Hospitals: St Mary Magdalen, Winchester

Pages 197-200

A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1903.

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The original site of the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen was about a mile due east of Winchester, on the down which was called after it Magdalen Hill, now Morne Hill. It does not seem to be possible to trace its first foundation with any certainty, although the cumulative presumptions in favour of Bishop Ilchester (1174-89) being the founder, ingeniously put forth by Dr. Milner, (fn. 1) seem highly probable. Moreover the elaborate drawings made of the remains of its chapel by Mr. Schnebbelie, (fn. 2) in 1788, corroborate this view, as they show that the main work was apparently late in the Norman style. The first mention of the hospital occurs in the register of Bishop Pontoise (1280-1304), where it is named in a list of benefices of which the Bishops of Winchester had been patrons for a long time. (fn. 3) It is mentioned once in Stratford's register, under the year 1325, when it is called a hospital for lepers. (fn. 4) Pope John XXII. in 1333 granted a faculty to the prior and chapter of Wine ster to appropriate the church of Wonsington, value £40, out of which, however £25 19s. 4d. was to be paid yearly to the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen, according to the prescription of Henry, late bishop of the see. (fn. 5) The foundation at that time consisted of a priest (master) and nine poor brethren and nine poor sisters.

On 8 September, 1334, the keepers of the temporalities of the see of Winchester, then in the king's hands, were directed to pay to the master and paupers of the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen on the hill, the arrears of a certain fixed sum for their maintenance, as they had been in the habit of receiving such a sum during voidance from the king's progenitors. (fn. 6) In 1336 the taxers and collectors of the tenth and fifteenth in Hampshire were ordered not to molest or aggrieve the master and brethren of the hospital, and to permit them to be quit for that turn, as the hospital was so slenderly endowed that its goods hardly sufficed for the maintenance of the master, brethren and sisters, and of the weak and infirm there, and for other alms according to the foundation. (fn. 7)

From Bishop Orlton's registers the interesting fact is established that it was at one time customary for the bishop to collate not only the master, but the various inmates of the house, whether brothers or sisters. Thus in 1338 Bishop Orlton collated William de Berwick to a portion or share in the house, with all its rights, customs and pittances. In 1339 the bishop collated Margaret Greenway to another portion, which had been held by Henry le Bule, clerk, whilst he remained in the hospital. In 1342 the same bishop collated William de Basynge, clerk, to the perpetual custody of the hospital, assigning to the custodian or master four 'greater portions.' (fn. 8) Both in Orlton's and Wykeham's registers the chapel of St. Mary Magdalen is termed a chantry, in consequence of the obligations that rested on the priest and brethren and sisters to pray for the souls of the founders and of all the faithful departed.

According to Trussell's MS. history of Winchester, 'The House of St. Mary Magdalene was founded by Maria de Valentia, daughter of Guido, Earle of St. Pawle of Fraunce, wief of Adamore de Valentia, Earle of Pembrokke, in the dayes of Edwarde the Third.' (fn. 9) This is of course incorrect, but it may quite possibly refer to some special benefaction, or scheme of refounding. Certain it is that there was a considerable architectural reconstruction of the hospital in the first half of the fourteenth century.

In 1394, John Melton, who was the first schoolmaster of Winchester College, was collated by Bishop Wykeham to the wardenship of the hospital and chantry, to which, as again stated, was assigned the share of four 'greater portions.' (fn. 10) The form of collation reminded the new master of his obligations, for therein is reference to the Quia contingit bull of Clement, whereby he was bound to make an annual return of the goods and expenditure of the hospital. In the following year the bishop, on the death of William Chaloner, one of the brethren, collated Roger Muleward to his place; John Melton, the master, was ordered to induct the new brother. (fn. 11) Much earlier in his episcopate (1369), Wykeham had collated to this hospital one Adam Coudrich, who is described as aged, weak, poverty stricken, and unable with his own hands to gain a maintenance.

Wykeham was as keen to check abuses on a small scale as those on a larger throughout his diocese. Encouraged by the successful issue of his contention with the great hospital of St. Cross, he next turned his attention to the much humbler foundation of St. Mary Magdalen. On 1 September, 1400, he appointed John Campeden, Archdeacon of Surrey, and Simon Membury, treasurer of Wolvesey, two of his most trusted friends, as commissioners, with full power to visit and inquire into the condition and administration of this hospital. (fn. 12) The report showed that many 'delinquencies, crimes, and excesses, had been brought to light; and Wykeham' on 20 November of the same year, commissioned Campeden and Membury, together with John Elmore, his official, to punish canonically the offenders, and even to expel the master, or any other delinquent, if justice required it. (fn. 13)

