Friaries: Black friars of Pontefract

Pages 271-273

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

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The story of the foundation of this house is told by a contemporary Dominican, Ralph de Bocking, in his life of Richard Wych, Bishop of Chichester. (fn. 2) Edmund de Lacy, son of John de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, and Margaret de Quincy, was born in 1227. He early attached himself to Richard Wych, and after the bishop's death, 3 April 1253, he determined to establish a house of Friars Preachers on his own estates. With due deliberation he chose the town of Pontefract; and accompanied by many discreet men, both religious and secular, he went to the spot and laid the foundation stone with his own hand, saying, 'To the honour of our Lady Mary, mother of God and Virgin, and of St. Dominic, confessor, to whose brethren I assign this place, and also of St. Richard, bishop and confessor, formerly my lord and dearest friend, I wishing to found a church in this place lay the first stone !' Whereupon the stone immediately split into three parts, as though to proclaim approval of the choice of the three patron saints. This took place probably about 1256, some six years before Richard Wych was formally canonized. (fn. 3) Edmund, dying on 22 July 1257, left his heart to be buried in the Dominican church of Pontefract.

The lands given by Edmund de Lacy, called East Crofts, (fn. 4) comprised about 6 acres, in exchange for which he granted 26 acres to the town of Pontefract. (fn. 5) Two later additions are recorded. In 1309 Walter de Baggehill had licence to assign to the friary 3½ acres, held of the Earl of Lincoln, adjacent to their house (valued at 2s. 4d. a year), in spite of the unfavourable return of the jurors at the inquisition, who declared that the king would lose rights of wardship (valued at 7d.), the town rights of commonage (2d.) and the rector tithes (2s.). (fn. 6)

In 1342 Simon Piper, chaplain, and John Box sought licence to grant a perch of land in Pontefract and three poles of turbary in Inclesmore for fuel for the friars. The land, valued at 1½d. a year, was granted by royal licence, but nothing was said of the turbary. (fn. 7) The friars also had a conduit perhaps supplied from a spring in a small piece of land called Cockcliff Turfmore, (fn. 8) but it does not appear how it was acquired.

In 1267 the prior of this house was commissioned by the archbishop to adjudicate on the merits of Thomas Bek, presented by the monks of Pontefract to the vicarage of All Saints. (fn. 9)

In 1269 some disputes between the Cluniac monks of Pontefract and Monk Bretton were settled in this friary, the prior, Oliver d'Eincourt, being one of the four arbitrators: the priors of the Black Friars of Newcastle-on-Tyne, Carlisle, York, and Lancaster were also present. (fn. 10)

These friars established three stations for preaching the Crusade in 1291—at Pontefract, Rotherham and Wakefield. (fn. 11) In the same year they received 100s. from the executors of Queen Eleanor. (fn. 12) In 1300 Edward I with his queen and family twice stayed at this friary; he gave them 2 marks as compensation for damages, made offerings at the altar of the Virgin, and frequently gave them alms for food by the hands of Friars John de Wrotham, Henry de Carleton, and John de Holeburi. (fn. 13) From the amount of the alms it appears the numbers of the friars varied from twenty-nine to thirty-six.

On 9 August 1310, Edward II, being at Pontefract, gave the friars 13s. 4d. for one day's food. (fn. 14) When Edward III visited Pontefract there were in 1330 twenty-seven friars, thirty in 1334, twenty-six in February 1334-5, and twenty-nine in May 1335. The king in 1335 gave them a cask of Gascony wine worth £4 for celebrating masses. (fn. 15)

A provincial chapter was held here in August 1303, for the expenses of which the king gave £10 to the Prior of York; (fn. 16) another provincial chapter was held here in August 1321, when the king gave £15 for food, (fn. 17) and William de Melton, Archbishop of York, 100s. (fn. 18)

The prior, with a number of other persons, was accused in 1319 of having assaulted one William Hardy at York. (fn. 19)

Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, on his retreat northwards in February 1321-2 stopped at Pontefract, and he and his barons held consultations in the friary. A friar preacher attended him at his execution outside the town, 22 March, after the battle of Boroughbridge. (fn. 20) John of Gaunt in 1373 gave the friars permission to cut turves in Pontefract Park for three years as they had been accustomed to do, and gave them three good oaks to repair their ruinous church and houses. (fn. 21) The Master-General of the Order, 21 May 1397, ratified the concession of a chamber made by the friars of Pontefract to Friar John de Kirkbi, and also gave him leave to go out and stay with his friends as often as seemed good to him. (fn. 22)

