Friaries: Houses of grey friars

Pages 264-267

A History of the County of York: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1974.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section


The origin of the friary is obscure. It was in existence in 1267, when one of the friars preached at Beverley on the feast of St. John, and afterwards heard the confession of a woman possessed by a devil. (fn. 1) In 1274 deacon's orders were conferred on Peter de Nutel, and priests' orders on Alexander de Willingham, Andrew de Whitby, and John de Howm, all of this house. (fn. 2) Archbishop Wickwane gave the Friars Minors of Beverley 10 marks in 1282; (fn. 3) and Archbishop Romanus, when organizing the preaching of the Crusade in 1291, instructed them to send preachers to Driffield, Malton, and South Cave. (fn. 4)

The house at this time was probably within the walls, and the founder may have been John de Hightmede. (fn. 5) ' In 1297 William Lyketon and Henry Wygthon bought certain lands near Beverley, about the chapel of St. Elena, and granted them to the friars of the order of St. Francis, to build their houses; and also they conferred many other goods on them.' (fn. 6) This probably refers to the grant of a new site outside Keldgate and near Westwood. (fn. 7) In 1304 William Ros of Hamlake granted to the Prior and convent of Warter a bovate of land in Warter in exchange for their granting to the Minorites 3 acres of land in Beverley, adjoining the friary. (fn. 8) The numbers of the friars remained about the same for some years. In 1299 the number varied from thirty-two to thirty-six; there were thirty-eight in May 1300 (when Edward I gave them 38s. for three days' food by the hand of Friar Thomas Maynard); thirty-four in 1301, thirty-eight in 1304, twenty-six in 1335, and thirty-two in 1337. (fn. 9)

'Afterwards for a long time this house, through poverty, was almost destroyed and uninhabited, until one Sir John Hotham, of Scorbrough, near Leconfield, kt., almost entirely rebuilt it.' (fn. 10) Hotham gave the friars the moiety of 1a. 1 r. in Beverley in 1352; and an entry in the town documents in 1356 may refer to the rebuilding: in that year Friar John Botiler, O.M., on behalf of his convent, came to the gildhall and obtained leave to take sand in Westwood for building purposes. (fn. 11) From the time of this benefaction till the beginning of the reign of Edward IV the Hothams were reckoned the founders of the house, and several of them were buried in the church: namely, Sir John Hotham, Agnes his daughter, wife of Sir Thomas Sutton, kt., and Sir Nicholas Hotham, kt. (fn. 12) Others buried in the church were Sir Nicholas Wake, Sir Geoffrey de Agulyon, kt., Lady Margaret Agulyon, Elyna widow of Sir John Sutton, kt., William Kelk, esq., Robert Cause, esq., John Routh, esq., Robert Routh, esq. (fn. 13) Agnes wife of John Kyler was buried in the cloister, 1380. (fn. 14) In 1400 a chantry was established in the church for the souls of Thomas Kelk and his son John, the twelve keepers of the town being responsible for seeing that the services were duly performed. (fn. 15)

In the troublous times at the beginning of the reign of Edward IV, Thomas Bolton, S.T.P., the warden, tried to gain security for his convent by granting the title of founder to Richard Nevill, Earl of Warwick, and he subsequently gave the patronage of the house to John Nevill, Marquess Montagu. Both these having been slain at Barnet in 1471, Bolton conferred the title, and privileges of founder on Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. (fn. 16) The earl, who died in 1489, left nothing in his will to these friars. (fn. 17)

Bequests were made to them by Sir William Vavasour, 1311, Henry Lord Percy, 1349, John de Ake of Beverley, merchant, 1398, Richard Lord Scrope of Bolton, 1400, Sir William Normanville, kt., 1449, and many others. (fn. 18) Thomas Walkington, rector of Houghton, in 1400 left £4 to Friar William Burn, of this house. (fn. 19) Guy Malyerd, mercer, of Beverley, left twenty wainscots to each house of friars here in 1486. (fn. 20) William Poteman, Archdeacon of the East Riding, left to each house a quarter of corn, 1493. (fn. 21) A collection of sermons and a book of 'exempla' were bequeathed to the Grey Friars by William Sherp, chaplain, in 1508, and a Bible by Thomas Carr, vicar of Santon, in 1509. (fn. 22)

In 1516 Sir Ralph Salvayn, kt., granted to them 60s. rent in Beswick. (fn. 23)