Among the Harley MSS. (fn. 14) is a portion of a rental of the hospital, with an inventory of the furniture of the chapel and house, taken about 1400. The receipts were: £25 19s. 4d. from the treasurer of Wolvesey; £6 9s. 4d. from the prior of St. Swithun's; 22s. from the abbot of Hyde; 60s. from the bailiffs of Winchester; and 16s. 3d. in rents—yielding a total of £37 6s. 11d. These receipts were thus allotted. The sum from Wolvesey was for eighteen persons, 5d. a week each for victuals, and 6s. a year each for clothing. From the entries already cited in the registers of Orlton and Wykeham, it would seem that four of these portions were allotted to the master, and that would reduce the other inmates to fourteen, or seven of each sex. It is quite clear from this and other documents that the episcopal founder of this house originally designed it for eighteen inmates, nine of each sex, and that by the fourteenth century a reduction to fourteen, in addition to the master, had been accomplished. (fn. 15) The sum from St. Swithun's was assigned to ten persons, 3d. a week for each, namely three farthings on Sunday and on three week days, and nothing for clothing unless the convent, for love of God, gave them some old clothes. It would seem as if this pension, when originally granted, was intended for the partial relief of ten persons outside the bishop's eighteen. From the same source were supplied four flitches of bacon, namely one on each of the eves of Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Easter and Pentecost. The money from the bailiffs and from Hyde Abbey was for the general support of the brethren and sisters. There were also for the support of the house 14 acres of land, and pasturage for 101 sheep in the pasture of St. Swithun. The oblations received at the chapel on the festival of St. Mary Magdalen were reserved for the repairs of the house and the walls, save 13s. 4d., which was assigned for the reaping and carrying, of their corn. Offerings made at other times were divided equally among the inmates. The warden's stipend is named as consisting of four of the greater portions, that is of those provided from the Wolvesey bequest, and came to £5 15s. 4d.

The ornaments of the chapel included in addition to chalices, crosses, vestments, etc., a rochet for (the image of) Magdalen; an old missal; a new one worth 100s., the gift of William Basinge, a former master; a great noted portifer, worth 60s.; two old antiphonars; a legendary of the saints; a calendar (temporal'); three psalters; a collectary; a hymnary; a manual and three graduals; a green carpet powdered with birds and roses; and five banners for carrying at Rogation-tide. The inventory of the brass and pewter in the domestic buildings mentions six houses, besides the master's house.

The visitor, according to the list of questions, was to inquire if the chaplain (master) duly celebrated and said the canonical hours; if he lived chastely and soberly and visited the sick and punished delinquents; if he wasted the hospital's substance, or allowed any destructions of houses or trees; and if he reproved evil livers; whether husbands and wives were cohabiting in the hospital or had a house there; if the clerk served the church and chaplain with due obedience; whether there were any living in common, or in separate houses using their portion in any bad or extravagant way; if there was any one disobedient, or quarrelsome, or wandering contrary to the statutes; whether the goods of a deceased inmate went to the works of the church after the payment of debts; whether any one was unwilling to submit to the justice and discipline of the master; whether any brother or sister was not living in Christian peace; and finally whether any one entered into the house save through the treasurer of Wolvesey.

It seems highly probable, as the rest of this MS. book pertains to Wykeham, that these are the very list of questions drawn up for the guidance of his commissaries in 1400. From a study of them it seems obvious that there were at that time six houses, in addition to the master's house, in which lived those inmates who drew major portions, as well as others, namely the ten provided for by the St. Swithun's pension, who lived in a common hall and dorter.

The exact issue of Wykeham's inquiry and correction cannot be now ascertained; but it is fair to assume that the condition of the hospital was materially improved, otherwise he would scarcely have made the hospital a bequest in his will, which was drawn up about two and a half years after the inquiry had been held.

Among testamentary bequests to this hospital may be mentioned 6s. 8d. in 1420, by John Fromond, steward of Winchester College under Wykeham, the words of whose will are: Lego ad distribuendum inter leprous B. Marie Magdalene, Wynton. (fn. 16) This need not however be taken to prove that the brothers and sisters were all, or even any of them, lepers. Like many another hospital founded for the relief of lepers, as the disease disappeared the inmates were selected from other poor and impotent folk. (fn. 17) The Valor of 1535 gave the gross income as £42 16s. William Atkinson was at that time master.

Hospitals were not included in the Act of Edward VI. for the dissolution of chantries and other like foundations, and therefore St. Mary Magdalene's does not appear in the certificates taken under this Act, but in the certificate of 1545 its value is entered as £41 6s. 8d., of which £19 7s. 4d. was divided amongst nine poor men and women. After other payments, there was a balance left for the master and the repair of tenements of £13 9s. 4d. The certificate states that the hospital was founded by the Bishop of Winchester 'to pray for the soules of ther founders and all crysten soules.' The great reduction in numbers from eighteen to nine is not such a flagrant instance of mismanagement or peculation as might at first seem to be the case. By far the larger part of the hospital's income came from fixed pensions, and the purchasing power of money had certainly lessened by one half in the course of three and a half centuries.

