20. THE DOMINICAN FRIARS OF WARWICK (fn. 1)
In the suburb on the west side of the town of
Warwick, a house of Dominican or Black Friars
was established towards the end of the reign of
Henry III, but before the year 1263. Ralph
Boteler, first baron of Wem, who died before
the year 1277, was their chief if not sole founder.
Having obtained a site the friars set to work to
erect their buildings, which were in progress in
1263, for in that year Henry III gave them
seven oaks for timber out of the royal forest of
Fecham. Five years later their church was
finished, but certain works were in progress or
new buildings being erected as late as 1296.
The patent and close rolls, &c., of Henry III
and Edward I contain several instances of further royal benefactions of timber, particularly
from the Staffordshire forest of Kinver. On
25 August, 1267, Henry III granted them four
suitable oaks for the roof of their church, and on
16 August, 1295, Edward I sent them six oaks
for timber; on both these occasions the wood
came from Kinver.
The church was solemnly dedicated on 9 October, the feast of St. Denis and Companions;
the year is not ascertained, but most probably it
was in 1268. At the request of the friars the
bishop of Worcester, in 1424, transferred the
anniversary festival of the dedication to 10 October, which was a vacant day after the feast of
It is rather remarkable that the dedication of
this Warwick friary is unknown. Among the
altars in the church, as is known from early wills,
were those of Our Lady, St. Dominic, and St.
Peter. The house at Warwick made provision
for between thirty and forty religious, and ranked
among the larger ones of the province.
The rule of the Dominicans permitted them
to hold as much land as was directly serviceable
for their household wants. In the reign of
Edward II the Warwick friars bought a piece of
land of one Alice de Pillerton, 160 ft. by 100 ft.,
to add to their site. But in 1316 they were
called to account for having acquired this land
without licence in mortmain. An inquisition
was consequently held whether the friars could
retain it without detriment to the crown or
others. The jury found that the friars might
retain it, as it was only of the value of 2d. a year,
was held of the church of St. Mary, and had no
service nor suit annexed to it. (fn. 2) In the following
year the king pardoned them for their offence in
taking the land without licence, and confirmed
them in the possession of it. (fn. 3)
On 1 May, 1327, a writ for aid was issued to
Adam de Cumberhale, appointed to arrest John
de Stoke of the convent of Friars Preachers,
Warwick, and bring him to the king. (fn. 4) This,
no doubt, was in consequence of the part taken
by many of the Friars Preachers in resisting the
deposition of Edward II.
In 1344 the Dominicans of Warwick acquired
10 acres of land to extend their homestead, and a
small plot of land in 1361.
Henry III granted an interesting and special
favour to the Warwick friars on 4 March, 1267.
He directed a mandate to all bailiffs and other
officers on the route, to permit them to carry
their herrings and other victuals freely from
Norwich without any toll or other hindrance
until the next Easter. As their staple diet
during Lent was salt herrings, this exemption
from toll was a real benefit to the mendicants.
Warwick was one of the thirty-three houses of
the Friars Preachers which received a legacy of
100s. from the estates of Queen Eleanor; the
sum reached them soon after Michaelmas, 1291,
through William de Hotham, the provincial of
There is an interesting and certain way by
which the members of a large number of the
houses of the four mendicant orders can be ascertained in the earlier part of the fourteenth century.
It was the regular custom of Edward I and
Edward II during their progresses through the
country to give a groat to every friar of the places
through which they passed to provide him with
food for that day. The royal expense rolls always enter these alms. When, under Edward III,
long and costly wars broke out with France in
1338, this and other royal almsgiving dropped
into abeyance and was never renewed.
In 1301 Edward I tarried at Warwick on his
way to Scotland, and sent the Dominicans 37s.
for three days' food, showing that the number
then in residence was thirty-seven. Edward III
passed through Warwick on 1 January, 1329, and
sent 10s. to the thirty friars for one day's food.
Provincial chapters are recorded as having
been held at the Warwick friary in the years
1322, 1337, 1341, and 1367; on each of these
occasions there were considerable royal benefactions, which were supposed to cover the cost of
entertaining the members of the provincial
chapter and their attendants.
In April, 1350, the cemetery of the Black
Friars of Warwick was reconciled, by commission
of Bishop Thoresby, for effusion of blood. (fn. 5)
The generally favourable bearing of the people
towards the friars is shown, as is usual, in connexion with the Warwick house, by the large
number of bequests to secure their prayers, whilst
others desired burial in their church. In 1347
William Savage, prior of the house, admitted
Thomas Conning and Agnes his wife into fraternity, so that after death they might have the
masses and prayers usual for deceased friars.
William de Clinton, earl of Huntingdon, the
founder of Maxstoke Priory, bequeathed them, in
1354, 5 marks. Sir Peter de Montfort, who
died in 1369, directed his body to be buried in
the church of these Black Friars, bequeathing to
them £10. Edmund Verney, by will of 1495,
ordered his body to be buried between the altars
of Our Lady and of St. Dominic, on the north
side of the church, and enjoined on his executors
to cause a lamp to be kept continually burning
in the chancel before the Blessed Sacrament.
William Harewell, of Wootton Wawen, in consideration of £10 left for the repair of the church,
entered into covenant with William Latimer,
D.D., prior of this house, for one of the friars to
sing mass daily for himself and his wife at the
altar of St. Peter of Milan, between nine and ten
Richard Wycherly, a black friar of Warwick,
was consecrated bishop of Oliva, in Morocco, in
partibus infidelium, and acted as suffragan of the
bishop of Worcester. He died in September,
1502, and left £6 to the friars of Warwick.
Richard Mynar, of Warwick, by his will
dated 19 January, 1511, left his body to be buried
before the rood loft in the Dominican church;
a halfpenny loaf was to be given to every poor
man, woman, and child who came to the church
on the day of his burial. (fn. 6)
At the time of the Valor of 1535, when John
Knight was prior, the clear annual value of the
house was £4 18s. 6d. Small as this sum appears, it was large for mendicants, who usually
owned only the site of their friary. In this
case they had some small houses and gardens
which were probably the endowments of certain
mortuary foundations, or else had been irregularly
built on a portion of their unoccupied site.
Thomas Norman, the prior, and seven friars,
signed the surrender of their house and possessions to Dr. London for the king's use on 20 October, 1538. (fn. 7) London reported that the friars'
house at Warwick was without the town, and
was ruinous, with lead only in the gutters and on
the steeple. Before he left the town he defaced
the windows and the 'sellys' (cubicles) of the
dorter. (fn. 8) Writing on 5 November to Cromwell,
London suggested that the roof of the Warwick
friary, 60 ft. long, with good tiling, would well
serve for the kitchen that the king was building
at Warwick Castle. (fn. 9)
The prior and his brethren were ejected, like
the rest of the friars, without any pensions.
In 1551 the site was purchased of the crown
by John, duke of Northumberland. He held it
long enough to completely demolish the church
and buildings, but was himself executed for high
treason in 1553 and his estates forfeited.
William Savage, occurs 1347
Christopher Rouston, occurs 1478 (fn. 10)
William Latimer, D.D.
John Knyght, occurs 1535
Thomas Norman, surrendered 1538