Franciscan friars: Bury St Edmunds

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

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'Franciscan friars: Bury St Edmunds', in A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, ed. William Page( London, 1975), British History Online [accessed 16 July 2024].

'Franciscan friars: Bury St Edmunds', in A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Edited by William Page( London, 1975), British History Online, accessed July 16, 2024,

"Franciscan friars: Bury St Edmunds". A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Ed. William Page(London, 1975), , British History Online. Web. 16 July 2024.

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In the year 1238 both the Dominicans and the Franciscan friars endeavoured to establish themselves at Bury; but the legate Otho was then at the great monastery, and being discouraged by him the Dominicans desisted from their attempts. (fn. 1)

The Franciscans, however, persisted in their efforts, and at last they obtained a bull in their favour from Alexander IV. Relying on this, they entered Bury on 22 June, 1257, and hastily established themselves in a farm at the north end of the town. The officials of the abbey remonstrated with them, but in vain, and at last the monks, in spite of the papal bull, expelled them with ignominy, though without personal violence. The friars appealed to Rome, and the pope wrote severely to the convent, enjoining the primate and the dean of Lincoln to induct them into another homestead which had been granted them on the west side of the town. Accordingly the treasurer of Hereford cathedral, as the commissary of the archbishop, and the dean of Lincoln in person arrived at Bury, gave their judgement in the parish church of St. Mary, and invested the friars in their new premises. The monks, however, in their indignation, drove out both friars and delegates from the town.

The next step of the Franciscans was to lay their grievance at the foot of the throne, when Henry III, specially urged by his queen, espoused the side of the mendicants, and caused the friars, backed by the civil power, to be established on the western site in April, 1258. Here they rapidly raised buildings and remained for between five and six years. After the death of Alexander IV, the monks laid their case before his successor, Urban IV, with the result that the new pope ordered the friars to pull down their buildings and abandon the ground. The friars obeyed, and reconciliation was effected between them and the monks on 19 November, 1262. On leaving the town itself the monks granted the friars a site beyond the north gate, just outside the town jurisdiction, called Babwell, and here they continued till the dissolution.

There was some delay on the part of the friars in carrying out their promise, but they finally quitted the town in November, 1263. Their minister or warden was at that time Peter de Brigstowe, and the names of five other friars are set forth. (fn. 2)

In 1300, when the king was at Bury, he granted 44s. for putura or dietary payment for the convent of the Franciscans for three days. A day's food for a friar was always reckoned in these gifts at 4d., so that there must have been about forty in the household. (fn. 3)

During the riots of 1327, at the time when the town had got the upper hand and the prior of St. Edmunds and his brethren were locked up in the Guildhall, six of the senior friars sought leave to re-establish themselves in the town. The whole convent of the Franciscans, together with the town chaplains, made at this time solemn procession through Bury, a thing which they had never done before, as though to encourage the populace in their violence against the monks. Moreover, according to the monkish historian, the friars subsequently helped the ringleaders to escape. (fn. 4)

In February, 1328, the warden and Friars Minor of Babwell obtained the royal protection for two years, and this was changed in the following April to protection 'during pleasure.' (fn. 5)

There was apparently peace between the monks and friars at the beginning of the fifteenth century, for in 1412, when the general chapter of the Grey Friars was held at Bury, the great abbey made a donation of £10 towards their expenses. (fn. 6)

The popularity of the Babwell friars is proved by the frequency of bequests to them. (fn. 7)

Robert, bishop of Emly, by his will of 1411, left his body to be buried in the church of the Friars Minor of Babwell; he also left to that convent six silver spoons, a silver cup, and his lesser maser. (fn. 8) Among other burials in this church, Weever mentions Sir Walter Trumpington and Dame Anne his wife, Nicholas Drury and Jane his wife, and Margaret Peyton. (fn. 9)

John Hilsey, the ex-Dominican friar, Cromwell's agent, who was then bishop of Rochester, wrote to his master on 27 September, 1538, saying he had been at Babwell talking with the warden; he had been reported for some treasonable utterances, but expressed his sorrow, and said he was ready to surrender if the king or Cromwell wished it. Hilsey offered to take the surrender on his return from Lynn. There was a bed-ridden friar at Babwell, and he should be used as Cromwell commanded. (fn. 10)

The actual surrender was, however, made in the following December to another ex-Dominican and special tool of Cromwell in dealing with the friars, Richard Ingworth, suffragan bishop of Dover. (fn. 11)

The house of the Grey Friars, Babwell, with its appurtenances, was granted in May, 1541, to Anthony Harvey, at a rental of 10s. (fn. 12)

Wardens of the Franciscan Friars of Bury St. Edmunds

Peter de Brigstowe, 1263

Adam Ewell, (fn. 13) 1418


  • 1. Arnold, Memorials (Rolls Ser.), ii, 30.
  • 2. Reg. Werketon (Harl. MS. 638), passim. Cited and annotated in Arnold, Memorials, ii, 263-85.
  • 3. Lib. Gard. R. 28 Edw. I, 46.
  • 4. Arnold, Memorials, ii, 335, 349, 352; iii, 294.
  • 5. Pat. 2 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 29.
  • 6. Reg. Croftis (Harl. MS. 27), fol. 109.
  • 7. Tymms, Bury Wills, 2, 5, 6, 35, 50, 55, 73, 79, 80, 83, 92, 94, 95, 115, 117.
  • 8. Ibid. 2.
  • 9. Weever, Funeral Monuments, 760.
  • 10. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii, pt. ii, 437.
  • 11. Ibid. 1021.
  • 12. Tymms, Bury Wills, 5.
  • 13. Reliquary, xxiv, 85.