22. HOSPITAL OF ST. JOHN BAPTIST,
The earliest mention of this hospital occurs
in a charter of Geoffrey Fitz Piers Earl of
Essex, (fn. 1) which shows that the custody of the
house had already been committed by him to
the brothers of St. Thomas the Martyr of Acon.
On 1 March 1216-17 Queen Isabel for the soul
of King John gave the hospital to the canons
of Acon, (fn. 2) but whether this was a confirmation
of Fitz Piers's deed or an amplification is not clear.
The queen added that the hospital had of her
gift tithes of all her mills in the sokes of Berkhampstead and Hemel Hempstead, 15 acres of
land in 'Selidone' and all the dike work with
herbage between the fish-pond and the hospital,
the whole length of the fish-pond, viz., from the
road called Water Lane to the church of
St. James, the land late of Roger the Cordwainer,
and another piece next the hospital, 15 cartloads
of fuel in the 'hay' of Berkhampstead and
25 loads in the wood of 'Brennendon,' perhaps
Bovingdon in Hemel Hempstead, leave to feed
20 pigs in the said 'hay' and wood, and pannage and pasture for the hospital's cattle in
the common pastures of Berkhampstead. As
Isabel confirmed to the hospital whatever it had
already acquired in her fee of Berkhampstead
and in Hemel Hempstead, these gifts were
possibly fresh endowment. It will be noticed
that the hospital had, or by this charter acquired,
rights in the property lying between its site and
the chapel of St. James, the proximity of which
appears to have led to an interchange of the
names of the two foundations. Thus Chauncy (fn. 3)
speaks of the hospital of St. James so called
from St. James's Well, (fn. 4) while the spring itself
has for some time now been known as St. John's
Well. The hospital chapel was rebuilt in 1331
and was consecrated at the end of that year or
the beginning of the next. (fn. 5)
From that time there is no mention of the
house of St. John Baptist. A report, however,
made in 1540 on the leper hospitals of Berkhampstead (fn. 6) says that a warden, brothers and
sisters had been possessed of two, one called the
Overspitalhouse or St. John the Evangelist, the
other the Netherspitalhouse or St. Leonard,
and as the property in Berkhampstead, Northchurch and Hemel Hempstead included the
tithes of six water-mills and a fulling-mill, it
seems likely that the hospital of St. Leonard (fn. 7)
was identical with that of St. John Baptist. (fn. 8)
Apparently the two houses had been united
before 1515-16, since there was then only one
warden, and at that time the departure of the
inmates brought the existence of the remaining
hospital to a close. (fn. 9)
There are several references to the hospital
of St. Thomas the Martyr of Berkhampstead,
but it is clear that they refer to either the
hospital of St. John Baptist or that of St. John
the Evangelist, which both belonged to the
monastery of St. Thomas the Martyr of Acon,
and were therefore probably known by the
name of the superior house. (fn. 10)
||Inspeximus and confirmation July 1325 (Cal.
Pat. 1324-7, p. 128).
||Inspeximus and confirmation 10 Dec. 1318
(Cal. Chart. R. 1300-26, p. 399). A hospital of
Berkhampstead was confirmed to the canons of Acon
by Pope Honorius 7 July in the fourth year of his
rule, probably Honorius III in 1220 (Cott. MS.
Tib. C v, fol. 271).
Hist. Antiq. of Herts. 587.
||Cobb (Hist. and Antiq. of Berkhamstead, 72)
marked this spot as the site of one of the hospitals,
pointing to the names 'Spital Mead' and 'the Spital
trees' in proof, but he thought the hospital that
of St. John the Evangelist. The nearness of the
hospital of St. John Baptist to the old parochial chapel
makes the connexion of both with the brotherhood of
St. John Baptist seem more probable. See V.C.H.
Herts. ii, 163, 172.
||The Bishop of Lincoln's commission to Peter
Bishop of 'Corbavia' to consecrate is dated 8 kal.
Jan. 1331 (Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Burghersh,
||Rentals and Surv. (Gen. Ser.), portf. 25, no. 37.
||St. Leonard was a favourite saint with commercial communities, and this would therefore be a
probable invocation, supposing the connexion between
the gild and the hospital.
||Especially as the foundation of both hospitals,
St. Leonard's as well as St. John the Evangelist's, is
attributed to King John.
||As to the connexion of this hospital with Berkhampstead Grammar School see V.C.H. Herts. ii,
||See Rot. Lit. Claus. (Rec. Com.), ii, 19, 21;
Cal. Pat. 1317-21, p. 68; Lay Subs. R. bdle. 120,
no. 2; Cant. Archiepis. Reg. Courtenay, fol. 280b;
Ct. R. (Gen. Ser.), portf. 177, no. 15.