Monthly Archives: March 2021

Monastic History Hull and East Yorkshire 18.

When Ken MacMahon’s history of Beverley was printed (Beverley (Dalesman Books, 1973) he wrote of the site of the Dominican Friary ‘the building stands pathetic, forlorn and desolate – grim evidence of 20th century official vandalism and planned neglect’. By the early 21st century David Neave, in his updating of Pevsner’s Yorkshire – York and the East Riding, p.301, was able to be more positive ‘This restored building, used as a Y.H.A. hostel since 1984, is a significant remnamt of a wealthy Dominican Friary established in Beverley by 1240’. These post-Dissolution remaining parts of the medieval Friary buildings have a complex archtectural history described in detail by D. Neave (p.301), apparently most of the Dominican’s church lies below the nearby section of the Hull to Scarborough rail-line and has in the past been partially excavated on both sides of the line. Unlike most monastic churches (but not all) the cloister and cloistral range of buildings in a friary were directly north of the friary church, this being so at Beverley – perhaps curiously, a few of the slender friary crossing towers have survived intact, one example being beside London Road, Kings Lynn.
MacMahon (see above) tells us about the much less well known Beverley Friary of the Franciscan Order. Sited near the once Keldgate Bar (one of Beverley’s four/five brick and stone gated entrances into the medieval town all of which were demolished in the 18th and 19th centuries except for the surviving brick North Bar) no physical evidence remains and the area is now one of inter-War housing. Documentary evidence proves that this Friary was in existance by the late 13th century and in its day it was equal in status to the Dominican Friary. Ironically this Friary site was originally on the very edge of town but it is at the more in-town site that most built evidence survives.
(to be continued – Hull’s friaries).

Monastic History Hull and East Riding 17.

Contemporary with the establishment of Hull’s Carthusian monastery (s.p.b.) friars and friaries had become the most endowed of monastic establishments. Unlike the ‘older’ monastic orders friaries were usually established in urban, rather than rural, areas and the lifestyle of friars was outgoing rather than cloistered. Two results of these points are that friars must have been far more visible than their monastic counterparts in everyday life in 14th century England and, secondly, that surviving built evidence of friary complexes are more rare than those of Cistercian monasteries, for example, because their site post Dissolution in the late 1530s was at more of a premium for other uses as were their building materials for re-use.
The four main orders of friars were represented in the East Riding, the Augustinian and Carmelite friaries in Hull and the Dominican and Franciscan orders in Beverley. The photo above shows part of the remarkably well preserved section of Beverley Dominican Friary with the east end, sub transepts, north transept and west towers of Beverley Minster visible above tree-level. The Dominican friars of the 14th and early 15th centuries may well have watched the progress of the Minster’s re-building programme replacing the earlier minster and leading to the one seen today. Some parts of the Friary complex were there by 1240 and in 1263 Henry III gave the Friary 15 oaks from the Forest of Galtres, north of York, presumably for a further building programme. Houses of friars tended to have few or no lay brethren (s.p.b.s) and prioritised ‘work in the community’ above manual labour – by the early 14th century there were 42 friars resident at Beverley’s Dominican Friary. Dominican friars were known as ‘black friars’ from the colour of their cloaks.
Whether in the floor of the church or in an on-site cemetery this Friary would have been the chosen last resting place of many members of East Yorkshire’s baronial families.
(to be continued)

Monastic History Hull and East Riding 16.

Michael de la Pole, who founded Hull’s Carthusian monastery in 1378 (s.p.b.), was a second generation member of the wealthy and powerful De la Pole dynasty. His father was William de la Pole, who’s statue at Minerva Pier can be seen above, and his uncle was William’s brother Richard. The brothers had built-up a flourishing trading business at Ravenser Odd but moved to Drypool and then Hull when the rapid erosion of Ravenser Odd started to impact on their trade.
Michael owned a number of properties in Hull but first-and-foremost the ‘De la Pole mansion’ facing north-west Lowgate, with the building complex and grounds bordered by the town wall and with the site of the Carthusian monastery a few hundred yards away. Sucessive generations of the De la Pole family moved away from Hull but remained very influential therein. Michael’s marriage to a landed heiress living in the village of Wingfield, Suffolk made him a leading landowner in East Anglia and in 1385 he was made Earl of Suffolk. A number of De la Pole monuments survive in the parish church at Wingfield. After 1385 the ‘De la Pole mansion’ in Hull was often known as the ‘Suffolk Palace’.
So why did Michael de la Pole endow the Carthusian monastery near Hull?
The reason(s) why people did things in the past can be more even obscure than why people today do what they do. Answers cannot be definative no matter how compelling. That said:
Firstly, despite a growing scepticism of the rules of Christendom in the late Middle Ages (witness the proto-Protestant John Wycliffe and the Lollard movement) it was still, in the 14th century, a done-thing for those who could to endow a monastic site.
Also the belief endured that the brethren in an endowed site would pray for the soul of the benefacter after their death and thus hasten the journey of their soul through purgatory to everlasting life.
Also the Carthusians were admired for their self denial (s.p.b.) thereby putting the older monastic orders to shame.
So we have fashion, selfishness and respect – but who knows.

