A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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43. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, LECHLADE
The hospital of St. John the Baptist at Lechlade was founded in or before 1246 by Isabella de Mortimer. (fn. 1) She endowed it with land at the head of Lechlade Bridge, the bridge, chapel, and a mill. In 1246 the property of the hospital was confirmed by Henry III to be held in free alms. (fn. 2) The community seems to have consisted, according to the ordinance of the foundation, of seven priests of the order of St. Augustine, of whom one was prior or master, and a number of lay brothers and sisters to minister to the poor and sick, both men and women, who came to the hospital.
In 1252 the manor of Lechlade was granted to Richard earl of Cornwall, who thus became the patron of the hospital. (fn. 3) Before 1255 he and his wife Sanchia granted to the priests who served it the right of electing their prior or master, and endowed the hospital with the advowson of the parish church, retaining however the right of presenting to the vicarage. (fn. 4)
In the visitation of the diocese of Worcester which took place in 1290 and 1291, Bishop Giffard deputed one of his clerks, by name Nigel le Waleys, to visit the hospital. He fulfilled his office on 11 January, 1291, (fn. 5) and reported a most unsatisfactory state of affairs to the bishop. The services were neglected, regular discipline was not observed, and the administration was wasteful. On 17 February Giffard sent a mandate for the reform of the hospital. (fn. 6) He decreed that according to the will of the founders seven priests should perform the daily services, and that the prior and all the brethren should be present at the hours unless prevented by some honest cause. Silence was to be observed in church, dorter, frater, and cloister. Among the brethren there should be uniformity in dress; the sisters should have a suitable dress and take their food in the places assigned to them. As the vice of gluttony prevailed among them, neither brothers nor sisters should presume to eat or drink except at stated hours and places, unless they were ill or engaged in the service of the house; nor should they go beyond the precincts without leave. As hospitality ought to be observed with charity and cheerfulness, one kind and courteous brother was to be chosen to entertain guests, and another to receive the sick. The prior was bidden to render an exact account of the financial position of the house. Under pain of eternal damnation the bishop forbade that any possessions or rents given for the special use of the poor and sick should be diverted to any other object. In 1300 matters were no better, and in January an inquisition into the state and condition of the hospital was held in the parish church. (fn. 7) The jurors declared that the prior had withdrawn several of the priests and expelled them and a number of lay brothers and sisters, also that he had alienated various lands and goods belonging to the hospital, including the books and ornaments of the church, but there is no evidence of the steps taken to restore order.
The maintenance of the bridge was a charge upon the hospital, and in 1338 (fn. 8) and again in 1341 (fn. 9) Edward III granted the right of taking tolls for a term of three years in aid of the repairs.
On 21 October, 1351, Bishop Thoresby sent a commission to Henry de Neubold, his vicargeneral, and William Poty, the vicar of Lechlade, to punish Brother Ralph of Tetbury for laying violent hands on the brothers summoned before the bishop at his visitation of the hospital. (fn. 10) On 26 February, 1352, he appointed two commissioners to inquire into the excesses and defects of the hospital, to make corrections, and if necessary to remove the prior from office. (fn. 11) He had heard that the prior and brethren had put aside their habit and were going about as chaplains, celebrating masses and getting salaries, and they may perhaps have so acted under pressure of poverty. Later in that year the prior desired to be released from his office, because he wished to live a life of contemplation. (fn. 12) In or about 1374 Bishop William de Lynn attempted to reform the hospital. He found at his visitation that Prior Stephen of Newbury had diminished the services, wasted and defiled the goods of the house, and had led a dissolute life. (fn. 13) However, Stephen ignored the bishop's injunctions, and on 22 March, 1375, during the vacancy of the see, the prior of Worcester sent a mandate to the dean of Fairford and all rectors and vicars of that deanery to denounce him as excommunicate, and to summon him to appear before the prior or his commissary in the cathedral church of Worcester to receive condign punishment. (fn. 14) On 31 October he resigned. (fn. 15) On 10 November, 1384, when in the course of his metropolitical visitation Courtenay, archbishop of Canterbury, came to Lechlade, he found that the title of the prior, Richard Smyth, was defective. The right of presentation therefore fell to the archbishop, and on account of the upright character of the man, he collated him to the office. (fn. 16) In 1388 the repair of the bridge was a further expense; it had been broken down by order of Thomas, duke of Gloucester, and Richard II therefore granted to the prior the right of taking tolls for the next three years. (fn. 17)
When John Wyham resigned in 1454 there were not enough brethren to elect a prior, and on the commendation of Richard, duke of York, then the patron, Bishop Carpenter collated William Littleton. (fn. 18) In 1462 the hospital was so much impoverished by misfortune that it was exempted from payment of the tenth. (fn. 19) About two years later Edward IV granted the advowson of the hospital to his mother Cecily, duchess of York, and on her presentation Bishop Carpenter collated William Lovel, who filled the office of prior for eight years. (fn. 20) The poverty of the house was very great, and the revenues were utterly inadequate to maintain the objects of its foundation. (fn. 21) In 1472 the duchess of York obtained a licence from Edward IV to found a chantry for three chaplains to celebrate divine service daily in the chapel of the Virgin in the parish church of Lechlade, (fn. 22) and William Lovel was empowered to transfer the whole of the possessions of the hospital to the chaplains of the chantry. (fn. 23) Out of the revenues the sum of ten marks a year was assigned by the duchess of York to be paid to the chaplain of the chantry of St. Blaise at Lechlade, which was founded at the same time by John Twynho. (fn. 24) Accordingly on 20 September, 1475, Bishop Carpenter effected the appropriation of the hospital to the chantry of St. Mary, (fn. 25) stipulating that the chaplains should keep the chapel of the hospital in repair, and hold services there on the vigil and feast of St. John the Baptist. (fn. 26)
Priors of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist, Lechlade
Peter of Pevensey, ob. 1283 (fn. 27)
William of Estham, 1283 (fn. 28)
Walter of Lambourne, occurs 1305 (fn. 29)
John of Lechlade, elected 1312 (fn. 30)
William of Tewkesbury, elected 3 April, 1330 (fn. 31)
Adam of Alcester, elected 15 April, 1330 (fn. 32)
Walter, resigned 1355 (fn. 33)
William Littleton, 1454 (fn. 40)
Thomas Hedley, occurs 1464 (fn. 41)
William Lovel, 1464-72 (fn. 42)