In 1522 Thomas Kodall, of South Ferriby, Lincolnshire, esq., and Margaret his wife, gave the friars an annual rent of 4s. for twenty-eight years, probably to celebrate masses for the dead, (fn. 24) and the friars also received 7s. 6d. a year from land in Lund belonging to a chantry founded by the Thwaytes family in the church of Lund. (fn. 25)

Dr. George Browne, visiting the friary on 4 July 1534, had no difficulty in getting the brethren to acknowledge the royal supremacy; but he found there one friar, Dr. Gwynborne, who had written seditious libels against the king's marriage, whom he sent to Cromwell with his writings, describing him as ' a lunatic or in a frenzy,' ' poorly booked and poorly learned.' (fn. 26)

At the beginning of October 1536 Christopher Stapleton of Wighill, who had been ill for sixteen years, was staying with his wife (fn. 27) at the Grey Friars, Beverley, for change of air, as he had been the summer before. He was joined by his brother William, who had to delay his journey to London owing to the rising in Lincolnshire. The rebellion broke out in Beverley on Sunday, 8 October. The commons assembled on Westwood Green, outside the Grey Friars. The friars generally do not seem to have favoured the movement (some of the rebels proposed to burn the friary and those within it), but it found ardent supporters in Christopher's wife, and in Thomas Johnson alias Bonaventura, an Observant Friar, who on the suppression of that order had been assigned by the Warden of York to the convent of Beverley. Friar Bonaventura did much towards supervising the rising, and at length by judicious flattery persuaded William Stapleton to become leader. He offered himself to go in harness to the field, which he did as far as Doncaster, but then set off to the Minorites' house at Newcastle-on-Tyne. (fn. 28)

The friary was surrendered to the Bishop of Dover by Thomas Thomson, warden, 25 February 1538-9. (fn. 29) The site occupied some 7 acres, and was valued at 26s. 8d. a year, rents elsewhere bringing the total to £5 6s. 2d. (fn. 30)


Richard de Dalton, 1350 (fn. 31)

Thomas Bolton, S.T.P., c. 1471

Thomas Thomson, 1538-9


The Friars Minors established themselves at this town on an island formed by the rivers Cheswold and Don, at the bottom of French or Francis gate, at the north end of the bridge known as the Friars' Bridge, (fn. 32) some time in the 13th century. Nicholas IV, 1 September 1290, granted an indulgence to those who visited their church, which was of the invocation of St. Francis. (fn. 33) Archbishop Romanus in 1291 enjoined the friars of this house to preach the Crusade at Doncaster, Blyth (Notts.), and Retford. (fn. 34)

In 1299 Edward I gave the friars 10s. through Friar Edmund de Norbury, on the occasion of his visit to Doncaster, 12 November: in January 1299-1300 he gave them 20s. for two days' food and 6s. 8d. for damages to their house when he was at Doncaster, by the hand of Friar de Portynden. On 8 June 1300 his son Edward gave them 10s., and the king in January 1300-1 gave them 10s. for the exequies of Joan, nurse of Thomas of Brotherton. The friars at this time numbered thirty. (fn. 35)

In 1316 Sir Peter de Mauley, lord of the town of Doncaster, granted the Friars Minors a plot of land, 14 p. by 6 p., adjacent to their dwelling-place. (fn. 36)

In 1332 Thomas de Saundeby, the warden, and Friars Nicholas de Dighton, Thomas de Moubray, William de Halton, and John de Brynsale, were sued by John de Malghum for having seized and imprisoned him. (fn. 37) In 1335 the king pardoned them for acquiring in mortmain without licence in the time of former kings divers plots in Doncaster, now inclosed with a wall and dyke, whereon they had built a church and houses. (fn. 38) Between 1328 and 1337 the number of the friars varied between eighteen and twenty-seven, as is proved by the royal alms granted to them by the hand of Friars John de Bilton, Nicholas de Wermersworth, and others. (fn. 39)

Sir Hugh de Hastings, kt., in 1347 left the friars 100s., 20 quarters of corn and 10 quarters of barley. (fn. 40) A friar of this house, Hugh de Warmesby, was authorized in 1348 to act as confessor to Lady Margery de Hastings, Sir Hugh's widow, and her family. (fn. 41) Her son Hugh was buried in the church of St. Francis at Doncaster, 1367. (fn. 42) Another Sir Hugh Hastings in 1482 left a serge of wax to be burned here in honour of the Holy Rood, and a quarter of wheat yearly for three years. (fn. 43)

