A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1909.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
20. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW
The hospital of St. Bartholomew was founded at the same time as the priory by Rahere in the reign of Henry I. (fn. 1) At first the priory and hospital seem to have been regarded as one institution, for the royal charter of 1133 was addressed to Rahere, the prior, the canons, and the poor of St. Bartholomew's Hospital; (fn. 2) but a separation between them must have occurred quite early, since the grants of Henry II (fn. 3) and Richard I (fn. 4) were made to the church and canons, that is to the priory, and there is evidence that by the beginning of the thirteenth century the hospital was a distinct community (fn. 5) with possessions apart from those of the superior house. (fn. 6)
It is probable, therefore, that Alfune, the first proctor, was not concerned with the government of the hospital, but devoted himself entirely to finding the means of subsistence for the poor it sheltered, a sufficiently hard task, seeing that he begged food from door to door and in the markets of the city. (fn. 7) The later proctors, however, occupied the position and had the duties of masters, (fn. 8) and in the end took the name.
The rights of the priory over the hospital were the cause of much controversy, and the difficulty must have begun early, for the question was argued before Richard, bishop of London, about 1197. (fn. 9) It was then decided that the proctor of St. Bartholomew's should do solemn obedience to the prior and should swear to minister faithfully in the hospital and not to alienate the lands and rents of the house without the consent of the bishop, prior, and canons, nor to admit anyone to a perpetual allowance of food or clothing without the assent of the prior and canons; he must give an account twice a year of receipts and expenses in the presence of the bishop and the prior; the proctor was to be chosen by the canons and the brothers from the latter, or from another community if there were not a fit person in the hospital, but not from the priory; if unsuitable, he was to be removed by common counsel of the canons and brothers; chaplains were to be chosen by the prior and proctor, and to be removed by them if necessary; the brothers and sisters were to receive the habit from the prior in the chapter of canons and were to do obedience to the prior; all the brothers and sisters were bound to take part in the procession in the priory church on the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, and Ascension Day. These ordinances apparently gave little satisfaction to the hospital, for the agitation to obtain more liberty led King John in 1204 (fn. 10) to declare that he would treat attempts to free the hospital from its subjection to the priory as attacks on the crown, and in 1223 or 1224 Eustace, bishop of London, at the request of both priory and hospital, made other regulations, (fn. 11) which settled the matter for a considerable period. They were as follows:—The prior was not to refuse his assent to the election of a master whom the brothers declared suitable; if he should consider the person elected unfit, the matter was to be referred to the chapter of St. Paul's; the prior was to give the master the habit in the chapter of the hospital; the brothers appear to have been excused from attendance at the priory church on the four festivals, but two were to go on St. Bartholomew's Day, with two candles of 4 lb. weight; the brothers were forbidden to erect an altar or image of St. Bartholomew in the hospital, and to have a bell tower or more than the two bells they then had, and on Easter Eve they were not to ring before the priory; they were refused the cemetery they had asked from Pope Benedict; the allowances of food and the share in the anniversaries of the canons were to be given as before by the priory to the members of the hospital.
Henry III, in the early part of his reign at any rate, appears to have taken an interest in the hospital: in 1223 he committed the custody of it to Maurice, a Templar, (fn. 12) until he could make further provision for it; in 1225 he gave the master four oaks for fuel, (fn. 13) and in 1229 six more; (fn. 14) and in 1230 excused the brothers from the payment of a tallage on their land in Hatfield. (fn. 15) Some idea of the hospital in 1316 can be gathered from the injunction of Gilbert Segrave, bishop of London, (fn. 16) who ordered that as the business of the house could not be carried on by fewer than seven brethren, of whom five were priests, there should in future be that number of brethren (fn. 17) and four sisters and not more; the difference in rank between the priests and laybrothers should be marked by their costume, the former wearing closed and round mantles, the latter short tunics; none should be allowed to buy their own clothing; the sisters should wear grey dresses which were not to fall below the ankles. Inferences may be drawn from certain of the ordinances: the sisters seem as usual to have been treated unfairly in the matter of food, since provision was made both as to quantity and quality; discipline was not perfect, or it would not have been necessary to order the brothers and sisters to obey the master, to forbid wordy warfare, and to provide for the punishment of manual violence; the care of the sick poor was perhaps somewhat neglected, since the bishop reminded the brothers and sisters that they had entered the hospital to minister to their fellow creatures, and enjoined them to look after the sick in their turn as the master directed; he also ordered the master to visit the sick frequently and provide for their needs according to the power of the house; a difficulty which appears to have often arisen in the conduct of hospitals is shown by the injunction to the master to appoint a man of exemplary character to be doorkeeper, who would allow no one to enter the sisters' abode without leave of the master.