Monastic History Hull and East Riding 15.

When Michael de la Pole founded the Carthusian monastery in 1378 (s.p.b.) he also founded an almshouse for 13 poor men and 13 poor women. Five years later the two institutions were separated for administrative purposes and from thereon the almshouse/hospital were known as ‘God’s House in Hull’. These medieval buildings were demolished during the First Civil War of the 1640s (remembering that the site was outside the town walls), this happening just over a century after the Carthusian monastery had been surrendered to the Crown (Dissolution) in November 1539. Incidentally, the six monks and prior resident at Hull Carthusian monastery at the time of its dissolution recieved very generous allowances from the Crown (s.p.b.s), this partly because local gentry families had written to Thomas Cromwell stating ‘the prior and brethren are right well favoured and commended by honest men in Hull and other neighbours thereabouts for their good living and great hospitality by them daily kept’ (quoted in Claire Cross’ book, s.p.b.s, p.33). As regards the almshouses new buildings were built on the north side of Charterhouse Lane in 1663 and a chapel added a decade later, the present buildings date from the late 1770s (the photo above is taken from Hull Civic Society’s Heritage Open Days booklet for 2019, an annual occasion when one can visit the chapel although it is also open Sunday mornings for Christian worship).
On the opposite side of Charterhouse Lane is the Master’s House, a fine five-bay Georgian residence dating from the same time as the buildings opposite (much of the above is taken from David Neave’s revision of Pevsner’s Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2005, 559).
To return to the Carthusian monastery the question might be asked, ‘Why did the rich and powerful Michael de la Pole endow a monastery and almshouses in the 14th century?’
(to be continued for the answers)

Monastic History Hull and East Riding 14.

And so to Hull.Friaries apart (see later) monasticism came late to Hull.
In 1378 Michael de la Pole founded a Carthusian Priory outside the town walls (still under construction at that time) on an open rural site north of the town. To have crossed on foot from the North Gate in the town walls to the monastic site would have then, almost certainly, involved threading around clay pits dug from which to make some of the vast amount of bricks needed in the construction of the town walls, the other clay digging site being to the west of the old town ditch. Today the monastic site is crossed by Charterhouse Lane with, at its east end, Charterhouse Lane School (no longer such) one of Hull’s fine board schools and built in 1881.
The Carthusian Order was, like many monastic orders (see original blogs in this section) an attemt to get back to some of the original purist ideas on monastic life. It is/was often described as austere and disciplined and was a male order only. The cloistral range of buildings was mostly made up of what might be described today as ‘prison-like’ cells, one for each monk of the community and in which they would remain for the bulk of the day and night in contemplation, study and prayer. The on-site church tended to be comparatively small with usually an aisleless nave and internal side chapels. Nothing remains of this original complex of buildings but there are some remains of a Carthusian monastery at Mount Grace Priory in a wooded setting at the foot of the escarpment of the Hambleton Hills, North Yorkshire, a site visible from the A19, a much-used route from Humberside to Teeside, Wearside and Tyneside. The picture above is of the site looking west and shows the crossing tower of the church and on the left-hand side the original entrance archway and a guest-house, much altered in the 17th century.
(to be continued).

Monastic History Hull and East Riding 13.

The photo. above, credited to Dr. B. English, is of the ‘former prior’s lodging, Watton, photographed in 1989′ and scanned from p. 29 of Claire Cross’ book (s.p.b.s). This building still stands and, I believe, is still lived-in as a private residence. It is the only standing building remaining from the complex of buildings that up to the Reformation comprised the ‘double’ monastic house at Watton on the edge of the Hull Valley between Beverley and Driffield.
Watton Priory was attached to the Gilbertine monastic order, so named after the order was established in Lincolnshire c.1140 by Gilbert of Sempringham (village of Sempringham in Kestevan, east of Grantham). The Gilbertine Order was the only monastic order to have originated in England and comprised a complex of buildings for canons and another for nuns but side-by-side with much of the day-to-day work done by lay-brothers and lay-sisters. Watton was to become the largest house of the Gilbertine Order. Although it is only uneven ground that gives clues to the layout of the buildings today it was thoroughly excavated and written-up by two amateur archaeologists in the 1890s. The nun’s buildings were on the west side of the complex centred around a cloister with a large Norman church to its south, this divided by an east to west wall down its centre to divide the half for the nuns and the other for the monks. The monks complex was east of the church with a cloister in the centre. Gilbert was an admirer of the Cistercian Order but, although at Watton the nuns and monks were to always be physically separate, the duality of the site wasn’t acceptable to them.
A similar regime exists in Hull Prison where two populations of prisoners have to be kept physically always apart even though they are on the same site.