A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1910.
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24. THE HOSPITAL OF BAWTRY
The great parish of Blyth was one of those few cases in which parochial boundaries extended into two shires. The chapelries of Bawtry and Austerfield were in the West Riding of Yorkshire, but pertained to Blyth, and were given to Blyth Priory in the reign of Henry II. On this account the hospital of Bawtry is for the most part described as a Yorkshire foundation. But this is certainly not the case; it was on various occasions in mediaeval days treated as pertaining to the county of Nottingham, and as a matter of fact the county incidence is not in any way a debatable question, for the site of the old hospital usually known as Bawtry was in reality in the Nottinghamshire parish of Harworth, and merely contiguous to the adjacent Yorkshire township of Bawtry.
There is much uncertainty about this early foundation dedicated to the honour of St. Mary Magdalen; but when King John in 1200, in his grant to the church of Rouen, included the church of Harworth, with the chapels of Serlby and Martin, it is highly probable that the chapel of Martin, a township of Harworth, within which stood the hospital, was the hospital chapel. (fn. 1) At any rate the hospital with its chapel was of Norman foundation. (fn. 2)
The hospital was for the sustenance of certain poor persons, and was under the rule of a master or warden. If it was ever in the patronage of the church of Rouen, as might be supposed to follow from the Blyth connexion, (fn. 3) that arrangement came to an end at an early date, for the Archbishops of York held the patronage at least as early as the beginning of the reign of Edward I. The earliest recorded entry of collation to this mastership in the episcopal registers occurs in 1280. (fn. 4) Thomas de Langtoft, priest, was collated by Archbishop Romayne to the hospital of Bawtry on 10 February 1289-90, and a mandate was issued to the rural dean of Retford to induct him; (fn. 5) and on 27 September 1291 the archbishop collated Roger le Porter of Beverley, priest, to this foundation. (fn. 6)
There are two entries of collation of masters of Bawtry Hospital in the register of Archbishop Thoresby, both of them the result of exchanges. In 1361 Elyas de Thoreston of this hospital exchanged with John de Grandle, chaplain of the chapel of the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Angels, York. Again in 1363 an exchange was effected between Henry Barton and Roger de Nassington, prebendary of Brickhill and Lincoln. (fn. 7)
The foundation was extended in 1390 by Robert Morton, a wealthy and charitable benefactor. Morton was escheator of the county of Nottingham and a knight of the shire from 1361 to 1393. In 1390 he gave to the neighbouring prior and convent of St. Oswald, i.e. Nostell near Pontefract, the considerable sum of £240, for which they stipulated to pay 8 marks yearly for ever to the chaplain of the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen, near Bawtry (vocata Le Spittle), in augmentation of this stipend, to secure his prayers for the good estate of Robert the donor and Joan his wife during life, and for their souls after death, and for the souls of their parents, ancestors, and benefactors. To secure the due payment by St. Oswald's of the chaplain's stipend, there was a proviso that if the rent was a term in arrear, it should be lawful for the chaplain to enter upon the prior and convent's manors of Tickhill, Wilsill, Swinton, and Holwell, and distrain for arrears. (fn. 8)
An indenture was entered into between Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of York, and Adam, Prior of St. Oswald, as to the due fulfilment of this undertaking. (fn. 9)
Robert Morton's will, made at Bawtry in 1396, provided numerous ecclesiastical bequests. Among them he left 40s. to the Bawtry Hospital of St. Mary Magdalen; also to William Myrfyne, then master of the hospital and one of his executors, cattle and corn to the value of £10. He also expressed a wish that his wife should give to the hospital cooking utensils and other necessaries to the value of 40s. (fn. 10)
Robert Morton junior, of Bawtry, was involved in the revolt of the Percys and the Welsh at the beginning of the reign of Henry IV, and all his estates in the counties of Nottingham and York, to the value of 40 marks yearly, were forfeited to the Crown. In 1405 all his property was granted by Henry IV to John Peryent, the king's esquire, together with the chapel and chantry of St. Mary Magdalen by Bawtry. (fn. 11)
In October 1403 John Scot, 'chivaler,' obtained licence for 20 marks to grant the manor of Misson to William Myrfyne, warden or chaplain of the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen by Bawtry, to find a chaplain to celebrate daily in the hospital for the good estate of the said John and for his soul after death, and for the souls of his wives, sons, and ancestors, and also for the souls of Robert Morton and Joan his wife. (fn. 12) These letters patent were not, however, executed, and were surrendered in February 1406, when by payment of an additional 5 marks John Scott was permitted to transfer the manor of Misson to the Prior and Convent of Mattersey in aid of their maintenance. (fn. 13)
The Valor of 1534 names Richard Pygott as master, and gives the clear annual value of the hospital as £6 6s. 8d., of which £5 6s. 8d. was paid by the priory of St. Oswald, whilst 20s. was entered as the value of 12 acres of land. (fn. 14)
When Sir John Markham and other commissioners visited this hospital in 1545 they reported under the head of 'The parrishe of Harworthe' that—'The Hospitall of Mary Magdalen juxta Bawtrie (was) founded by one Robert Morton, for a Priest, there to be resident and to keep Hospitalitie for poore People, to pray for the Founder's Soule and all Christian Soules, as the Deputye of the Incumbent saith uppon his Oathe, without any Writings shewed to the Commissioners.' The whole of the revenues (amounting to upwards of £14) at that time were in the hands of Richard Pygott, described mistakenly by the commissioner as 'chapliene to Kinge Henry the eight,' except 13s. 4d. which he gave to a priest to say mass there two days a week. (fn. 15) This man Pygott was not in orders, but was 'a gentleman of the Chapel Royal' and a favourite of the king; Henry VIII insisted on bestowing on him prebends and other ecclesiastical appointments 'notwithstanding his laity.' (fn. 16)
Notwithstanding the definite chantry purpose of the income to this hospital from the priory of St. Oswald, the payment was continued on the dissolution of that house, and it even escaped confiscation as a 'superstitious' use in the days of Edward. This ancient charge even now continues to be paid by the Crown.
