In part, this page commemorates an Augustinian church that was taken from the Order over 460 years ago, but has not been forgotten.
The Austin Friars (Order of Saint Augustine) first came to England over 750 years ago.
In 1248 Richard de Clare invited the friars from France to his land at Clare in Suffolk, England.
In 1250 they opened a second house, and in 1253 a third one, this time in London. (Although the date of 1253 is mentioned in one early publication, the first undoubted reference to the London convento refers to 1270. The most definitive statement possible is that it certainly began between 1253-1270.)
The London Priory (convento) was founded at the expense of Humphrey de Bohun, the sixth Earl of Hereford and Essex, Constable of England, an ex-Crusader, one of the great magnates of the realm and a blood relative of the king, Henry III. Humphrey de Bohun, who was High Sheriff of England, died in 1275 and was buried in the Augustinian church in London (i.e., the first "temporary" thirteenth-century Augustinian church on the London site. The magnificent church, which the Augustinians served there until 1538, was built in the fourteenth century, circa 1354 AD.)
A direct relative of Humphrey de Bohun was a contemporary Augustinian, who was his confessor, William of Monklane O.S.A.
William may have been eligible to become the King of England had he not excluded himself from the possibility by taking Augustinian vows.
The London site and the cul-de-sac around it both became known as Austin Friars. The street still remains today, with its name unchanged. It is situated one block from the Stock Exchange Building and two blocks from the Bank of England.
From the start the Augustinian property in London was a small plot of land in the Broad Street Ward not far from Bishopsgate in the north of the City, and gradually increased it by the acquisition or donation of adjoining properties
. Somewhere nearby, the parish church of St Olave was transferred to the care of the Austin Friars, and it was a place of Augustinian activity at least until the construction of the large Augustinian church (see the next page
) on the Austin Friars' own land in the mid-fourteenth century.
Geoffry Picheford, the constable of Windsor Park, in 1277 received an order to cause the Austin Friars to have oaks of timber of the King's gift. This ordered delivery of oak timber from Windsor Forest in 1277 shows that part of the Austin Friary (convento) in London was being built at about that time. In 1281 or 1282 Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells, handed to the Austin Friars adjacent tenements he had bought there so as to enable the enlargement of the Austin Friars' land in London.
(Continued on the next page.)
Image (above): The Austin Friars Church of 1354 was taken from the Augustinians during the Protestant Reformation in 1538. The choir section was demolished but the nave section remained in use as a Dutch Protestant church. A fire subsequently destroyed the leadlight windows and wood fixtures there, but the shell of the restored building remained until the church was completely razed by aerial bombing by the Germans in the Second World War, on 10th October 1940. The photo shows the pre-1940 exterior of the church.
Another image (copyrighted) appears on the Internet at http://oldlondonmaps.com/viewspages/0024.html
Austin Friars Church. Sketched by Vincent van Gogh in 1874.
Fifty photographs of the ministry of Order of Saint Augustine in London today, choose the photo gallery named England: London after you click here.