Among the bequests may be mentioned that of Roger de Bangwell, rector of Dronfield, of 20s. to the convent and 12d. to each friar in 1366. (fn. 44) Thomas Lord Furnival of Sheffield, 1333, (fn. 45) and Sir Peter de Mauley, 1381, were buried in the church; the latter left his best beast of burden as mortuary and 100s, to the convent. (fn. 46) John Mauleverer was buried in the church of St. Francis and left 6 lb. of wax and 6 marks to the friars, 1451. (fn. 47) William Vasey, alderman, left them 5s. a year rent to keep his obit, 1515. (fn. 48) Robert Skirley of Scarborough, who died at Doncaster, probably in this house, was buried here, 1522, and left, among other bequests, his horse as his 'corse present.' (fn. 49)

George Danby, a friar of this house, formerly warden of the Grey Friars of Scarborough, received on 8 April 1480 a general pardon from Edward IV for all offences committed by him before i April. (fn. 50)

In 1524 Richard Wilford granted 29s. 6d. yearly rent in Beighton, Derbyshire, for the use of these friars for ever. (fn. 51)

Friar Thomas Kirkham was admitted D.D. of Oxford in July 1527, his composition being reduced to £4 'because he is very poor'; in November he was dispensed from the greater part of his necessary regency because he was warden of the Grey Friars of Doncaster and could not continually reside in Oxford. (fn. 52) Thomas Strey, a lawyer of Doncaster, left 20 marks to the convent in 1530 and 26s. 8d. to buy the warden a coat. (fn. 53)

Two Observant Friars, William Ellel and Robert Baker, were sent after the suppression of the order to the Minorite convent at Doncaster, where they soon died, perhaps from severe treatment. (fn. 54) Robert Aske, the leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace, when he went to Doncaster to meet the royal commissioners, November and December 1536, lodged at the Grey Friars with his followers, the Duke of Norfolk being at the White Friars. (fn. 55)

The house was quietly surrendered 20 November 1538 by the warden and nine friars, three of them novices, to Sir George Lawson and his fellows, who were 'thankfully received.' (fn. 56) The goods, including a pair of organs, an old clock, a table of alabaster, the coverings of five altars, and eighteen 'cells de waneskott' in the dormitory, were sold to Thomas Welbore for £11 4s. 9d. Out of this sum £3 was given to the ten friars, and £1 13s. 4d. paid to John Roberts to redeem a chalice which the friars had pledged for a debt. There were 43 fother of lead, four bells, three chalices and two cruets weighing 50 oz. (fn. 57) The site and adjacent grounds (including four fish-ponds) contained about 6½ acres, besides a cottage in Fishergate; these were let to Thomas Welbore for 36s. 8d. (fn. 58)

A manuscript of the chronicle of Martin of Troppau formerly belonging to this friary was in the possession of Ralph Thoresby in 1712. (fn. 59)


Thomas de Saundeby, (fn. 60) 1332

Robert Acaster, (fn. 61) 1372

Thomas Kirkham, S.T.P., (fn. 62) 1527, 1538

The seal, of which a very indistinct impression remains, represents a saint seated under a canopy between two women. (fn. 63)


