A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
31. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. MARK, BILLESWICK, CALLED GAUNT'S HOSPITAL (fn. 1)
Maurice de Gaunt, great-grandson of Robert Fitzharding, (fn. 2) built an almonry in Billeswick and entrusted the administration of his charity to the monastery of St. Augustine's, Bristol. (fn. 3) On condition of a yearly gift of 60 loads of corn, of beans, and of peas, and a rental of £10, the abbot and convent undertook to feed one hundred poor people in the almonry each day and to maintain a chaplain. (fn. 4) In his will (fn. 5) Maurice de Gaunt provided a permanent endowment for the almonry, consisting of the manor of Poulet in Somersetshire, several mills, and rents in Bristol. (fn. 6) After his death on 30 April, 1230, (fn. 7) 'his nephew and heir,' Robert de Gurnay, confirmed the endowment, (fn. 8) and in 1232 Henry III confirmed the possessions of the master of the almonry of Billeswick, which also included the manor of Stokeland, the gift of Andrew Lutterel. (fn. 9) Robert de Gurnay made the hospital a separate foundation, independent of the monastery of St. Augustine, with a master and three chaplains as a governing body. (fn. 10) He granted that on the death of the master the administration of the property should be in the hands of the three chaplains; they might elect one of themselves or some other person as master, and present him to Robert de Gurnay or his heirs, by whom he would be presented to the bishop of Worcester. (fn. 11) He decided that the daily allowance of each poor person should be bread of the weight of 45s. and oatmeal pottage. (fn. 12) He provided for twelve poor scholars to be admitted and removed at the will of the master, who would be bound to be present in choir at the services in black copes and surplices, under the control of one of their number who should know how to discipline and teach the others. (fn. 13) The abbot and convent of St. Augustine's resented the modification of the founder's will, which deprived them of the control of the hospital, and carried their claims before civil and ecclesiastical courts. (fn. 14) A settlement was effected in 1251. (fn. 15) The abbot and convent of St. Augustine's recognized the independence of the master and brethren of St. Mark's and their right to free burial within their walls. They renounced their claims in the manor of Poulet, and the master and brethren of St. Mark's agreed to pay tithes within the bounds of the parish of Poulet and Were. Both parties agreed to refer any subsequent disputes to the bishop of Worcester. In 1259 they called upon him to settle the question of rights of pasture on the land between their houses, (fn. 16) and Bishop Cantilupe judged it to be the burial ground of St. Augustine's, but decided that neither of them should pasture their cattle upon it. The possessions of the hospital, both by gift and purchase, steadily increased. In 1247 Henry III granted rights of free warren in Poulet and Stokeland, (fn. 17) and in 1257 the privilege of holding a yearly fair in the manor of Poulet on the vigil, feast, and morrow of St. John the Baptist. (fn. 18) In 1259 the hospital had acquired the manors of Herdicote and La Lee, lands in Bruham, a mill at Langford, rents in Bristol, and the advowsons of Stokeland and Quantoxhead. (fn. 19) In that year a new constitution, framed on that of the hospital of St. John the Baptist at Lechlade, was drawn up by Walter Cantilupe, bishop of Worcester, with the consent of Robert de Gurnay and his uncle Henry de Gaunt, the master of the hospital. (fn. 20) It provided, besides the three chaplains of the old foundation, for six clerks in minor orders and five lay brothers. The clerks were to serve the priests at mass, and if with the master's consent they took priest's orders they were still to serve each other, for unless the possessions of the hospital increased, the number of chaplains and clerks might under no circumstance exceed thirteen. The Use of Sarum was ordered. The master, chaplains, clerks, and brethren had one common dorter and frater. No secular might eat in the frater; the master was bidden to entertain guests in a room set apart for him. Those who sought admission to the brotherhood underwent a year of probation. If they were found fitting they were then professed and took vows of chastity and obedience, promising to renounce private property, and to keep all the observances of the house. All the brethren bore on their habits the sign of the hospital, a white cross, and beneath it a red shield with three white geese. The master and chaplain wore black cloaks and amices, and when they went into the town black copes. Two chaplains, six clerks, and two lay brothers managed the daily distribution of food to the poor, which took place before the midday meal in the frater. The chaplains might write anything or set down music for the use of the house with the master's leave; under the same condition lay brothers who were skilled in medicine might use their knowledge for the profit of the hospital. The house was subject to the visitation of the bishop of Worcester, (fn. 21) but Cantilupe granted for himself and his successors that it should be exempt from the payment of procurations and from the visitation of the archdeacon or his official.
