A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1909.
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26. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. JAMES, WESTMINSTER
The hospital of St. James for leprous women, situated west of Charing, in the parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster, is said by Stow to have owed its origin to some London citizens who founded it at a period previous to the Conquest. (fn. 1) There is, however, no record of its existence until Henry II by a charter guaranteed the sisters in their possessions and encouraged people to give to them. (fn. 2) King John, in 1205, confirmed to them a hide of land in Hampstead, 40 acres of land in 'Northesel,' and a tenement in Cheap at the end of Bread Street, London, the gifts of Alexander Barentin, William son of the Lady and Stephen Blund, and granted that they should hold all their lands with sac and soc, tol and team, infangenthef, and with all liberties, free customs and acquittances. (fn. 3) To judge by the charter of Henry III in 1242, which is identical with that of John, (fn. 4) they can have made no further acquisitions of land for some time, though they may have received grants of money, such as thirty marks given to the hospital by Richard de Wendover in 1250 for the establishment of a chantry. (fn. 5) The house, however, does not seem to have been rich, and the ordinance of the Legate Ottobon (fn. 6) about 1267, that the number of eight brothers and sixteen sisters was not to be exceeded must have been intended to benefit the hospital. In 1275 King Edward exempted it from payment of the twentieth, (fn. 7) and in 1290 he exacted no payment for the grant of an annual fair for which the brothers had petitioned. (fn. 8) They had asked at the same time that their charters might be confirmed without fees as they were poor. (fn. 9) The statutes of Legate Ottobon and Richard, abbot of Westminster, (fn. 10) to which reference has already been made, form the basis of all subsequent ordinances for the house. The rule of St. Augustine was to be read four times a year in English before the brothers and sisters; a chapter was to be held every Sunday, when faults were to be corrected; the brothers and sisters were to confess once a week and communicate four times a year; all were to be present at the services, and after there should be no drinking or meeting of the brothers for talking; obedience to the head was enjoined, and anyone found rebellious, drunken, or contentious, after a second offence was to be punished at the will of the abbot; no brother was to eat, drink, or sleep in the town or suburb, except in a religious house, or in that of the king or of a bishop; silence must be observed at meals, of which there were to be only two a day; the brothers were to eat with the master, and food and drink should be the same for all; the sisters were to have a double allowance of bread and ale on St. James's Day; the clothes worn by brothers, chaplains, and sisters were to be of one colour, russet or black; sisters or brothers guilty of incontinency were to receive corporal punishment; the guardian of the spiritualities should have a companion in his work of keeping the ornaments and oblations; oblations were to be shared by all the members of the house.
The injunctions made after a visitation in 1277 by the sub-prior and two monks of St. Peter's (fn. 11) are almost identical, but there are one or two alterations and additions which are not without significance: if any brother be found contentious or drunken, correction shall be given on the following day, and not postponed until the next chapter; no brother shall eat or drink at any hour with the sisters, nor shall the brothers enter the sisters' house, or the sisters that of the brothers. In other ordinances, apparently about the same date, (fn. 12) it was enjoined that the vigil after the death of a brother or sister was to be kept without drinking or unseemly noise, that the sisters were not to bequeath goods without the prior's leave, while certain punishments were prescribed in the case of the brothers and sisters quarrelling and striking one another.
Conclusions might be drawn from these injunctions not very flattering to the house, and perhaps with justice, since there can be no doubt about the general laxness of administration and conduct prevailing there in the early fourteenth century.
At a visitation of the abbot of Westminster in 1317 (fn. 13) it was found that the master had not held the Sunday chapter, and through his fault the sisters and lay-brothers had not communicated four times a year. He was also accused of having special beer made for himself and one of the brothers, John de Attueston, but he denied that this had been given to any but visitors. The charges against Attueston, who was then prior, were more serious: it was said, and evidently with truth, that he refused to give an account of the goods of the hospital received by him though he had sworn to do so, that he had divided the oblations offered on the feasts of St. James and St. Dunstan between himself and the master, and that he was in the habit of getting drunk and then of using abusive language to the brothers and sisters, and of disclosing the secret business of the chapter.
