Friaries: The Dominicans at Ilchester

A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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

'Friaries: The Dominicans at Ilchester', in A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 2, (London, 1911) pp. 150-151. British History Online [accessed 15 April 2024]

In this section



Nothing is known of this house of Black Friars at Ilchester beyond the fact of its existence. Of this there is ample evidence from the 13th century downwards.

In 1263 (fn. 1) an arrangement was entered into between Thomas Trevet of Ilchester and Walter and Matilda Lune so that through the acknowledgement of Walter and Matilda Lune, Thomas Trivet might grant a messuage in the suburb of Ilchester to Brother Robert de Kilwardby prior provincial of the Order of Preachers in England and the friars preachers of the convent of Ilchester.

The convent soon outgrew this house, for in 1271 (fn. 2) we find the friars purchasing from William de Aubeny and Clemencia his wife another messuage in Ilchester. In 1283 (fn. 3) licence was granted for the friars preachers of Ilchester to appropriate and inclose 2½ acres of land given to them by John Whytbred adjoining a lane which ran between his land and their wall.

Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury made great use of the Dominicans in the diocese as penitentiaries and on 14 October 1333 (fn. 4) admitted John of Ilchester, reader of the house of preaching friars at Ilchester, presented to him by Symon the prior of that house, as a penitentiary under the constitution super cathedram. The register mentions in 1337 (fn. 5) an Adam Demercy of the order of Friars Minor of Ilchester, but this must be a mistake for the friars preachers.

On 28 January 1350 (fn. 6) licence was granted to Henry Power and Richard Sherewynd vicar of East Chinnock to give to the prior and friars preachers of Ilchester an acre and a half of land for the enlargement of their dwelling place. During the 15th century they shared with the Franciscans the gratitude of the laity of Somerset. They were in constant receipt of legacies which proved how they were valued. In 1411 (fn. 7) Sir John Wadham left them 20s. and to the prisoners of Ilchester 40d. So in 1441 (fn. 8) did William Wenard with a request that they would pray for him. William Balsham the elder of Ilchester in 1444 (fn. 9) desired to be buried in their chapel and left legacies, for every friar priest 1s. and for every friar not a priest 6d., and in 1457 (fn. 10) his widow Alice made a similar bequest and left them a pall of cloth of gold. The reference to the preaching friars in close connexion with the prisoners at Ilchester which occurs in several wills seems to show the reason why the Dominicans settled thus close to the county gaol, and the sphere of their daily labour.

The priory is not mentioned in the Valor of 1535, but Robert Sandwich is said to have been in 1536 (fn. 11) the prior of the community.


  • 1. Feet of F. (Somers. Rec. Soc. vi), 204.
  • 2. Ibid. 231.
  • 3. Cal. Pat. 1281–92, pp. 91, 111.
  • 4. R. of Shrewsbury's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc. ix) 155.
  • 5. R. of Shrewsbury's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc. ix) 322.
  • 6. Cal. Pat. 1348–50, p. 468.
  • 7. Weaver, Somerset Wills, 54.
  • 8. Ibid. 147.
  • 9. Ibid. 155.
  • 10. Ibid. 173.
  • 11. The Reliquary, xxv, 77.