A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1910.
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25. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. EDMUND, BLYTH
There was an ancient leper-house immediately without Blyth, probably at the northern entrance to the town; it was dedicated to the honour of St. Edmund. Only a single reference to it has been found. It was probably, like many of these small lazar-houses near the gates or entrances of towns, unendowed and entirely dependent on alms. Henry III, when tarrying at Blyth in January 1228, granted to the proctors of this house (nuncii leprosorum hospitalis Sancti Edmundi extra Bliam) letters of protection sine termino, whereby the king asked his bailiffs and faithful subjects, when their messengers came seeking alms for the support of the infirm, that they would admit them kindly and hasten to extend charity to them, so that in addition to eternal reward they might receive their king's gratitude. (fn. 1)
26. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST, BLYTH
A hospital dedicated to the honour of St. John the Evangelist was founded on the south side of Blyth in the township of Hodsock in the reign of King John, by William Cressy, lord of Hodsock. It was designed for a rector or warden and three chaplains, and for the residence and relief of leprous persons; the patronage was vested in the lords of Hodsock. (fn. 2)
Pope Honorius III in 1226 issued a bull promising the protection of the Holy See to the possessions and liberties conferred on this lazarhouse by the Prior and Convent of Blyth and by William de Cressy its pious founder. (fn. 3)
Henry III, in a letter dated at Newark 5 January 1230, took under his protection the brethren of this leper hospital and their possessions, bidding all his faithful subjects to defend them, and commending them to their alms and support, as they would have recompense from God and from him. (fn. 4)
Edward II in 1316 licensed Hugh de Cressy to alienate the large amount of seven messuages and 4 bovates of land in Blyth and Hodsock to three chaplains, who were to celebrate daily in the chapel of St. John the Evangelist of this hospital. (fn. 5)
Edmund de Cressy, the brother of Hugh, executed an instrument at Hodsock at Michaelmas 1320 by which he granted to William de Howelle and Philip de Ilkeston, chaplains, the hospital of Hodsock, with all its lands and appurtenances, together with goods and chattels to the value of 20 marks. The chaplains undertook to conduct divine service in the chapel, to find lights, to keep the buildings in proper repair, and on their ceasing to officiate to leave behind them goods to the value of 20 marks. They were not to be allowed to appropriate to themselves any of the revenues; but they were to be allowed to take any person into the hospital, spiritual or lay, at their discretion, with the view of improving its income, that is to receive them as paying guests. Philip de Ilkeston was to pay as a subsidy on his entry to office 4 marks. The bursar was to render his account yearly before the bailiff of Cressy, who reserved to himself the right of appointing a third chaplain, when the rent of a messuage near the gate of the hospital's cemetery would admit of it. (fn. 6)
A deed on somewhat similar lines—in Norman French—records the appointment of Robert de Russyn as chaplain of this hospital by Sir John Cressy, in 1374. (fn. 7)
Sir John Clifton, who died in 1403, had obtained the Hodsock estate, with the patronage of the hospital, by marriage with Katharine sister and co-heiress of Sir Hugh Cressy. Katharine his widow married for her second husband Ralph Mackarel; on his death in 1436 he was entered as seised of the hospital of St. John the Evangelist, Blyth. (fn. 8)
About ten years later, namely on 21 July 1446, an indulgence of 100 days was granted by the Archbishop of York to all penitents contributing 'to the erection and new construction of a certain house or hospital in Blyth, for receiving and lodging poor strangers and pregnant women.' Canon Raine, the historian of Blyth, considers that this entry in the episcopal registers refers to a re-establishment of the decayed hospital of St. John, its leprous inmates having disappeared. (fn. 9)
The will of Sir Gervase Clifton, great-grandson of Sir John Clifton, first lord of Hodsock of that name, dated 27 April 1491, contains the following references to this hospital: 'To John London and his wiff an annuytie of xxs. of my lands in Sterop; for the house which he dwelleth in belongeth unto the spitell of Blith of my fadir gift. As for all such landes and tenementes as is in Blith of my fadir purchase they belongen unto the spitell of Blith of my said fadir gift, and hit is my will yat the said spitell have theyme; and require my here also yat he make a sufficient graunte unto the preste of the said spitell of all such landes and tenementes with th'appurtenance as I have purchased in Blith aforesaid in augmentacion of the said preste of ye said spitell lyvelode there.' (fn. 10)
The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1534 shows that the property had sadly deteriorated. Silvanus Clifton was master, and the income of the hospital, which he seems to have regarded as solely his, was £8 14s. (fn. 11)
When the Survey of Colleges, Chantries, Hospitals, &c., was taken by the commissioners of Henry VIII in 1545-6, preparatory to their overthrow, Robert Cressy was priest of 'the Spittell of Blyth,' saying mass thrice a week 'by the commandement of the Lorde of Hodsock,' as appeared by the gift thereof made to him five years before by Sir Gervase Clifton. The clear value was then £8 14s. There were no church goods 'otherwise than one vestment and one altar cloth of no valewe and a bell of small valewe.' (fn. 12) Robert Cressy also held the vicarage of Blyth.
This hospital, in its much reduced state, escaped confiscation under the action of both Henry VIII and Edward VI.
Sir Gervase Clifton, made baronet by James I in 1611, in his will dated October 1662 described himself as patron of the house or hospital of St. John the Evangelist without Blyth, and Robert Thirlby as 'maister or rector of the sayd house and brethren.' (fn. 13)
As late as 1703 there is record of one Thomas Ousely being master of this hospital. About 1810 the master's house, known as Blyth Spital, was pulled down and replaced by a substantial farm-house. At the same time the adjoined houses for the poor inmates were demolished and six small almshouses built nearer Blyth for six poor persons, to each of whom the owner of the Spital property pays the pittance of 10s. a year. (fn. 14)