In 1361 July 1, Prior et Conventus de Lewes were granted, by Edward III, (In year 34 of his reign) a Royal licence to crenellate Lewes (Lewes Priory)
Licence for the prior and convent of Lewes to crenellate their priory and the church and houses thereof. By K. (CPR)
Prior et Conventus de Lewes ... Prioratum ac ecclesiam et domos ejusdem Prioratus ... Lewes, Sussex. (Turner and Parker)
The king to all persons to whom, &c., greeting Know that of our special grace we have granted and given license, on behalf of ourselves and our heirs, to the beloved by us in Christ, the Prior and Convent of Lewes, that they may fortify with walls of stone and lime the said Priory, and church, and houses (domos) of the same Priory, and to krenellate, and to hold them so fortified and krenellated, for themselves and their successors for ever, without penalty, or impediment, from us, or our heirs, justiciaries, eschaetors, sheriffs, or others our bailiffs or officers whosoever. In witness whereof, &c. Witness the King at Westminster, the first day of July. (Pat. 34 Edw. III., p. 2. m. 21). (Blaauw)
Granted at Westminster. Grant by King.
A response to French raids? a response to the Black Death? an increase of available funds after the Black Death? French raids certainly were not the reason for the licence granted to Drax Priory the next year.
Parts of the precinct wall survive. A major French raid took place in Sussex in 1377 and 200 defenders of Lewes were killed although the Priory was successfully defended (But the Prior himself was captured). The apparent decision of the English defenders to meet the larger French force in the field outside the priory may suggest that the priory was not seen as particularly defensible and its successful defence may just represent the fact that the French forces were otherwise occupied. However, it is the opinion of Dr Graham Mayhew, who has done intense study on Lewes Priory (but not licences to crenellate), that the licence was sought for defensive reasons.
Original source is;
Lyte, H.C. Maxwell (ed), 1911, Calendar of Patent Rolls (1358-61) p. 444 online copy
(In fact, the original source given is usually a transcription/translation
of what are precious medieval documents not readily availably. It should be
noted that these transcription/translations often date to the nineteenth or
early twentieth centuries and that unwitting bias of transcribers may affect
the translation. Care should also be taken to avoid giving modern meaning to
the medieval use of certain stock words and terms. Licentia is best translated as 'freedom to' not 'permission'.)
Significant later sources are;
Mayhew, Graham, 2007, French Raid 1377online copy Coulson, C., 1982, 'Hierarchism in Conventual Crenellation' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 26 p. 94 online copy Blaauw, William Henry, 1861, ' Royal Licenses to Fortify Towns and Houses in Sussex' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 13 p. 112-3 online copy Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 part 2 p. 416 online copy
More information about licences to crenellate can be found here.
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Record created by Philip Davis. This record last updated on Sunday, October 4, 2015.