Houses of Franciscan friars: Salisbury

Pages 329-330

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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The Grey Friars came to England in 1224, three years after the Black Friars, who, we are told, welcomed them on their arrival in Oxford. (fn. 1) The Grey Friars, however, sent a mission into Wiltshire within a few years of their arrival, while the Black Friars did not do so until 1245. It is said that Richard Poore, Bishop of Salisbury, founded the Salisbury house of the Friars Minor. He may well have invited them into his diocese soon after they were settled in Oxford. He was himself translated to Durham in May 1228, (fn. 2) so it is not unexpected that there is no record of any material help from him.

The king was the Franciscans' chief benefactor. He may or may not have given them a site, (fn. 3) but, as with the Dominicans, he gave a constant supply of building materials. As is the case with most houses of friars, the exact date of the foundation is not known, but it is certain that the friars came to Salisbury late in 1229 or very early in 1230. In March 1230 Henry III ordered John de Monemuth to give 5 oaks from his bailiwick as timber for the building of their house. (fn. 4) By March two years later the walls of the church appear to be well advanced, for Geoffrey Sturmy was ordered to give the friars 20 tie-beams (copulas) for its roof. (fn. 5) Ten days later John de Wike, bailiff of Pancet Wood (Clarendon Forest), was to give 2 oaks so that they could make shingles or tiles (scindulas) to cover their church (fn. 6) and Michael de Columbar a further 30 tie-beams, also for the church. (fn. 7) The building went ahead, but in September 1233 the roof was still unfinished. That month Peter de Rivall was ordered to give the friars 5 good oaks from Gillingham Park (Dors.) for making tiles. (fn. 8) By the following spring it seems that the outside of the church was finished, but that there was still work to be done inside. In 1234 Roger Wascelin, bailiff of Clarendon Forest, was to give timber for the pulpit unless this had already been provided by an earlier royal grant. (fn. 9) The last reference to building is in September 1241, when William Luveret was ordered to deliver 6 oaks to the friars' house. (fn. 10) These were no doubt not the only gifts received by the friars for the building of their church, and Hoare states that it was built through the generosity of Richard Pende, a citizen of Salisbury. (fn. 11)

In 1252 and 1284 the friars received substantial royal gifts of wood suitable for fencing: on the first occasion it was to enclose their courtyard (ad curiam suam ibidem claudendam). (fn. 12) Gifts of wood for fuel were almost numberless. (fn. 13) The only two facts which might possibly throw light on the history of the house or of the Franciscans as a whole are the dates of the first and of the last occasion when these gifts were made: 12 October 1232 (fn. 14) and 9 September 1294. (fn. 15) The first may be the date when the friars moved in. Possibly, however, until then they had gathered fuel for themselves and suffered badly in the winters of 1230-1 and 1231-2. The reason for the abrupt end to the royal gifts of fuel is not known. Did Edward turn against the Friars Minor after Pecham's death? Possibly this cutting off of supplies was part of Edward's economy drive and of the exactions from the clergy of 1294.

Two other benefactions of a somewhat different nature are recorded. In 1257 Henry III ordered, for the good of the soul of Robert de Mares, that provision be made for feeding the Friars Preachers of Wilton, the Friars Minor of Salisbury, and 100 poor people. (fn. 16) In 1357 five laymen gave endowments to the Friars Minor. Walter atte Bergh gave a messuage in the city of Salisbury, having agreed with the bishop and dean and chapter that the friars should hold it free, and William Randolf, Adam Goweyn, Robert Hechelhampton, and Philip Langynon gave them a toft for the enlargement of their house. (fn. 17)

Apart from this list of benefactions little is known of the history of the Friars Minor in Salisbury. In 1303 Richard of Ebbesborne, a member of the Order, was appointed a penitencier in Salisbury in place of master Robert Fromond, who was temporarily absent. (fn. 18) Eccleston, writing between 1250 and 1260, (fn. 19) names Salisbury as one of the six Custodies into which the English Province was divided, but the list given by the General Chapter at Perpignan in 1331 omits Salisbury. The house was then a member of the London Custody. (fn. 20) The English Provincial Chapter met twice in the Salisbury house, in 1393 and in 1510. (fn. 21)

Eccleston writes, 'In the Custody of Salisbury, over which Brother Stephen presided, the feeling of mutual affection was the distinguishing note. He himself was of such sweetness, such a geniality and such an exceeding charity and compassion that, in so far as he could he would allow no one to be made sad.' (fn. 22) Such was their beginning; the last chapter is not long. The Provincial Chapter met at Salisbury in 1510. In 1538 Charles Bulkeley wrote to Cromwell begging him to secure for him the house of the Grey Friars in Salisbury, which, he said, would soon be in the king's hands. Bulkeley claimed that he had lodged within the house for 20 years and that the rent of 26s. 8d. which he paid was the only annual income the house had. He offered to pay £100 for the house and proposed to rebuild it and have there twice as many persons as there are now friars who shall work for their living without begging'. He valued the 'jewels and goods' at 100 marks, and offered to buy them also. (fn. 23) On 2 October 1538 the warden and convent surrendered the house to the lord visitor. The surrender was signed by 'John Burthamus baccalarius, Thomas Man, bacca, William Hedyng W', and seven others. The usual inventory of the goods of the house was made and they were left in the care of John Shaxton and John Goodall. Certain of the goods were sold, realizing £14 2s. £19 was owed partly to brewers and others for food and drink and partly to the warden, but the creditors were satisfied with £11. The visitor paid his own charges and left. (fn. 24)


  • 1. V.C.H. Oxon. ii, 122.
  • 2. Stubbs, Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum, 54.
  • 3. Leland, Itin. ed. L. Toulmin Smith, i, 260.
  • 4. Close R. 1227-31, 310.
  • 5. Ibid. 1231-4, 43.
  • 6. Ibid. 45.
  • 7. Ibid. 48.
  • 8. Ibid. 260.
  • 9. Ibid. 414.
  • 10. Ibid. 1237-42, 334.
  • 11. Hoare, Monasticon Wiltonense (1821), 40.
  • 12. Close R. 1251-3, 297; Cal. Close, 1279-84, 269.
  • 13. Close R. 1234-7, 406; 1237-42, 160; 1242-7, 492; 1247-51, 18; 1251-3, 124; 1253-4, 66; 1254-6, 87, 251; 1256-9, 226; 1259-61, 113; 1264-8, 406; 1268-72, 10, 56. Cal. Close 1272-9, 143, 384; 1279-88, 143, 269; 128896, 74, 290.
  • 14. Close R. 1231-4, 117.
  • 15. Cal. Close, 1288-96, 368.
  • 16. A. G. Little in Studies in Engl. Franciscan Hist. 37.
  • 17. Cal. Pat. 1354-8, 588. For other lay benefactions see Dominicans in Salisbury, p. 332.
  • 18. Reg. Simon de Gandavo (Cant. & York Soc.), ii, 865.
  • 19. A. G. Little, Franciscan Papers, Lists & Documents, 26, from which all this information is taken.
  • 20. A. G. Little, Studies in Engl. Franciscan Hist. 164, 235-8, and Franciscan Papers, 217-29.
  • 21. Ibid. 215-16.
  • 22. Chronicle of Thomas of Eccleston, trans. Gurney Salter, 50.
  • 23. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2), p. 156.
  • 24. Ibid. pp. 203-4.