Mysteries with much applause to himself and improvement to his hearers, ever following the paths of virtue and religion, as close as those of literature.' He left behind him many writings, including Expositions of the Bible, a Commentary on St. John, Scholastic Disputations and a variety of sermons for particular seasons and festivals. He died and was buried at his monastery in Nottingham in the year 1378. (fn. 27)

Priors of the Carmelites

Robert, occurs 1379 (fn. 28)

Robert Sutton, B.D., occurs 1442 (fn. 29)

John Mott, occurs 1482 (fn. 30)

Thomas Gregg, occurs 1495-6 (fn. 31)

Thomas Smithson, occurs 1513 (fn. 32)

Richard Sherwood, occurs 1532 (fn. 33)

Roger Cappe, surrendered 1539 (fn. 34)

There is a cast of a 15th-century impression of the seal of this friary at the British Museum. (fn. 35) It represents within a carved and cusped border of eight points the Blessed Virgin crowned, with the Holy Child on the right arm. Before her kneels the founder (Reginald Lord Grey) holding his shield of arms, barry of eight, a label of eight points. The background is diapered with lozenges. Legend:—



  • 1. Deering, Nott. 53.
  • 2. Close, 56 Hen. III, m. 5.
  • 3. Pat. 12 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 23.
  • 4. Pat. 9 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 9.
  • 5. Pat. 13 Edw. II, m. 31.
  • 6. Pat. I Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 20.
  • 7. Nott. Bor. Rec. i, 72.
  • 8. Ibid. i, 208.
  • 9. Ibid. 254.
  • 10. Ibid. ii, 176.
  • 11. Ibid. 328.
  • 12. Tenter was the name of a frame for stretching cloth.
  • 13. Nott. Bor. Rec. iii, 28, 30.
  • 14. Ibid. 42.
  • 15. Nott. Bor. Rec. iii, 124.
  • 16. L. and P. Hen. VIII, i, 1342.
  • 17. Pat. 24 Hen. VIII, pt. i, m. 20.
  • 18. Test. Ebor. (Surtees Soc.), i, 28.
  • 19. Nott. Bor. Rec.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Test. Ebor. (Surtees Soc.), iii, 44.
  • 22. Visit. of Southwell.
  • 23. Test. Ebor. (Surtees Soc.), passim.
  • 24. Rymer, Foedera, xiv, 621.
  • 25. Pat. 33 Hen. VIII, pt. iv, m. 8.
  • 26. Stevens's continuation of Dugdale, Mon. ii, 162.
  • 27. Ibid. ii, 165.
  • 28. Notts. Bor. Rec. i, 208.
  • 29. Ibid. ii, 176.
  • 30. Ibid. 328.
  • 31. Ibid. iii, 28, 30, 42.
  • 32. Ibid. 124.
  • 33. Pat. 24 Hen. VIII, pt. i, m. 20.
  • 34. Rymer, Foedera, xiv, 621.
  • 35. Seal Casts, lxx, 52.