Franciscan friars: Dunwich

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

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'Franciscan friars: Dunwich', A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, (London, 1975), pp. 125-126. British History Online [accessed 24 June 2024].

. "Franciscan friars: Dunwich", in A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, (London, 1975) 125-126. British History Online, accessed June 24, 2024,

. "Franciscan friars: Dunwich", A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, (London, 1975). 125-126. British History Online. Web. 24 June 2024,

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According to Weever, quoting from the 'painfull collections of William le Neve,' the house of the Grey Friars of Dunwich was founded 'first by Richard FitzJohn and Alice his wife, and after by King Henry the third.' (fn. 1)

Its original site was changed and moved further inland (where the ruins and precinct walls still remain) by gift of the burgesses of the town in 1289. An inquisition ad quod damnum of that year returned that it would not be injurious to the king to allow the corporation of Dunwich to grant these friars a plot of land for their convent, containing about seven acres of ground, situated between the king's highway on the west and the house of Richard Kilbeck on the north. (fn. 2) Accordingly a grant was made in mortmain by the king in August, 1290, to the Friars Minor of Dunwich of the king's dyke adjoining a plot given to them by the commonalty of the town to build upon and inhabit, with licence to enclose the same. (fn. 3)

Licence was granted to the Friars Minor of Dunwich in 1328 to enclose and hold the vacant plot there which they used to inhabit, and which was taken into the king's hands when they removed to another place in the town, because it would be indecent that a plot of land dedicated for some time to divine worship, and where Christian bodies were buried, should be converted to secular uses. (fn. 4)

Further precautions were taken for the preserving of the old site in the year 1415. (fn. 5)

The conventual church seems to have been under repair or re-construction shortly before its dissolution, for Katharine Read, by will of 16 June, 1514, left 3s. 4d. to Friar Nicholas Wicet, or to those that shall rebuild the church of the Friars Minor. (fn. 6)

The only record of the suppression of these friars is the communication made to Cromwell in 1538 by the suffragan Bishop of Dover, which has already been cited under the Black Friars.

Within their church were interred the bodies of Sir Robert Valence, Dame Ida of Ilketshall, Sir Peter Mellis and Dame Anne his wife, Dame Dunne his mother, John Francans and Margaret his wife, Dame Bertha of Furnival . . . Austin of Cales and Joan his wife, John Falleys and Beatrice his wife, Augustine his son, Sir Hubert Dernford, Katharine wife of William Phellip, Margaret wife of Richard Phellip, Peter Codum, and the heart of Dame Hawise-Ponyngs. (fn. 7)

The site of this convent was granted in 1545 to John Eyre, of the Augmentation Office, who was so large a holder of monastic lands in the eastern counties. (fn. 8)

Wardens (fn. 9) of the Franciscan Friars of Dunwich

John Lacey (predecessor of Bokenham)

Nicholas Bokenham, 1482

George Muse, 1505

The pointed oval fifteenth-century seal of this convent bears St. John Baptist under a canopied arch, with nimbus, clothed in a camel skin, its head hanging at his feet; holding in the left hand the Agnus Dei on a plaque, and pointing to it with the right hand. By the side of the Baptist is a kneeling friar, with scroll, S.: JOH: ORA: P': ME: Legend:—


Gardner gives a reproduction of another remarkable seal of this friary, representing a ship with large mainsail; at the bow is seated a crowned king, and at the stern a mitred bishop with crozier in left hand. Legend:—



  • 1. Weever, Funeral Monuments, 721.
  • 2. Inq. p.m. 18 Edw. I, 92.
  • 3. Pat. 18 Edw. I, m. 11.
  • 4. Ibid. 2 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 19.
  • 5. Ibid. 16 Hen. IV, pt. i, m. 33.
  • 6. Gardner, Hist. of Dunwich, 61.
  • 7. Weever, Funeral Monuments, 721.
  • 8. Dep. Keeper's Rep. ix, App. ii, 207.
  • 9. Gardner, Hist. of Dunwich, 61.
  • 10. B. M. Cast, lxxi, 106. There is a lithograph of this seal in Suckling, Hist. of Suff. ii, opp. 292.
  • 11. Gardner, Hist. of Dunwich, pl. opp. 43.