Two rolls were to be made of the income and all goods falling to the hospital, of which the master was to have one and the brethren the other, so that they might know how affairs were administered, and accounts were to be given every quarter by those who received and dispensed the revenues of the house.
Two years later, Bishop Gilbert's successor, Richard, visited the hospital, (fn. 18) and found that its resources had been much diminished through excessive granting of corrodies, and forbade such alienations in future except with the consent of the diocesan. He noticed on this occasion that immediate repairs were needed to the infirmary and other buildings.
The management of the finance of the hospital could have been no light task, for its endowments were not sufficient for its expenses and needed to be supplemented by an annual collection in churches, (fn. 19) a source of income abundant perhaps but inconstant because liable to be diverted. (fn. 20) The house was excused from payment of fifteenths and tenths by Edward I and Edward II because of its poverty, (fn. 21) and in 1341 the king ordered the subsidy not to be levied on its goods, on the ground that if it had to meet any further charges its alms must be diminished. (fn. 22) Another attempt to tax its possessions was, however, made about ten years later, (fn. 23) when it was probably less able to pay than ever, for in 1348 its debts amounted to £200 (fn. 24) and the Black Death must have seriously affected the value of its property both in London and in the country. The master, brethren, and sisters accordingly petitioned the king who, in 1352, declared them exempt from aids and ordered proceedings against them to be stopped. (fn. 25)
The foundation of chantries especially in the thirteenth century must have been of considerable benefit to the funds of the house: a chantry of two priests established by William de Arundell and Robert Newecomen in 1325 (fn. 26) was endowed with 37 acres of land in the parishes of St. Giles and St. Botolph without Aldersgate; the celebrated John Pulteney gave the brethren in 1330 a messuage and four shops in the parish of St. Nicholas ad Macellas to maintain a chantry in the church of St. Thomas the Apostle and another in their own church; (fn. 27) and the hospital received in this way, among other property, (fn. 28) tenements in Holborn in 1339, (fn. 29) in the parish of St. Sepulchre in 1346, (fn. 30) and in Watling Street in 1379. (fn. 31)
The course of time had again made necessary a readjustment of the relations between the hospital and priory, (fn. 32) and Simon Sudbury, bishop of London, with the consent of both parties made a fresh arrangement on this subject in 1373. (fn. 33) He then ordained that the leave of the prior must be obtained by the brethren before they elected a master, that they should choose a suitable person, a priest, or such as could be speedily ordained, and that the prior was to present their choice to the bishop; the new master was to swear obedience to the prior and fealty to the prior and convent; brothers and sisters were to be admitted by the master on his own authority, but were to take an oath of fealty to the prior and convent within three days; the brethren and the canons were to ask alms in the name of their own house only, but if anything should be given to the brothers for the priory they were in duty bound to deliver it to the canons, who were to do the same as regards the hospital; the master was to correct the faults of the brethren and sisters if he could, but the prior was to help him if so requested; the master and brethren had full power to make any grants of their property without consulting the prior who in future was to have nothing to do with the hospital seal; the ordinance of Bishop Eustace as to the offering in the priory church on St. Bartholomew's Day was to remain in force, and his prohibition to the brothers to erect an altar of St. Bartholomew within the hospital was repeated; but the hospital might now have a bell-tower and bells which could be rung on Easter eve at pleasure; permission was also given to consecrate a cemetery in which might be buried all dying within the bounds of the hospital as well as others, provided that such were not parishioners of St. Sepulchre's, or did not die within the limits of that parish or of the priory; the master and brethren were not henceforth to receive any allowance of food from the priory, and the master was to keep up the hospital of the sick. An appeal made in 1376 by three brothers and one of the sisters (fn. 34) shows how difficult it is to arrive at a just conclusion in these matters. If the ordinances did not exist the natural supposition would be that they had been, as they said, wrongfully deprived for three years of an allowance of food from the priory through the collusion of the master, whereas the allowance had been stopped by authority of the bishop.