In 1268 Prince Edward granted the manor of Winterbourne Gunner in Wiltshire, (fn. 22) and in 1272 the executors of William de Rumere, formerly treasurer of Wells, and of a canon named John of Hereford, delivered £80 to the master and brethren, who undertook to pay a yearly pension of £4 3s. 4d. to the dean and chapter of Wells for the stipend of a chantry priest and the maintenance of services for their souls. (fn. 23)
The daily provision of food for a hundred poor people was a heavy charge upon the income of the hospital, which in 1282 was returned by the master at only £20 4s. 8d. (fn. 24) When Bishop Giffard visited the house in 1279 he found that for four years past the feeding of the poor had been 'damnably omitted.' (fn. 25) He ordered that the alms should be duly made according to the ordinance of the foundation, and added an injunction that two brethren should be chosen to receive all moneys due to the house, and that they should render a yearly account to the master and three or four of the wiser brethren. In 1281 the master disregarded the summons of Peckham, archbishop of Canterbury, to attend a provincial council at Lambeth, and in accordance with a mandate from the archbishop, Giffard suspended him from office for a time. (fn. 26) At his visitation in 1284 the bishop again discovered that the alms had been wholly withdrawn. (fn. 27) On the resignation of the master, Robert of Reading, in 1298, the hospital was involved in a lawsuit with the patron, John Ap Adam, who had married Elizabeth daughter and heiress of John de Gurnay, and now claimed the sole right of presentation. (fn. 28) The brethren showed Robert de Gurnay's charter, stating that they had elected one of themselves, William de Beaumier, and were willing to present him to the patron. They enforced their right. Edward I also instituted an inquiry to discover whether the custody of the hospital during the vacancy ought not to fall to the crown, but the jurors made a return in favour of the brethren. (fn. 29) During the vacancy John Ap Adam and others entered the manors of the house, carried off the corn and drove away the cattle, so that the brethren could not make their accustomed alms. (fn. 30) John Ap Adam charged them with neglecting the terms of their foundation. (fn. 31) He appears to have appealed to Giffard against the brethren, but the brief entry in the register is rather obscure; as at the bishop's council at Hartlebury on 26 December, 1300, the answer to John Ap Adam's petition for changing the habit of the canons of St. Mark's was that they could not be changed without scandal. (fn. 32) The disputes were referred to Archbishop Winchelsey when he came on his metropolitical visitation in 1301. (fn. 33) On 24 July he decreed that the master and brethren should begin to feed 100 poor folk on Michaelmas Day and the three days following, but that in consideration of their losses for the rest of the year they should only provide for thirty each day. In the next year they should feed sixty persons daily, and in the third year the full number of 100. He insisted that the master and obedientiars should render an account of expenses once a year, or oftener if needful, in the presence of the brethren. He utterly forbade seculars, and especially women, to enter the cloister or other private places of the house, and he prohibited the brethren from going outside the precincts except with a companion, when necessary, and with the master's leave. Although Winchelsey does not explicitly state that the brethren were to live according to the rule of St. Augustine, the petition of John Ap Adam, in 1300, about the 'canons' of St. Mark's suggests that, as is apparent before the middle of the fourteenth century, the community had already adopted the rule of St. Augustine and the customs of Augustinian canons, probably modifying the observances according to the needs of the house. (fn. 34) In 1312 the condition of the hospital caused grave dissatisfaction. Bishop Reynolds commissioned his official to hold an inquiry, because he had heard from four of the brethren that the master, William de Beaumier, was alienating the goods of the house. (fn. 35) Information also reached the bishop that the aforesaid brethren had committed grave offences against the observance of the rule. (fn. 36) Pending the inquiry the bishop forbade the master to take any steps against the brethren. (fn. 37) Nevertheless the master imprisoned William of Kent and imposed penance on him. (fn. 38) On inquiry his guilt was proved and, as he expressed great contrition, the bishop bade the master punish him according to the rule of the house, but with gentleness. (fn. 39) However, news of the master's violent conduct afterwards reached the bishop, and in October, 1313, he ordered William de Beaumier, under pain of the greater excommunication, to restore the erring brother to his former condition and bade the abbot of St. Augustine's see that it was done. (fn. 40)
The church of Stokeland was appropriated to the hospital in 1316. (fn. 41) In 1326 Edward II allowed the master and brethren to exchange their lands at Compton, Cheddar, and Netherwere with the bishop of Bath and Wells for the advowson of the church of Overstowey that they might appropriate it. (fn. 42) In 1336 Bishop Montacute visited the hospital, and it is briefly recorded in his register that he 'corrected' there. (fn. 43) A few years later the house was seriously in debt, in 1343 owing £20 to William de Langeford of Bristol, (fn. 44) and in 1344 £100 to Adam Brabazon, a fishmonger of London, and William de Stoures, a grocer of London. (fn. 45) In 1339 Bishop Wulstan de Bransford gave leave of a year's absence to the master, Ralph of Tetbury, to go on a pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella, and he committed the custody of the house to John of Stokeland. (fn. 46) In 1346 Ralph was still absent, and the nine brethren elected John of Stokeland (fn. 47) in his place.
