Houses of Dominican Friars: Winchelsea

Pages 94-95

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.

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Although when the new town of Winchelsea was founded it had been stipulated that no other religious house than that of the Grey Friars should be erected within it, Edward II in 1318 granted a vacant plot of 12 acres on the southern edge of the cliff at Winchelsea, not far from the New Gate, for the erection of a house of Black Friars. (fn. 2) The site thus granted, however, was so far removed from the business quarters of the town that but few persons came to worship in the church, and the alms bestowed were small. Accordingly in 1339 licence was given for William Batan of South Iham to grant the friars 6 acres of land 'near the town' whereon to build their house and oratory. (fn. 3) It is not certain that they availed themselves of the permission to move, but if they did it would seem that the new site was down by the harbour, and even less satisfactory than the first, for in 1342 they obtained from the pope a faculty to move to another part of the town, as their convent was in danger of being swept away by the sea. (fn. 4) For the next fifteen years the history of these friars is unknown, but in 1358 the king granted them an acre of land in the centre of the town near the church of St. Giles and allowed them to take over five messuages adjoining this land, (fn. 5) and here they found a permanent abiding-place. In 1372 the king released them from payment of the rent of 5s. 8¾d. due for the said five messuages, (fn. 6) and these concessions were confirmed by Henry VI in 1429. (fn. 7)

Of the history of this house, which was under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, (fn. 8) very little is known. In 1398 Henry Sucton was appointed for a term of three years as ' lector' or teacher of philosophy and theology, and had permission to make a pilgrimage to Rome. (fn. 9) The prior a few years later appears to have been a partisan of Richard II, as in 1402 Henry IV issued orders to arrest him and the rector of Horsmonden, in Kent, for high treason. (fn. 10) The result of his trial is not known, and beyond numerous legacies, and the occurrence of Hugh Stonard as prior in 1439, (fn. 11) no further reference is found to this Dominican friary of Winchelsea until its dissolution in July, 1538, when the bishop of Dover reported that the house was ruinous, its furniture had fetched £10, there was a close let for 20s., and the rest of the property would not bring in 10s. a year. (fn. 12)


  • 1. Suss. Arch. Coll. xxviii, 91–6.
  • 2. Pat. 11 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 29.
  • 3. Pat. 13 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 22.
  • 4. Cal. Papal Pet. 2.
  • 5. Pat. 32 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 23.
  • 6. Pat. 46 Edw. III, m. 11.
  • 7. Pat. 8 Hen. VI, pt. i, m. 19.
  • 8. Obit. R. (Surtees Soc.), 28.
  • 9. Suss. Arch. Coll. xxviii, 93.
  • 10. Pat. 3 Hen. IV, pt. ii, m. 18 d.
  • 11. a De Banco R. Hil. 9 Hen. IV, m. 150.
  • 12. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 1456.