Friaries: The black friars of Yarm

Pages 281-283

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

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The Friars Preachers settled at Yarm in or before 1266, in which year Henry III gave them ten oaks in Galtres Forest. (fn. 2) Sir Peter de Brus, lord of the manor, who died in 1272, granted to them for the welfare of his soul and the soul of Hillaria his wife a toft in the south part of the town. (fn. 3) John de Levington gave them a plot of land lying between their land and the rivulet of Skytering; this grant was confirmed by Sir Marmaduke de Twenge, lord of Danby, and Lucy his wife, the sister of Peter de Brus. John son of Roger de Levington gave them two adjacent plots, (fn. 4) and John de Aslacby, burgess of Yarm, and Parnel his wife, 20 January 1301-2, conferred on the friars the croft called Ribaldcroft, containing 5 acres, the royal licence having been granted on condition that a footpath be kept by stiles between this land and the Tees. The gift was confirmed by William de Latimer, lord of Yarm, and Lucy his wife, the granddaughter of Marmaduke de Tweng. (fn. 5) All these grants were confirmed by Edward II in 1314. (fn. 6) It appears that the friars also had some land of the gift of John de Meynil of Middleton before the end of the 13th century. (fn. 7)

In October 1302 a commission of oyer and terminer was issued to three justices touching the persons who entered the close of the prior of these friars, threw down some walls, broke his gates and carried away the timber of them, and beat his servants. (fn. 8) And in October 1304 the prior obtained a similar writ against those who had broken his close, trampled down and consumed grass to the value of 40s. by pasturing cattle there. (fn. 9) These events were probably connected with a claim to the land granted by John de Aslacby.

When the Archbishop of York was organizing the preaching of the Crusade in 1291 he enjoined the convent of Yarm to cause some of their friars to preach at Allerton, Yarm, and Thirsk. (fn. 10) In the same year they had 100s. from the executors of Queen Eleanor. (fn. 11) Edward I gave them 10s. for one day's food in December 1299. (fn. 12) Edward II gave 11s. to the thirtythree friars here in 1319 (fn. 13); and Edward III in 1335 gave 9s. 4d. to the twenty-eight friars of Yarm and 20s. for the repair of their cloister. (fn. 14)

The church seems to have been rebuilt at the beginning of the 14th century, as the archbishop issued a commission to the Bishop of Whithern to dedicate it 3 May 1308. (fn. 15) In January 1314-15 the archbishop sent instructions to the Dominican friars, and especially to the Prior of Yarm, to denounce the Scots, who were devastating the country, and to stir up the people to resist. (fn. 16) In October 1322 the prior, Edmund de Clif, bought victuals from the royal household for £8 6s. 8d. Of this debt Edward III in 1329 pardoned the friars £8. (fn. 17)

In 1392 Thomas Ingilby gave to the friars three messuages in Yarm adjoining their house; the prior and convent paid 2 marks for the royal licence. (fn. 18)

Friar John Leeke of this house had permission of the master-general to go to the Roman court or elsewhere at his will with a companion of the order in 1393, and in 1397 he was appointed by the same authority to lecture concurrently on the Sentences at Oxford if he could obtain the grace from the University. (fn. 19)

Bequests were numerous. Henry Lord Percy left the friars 30s. in 1349 (fn. 20); William Lord Latimer £10 and a vestment embroidered with his arms in 1381 (fn. 21); Sir John Mowbray of Colton 'un grand plombe q'est a Jarum' valued at 5 marks in 1391, to sing trentals for his soul and that of Elizabeth his late wife (fn. 22); Isabella, widow of Walter Lord Fauconbeig, 5 marks in 1401 (fn. 23); Robert Conyers of Sockburn left 10s. to the convent and 6s. 8d. to Friar John Leeke in 1431. (fn. 24) Jane Boynton, daughter of James Strangeways, in 1486 desired to be buried in the quire near the high altar, and left to them 40s. for her burial, 40s. to divide amongst them, two lead tubs and 'mashfattes,' a board with trestles, her mass book, chalice and vestment; she left instructions that mass should be said for twelve and a half years for her soul in the friars' church (for which purpose she entrusted 100 marks to the Prior of Mount Grace), and that 'an image of the Salutation of our Lady and St. Gabriel' should be put up at the end of the high altar before her grave. (fn. 25)

