Friaries: Grey friars of Richmond

Pages 273-274

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

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The foundation of this friary is attributed to Ralph Fitz Randal, lord of Middleham, in 1258: his heart was buried in the quire in 1270. (fn. 1) The friary stood in the north part of the town, a little without the walls. (fn. 2) Archbishop Romanus, when organizing the preaching of the Crusade in 1291, requested the friars of Richmond to provide one preacher there and to send one to the most suitable place in the deanery of Copeland (Cumberland). (fn. 3) John of Britanny, Earl of Richmond, left £5 to these friars on his death in 1304. (fn. 4) In this year Arthur of Hartlepool, an apostate friar who had carried off some goods of neighbours and friends of the friars deposited in their house, was arrested by the king's officers and given up to the friars of Richmond for punishment. (fn. 5) Special instructions were sent by the arch bishop to the warden in January 1314-15 to preach against the Scots and rouse the people to resist. (fn. 6) In 1350-1 Robert of Hexham was warden and lector of the convent. (fn. 7)

In 1364 Sir Richard le Scrope, kt. (afterwards first Lord Scrope of Bolton), and William de Huddeswell granted these friars five tofts adjacent to their dwelling, held of the Earl of Richmond and containing 4 acres of land. (fn. 8) John de Nevill, lord of Raby, granted them 1½ acres of meadow in 1383. (fn. 9) Richard le Scrope of Bolton left the friars £10 in his will, 1400; (fn. 10) and Sir Stephen le Scrope of Bentley left 10 marks to the house and 6s. 8d. to each friar in January 1405-6. (fn. 11) Sir Ralph Fitz Randal, kt, left them 7 marks in 1458. (fn. 12) In May 1484 Richard III ordered Geoffrey Franke, receiver of Middleham, 'to content the friars of Richmond with 12½ marks for the saying of a thousand masses for King Edward IV.' (fn. 13) On the death of Margaret Richmond, anchoress in the parish church of Richmond, a dispute arose between William Ellerton, the Abbot of St. Agatha, and William Billyngham, warden of the Grey Friars, on the one part, and the burgesses on the other, and was referred to arbitration. The arbitrators decided 30 April 1490 that the warden and friars should have the goods of the late anchoress remaining after the debts had been paid and the place restored, because she took the habit from the friars; that the abbot should dispose of the goods of the present anchoress for a similar reason; while the nomination to the anchorage should be in the hands of the bailiff and twenty-four burgesses of the great inquest of Richmond. (fn. 14)

The comic ballad of 'The Felon Sow of Rokeby,' dating probably from the 15th century, tells how Ralph Rokeby of Morton gave a savage sow to the friars of Richmond, 'to mend their fare,' when Friar Theobald was warden, and relates the exciting adventures of Friar Middleton and his assistants in their attempt to catch the beast, the final capture, and triumphant return to Richmond:

If ye will any more of this,
In the Fryers of Richmond 'tis
In parchment good and fine;
And how Fryar Middleton that was so kend,
At Greta Bridge conjured a feind
In likeness of a swine. (fn. 15)

The house was surrendered 19 January 1538-9 by Robert Sanderson, S.T.P., the warden, thirteen priests, and one other. (fn. 16) The goods were sold in gross to Ralph Gower, merchant, and Richard Crosseby, both of Richmond, for 100s. The warden received 13s. 4d., the other friars sums varying from 10s. to 4s., and amounting in all to £5 3s. 2d. The lead on the church was estimated at three fother, the three bells at 2,000 lb., and the plate weighed 31 oz. (fn. 17) There was a conduit of water at the Friars, the only one in the town. (fn. 18) The site, which was inclosed by a wall and comprised nearly 16 acres, (fn. 19) was valued at 31s. a year, and was leased to Ralph Gower for twenty-one years in 1539. (fn. 20)

The seal is pointed oval and represents St. Francis standing on a corbel, lifting up the right hand in benediction, in the left a book; on each side a tree with birds on it, representing 'the Wilderness,' or St. Francis preaching to the birds. Overhead, under a trefoiled arch, two shields of the arms of Nevill. (fn. 21)


  • 1. Clarkson, Hist. of Richmond, 214; R. Gale, Reg. Hon. de Richmond, 'Observations,' 235.
  • 2. Leland, I tin. v, 109.
  • 3. Hist. P. and L. from the N. Reg. (Rolls Ser), 95.
  • 4. Clarkson, op. cit. 33.
  • 5. Close, 32 Edw. I, m. 5.
  • 6. Hist. P. and L. from N. Reg. (Rolls Ser.) 239 n.
  • 7. York Archiepis. Reg. Zouch, fol. 280.
  • 8. Inq. a.q.d. file 354, no. 4; Pat. 38 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 11; Mon. Franc. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 295.
  • 9. Pat. 6 Ric. II, pt. ii, m. 8.
  • 10. Test. Ebor. i, 274.
  • 11. Ibid. iii, 39.
  • 12. Richmondshire Wills (Surt. Soc.), 4; cf. 9. Other legacies will be found in Clarkson, op. cit. and in Test. Ebor. i, 58, 80, 199, 261, 266, 386.
  • 13. Harl. MS. 433; Clarkson, op. cit. 219.
  • 14. Test. Ebor. ii, 114 n.
  • 15. Sir Walter Scott, Rokeby (compl. ed. 1847), Canto v, Stanza ix, note 3; also printed in Whitaker, Hist. of Craven.
  • 16. Clarkson, op. cit. App. no. xxxiii; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), 96.
  • 17. Harl. MS. 604, fol. 104; Mins. Accts. 29-30 Hen. VIII, no. 197 (Yorks.).
  • 18. Leland, I tin. v, 109.
  • 19. Whitaker, Hist. of Richmondshire, i, 99.
  • 20. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, p. 556.
  • 21. B.M. Seals, lxxiv, 105; Clarkson, op. cit. 21718; Whitaker, Hist. of Richmondshire, i, 99. The founder's daughter, Mary, married Robert Nevill of Raby.