Friaries
The Austin friars of Northampton

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Victoria County History

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R.M. Serjeantson, W.R.D. Adkins (editors)

Year published

1906

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147

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'Friaries: The Austin friars of Northampton', A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2 (1906), pp. 147. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=40241 Date accessed: 26 November 2014.


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21. THE AUSTIN FRIARS OF NORTHAMPTON

It is usually said that the Northampton house of the Austin Friars or Friars Eremites was founded by Sir John Longville, of Wolverton, in 1323; but this must have been a further augmentation, for there are several references to an Austin friary to the south of the town in Northampton deeds between 1275 and 1290. (fn. 1) Divers of the Buckinghamshire family of Longville were buried in the church; Leland adds—'I heer of no men els of nobilite there biried.' (fn. 2)

In April, 1330, licence was obtained for the alienation in mortmain by George de Longville, to the prior and Austin Friars of Northampton, of a messuage and plot of land, 108 feet in length by 44 feet in breadth, adjoining their house, for the enlargement of their close. (fn. 3) There was a further grant for extension of their premises made to the friars by the same benefactor in 1337. (fn. 4)

Godfrey Grandfeld, born in this county and a friar of the Northampton house, was a doctor of divinity of Cambridge, and a philosopher and divine of great repute. Going to Rome, he became chaplain to the cardinal bishop of Frascati. After a while he was himself consecrated bishop in partibus by Pope Benedict XI. (1303), and sent into England. He acted for a time as suffragan bishop of Lincoln, and left behind him many sermons and lectures as monuments of his learning. Dying about 1340, he was buried in this monastery. (fn. 5)

William Whitfield in 1528 bequeathed 'a payre of shetts to the sub-prior of the Austyns in Northampton,' 'also yt ye cooke of the freers Augustens shall have a fetheryng of a bedd.'

The church of the Austin Friars had an image of Our Lady of Grace of no small repute. Margery Humphrey by will of 1513 left 'to Our Lady of Grace in ye Austen freers my best gyrdel gilte.' Another Northampton lady in 1538 left the image her best ring; and William Whitfield by will of 1528 left all his goods to the friars of Our Lady of Grace, in case his wife predeceased him. (fn. 6)

This house was surrendered to Dr. London on 28 October, 1538, for the king's use. The deed was signed by John Goodwyn, prior; Stephen Barwycke, sub-prior, and seven other friars, the last of whom (Robert Barrett) signs himself an anchorite. John Wacklynge and Thomas Williams were appointed attorneys to see to the formal delivery. (fn. 7)

It is not necessarily to the discredit of Prior Goodwyn that he incurred the hostility of Dr. London. The prior and his brethren seem to have done their utmost to save their small property from the spoilers. The day after the surrender London wrote to Cromwell saying that he found the prior of the Augustines 'one of the most unthrifty I have met with, yet have I found few true.' He accused him of being a great dicer and reveller, and said that he owned to having made away with £100 worth of plate. He had put the prior and almost all the brethren in ward to try to find out their deceit. (fn. 8)

A few days later (6 November) London wrote again to his master from Godstow, and referred to the Austin Friars of Northampton. Forgetful of his previous statement as to £100 of plate, he then stated that the prior had divided £30 of plate among the brethren shortly before his arrival. The prior had been put in prison for it and 40s. of the money recovered. (fn. 9)

The building of a palace or royal lodge for the king at Grafton Regis was in contemplation, and a memorandum of London's, drawn up early in 1539, stated that the Austin Friars' church of Northampton was covered with lead, 'and the roof meet for Grafton.' (fn. 10)

This house was granted by the crown in July, 1540, to Robert Dighton, of Stirton, Lincolnshire. (fn. 11)

The fifteenth-century seal of this house represents the Virgin in glory within a vesica. The legend is defaced. (fn. 12)

Footnotes

1 Northampton Borough Records, ii. 523. Pat. 16 Edw. II. pt. 1, m. 5.
2 Leland's Itin. (Hearne ed.), i. 10.
3 Pat. 4 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 21.
4 Ibid. 11 Edw. III. pt. 2, m. 23, 24.
5 Stevens, Addition to the Monasticon, ii. 217; Stubbs, Ball, etc.
6 Northampton Wills, A. 156, F. 28, D. 203.
7 L. and P. Hen. VIII. xiii. pt. 2,704.
8 Ibid. pt. 2,719.
9 Ibid. 767, and Cott. MS. Cleop. E. IV. 227. There seems to have been something discreditable about the appointment of this prior. In Cromwell's accounts (which reveal so much peculation) for April, 1537, there is an entry of £5 received for the confirmation of the prior of the Austin Friars, Northampton. L. and P. Hen. VIII. xiv. pt. 2, 782, p. 319.
10 Ibid. xiv. pt. 1, 3.
11 Ibid. xv. 942 (99, 109).
12 Cast at the B. M. lxix. 89.