Dr. Ebden, master of the hospital, by indenture dated 2 September, 1611, gave £10 annually to be divided at the rate of 4d. weekly to each of the brethren and sisters, and a gown each at Christmas.

At the time of the great Civil War the hospital suffered severely from the king's troops. Out of its little flock of sheep thirty-six were killed by the soldiers, and the remainder had to be conveyed away sixteen miles for safety. Much corn was stolen, and the great gates, doors, barn and stable fittings, in short everything of wood was burnt. Even the furniture of the chapel down to the very holy table were used for fuel, and horses of the troopers were stabled in the sanctuary. The master, brethren and sisters petitioned Lord Hopton, general of the Royalist forces in the west, as to the destitution and misery brought on the inmates. In an order dated 19 March, 1643, the general promised inquiry and redress.

The master and poor folk had not long been in their renovated houses, when the government of Charles II., in 1665, chose to seize it as a place of confinement for the Dutch prisoners of war, and to order that the almsfolk were to be removed into lodgings at Winchester at the king's expense. The result was most disastrous; the Dutch prisoners used all the woodwork, including that of the restored chapel, for fuel; and the chapel bell, and all iron and lead were carried away. In short, the hospital was ruined; and the master, brethren and sisters found it impossible to return when the war was over. The estimate for rebuilding and repairing was £650, but the government would only allow £100. Dr. Gulston was at that time master. His successor, Dr. Darel, who was also archdeacon of Winchester, purchased, in 1671, some tenements for the poor outcasts in Colebrook Street, which were left after his death in trust for the use of the hospital. In 1788 the remnants of the old buildings, including the beautiful chapel, still bearing many traces of wall painting, (fn. 18) were pulled down, and the materials used for the erection of six plainly built almshouses on the upper side of Water Lane, in the East Soke.

The old buildings are fully described as well as illustrated in the Vetusta Monumenta. (fn. 19) A view of their original state is given at page 155 of Mr. Wavell's second volume, before referred to, wherein are shown the chapel with master's house and common rooms adjoining, together with the range of small houses for those who held the major portions.

Masters of The Hospital. of St. Mary Magdalen, Winchester

William de Basynge, collated 1342 (fn. 20)
John Melton, collated 1394 (fn. 21)
William Waynflete, 1438 (fn. 22)
William Atkinson, 1535
Dr. Ebden, 1611
Dr. Gulston, 1665
Dr. Darel, 1671
Mr. Wavell, 1773


  • 1. Milner's Hist. of Winchester, ii. 202-3.
  • 2. Vetusta Monumenta (Soc. of Antiquaries), iii. plates 1, 2, 3.
  • 3. Winton. Epis. Reg., Pontoise, f. 107.
  • 4. Ibid. Stratford, f. 13.
  • 5. Cal. of Papal Letters, ii. 381.
  • 6. Pat. 8 Edw. III. m. 17.
  • 7. Ibid. 10 Edw. III. m. 17.
  • 8. Winton. Epis. Reg., Orlton, i. ff. 73, 92; ii. f. 67.
  • 9. Cited in Woodward's Hist. of Hants, i. 243.
  • 10. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, i. f. 231.
  • 11. Ibid. f. 255.
  • 12. Ibid. iii. f. 238.
  • 13. Ibid. f. 329.
  • 14. Harl. MS. 328, ff. 26-8. Printed in Vetusta Monumenta, iii. 11.
  • 15. It is not a little curious that Wavell, Milner and Woodward (as well as, of course, their mere copyists) all went wrong about the numbers, and have assumed that the total of poor inmates was nine instead of eighteen.
  • 16. Arch. Journal, xvi. 170.
  • 17. Hist. of Winchester (1773), ii. 177. The two small volumes under this title were published anonymously, but they are known to have been written by the Rev. Mr. Wavell, who was at that time master of this hospital. His account extends from pp. 155-211 in the second volume.
  • 18. Mr. Schnebbelie's coloured sketches of the most noteworthy parts are in the possession of the Society of Antiquaries. The old Norman west doorway of the chapel has been rebuilt as the entrance to the Roman Catholic Church in St. Peter Street.
  • 19. Vol. iii. plates I, 2.
  • 20. Winton. Epis. Reg., Orlton, i. ff. 73, 92; ii. f. 67.
  • 21. Ibid. Wykeham, i. f. 231.
  • 22. Afterwards Bishop of Winchester. See Hist. of Winchester (1773), by Rev. Mr. Wavell, ii. 77.