In the church and cemetery were buried many of the Hiltons of Hilton, and the Meynells of Hilton. In the quire lay Eva daughter of John Bulmer, widow of Henry son of Hugh, her son Hugh and grandson Thomas, and also Robert de Hilton, 'all of the progeny of the Hiltons.' In the chapel of St. Katherine lay Mary wife of Nicholas de Meynell; John de Hilton, lord of Hilton, and Isabella his wife. In the cemetery Hugh Meynell of Hilton and his wife Alice, Robert de Meynell, John de Meynell and his wife Sibilla, (fn. 26) Nicholas de Hilton and Cecilia his wife. (fn. 27)

In 1520 the master-general assigned Friar Clement Guadel to the convent of 'Jerm,' and ordered the prior not to employ him in any conventual office, but to allow him when divine service was over to go to the Grammar Schools. (fn. 28)

The friary was surrendered 21 December 1538 to William Blytheman by Miles Wilcock the prior, five priests, and six novices, a very unusual proportion of novices. (fn. 29) Bryan Layton, esquire, was put in charge of the house, and bought the goods for 106s. 8d.; out of this sum the prior received 20s. and the ten friars 54s. 4d. There were 40 fother of lead, two bells, and 49 oz. of plate (consisting of two chalices, twelve spoons, and three maserbands). (fn. 30) The annual value of the possessions, over and above reprises, is given in one document as 8s., (fn. 31) but this seems irreconcilable with the details given in the Minister's Accounts of 1539-40. The lands are there described as containing 10 a. besides eight cottages and yielding £3 12s. 8d. yearly. (fn. 32)

The seal is a pointed oval, and represents the Annunciation of the Virgin, in a niche with canopy of two arches; from the hand of the archangel hangs a label bearing the words 'Ave Maria'; on the ground between the two figures a vase of flowers; in base a half figure praying. Legend:—



  • 1. See 'The Friars Preachers, or Black Friars of Yarm,' by the Rev. C. F. R. Palmer, Yorks. Arch. Journ. xxxviii, 184-92.
  • 2. Close, 51 Hen. III, m. 10.
  • 3. Pat. 8 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 24 (inspeximus).
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid. 30 Edw. I, m. 33; Inq. a.q.d. file 36, no. 8.
  • 6. Ibid. 8 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 24.
  • 7. Ibid.; Yorks. Arch. Journ. xxxviii, 186, 190.
  • 8. Pat. 30 Edw. I, m. 6d.
  • 9. Pat. 32 Edw. I, m. 4d.
  • 10. Hist. P. and L. from the N. Reg. (Rolls Ser.), 93.
  • 11. Exch. Accts. (P.R.O.) bdle. 352, no. 27.
  • 12. Liber Quotid. 28 Edw. I (ed. Topham), 25.
  • 13. Add. MS. 17362, fol. 3.
  • 14. Exch. Accts. bdle. 387, no. 9.
  • 15. Fasti Ebor. i, 378.
  • 16. Hist. P. and L. from the N. Reg. (Rolls Ser.), 238.
  • 17. Yorks. Arch. Journ. xxxvii, 188; Pat. 3 Edw. III, m. 14.
  • 18. Pat. 16 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 2.
  • 19. Add. MS. 32446.
  • 20. Test. Ebor. i, 58. Some goods belonging to Henry Hotspur valued at £100 were deposited here in 1403. Pat. 5 Hen. IV, pt. i, m. 29.
  • 21. Test. Ebor. i, 114.
  • 22. Ibid. 161.
  • 23. Ibid. 282.
  • 24. Wills and Invent. (Surt. Soc.), i, 81.
  • 25. Test. Ebor. iv, 13; cf. description of the seal. More bequests are noted by Palmer, Yorks. Arch. Journ. xxxvii.
  • 26. Living in 1306; Graves, Cleveland, 71.
  • 27. Bodl. Dods. MS. xlv, p. 76, quoted by Palmer, Yorks. Arch. Journ. xxxvii; Graves, op. cit. 70.
  • 28. Add. MS. 32446, fol. 15.
  • 29. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2), 1174; Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. ii, 50.
  • 30. Mins. Accts. 29-30 Hen. VIII (Yorks.), no. 197.
  • 31. Harl. MS. 604, fol. 104.
  • 32. Mins. Accts. 30-1 Hen. VIII, no. 166.
  • 33. B.M. Seals, lxxv, 20; Yorks. Arch. Journ. xxxvii, 191, 192.