It is unfair perhaps to pronounce judgement on the house from isolated cases relating to the conduct of individual inmates, such as that of Simon Dowel who had procured his election to the office of master by unlawful means, and was deposed by the bishop's commissaries in consequence in 1322, (fn. 35) or that of an apostate priest who at any rate repented and desired to return in 1355 (fn. 36); it is impossible, however, to avoid the feeling that the tone of a house must have been deplorable when, as in 1375, the master, Richard de Sutton, was publicly defamed for incontinence with one of the sisters and had to confess himself guilty. (fn. 37) Whether Sutton was afraid of the punishment that would be inflicted, or really had grievances against the bishop's commissaries, he appealed to the court of Canterbury and involved the bishop of London in a dispute with the archbishop over their respective jurisdictions. In the course of these proceedings he was excommunicated, but the punishment for his original offence is not recorded. He was not deposed, since he is mentioned eleven years later as resigning his post. (fn. 38)
The hospital was repaired by a bequest of Richard Whittington in 1423, (fn. 39) and before 1458 the church seems either to have been rebuilt or to have had a chapel added to it by Joan, Lady Clinton, for in her will of that date she speaks of 'my new church of the hospital of West Smithfield.' (fn. 40) The rebuilding of the chapel of St. Mary and St. Michael in the cemetery was due to one of the royal clerks, Richard Sturgeon, (fn. 41) who died in 1456. (fn. 42) Testimony to the good work done in the hospital is afforded by the king's pardon granted in 1464 to the master and brethren for all acquisitions in mortmain made by them without licence in consideration of the relief there given to poor pilgrims, soldiers, sailors, and others of all nations. (fn. 43)
There are indications that the brothers did not fall behind their age in attention to learning: John Mirfield used his experiences in the hospital to write a book 'Breviarium Bartholomei' at the end of the fourteenth century; (fn. 44) another brother received leave from the pope in 1404 to study theology for seven years at a university from which he was not to be recalled without reasonable cause, (fn. 45) while among the books presented by John Wakeryng, the master, to the library in 1463, was a beautiful copy of the Bible, the work of a member of the house named John Coke. (fn. 46)
Wolsey was empowered by the brothers in 1516 (fn. 47) and 1524 (fn. 48) to choose a master for them. In the first instance his choice fell upon one of themselves, Richard Smith, in the second upon Alexander Collins, prior of the Benedictine house of Daventry, whom he gave leave to change his order. When another vacancy seemed likely to occur in 1528 the king hoped that Wolsey would again secure the patronage (fn. 49) in which he expected to share, but this time the brothers asked the bishop of London to nominate, and Edward Staple was chosen. (fn. 50) This continual delegation of powers may have been a diplomatic move to secure powerful interest and protection. The pope in granting a dispensation in 1532 to John Brereton, one of the king's chaplains, to accept the hospital if it were offered to him, described the house as much in debt, its buildings greatly in need of repair, and its property deteriorated in value, and he suggested that Brereton as master might be able to relieve the hospital as he was already amply provided with benefices. (fn. 51) When Staple resigned his office it must have been a foregone conclusion that it would be given to Brereton, for he procured the king's ratification (fn. 52) of the papal bull about three weeks before he was appointed by Richard Gwent, to whom the brothers had committed the nomination. (fn. 53) In the circumstances it was hardly likely that any difficulty would be raised as to the acknowledgement of the royal supremacy, subscription to which was duly made in June 1534 by Brereton and three others. (fn. 54) Amid the general dissolution Sir Richard Gresham's appeal for the continuance of certain London hospitals (fn. 55) was successful as regards St. Bartholomew's, which was reconstituted in 1544. (fn. 56) The hospital, which in 1532 had consisted of a master and eight brethren, (fn. 57) was now to be composed of a master and four chaplains, namely, vice-master, curate, hospitaller, and visitor of the prisoners at Newgate, (fn. 58) and to these were added as before sisters to care for the sick. In 1547, however, another change took place: the king gave the hospital to the City, and it was then arranged that the vicar of the church and a hospitaller should minister to the spiritual needs of the sick inmates. (fn. 59)
Some of the property of the hospital was granted with it, but the house needed to be refurnished, (fn. 60) and to a large extent to be re-endowed, and the citizens made liberal donations to this work. (fn. 61) The business of the house was entrusted to twelve governors, of whom four were aldermen, who were chosen by the Lord Mayor and held office for two years, six retiring every year. (fn. 62) Sick and wounded soldiers and sailors found a refuge there both in 1627 (fn. 63) and in 1644, (fn. 64) when in consideration of its services in this respect its lands were freed from assessment. (fn. 65) In the Dutch War of 1664 (fn. 66) and during the war with France in 1705 (fn. 67) the government again made use of the hospital.
An account of the City hospitals in 1667 estimates the number of persons relieved in that year at 1,383, and those then in the hospital at 196. (fn. 68) Much of its income was derived from property in London, so that it naturally was much affected by the Fire, (fn. 69) and on this account the king gave permission to the governors for a time to turn the rooms in the Great Cloister into shops. (fn. 70)
Commissioners were appointed by William III in August 1691 to visit St. Bartholomew's among the royal foundations within the City, (fn. 71) but the result of the visitation has not been reported.