In 1319 the abbot had to enjoin (fn. 14) the observance of the rule as to weekly chapters and the brothers and sisters receiving communion four times a year. He also ordered that the present number of three brothers and six sisters should be increased to that of eight brothers and thirteen sisters prescribed by the foundation charter, if the resources of the hospital allowed, and that four of the brothers should be priests in order to relieve the house of the cost of two secular chaplains; the master was not to dispose of important business without the consent of the brothers and sisters; the sisters were not to keep legacies except with the prior's leave; the brothers were forbidden to go to the sisters' rooms; men were to be appointed by the master to look after the brothers in case of illness so that women should henceforth be excluded from such work. The condition of the hospital was, however, worse than ever in 1320, (fn. 15) nor is it surprising considering that John de Attueston was then master. The property of the house was neglected so that rents had fallen off, and woods were cut down by the master as he pleased without the consent of the brothers and sisters. As to discipline there seems to have been absolutely none: one of the brothers, Richard de Thame, frequented a tavern and spent the money of the convent on his pleasures; another, John de Sydenham, used the rents which he collected to secure followers, for he aspired to the post of master; he also went to the sisters' rooms without the master's leave and ate and drank there in spite of the prohibition. It is clear that the sisters had no respect for the master or for the prior, spreading slanderous reports of the one and accusing the other of not knowing his office, and they did not deny that they were disobedient to both. Unfortunately they themselves were not examples of virtue: one of them, Margery Flyntard, had broken her vow of chastity; and the abbot declared that through their wandering about and the access of regular and secular persons to them not only scandal but crimes had resulted, and ordered that in future they were not to leave their rooms except for the cloister adjoining or to go to church.
Much the same disclosures were made when the abbot visited the hospital in 1334. (fn. 16) John de Sydenham, who had now realized his desire to be master, (fn. 17) was reported guilty of incontinence, and a similar allegation coupled the names of Brother John de Hoton and Sister Juliana. For the latter charge there may have been foundation since the abbot noted that some of the brothers visited the sisters' rooms, and ordered that the rule made in this respect should not be infringed in future.
The abbot's visitations and ordinances cannot be said to have been productive of reform, nor was such a result likely as long as bad conduct was no bar to promotion. It would be interesting to know at what date John de Hoton was accused of the murder of a woman in the hospital, as the case might have determined the king to put an end to the abbot's authority there. Hoton was master in 1337 (fn. 18) and again in 1345, (fn. 19) but not in 1339, (fn. 20) for it was Henry de Purle who refused to obey the abbot's citation to appear before him, and was excommunicated in consequence. (fn. 21) As the abbot had been prohibited by the king from all interference with the hospital he was himself attached for contempt. The abbot contended that the hospital was held of him by fealty and suit at his court and by service of 20s. per annum and that the right of visitation had always belonged to the abbey except in case of a vacancy, when the king's treasurer had exercised it. It was, however, proved from the records that in 1252 the king had committed the custody of the hospital to the treasurer for the time being, and it was said that ever since he, as in right of the king, had given leave to the brothers and sisters to elect the master, had confirmed the elections, and exercised the right of visitation. (fn. 22) The inference was that the king must have possessed these powers in 1252 or he could not have given them to the treasurer, and according to the court the abbot himself had proved that the king was the patron by his admission that the treasurer visited the hospital when the abbey was vacant. Judgement was therefore given in favour of the king. The verdict certainly does not seem just. According to some constitutions of the time of Henry III (fn. 23) the abbot had had jurisdiction, for it was he who then appointed the prioress from among the sisters. The priests of St. James also acknowledged the subjection of the hospital to the abbey by taking part in the procession at St. Peter's four times a year. If it be contended that these rules may have been earlier than 1252, yet it is an undoubted fact that the abbot had since that time repeatedly visited the hospital, and as abbot, not as treasurer. (fn. 24) Further inquiry was ordered by the king in 1342, but without any benefit to the abbey. (fn. 25)
The Black Death carried off the warden and all the brothers and sisters except William de Weston, who, in May, 1349, was made master, but in 1351 was deposed for wasting the goods of the hospital. (fn. 26) It is said that in 1353 the house was without inmates, (fn. 27) and the place appears to have been in much the same condition in 1384, when Thomas Orgrave, the master, with the consent of the treasurer, let to Elizabeth Lady le Despenser for her life, at a rent of 10 marks, practically the whole hospital, viz., the houses within the gate in front of the door of the principal hall, the hall with the upper and lower chambers at each end, the stone tower, the chamber over the entrance, the kitchen and bakery, the houses assigned to the master, and all the gardens and ground within the precincts. (fn. 28) It is possible that the hospital was in need of funds just then, since a papal relaxation granted in 1393 (fn. 29) indicates that the chapel was being rebuilt, but money would hardly have been raised by a lease of the building of the hospital, if the inmates for whom the rooms were intended had been there to use them.