Sir William Vavasour, kt., left them 6 marks in 1311; (fn. 23) Henry de Percy by will dated 13 September 1349 and proved in 1352 left them 30s.; (fn. 24) Sir Hugh Hastings, 1482, left a serge of wax to be burned before the altar of St. Peter of Milan in this church; (fn. 25) and a number of other bequests will be found in the Testamenta Eboracensia. (fn. 26) Of more interest is a list of burials at this friary written by John Wriothesley, Garter King-of-Arms, who died in 1504: it was probably taken from the obituary of the house. (fn. 27) Some of the entries relate to the founder and his family: the heart of Edmund Lacy, his wife Alice daughter of the Marquess of Saluzzo, their infant son John and daughter Margaret; the heart of her husband George de Cantlowe and their infant son: and 'Agnes de Vescy, sister of the said lady Alice Lacy.' Others relate to the barons associated with Simon de Montfort, such as Roger Mowbray and Maud Beauchamp his wife, the heart of their son-in-law Adam of Newmarket (fn. 28) and his son Adam, their son Roger Mowbray and Roesia his wife, daughter of Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester; Robert de Vipont, and Roger de Leybourne, the husband of Robert's daughter Idonea de Vipont. Another group represents the victims of civil wars: Lord Warin de Lisle, (fn. 29) who was executed after the battle of Boroughbridge; the hearts of Richard, Duke of York, 'of most blessed memory,' and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland; of Richard Nevill, Earl of Salisbury, and his son Thomas, 'whose bones were afterwards translated to the priory of Bisham': all these fell at Wakefield or were executed after the battle. Members of the families of Metal, Rothersfield, Touchet, Deschargell, and many others are also enumerated.

Thomas Box, esquire, who was buried here in 1449 does not appear in this list: (fn. 30) nor William Strudther, who desired to be buried (1495) before the image of the Virgin, and left the friars 20s. to amend the frater. (fn. 31) Thomas Huntingdon of Hull, alderman and merchant, in 1526, and Walter Bradford of Houghton, gent., in 1530 left instructions for the endowment of chantries in this church. (fn. 32)

The royal commissioners, Sir George Lawson, Richard Bellasis and two others, received the surrender of the house 26 November 1538; they were 'thankfully received.' The act of surrender was signed by the prior, Robert Dae, Richard Lorde, D.D., five other priests and one novice. (fn. 33) The goods of the house were sold by the commissioners for £5 10s. 4d.; among them were a suit of blood worsted sold to the mayor for 16s.; an old suit of velvet vestments of a mulberry colour, 13s. 4d.; two surplices and three altar cloths 3s. 4d.; utensils of kitchen, brewhouse, pantry; two feather beds, two bolsters, two coverlets, &c., of the strangers' chamber, 8s. 8d.; out of the cells, 8s.; a cartload of hay 1s. 8d. Out of the proceeds the prior received 13s. 4d., and each of the friars 5s. The house had no debts. The land (about 10 acres) and buildings, worth £3 14s. 4d. a year (net) with two bells, four fother of lead on the roof, a lead conduit and a brass 'holy water vat,' were left in the keeping of Richard Welbore, the mayor. The plate and jewels consisted of one chalice weighing 9 oz. (fn. 34)


Oliver Daincourt, (fn. 35) 1269

John de Thorpe, (fn. 36) 1319

Robert Dae or Daye, (fn. 37) 1536, 1538.


