Dominican friaries: Ipswich

A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1975.

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'Dominican friaries: Ipswich', in A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, (London, 1975) pp. 122-123. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]


The Dominican friars were established at Ipswich by Henry III in 1263. For their accommodation the king purchased a messuage of Hugh, son of Gerard de Langeston, (fn. 1) and two years later, at the instance of his confessor, John de Darlington, the king granted them an adjacent messuage, purchased of the same Hugh, for the augmentation of their site. (fn. 2)

Their church and house, dedicated to St. Mary, soon began to flourish. Robert de Kilwardby, provincial of their order, who afterwards became archbishop of Canterbury, took a particular interest in this foundation; in 1269 he purchased a further messuage to add to their site. (fn. 3)

The crown issued a commission in May, 1275, to John de Lovetot, to inquire whether it would be to the injury of the king or town to grant licence to the Friars Preachers of Ipswich to build an external chamber extending from their dormitory to the town dyke. (fn. 4) Further enlargement of their homestead was authorized in 1308 and in 1334. (fn. 5)

Pardon was granted to the Friars Preachers of Ipswich for having acquired without licence from John Harneys, for the enlargement of their manse, a void place and a dyke 100 ft. square; licence was at the same time granted them to retain the lot without fine, providing the burgesses and townsmen had full ingress to repair the walls of the town for defence in time of war, and whenever necessary. (fn. 6)

In February, 1348, the bailiffs and commonalty of Ipswich unanimously granted the Black Friars a plot of land south of their curtilage, which was 103 ft. in length. For this the friars were to pay 6d. a year rent and to keep up the town wall opposite the plot, and also the two great gates, one on the north and the other on the south of their court; and through these gates the commonalty were to be allowed to pass whenever any mishap fell on the town, or other necessity required. (fn. 7)

By an inquisition of March, 1350-1, it was adjudged that Henry de Monescele and two others might assign three messuages to the Dominicans for the extension of the site. (fn. 8)

These various grants gave to the Friars Preachers a large site in the parish of St. Mary at Quay, reaching in length from north to south, from St. Margaret's Church to the church of St. Mary at Quay (Star Lane), and in width from east to west, from Foundation Street to the town wall, parallel with the Lower Wash.

The convent accommodated, in the thirteenth century, over fifty religious, as can be gathered from the amount of the food grants made by royalty. When Edward I was at Ipswich in April, 1277, he gave the Dominicans an alms of 14s. 10d. for two days' sustenance. In December, 1296, the king gave four marks for the food of four days, and in the following January one mark for a single day's food. (fn. 9)

Father Palmer has set out a large number of bequests to the Ipswich Dominicans of small sums of money for masses, from the townsfolk and others, from 1378 to the very eve of their suppression. (fn. 10)

The following burials in this church are recorded by Weever:—Dame Maud Burell, Edmund Saxham, esquire, John Fastolph and Agnes his wife, Gilbert Roulage, Jone Chamber, and Edmund Charlton, esquire. He also adds the following, whose names are on the martyrology register of the Black Friars' benefaction:— The Lord Roger Bigot, earl-marshal, Sir John Sutton, knight, Lady Margaret Plays, Sir Richard Plays, and Sir Robert Ufford, earl of Suffolk, who died in 1369. (fn. 11)

The name of one fourteenth-century prior of this house is known. In June, 1397, the mastergeneral of the order declared that Brother John de Stanton was the true prior here, and not Brother William. (fn. 12)

In 1535-6 Edmund, the prior of the Dominicans of Ipswich, leased a garden next one of the gates of their house to Henry Toley, merchant, of Ipswich, and Alice his wife. (fn. 13)

Towards the end of 1537 the prior and convent leased for ninety years a dwelling-house and garden to Sir John Willoughby, knt., and other dwelling-houses, including a building called 'le Fraytof,' to different persons. (fn. 14)

This action points to a considerable diminution in the number of the friars, and also to an expectancy of dissolution.

The suffragan Bishop of Dover (an ex-friar) suppressed this house, as royal visitor, in November, 1538. (fn. 15)

On the expulsion of the community, William Aubyn, one of the king's serjeants-at-arms, became tenant of the site and buildings, worth 50s. 2d. a year; and the whole was sold to him in 1541 for £24. (fn. 16)

The matrix of the thirteenth-century seal of this priory is in the Bodleian Library. It bears a half-length of the Blessed Virgin, with the Holy Child in her arms, and in an arch below the figure of a kneeling friar. Legend:—



  • 1. Close, 47 Hen. III, m. 2.
  • 2. Pat. 50 Hen. III, 113.
  • 3. Feet of F. Suff. 53 Hen. III, 30.
  • 4. Pat. 3 Edw. I, m. 27d.
  • 5. Pat. 1 Edw. II, ii. m. 24; 8 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 19.
  • 6. Pat. 20 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 3.
  • 7. Add. Chart. 10130.
  • 8. Inq. a.q.d. 24 Edw. III, 79; Pat. 25 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 30.
  • 9. Rot. Gard. de oblat. et eleemos. reg. 5 Edw. I. 25 Edw. I.
  • 10. Reliquary (new ser.), i, 72-5.
  • 11. Weever, Funeral Monuments, 750-2.
  • 12. Reg. Mag. gen. ord., at Rome, cited by Father Palmer.
  • 13. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. ix, 236.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii, pt. i, 1021.
  • 16. Pat. 33 Hen. VIII, pt. vii, m. 7.
  • 17. Engraved in Wodderspoon, Ipswich, opp. 305.