  • 1. Lanercost Chron. 83. John of Beverley was a Franciscan at Oxford e. 1250: Mon. Franc. (Rolls Ser.), i, 317, 393.
  • 2. Giffard's Reg. (Surt. Soc.), 197.
  • 3. Fasti Ebor. i, 323.
  • 4. Hist. P. and L. from the N. Reg. (Rolls Ser.), 95.
  • 5. Speed, Hist. fol. 1082.
  • 6. Coll. Topog. et Gen. iv, 129.
  • 7. Poulson, Beverlac, 772.
  • 8. Pat. 32 Edw. I, m. 2. About this time Friar Robert of Beverley lectured to the Franciscans at Oxford; Mon. Franc. (Rolls Ser.), i, 553.
  • 9. Exch. Accts. (P.R.O.), bdle. 356, no. 21; bdle. 387, no. 9; Add. MSS. 7966 A, fol. 25; 8835, fol. 5; Cott. MS. Nero, C. viii, fol. 207; Liber Quotid. 28 Edw. I (ed. Topham), 25, 37.
  • 10. Coll. Topog. et Gen. iv, 129.
  • 11. Pat. 26 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 20; Beverley Town Doc. (Selden Soc.), 18.
  • 12. Coll. Topog. et Gen. iv, 129.
  • 13. Ibid. Sir G. Agulyon or Aguyllun granted them land in Beswick; Early Chan. Proc. bdle. 22, no. 183.
  • 14. Poulson, Beverlac, 772; from Lansd. MS. 896.
  • 15. Beverley Town Doc. (Selden Soc.), 43.
  • 16. Coll. Topog. et Gen. iv, 129.
  • 17. Test. Ebor. iii, 304 et seq.
  • 18. Ibid. passim; Reg. Palat. Dunelm. (Rolls Ser.), i, 333; Poulson, Beverlac, 785.
  • 19. Wills and Invent. (Surt. Soc.), i, 50.
  • 20. Test. Ebor. iv, 19.
  • 21. Ibid. 81.
  • 22. Ibid. 115 n.; v, 219 n.
  • 23. Mins. Accts. 30-1 Hen. VIII (Yorks.), no. 166.
  • 24. Ibid.
  • 25. Ibid.
  • 26. L. and P. Hen. VIII, vii, 953.
  • 27. Elizabeth daughter of Sir John Neville of Liversedge, near Wakefield. See Chetwynd Stapylton, The Stapletons of Yorkshire, 201 et seq.
  • 28. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii (1), 392. Bonaventura is elsewhere described as an Austin Friar.
  • 29. The date is given in Mins. Accts.. 30-1 Hen. VIII (Yorks.), no. 166. Cf. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), 348, 413.
  • 30. Mins. Accts. 30-1 Hen. VIII (Yorks.), no. 166.
  • 31. York Archiepis. Reg. Zouch, fol. 279.
  • 32. Fairbank, 'The Grey Friars, Doncaster,' Yorks. Arch. Journ. xii, 481; Leland, I tin. (ed. Hearne), i, 36; J. Tomlinson, Doncaster, p. vi. Leland, I tin. iv, 21, erroneously says there was a house of Black Friars in this town: and Cavendish says that Wolsey after his arrest was lodged one night at the Black Friars. See also Hunter, South Yorks. i, 19 (will of Nic. Launger, 1348).
  • 33. Cal. of Papal Letters, i, 516; Test. Ebor. ii, 148; cf. Lanercost Chron. 187-8.
  • 34. Hist. L. and P. from the N. Reg. (Rolls Ser.), 95.
  • 35. Exch. Accts. bdles. 356, no. 7; 357, no. 4; Liber Quotid. 28 Edw. 1 (ed. Topham), 28, 40; Add. MS. 7966, fol. 25.
  • 36. Pat. 9 Edw. I, pt. i, m. 8; Inq. a.q.d. file 110, no. 10.
  • 37. Baildon, Mon. Notes, i, 37.
  • 38. Pat. 9 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 11.
  • 39. Exch. Accts. (P.R.O.), bdles. 383, no. 14; 387, no. 9; Cott. MS. Nero C. viii, fol. 202, 205, 207.
  • 40. Test. Ebor. i, 38.
  • 41. Fasti Ebor. i, 444 n.
  • 42. Dict. Nat. Biog. xxv, 129.
  • 43. Test. Ebor. iii, 274.
  • 44. Ibid. i, 82, where the date is wrongly given.
  • 45. Yorks. Arch. Journ. xii, 482; Hunter, South Yorks. i, 18.
  • 46. Test. Ebor. i, 116.
  • 47. Ibid. ii, 148.
  • 48. Ibid. v, 59.
  • 49. Ibid. v, 154. For other bequests see Yorks. Arch. Journ. xii; Hunter, op. cit. 19 (will of Sir T. Windham, 1521).
  • 50. Pat. 20 Edw. IV, pt. i, m. 21; Pat, 16 Edw. IV, pt. i, m. 28.
  • 51. Mins. Accts. 30-1 Hen. VIII (Yorks.), no. 166.
  • 52. Little, Grey Friars in Oxford (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), 282, 338.
  • 53. Test. Ebor. v, 296.
  • 54. L. and P. Hen. VIII, vii, 1607.
  • 55. Engl. Hist. Rev. v, 341; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii (1), 6.
  • 56. Wright, Supp. 167; Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. ii, 19; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2), 877, 1064.
  • 57. Mins. Accts. 29-30 Hen. VIII (Yorks.), no. 197; Supp. P. (P.R.O.), iii, fol. 92, 93; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (2), 782.
  • 58. Mins. Accts. 30-1 Hen. VIII (Yorks.), no. 166.
  • 59. 'A Catalogue and Description of natural and artificial rarities in this Museum ' (printed at the end of Thoresby's Ducatus Leodiensis, ed. 1816), 83.
  • 60. Baildon, Mon. Notes (Yorks. Arch. Soc.), i, 37.
  • 61. Ibid.
  • 62. Little, Grey Friars in Oxford (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), 282.
  • 63. B.M. Seals, lxxiv, 38. See also Hunter, South Yorks. ii, 2.