A History of the County of Dorset: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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30. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. MARGARET AND ST. ANTHONY, WIMBORNE
The date of the foundation of this ancient hospital, commonly called St. Margaret's of Wimborne, is unknown. Tradition has reported that it was founded by John of Gaunt, but, as evidence has been found of its existence long before the reign of Edward III, the conjecture was probably based on the fact that the house was situated within the manor or Kingston Lacy, which formed part of the duchy of Lancaster; it may at some time or another have been rebuilt or re-established by John of Gaunt or one of his descendants. (fn. 1)
From certain deeds found in a chest in the chapel the house appears to have existed as a house for lepers as far back as the reign of King John, and to have depended for its support almost entirely on the alms of the town and neighbourhood; a grant dated 1245 recited that for the encouragement of such charitably-disposed Christians as should contribute towards its relief Pope Innocent IV by
an indulgans or bulle did assoyl them of all syns forgotten and offences done against fader and moder and of all swerynges neglygently made
This 'indulgans' granted of Peter and 'Powle' and of the said pope should hold good for fifty-one years and 260 days, provided a certain number of Paternosters and Ave Marias were repeated daily. (fn. 2)
In the absence of a sufficient endowment licence to beg must have been almost a necessity, and for that purpose Edward I in 1275 granted letters of protection for a year to the brethren and sisters of the hospital of St. Margaret and St. Anthony, Wimborne, (fn. 3) and renewed the grant on the expiration of the term the following year, (fn. 4) and again in 1286. (fn. 5)
The Chantry Commissioners of Edward VI valued the house at 29s. 8d., and found it was ordained for the relief of poor men, and that there were then eight who 'not only live by the profit of the said house but by the devotion of the people and inhabitants of the town of Wimborne.' (fn. 6)
In the chapel of the hospital there was established in early days a chantry founded by John Redcottes and named after him; it was annexed to the college or free chapel of Wimborne and is entered among its possessions, being held in the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI by the sacristan of the college in conjunction with his other office. At the time the Valor of 1535 was taken it was worth £5 6s. 8d., and was held by Thomas Yeroth, sacristan. (fn. 7) According to the chantry certificate Simon Benyson, then incumbent, received for his stipend £5 6s. 8d. arising out of certain lands 'called Dixon and Capons lands,' parcel of the duchy of Lancaster; after his death these rents should be paid into the duchy. In the meantime he held another living to the value of £30. (fn. 8) An annual pension was allowed him of £5 a year. (fn. 9)
The book of ancient accounts above mentioned further shows that from the year 1567 to 1683 the hospital was continued under the control and direction of two parishioners, annually elected and styled the guardians or wardens of St. Margaret's Hospital or Almshouse, assisted by the constable of the town and the stewards of the lord of the manor of Kingston Lacy, the latter signing the accounts on behalf of the lord of the manor. (fn. 10)
From 1683 the election of guardians ceased, and the entire management and control of the funds was placed under the stewards of the lord of the manor, to whom belonged the appointment of the poor to the almshouses. In a return to Parliament in 1786 the value of the house was given at £35 11s. The hospital benefited largely by the will of the Rev. Wm. Stone, dated May, 1865, whereby certain lands and tenements in the parish of Wimborne Minster were left in trust to the use of the almsmen only in St. Margaret's Hospital. The house is described as standing on the high road which runs from Blandford to Wimborne. (fn. 11)