  • 1. See 'The Friars Preachers of Pontefract,' by the Rev. C. F. R. Palmer in the Reliq. xx, 67-74; Ric. Holmes, 'The Black Friars of Pontefract (1891); Leland, I tin. i, 40 calls them White Friars. In some Dissolution documents they are called Austin Friars. There were no White or Austin Friars at Pontefract.
  • 2. Acta Sanctorum, 3 Ap. (Ap. Tom. i, 303).
  • 3. Dict. Nat. Biog. xlviii, 202-4. The processes for canonization were initiated by papal brief 22 June 1256, addressed to the Bishop of Worcester, the provincial of the Friars Preachers, and Friar Adam Marsh; Cal. of Papal Letters, i, 332.
  • 4. Boothroyd, Hist. of Pontefract, 339.
  • 5. Yorks. Inq. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser.), i, 51. A grant of dead wood was made to the monks of St. John in compensation for the loss of tithe from this land, 1258; Padgett, Chron. of Old Pontefract, 74.
  • 6. Pat. 3 Edw. II. m. 31; Inq. a.q.d. file 74, no. 18. This property is now called Friar Wood Hill; Holmes, Black Friars of Pontefract, 13.
  • 7. Inq. a.q.d. file 264, no. 18; Pat. 16 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 4. Inclesmore lay south of the Ouse and west of the Trent; there is a map of it in Duchy of Lanc. Misc. Bks. xii, fol. 30 (P.R.O.).
  • 8. Mins. Accts. 30 Hen. VIII; 30-1 Hen. VIII (Yorks.), 166; Partic. for Grants, 1193; Holmes, op. cit. 14.
  • 9. Giffard's Reg. (Surt. Soc.), 22.
  • 10. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. v, 123-4.
  • 11. Raine, Hist. P. and L. from the N. Reg. (Rolls Sen), 93. In 1505 Robert Austwick of Pontefract left 3s. 4d. to repair the road 'near the cross at Carlton from which the friars are wont to preach and exhort'; Padgett, loc. cit.
  • 12. Exch. Accts. bdle. 352, no. 27.
  • 13. Ibid. bdle. 357, no. 4; Liber Quotid. 28 Edw. I (ed. Topham), 27, 38; Add. MS. 7966 A, fol. 23, 35b
  • 14. Reliq. xx, 69.
  • 15. Exch. Accts. bdle. 387, no. 9; Cott. MS. Nero C. viii, fol. 201, 202, 204b; Reliq. xx, 70.
  • 16. Reliq. xx, 69; Close, 31 Edw. I, m. 7 d.
  • 17. Reliq. xx, 70; Add. MS. 9951; Close, 15 Edw. II, m. 35 d.; Rymer, Foed. (Rec. Com.) ii, 453.
  • 18. Raine, Fasti Ebor. i, 427.
  • 19. Pat. 13 Edw. II, m. 22 d.
  • 20. Leland, Coll. i (2), 464, 465.
  • 21. Duchy of Lanc. Misc. Bks. xiii, fol. 182b.
  • 22. Reliq. xx, 71.
  • 23. Reg. Pal. Dunelm (Rolls Ser.), i, 333.
  • 24. Test. Ebor. i, 58.
  • 25. Holmes, The Black Friars of Pontefract, 23; Test. Ebor. iii, 274.
  • 26. Test. Ebor. i, 107, 124, 199, 211, &c.; ii, 6, 121, 164, 177; iii, 176, 274, &c.; cf. Reliq. xx, 70-1; Cant. Archiepis. Reg. Chicheley, i, fol. 473b.
  • 27. Col. Topog. et Gen. iv, 73; Reliq. xx, 71-2.
  • 28. Petronilla of Newmarket, formerly recluse of Wyrmelay (probably Womersley; cf. Yorks. Arch, and Topog. Journ. vi, 374), is also mentioned.
  • 29. 'Messire Garin de Visul' in the MS.; cf. Dugdale, Baronage; i, 738. His widow Alice de Tyers wished to exhume her husband's. body and rebury it at Clifton in the diocese of Salisbury; Cal. Papal Letters, ii, 410 (28 Jan. 1332-3).
  • 30. Boothroyd, Hist. of Pontefract, 340; Holmes, op. cit. 21.
  • 31. Holmes, op. cit. 24.
  • 32. Test. Ebor. v, 224, 284.
  • 33. Wright, Suppression, 167-8; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2), 912, 1064; Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. ii, 38; Holmes, op. cit. 44.
  • 34. Mins. Accts. 29-30 Hen. VIII, no. 197, and 30-1 Hen. VIII, no. 166, quoted by Holmes, op. cit. 45, 53; Suppression P. (P.R.O.) iii, fol. 93.
  • 35. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. v, 123.
  • 36. Pat. 13 Edw. II, m. 22d.
  • 37. He was sometime priest of the chantry of St. Thomas, and was living at Lumby, near Sherburn, in 1545, when James Thwaytes, last Prior of St. John, left him a legacy; Padgett, Chron. of Old Pontefract, 75.