The Black Death wrought great havoc in Bristol, and it is clear that the brothers of St. Mark's were fewer in number during the latter half of the century. After holding the office of master for ten years, Walter Browning resigned in 1370, (fn. 48) but two years later, owing to urgent necessity, he again consented to hold office (fn. 49) till 1391, when being very old and weak he finally resigned. (fn. 50) In consideration of his long and careful service he was assigned two rooms in the house and a daily allowance of food and drink for himself and his servant. There were then only three priests besides himself, and they constituted the whole community. (fn. 51) One of them, Thomas Over, had resigned the office of master in 1372. (fn. 52) Another, Philip Russell, attempted to secure it for himself by papal provision, but the letters in his favour arrived too late, (fn. 53) as William Lane, a canon of the monastery of St. Augustine, Bristol, had already been elected and confirmed. (fn. 54) However, he was not left in undisturbed possession. On 30 April, 1400, Henry IV granted the office of master to his clerk, John Trowbridge. (fn. 55) Lane remonstrated, and the appointment was revoked on 13 July. (fn. 56) In 1406 complaint was made to the king that works of piety, including the feeding of the poor, had been wholly omitted by William Lane, and that there were only three chaplains besides himself. (fn. 57) It was stated that the clear yearly value of the manor of Stokeland Gaunts and the lands of Gauntesham and Colle was £40. The manor and lands were seized into the king's hands in consequence, but after investigation they were restored to the master and brethren. The numbers did not again exceed four or five. (fn. 58) It is not clear how the charity of the hospital was exercised, and indeed its history in the fifteenth century is quite obscure; but apparently the administration satisfied so vigorous a ruler and reformer as Bishop Carpenter. In 1487 the tower of the church was finished. (fn. 59) Sir Robert Poyntz of Iron Acton (ob. 1520) built the Jesus Chapel, and founded a chantry therein. (fn. 60) In the sixteenth century the hospital, like a number of other religious houses, took gentlefolks as boarders. Among these, in 1535, was Lady Jane Guildford, (fn. 61) who had an annuity of £60. After the visitation by Cromwell's commissioners in 1535, women were excluded by the injunctions, and she wrote to Cromwell begging his favour. 'I have a lodging there chosen as meet for a poor widow to serve God in her old days. And I trust both for myself and my women like as we have been hitherto, to be of such governance with your licence to the same, that no inconvenience shall ensue thereof. And where hereto before I have been used from my house to go the next way to the church, for my ease, through the cloister of the same house to a chapel that I have within the quire of the same, I shall be content from henceforth, if it shall so seem convenient unto you, to forbear that, and to resort to the common place, like as others do, of the same church.' John Coleman, the master, urged Cromwell to dispense with the injunction forbidding any of the brethren to leave the precincts, because he was bound to ride from place to place about the profits of the house. (fn. 62)
In 1534 the master and four brethren acknowledged the royal supremacy, (fn. 63) and five years later, on 9 December, 1539, they surrendered the house to Cromwell's commissioners. (fn. 64) The master received a pension of £40; Richard Fletcher, the steward, got £6 13s. 4d., Thomas Pynchyn £6, and John Ellis was appointed curate of the parish of St. Mark at a salary of £8, but if he refused, a pension of £6 was to be awarded him.
Sixteen men and children, servants, and choristers of the house were paid £10 9s. 4d. in all for their wages and liveries. The clear yearly value of the property of the hospital amounted to £165 2s. 4½d., the manors of Erdcote Gaunts and Lee in Gloucestershire, Stókeland Gaunts, Overstowey, and Poulet Gaunts in Somerset, and Winterbourne Gunner in Wiltshire, besides the rectories of Stokeland Gaunts and Overstowey. (fn. 65) The site and the greater part of the possessions were sold to the mayor and corporation of Bristol in 1541. (fn. 66)
Masters of the Hospital of St. Mark
Gilbert de Watham, 1268 (fn. 69)
John of Trowbridge, resigned 1273 (fn. 70)
Thomas, occurs 1282 (fn. 71)
William, occurs 1330 (fn. 76)
John of Stokeland, 1346 (fn. 79)
Richard of Yate, resigned 1360 (fn. 80)
Thomas Tyler, 1486 (fn. 93)
Thomas, occurs 1501 (fn. 94)
The seal attached to the acknowledgement of the king's supremacy represents two crocketed canopied niches supported by crocketed buttresses. (fn. 97) In the sinister niche is a seated figure of St. Mark, writing his gospel on a desk or stand before him, holding in his right hand a stilus. On the dexter side before him is a lion sejant rampant. In the space above between the canopies is a heater-shaped shield, which was probably charged with the arms of the house, gules, three geese argent. In a compartment below the figures are two similar shields, probably containing the arms of the two founders; the sinister is shown to be paly or, three pales azure for Robert de Gurnay. Between these shields is another niche in which is a kneeling figure looking to the right. The legend is:— S . CŌE . DOM' . MARCI . DE . IBĪ . BILLES VVYK . IVXTA . BRISTOLL