The religious side of the house, which still had some degree of prominence in 1544, seems to have become of less and less importance, and is not touched upon at all in a description of the hospital in 1800. (fn. 72)
In the Valor the revenues of the hospital are represented as £371 13s. 2d. gross and £305 6s. 5d. net. (fn. 73) Its possessions at that time comprised rents and farms in London valued at £292 4s. 6d. per annum; the manor of Ducketts in Tottenham and Harringay which had been made over to the house in 1460 by the feoffees of John Sturgeon to endow a chantry; (fn. 74) the manor or farm of Clitterhouse, (fn. 75) rents and ferms in 'Alrichesbiri,' where the masters and brothers had a holding in 1241; (fn. 76) Hackney Marsh, Cudfield Marsh, Willesden and 'Lyme hurst,' co. Middlesex; the manor of Fryern, (fn. 77) rents and ferms from Hatfield, 'Bradokes,' Rainham and Downham, which the master had held in 1326, (fn. 78) and from Burnham, Aveley, and 'Shernwood' Marsh, co. Essex; the ferm of Wollaston, co. Northants, where the hospital had property in 1275; (fn. 79) a rent in St. Albans, co. Herts., and a small holding in co. Bucks. St. Bartholomew's also owned the church of Little Wakering, co. Essex, which had long been appropriated to it; (fn. 80) the rectory of Hinton, co. Somerset, and the patronage of the church of Holy Cross, (fn. 81) an early foundation within its precincts. Among the possessions of the hospital in 1535 there is no mention of the manor of 'Stretle,' co. Cambridge, which had been given to the master and brothers in 1370 to pray for the good estate of Sir Walter Manny, knt., and to keep his anniversary after death. (fn. 82)
Proctors and Masters of St. Bartholomew's Hospital
Alfune (fn. 83)
Stephen (fn. 84)
William, occurs 1222–3 (fn. 85)
Hugh, occurs 1242–3 (fn. 86)
Bartholomew, occurs 1259 (fn. 87) and 1261 (fn. 88)
Adam de Rothingg, occurs 1308 (fn. 89)
Simon Dowel, elected 1321, (fn. 90) deposed 1322 (fn. 91)
William de Actone, appointed 1322 (fn. 92)
William le Rouse, appointed 1323, (fn. 93) occurs 1324 (fn. 94) and 1336 (fn. 95)
Laurence, occurs 1348 (fn. 96)
Stephen de Maydenheth (fn. 97)
Richard Sutton, occurs 1373, 1376, (fn. 98) resigned 1386 (fn. 99)
William Wakering, elected 1386, (fn. 100) occurs 1390 (fn. 101) and 1392 (fn. 102)
John Byry, died 1417 (fn. 103)
John Wakeryng, occurs 1444–5, (fn. 104) 1460, (fn. 105) 1463, (fn. 106) and 1464 (fn. 107)
William Knyght, occurs 1473, (fn. 108) died 1473 (fn. 109)
Thomas Creveker, occurs 1509, (fn. 110) died 1510 (fn. 111)
Robert Beyley, elected 1510, (fn. 112) died 1516 (fn. 113)
Richard Smith, LL.D., elected 1516, (fn. 114) died 1524 (fn. 115)
Alexander Collins, elected 1524, (fn. 116) died 1528 (fn. 117)
Edward Staple, elected 1528, (fn. 118) resigned 1532 (fn. 119)
John Brereton, LL.D., elected 1532, (fn. 120) occurs 1534 (fn. 121)
William Turges, S.T.B., appointed 1544 (fn. 122)
A seal of the twelfth century, (fn. 123) oval in shape, represents St. Bartholomew with nimbus, lifting his right hand in benediction, and holding a long cross in his left. The saint is depicted halflength on the section of a church with roundheaded arches, and two circular side-towers. Legend :—
A counter seal of the twelfth century (fn. 124) shows a church with central tower, a cross at each gable end, and two tall round-headed arches in the wall, standing on a ship of antique shape, with curved prow at each end, terminating in a bird's head, on the sea. In a field over the tower is the inscription :—
A seal of the thirteenth or fourteenth century (fn. 125) is a pointed oval, and bears a representation of St. Bartholomew standing on a lion couchant guardant. The saint holds a knife in his right hand, a book in his left. Overhead is a trefoiled canopy pinnacled and crocketed. On each side in the field there is a tree on which is slung by the strap a shield of arms—England. Legend :—
A counter seal of the thirteenth century, (fn. 126) in shape a pointed oval, bears an impression of an antique oval intaglio gem representing an eagle. Legend:—