Whether the hospital had any ground for the claims it made to privilege of sanctuary in 1403 it is impossible to say. A horse-thief had taken refuge in the chapel and the coroner had set constables to watch him, but one of the chaplains told the men that no officers of the king ought to guard any felons there under penalty of excommunication, drove them away, locked the gates of the hospital and the church doors against them and allowed the felon to escape. (fn. 30)
Henry VI in 1449 granted to Eton College the perpetual custody of the hospital after the death of Thomas Kemp, then warden; (fn. 31) but Edward IV appears to have resumed possession of the house, for in 1467, when he made a regrant of the reversion of the hospital to the college, one of his clerks was warden. (fn. 32) The college, however, certainly held St. James's from Michaelmas 1480 (fn. 33) until the provost made it over to Henry VIII in October 1531. (fn. 34) The number of sisters during this period does not seem to have varied: in the time of Henry VII there were four, each of whom received £2 12s. and a quarter of a barrel of the best beer every year; (fn. 35) and at the dissolution of the hospital an annual pension of £6 13s. 4d. was assigned by the king to each of four sisters, three of whom were widows. (fn. 36) In the reign of Henry VII there were also two chaplains, (fn. 37) the stipend in this case being £6 13s. 4d.
In the early fourteenth century the average income of the house was probably about £35, although in 1335 it was double that amount. (fn. 38) At the Dissolution it was worth £100 a year according to Tanner. It had been rated at half this amount in 1524 for the procurations due to Wolsey, (fn. 39) but the religious houses on this occasion were for the most part estimated much below their real value. Its property then consisted of 160 acres bordering the high road from Charing Cross to Aye-hill, 18 acres in Knightsbridge, and some land in Chelsea and Fulham; (fn. 40) a tenement called the White Bear in the parishes of St. Mary Magdalen and All Saints, in Westcheap and Bread Street, London, (fn. 41) and lands called 'Chalcotes' and 'Wyldes' in the parishes of Hendon, Finchley, and Hampstead, (fn. 42) co. Middlesex. Much of this the hospital already owned in the fourteenth century, as the master's accounts of that period mention arable and meadow land round the house and the lands to the north of London. (fn. 43) It also owned until 1465 the advowson of St. Alban's, Wood Street, with an annual pension of a mark (fn. 44) of which it was possessed in 1303. (fn. 45)
Masters of St. James's Hospital, Westminster
Turold, c. 1189–99 (fn. 46)
Guncelinus, occurs 1218–19 (fn. 47)
Roger, occurs 1242–3 (fn. 48)
James, occurs 1245–6 (fn. 49)
Godard, occurs 1252 (fn. 50)
James, occurs 1252–3 (fn. 51)
Walter, occurs 1256–7, 1257–8 and 1258–9 (fn. 52)
James, occurs 1259–60, 1262–3, 1267–8, (fn. 53) 1269–70, (fn. 54) and 1272–3 (fn. 55)
William, occurs 1278–9 (fn. 56)
Godard, occurs 1286 (fn. 57)
Walter de Sutton, appointed in 1312 (fn. 58)
Nicholas de Oxonia, appointed in 1314 (fn. 59)
William de Wolhampton, elected 1314, (fn. 60) occurs 1317 (fn. 61)
John de Attueston, occurs in 1320 (fn. 62)
Robert de Dunham, appointed in 1324 (fn. 63)
Godfrey de Rudham, appointed in 1325 (fn. 64)
Robert de Holden, appointed in 1326 (fn. 65)
Philip de la Wyle, appointed in 1326 (fn. 66)
John de Sydenham, occurs in 1331, (fn. 67) 1334, and 1336 (fn. 68)
John de Hoton, occurs 1337 (fn. 69)
Henry de Purle, occurs 1339, (fn. 70) resigned in 1344 (fn. 71)
John de Hoton, occurs 1345 (fn. 72) and 1347 (fn. 73)
William de Weston, appointed 1349, (fn. 74) deposed in 1351 (fn. 75)
Thomas Orgrave or Bygrave, appointed in 1375, (fn. 76) occurs 1379 (fn. 77) and 1386 (fn. 78)
Richard Clifford, occurs 1387 (fn. 79) and 1399 (fn. 80)
Lewis Recouchez, occurs 1401 (fn. 81)
William Kynwoldmersh, occurs 1415 (fn. 82)
William Alnewyk, appointed 1422 (fn. 83)
Thomas Kemp, occurs in 1449 (fn. 84)
Roger Malmesbury, occurs 1467 (fn. 85)
Roger Lupton, occurs 1527 (fn. 86)
The hospital seal (fn. 87) of the twelfth century is a pointed oval, and represents St. James, fulllength, lifting his right hand in benediction, and holding a long cross in his left. Legend:—