Dominican friaries: Sudbury

Pages 123-124

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

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The Friars Preachers were established at Sudbury by Baldwin de Shipling and Chabil his wife, who were afterwards interred in the quire of the conventual church, which was dedicated to our Saviour. (fn. 1) They were settled here before 1247, for in that year Henry III gave them six marks towards their support. (fn. 2)

Their first site was about 5 acres in extent, and there is record of its being twice enlarged. In 1299 Robert de Pettemer, chaplain, was allowed, after inquisition, to give the friars a strip of adjacent land, 134 ft. by 40 ft.; (fn. 3) and in 1352 a far more considerable enlargement was sanctioned, whereby Nigel Theobald (father of Archbishop Simon) gave them 4½ acres of land, 3 acres of meadow, and 1 acre 1 rood in Sudbury, adjoining their original homestead. (fn. 4)

In August, 1380, Archbishop Simon and his brother John Chertsey obtained licence for the alienation to the Friars Preachers of Sudbury of a piece of land in 'Babyngdonhall' 20 ft. square containing a spring, and for the making by the latter of an aqueduct thence to their house. (fn. 5) The archbishop and his brother paid a half mark for this permission, and made the grant; but so much opposition was offered by landowners to the making of the conduit that it was delayed for nearly five years. At length the friars obtained from the king royal protection for themselves, their servants, and labourers engaged in this work, and all sheriffs, mayors, bailiffs, &c., were charged to defend the friars and prevent any molestation or violence in the matter. (fn. 6)

The records of the royal alms bestowed on this house are scanty as compared with many friaries. Edward I in 1299 gave the friars of Sudbury three days' food; the executors of Queen Eleanor in 1291 gave 100s., and Edward I in 1296, when at Waddington, near this town, gave 30s. to the thirty black friars of Sudbury for three days' food. (fn. 7)

Father Palmer collected a large number of small bequests made to these friars by will, between 1355 and 1506. (fn. 8)

The provincial chapter of the Dominicans was held at Sudbury in 1316. The king gave £15 for the food of the friars on this occasion, being £5 for himself and £5 for his queen, and £5 for his son Edward. On 24 August the 'de orando pro rege et regina,' &c., was issued to the assembly. The province met here again in 1368, when Edward III made a like donation. (fn. 9)

This priory was suppressed some time before October, 1539, for in that month Thomas Eden, clerk of the king's council, and Griselda his wife obtained a grant of the site and appurtenances in as full manner as John Cotton, the last prior, held the same. (fn. 10)

Weever has a long list of distinguished burials in this church, which includes, in addition to the founders, many members of the families of Gifford, Cressenon, Walgrave, and St. Quintyn. (fn. 11)

The most noteworthy member of this community was John Hodgkin, who took a prominent part in the Reformation movement immediately preceding the dispersion of the friars. He was a D.D. of Cambridge and taught theology in the convent of Sudbury. In 1527 he was appointed provincial by the English Dominicans. In February, 1529-30, Godfrey Jullys, prior of Sudbury, and the brethren granted him the use of a house to the west of their church, with garden and stabling, at a yearly rental of 15s., so long as he was provincial. On the establishment of the royal supremacy in 1534 Hodgkin was regarded with some suspicion, and court influence procured his deposition and the appointment of John Hilsey as provincial in his place. Hodgkin endeavoured to get reinstated, and he wrote a sycophantic and meanly submissive letter to Cromwell, declaring that he would be 'ever ready to do in the most lowly manner such service as he shall be commanded.' Towards the end of 1536 he was restored to the office of provincial; and the priory of Sudbury, 'considering the help and comfort they had by the presence of Master Doctor Hodgkin provincial,' renewed the lease of his lodging at the reduced rental of 13s. 4d. On 3 December, 1537, he was appointed by the king one of the suffragan bishops, and was consecrated at St. Paul's on 9 December under the title of bishop of Bedford. On the suppression of the friary of Sudbury, Hodgkin had his lease registered in the Court of Augmentation, and continued to reside there till February, 1541. At that date he obtained the vicarage of Walden, Essex, and afterwards other preferment. He did active work as suffragan and married in the reign of Edward VI. When Mary came to the throne he was deprived of his preferments, but repudiating his wife and expressing penitence obtained a dispensation and preferment from Cardinal Pole. On the accession of Elizabeth Hodgkin was quite ready to conform yet again, and took part in several consecrations of bishops. He died in 1560. (fn. 12)


  • 1. Weever, Funeral Monuments, 743.
  • 2. Lib. R. 32 Hen. III, m. 10.
  • 3. Inq. p.m. 27 Edw. I, No. 87; Pat. 27 Edw. I, m. 14.
  • 4. Inq. p.m. 26 Edw. III, 2 d. 406, No. 32; Pat. 26 Edw. I, pt. ii, m. 3.
  • 5. Pat. 4 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 27.
  • 6. Ibid. 8 Ric. II, pt. ii, m. 28.
  • 7. Reliquary, xxiv, 82.
  • 8. Reliquary, xxiv, 82-4.
  • 9. Ibid. 84.
  • 10. Pat. 31 Hen. VIII, pt. iv, m. 38.
  • 11. Weever, Funeral Monuments, 743, 778.
  • 12. Arch. Journ. xxxv, 162-5.