A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1910.
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32. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. LEONARD, NOTTINGHAM
The Nottingham leper hospital of St. Leonard was certainly in existence as early as the reign of Henry II (1154-89). Henry III, when at Nottingham in 1231, instructed Brian de Lisle to allow the leprous brethren of St. Leonard's to have a cart to collect dead wood in Bestwood, as they had done in the times of the king's ancestors; and when this grant was renewed in 1226 it is expressly stated that it was confirmatory of like grants made by Henry II and by John. (fn. 1)
This house, which stood outside the walls on the north side of the town, is mentioned in a grant to St. John's Hospital c. 1230, wherein half an acre of land is described as abutting upon the hospital of St. Leonard. (fn. 2) Another 13thcentury grant to St. John's describes a parcel of land as lying between the land of St. Leonard and that of the church of St. Mary. (fn. 3)
In a charter of the year 1339 there is reference to an acre of arable land at Snapedale, Nottingham, 'abutting upon the dovecote of the house of St. Leonard.' (fn. 4) This in itself is sufficient to prove that the house was at this time endowed with a fair amount of land, otherwise a dovecote would not have been sanctioned.
An interesting record of 1341-2 tells us that the Prior of Lenton then pleaded that his tithe income from St. Mary's parish was diminished owing to the fact that 60 acres of land pertaining to St. Leonard's Hospital was lying barren and uncultivated, and that the adjoining chapel of St. Michael had been recently destroyed. (fn. 5)
In 1358 William Chaundeler, keeper or warden of the hospital of St. Leonard, was charged with making an encroachment of half an acre in the king's demesnes, within the court of the town of Notttingham. (fn. 6)
Until we get to the time of Henry VIII the town records, strange to say, are entirely silent with regard to this leper hospital, except by way of occasionally making a bare mention of it in reciting boundaries of property. (fn. 7)
Amid the enrolment of grants at the local court in 1335 to William de Amyas of Nottingham, a piece of land lying in the field of Nottingham is described as abutting upon the land of the hospital of St. Michael. (fn. 8) The house of St. Michael is also mentioned as a land boundary in an enrolment of grant to John Taunesley in 1416. (fn. 9) These entries have given rise to some confusion; but, from the position of this house, it becomes quite clear that in both cases the real reference is to St. Leonard's Hospital; the closeness of the old chapel of St. Michael gave rise to this error in title. (fn. 10)
An important document of 1521 throws much light on the functions formerly discharged by this hospital, though at the date when it was drawn up it is highly improbable that there were any lepers in the town of Nottingham, so that the warden of St. Leonard's held a sinecure office. By this document the mayor, burgesses, and community confirmed to Thomas Gibbonson, chaplain, the hospital house of St. Leonard, vacant by the death of John Alestre, the late warden, with all lands, tenements, rents, &c., thereto belonging, for his whole life, subject to the charge of sustaining and housing the lepers born of the liberty of the town of Nottingham, supplying each of them for three weeks with a bushel of wheat and pease and one piece of cloth of the value of 2s., according to the original form and foundation of the hospital; it was also provided that the warden was to be allowed to have yearly three cart-loads of firewood to burn in his chamber. (fn. 11)
In 1534 the mayor and burgesses appointed William Lewes, chaplain, to the wardenship of St. Leonard's. (fn. 12)
The Valor Ecclesiasticus of this same year has no reference to this hospital, although it enters the income received by the warden, William Lewes, from the chantry of St. Mary, which he also held. (fn. 13) Nor is this hospital named in the certificates of the commissioners of either Henry VIII or Edward VI.
The possessions of St. Leonard's appear to have remained with the corporation, and there is some slight proof of a small continuance of a charitable foundation in an entry in the chamberlain's accounts as late as 1571-2. (fn. 14) This reference to 'a lasar of the Spytell House' has been somewhat absurdly twisted to mean that leprosy still continued at Nottingham in Elizabeth's days, and that the sufferers were provided for at the town's expense. All that it necessarily implies was that there was an almsman living at the old hospital. Thus at Northampton the borough retained the old leper hospital of St. Leonard and placed an almsman there, who received 2s. a year, a suit of clothes, and a load of firewood; he was called the 'lazer' or the 'lazerman' as late as the 18th century. (fn. 15)
Wardens of St. Leonard's
William Chaundeler, occurs 1358 (fn. 16)
Thomas Gibbonson, appointed 1521 (fn. 17)
William Lewes, appointed 1534 (fn. 18)