Grey friars of Ipswich

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

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'Grey friars of Ipswich', A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, (London, 1975), pp. 126-127. British History Online [accessed 18 June 2024].

. "Grey friars of Ipswich", in A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, (London, 1975) 126-127. British History Online, accessed June 18, 2024,

. "Grey friars of Ipswich", A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, (London, 1975). 126-127. British History Online. Web. 18 June 2024,


On the west side of Ipswich, in the parish of St. Nicholas, a convent of Franciscan or Grey Friars was founded early in the reign of Edward I. The founders were Sir Robert Tiptot, of Nettlestead, and Una his wife; Sir Robert died in 1298. (fn. 1)

There are but few record entries relative to this house. In September, 1328, Edward III granted protection, during pleasure, to the warden and Friars Minor of Ipswich, (fn. 2) and this protection was renewed in February, 1331. (fn. 3)

In January, 1332, licence was granted, after inquisition, to these friars to accept the alienation to them by Nicholas Frunceyes, knight, of a messuage and toft for the enlargement of their dwelling-house. At the same time they received a pardon for having acquired without due licence a toft from Geoffrey Poper, and land 50 perches in length and 7 ft. in breadth from Sir William de Cleydon, knight. (fn. 4)

On 1 April, 1538, Lord Wentworth, of Nettlestead, wrote to Cromwell as to this friary, stating that the warden and brethren lived there in great necessity, for the inhabitants were extending their charity to the poor and impotent instead of to 'such an idle nest of drones.' He complained that they were selling the jewels of their house, and as he was 'their founder in blood' he sent for the warden, who stated that they had been compelled to sell something, for during a twelvemonth they had only gathered £5, and could not continue in that house three months longer. There were no lands, only the bare site, with a garden or two enclosed. Lord Wentworth, hereditary patron of this friary, called to mind (for Cromwell's edification) how this order was 'neither stock nor griffe which the Heavenly Father had planted, but only a hypocritical weed planted by that sturdy Nembrot, the Bishop of Rome,' and begged for the grant of the house. (fn. 5)

As a consequence of this letter, Ingworth, the special visitor of the king for the friaries, attended at the Grey Friars, Ipswich, on 7 April, and drew up an inventory of their goods. In the quire were five candlesticks, two hanging lamps, a holy-water stoop, with latten sprinkler, twenty books good and ill, and a wooden lectern; in the vestry were various old vestments and other matters of little value; whilst the other contents of the house were all commonplace and mostly old. Bishop Ingworth removed all of this stuff to the house of the Black Friars, locking it up in 'a close house.' The visitor tracked out the plate which had been sold or pledged. He recovered from Archdeacon Thomas Sillesdon a censer, two chalices, a cross with a crystal in it, twelve spoons, &c., and various vestments which he had craftily purchased, as well as plate from Lord Wentworth which had been pledged to him. The total plate recovered amounted to 259¾ ounces.

The visitor left behind him certain utensils for the use of the friars still remaining there, 'till my lord privy seal's pleasure be further known.' (fn. 6)

Among the corporation records of Ipswich are two wills of interest with regard to this friary. Robert of Fornham, who died in 1319, left the tenement that he had purchased of Claricia Strike, and the tenement he had purchased of Leman Le Bakestere to the Grey Friars; but John Strike and Geoffrey the cook, on coming before the bailiffs and coroner of the court of Ipswich as executors of Robert of Fornham, could only produce an unsigned and unwitnessed will.

Probate, however, was granted on the testimony of two of the Grey Friars (although their house was to benefit), who 'on the peril of their souls' certified that the deceased had made this will when of sound mind. (fn. 7)

Weever mentions the following distinguished persons who sought and obtained burial in the conventual church of the Grey Friars.

Sir Robert Tiptot and Una his wife, the founders; the heart of Sir Robert Vere the elder; Margaret, countess of Oxford, wife of Sir Robert Vere, the younger; Dame Elizabeth, wife of Sir Thomas Ufford, and daughter of the Earl of Warwick; Sir Thomas Tiptot, the younger; Margaret, wife of Sir John Tiptot; Robert Tiptot, esquire; Elizabeth Ufford; Elizabeth Lady Spenser, wife of Sir Philip Spenser and daughter of Robert Tiptot, with Philip, George, and Elizabeth their children; Joan, daughter of Sir Hugh Spenser; Sir Robert Warlesham and Joan his wife; John son of William Cleydon; Sir Thomas Hardell, knight; Elizabeth, wife of Sir Walter Clopton, of Hadley; Sir William Lancham; Sir Hugh Peach and Sir John Lovelock, knights; the heart of Dame Petronilla Ufford; Dame Beatrice Botiler; Dame Aveline Quatefeld; Dame Margery, aunt of Sir Thomas Ufford; and Dame Alice, widow of Sir John Holbrook. (fn. 8)

To these may be added Sir Robert Curson, at whose great house in Ipswich Henry VIII had visited in 1522; the hearse-cloth over the hearse above his tomb is named in the 1536 inventory.


  • 1. Dugdale, Baronage, ii, 39; Weever, Funeral Monuments, 751.
  • 2. Pat. 2 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 21.
  • 3. Ibid. 5 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 31.
  • 4. Ibid. 6 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 25, 26.
  • 5. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii, pt. i, 651.
  • 6. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii, pt. i, 699; xiii (2), App. 16. The whole inventory is set forth at length in Wodderspoon, Mem. of Ipswich, 315-19.
  • 7. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. ix, 225.
  • 8. Weever, Funeral Monuments, 751.