One James Brewster was collated by Archbishop Sandys to the mastership or chaplaincy of this hospital in 1584. Brewster entered into a conspiracy with Thomas Robinson and two others to subvert the hospital and its funds, and, upon false information, to enable them to sell the hospital and its grounds. In 1590 a warrant was issued by the High Commissioners for Lands Ecclesiastical at York to attach James Brewster and others 'for profayninge and ruinatinge the House and Chappell of the Hospitall.' The opening sentence of the warrant runs:—'Whereas We are crediblie enfourmed, that diverse evill disposed Persons have of late entered the Hospitall of Mary Magdalen at Bawtrie and pluckt up and carried away certaine Stalls and other Furniture belonginge to the same, contrary to all order and without any Awthoritie.' The various conspirators made confession of their actions and of their endeavours to transfer the archiepiscopal rights as patrons to the Crown, and Archbishop John Piers, in conjunction with John Cooper of Southwell, whom he collated to the mastership, jointly made suit before the barons of Exchequer to recover the title. Cooper in his evidence stated that from time immemorial this hospital had been founded for the relief of certain poor people and for the support of a master who was to be an ecclesiastical person; that divine service and common prayer ought weekly to have been said; that the patronage was in the hands of the Archbishop of York, or of the Crown during voidance of the see; that within two years last past one James Brewster of Chelmsford, claiming to be master, set himself to upset the state of the hospital, and to make acquisition of its possessions to himself and his heirs, disburdening himself of residence and obligation to hold divine service; that latterly he had profaned the chapel, carrying away all ornaments, changing the same 'from a Chappel to be a Stable or a Roame for theire Horses and Cattell, to the great offence of the inhabitants neare thereabouts adjoyninge . . . and contrary to all Law and Equitie and good Conscience, seinge as the same Hospitall was never lawfully dissolved'; and that therefore Brewster had for his long absence and 'other lewd Demeanors' been deprived of the hospital by the archbishop. On the death of Archbishop Piers, in 1594, this suit was continued by his successor Archbishop Hutton in conjunction with John Cooper, and in 1595 decree was given in their favour, Cooper being empowered to recover the profits of the last five years and apply them to the rebuilding or repair of the hospital, chapel, and other buildings.
John Cooper died in 1610, and John Slacke, M.A., was collated to the mastership by Archbishop Matthew. Slacke, however, was denied entry into the premises by John Bradley and others who had been tenants under Cooper and had paid him £6 a year rent for the same. But after considerable litigation the new master obtained possession, and according to his own statement 'builded up the decayed Chappell, repayred the Windowes with Stone, Iron and Glasse, made new Seats and the Pulpitt and bought the Bell now in the Chapell.'
When John Slacke set forth his account of this hospital and chapel, with details of all the post-Reformation litigation, written in 1635, he stated that all the profits then coming to the master both by pensions and rents were £14 10s., and that two poor widows lived in the hospital, each of whom received 20s. a year.
The last sentence runs—'There is a free Rent of a pounde of Peper to be payed out of the Hospitall yearely to the Mortons, whos Ancestors were founders of this Hospitall.' (fn. 17)
A later master of this hospital became a celebrated ecclesiastic—John Lake, Bishop of Chichester 1685-9, who was one of the seven bishops sent to the Tower by James II. The chapel afterwards became again desecrated through the scandalous inaction of later nonresident masters. When the late Canon Raine came to Blyth and first saw this chapel in 1834 it was used as a carpenter's shop. It was soon afterwards (1839) restored by Mr. Greaves of Hesley Hall. (fn. 18)
The income of this hospital foundation now amounts to about £120 a year; the chaplaincy and mastership has been held by the Rev. Henry Kendall since 1900; it continues to house and support two widows.
Masters of Bawtry
Roger, 1280 (fn. 19)
Thomas de Langtoft, 1289 (fn. 20)
Roger, 1299 (fn. 21)
Adam Usflet, c. 1320 (fn. 22)
Elyas de Thoreston, resigned 1361 (fn. 23)
John de Grandle, 1361 (fn. 24)
Henry Barton, resigned 1363 (fn. 25)
Roger de Nassington, 1363 (fn. 26)
Robert del Strete, occurs 1390 (fn. 27)
William Myrfyne, occurs 1403 (fn. 28)
Roger Malton, died 1421 (fn. 29)
William Sadeler, 1421 (fn. 30)
Thomas Wirell, c. 1450 (fn. 31)
John Hawkins, c. 1510 (fn. 32)
William Hollgill, occurs 1527 (fn. 33)
Richard Pygott, occurs 1534 (fn. 34)
William Clayburgh, S.T.P., 1549 (fn. 35)
John Houseman, resigned 1584 (fn. 36)
James Brewster, 1584 (fn. 37)
John Cooper, 1590 (fn. 38)
John Slacke, 1610 (fn. 39)