A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1910.
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34. PLUMTREE'S HOSPITAL, NOTTINGHAM
John Plumtree of Nottingham obtained licence from Richard II in July 1392 to found a hospital or Domus Dei at the Bridge End (now Red Lion Square), to be served by two chaplains, one of whom was to be the master or warden, for the support of thirteen aged poor widows. The founder endowed it with a messuage on which the house was built and with ten other messuages and two tofts all within the borough of Nottingham. (fn. 1)
In this case, as in many others, preparations for the establishment of a house of this character were made some little time before the formal legal sanction had been obtained. There are two documents of the year 1390 among the town muniments transferring land to the founder for this hospital. (fn. 2)
John de Plumtree was a leading burgess of the community and was thrice mayor, namely in 1385-6, 1394-5, and 1408-9. This hospital, dedicated in honour of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, was founded for the good estate of the founder, of his wife Emma, and for their souls after death, and for the souls of their parents and other ancestors. To emphasize this purpose a chantry was ordained, in the year 1400, at the altar of the Annunciation in the chapel of this hospital. By this document a stipend of £5 was assigned to each of the chaplains, and the presentation, after the founder's death, vested in the Prior and Convent of Lenton. (fn. 3)
Prior, however, to the formal founding of this chantry, an important special recognition of the altar of St. Mary was obtained from Boniface IX. The pope, in February 1393, granted relaxation of two years and two quadragene of enjoined penance to penitents who on the principal feasts of the year or their octaves, and of 100 days to those who during the six days of Whitsun week, visited and gave alms at the altar of St. Mary in St. Mary's Hospital, Nottingham, in Fishergate, for the construction of the same. (fn. 4)
The first two chaplains entered in the episcopal registers were Thomas Tawburne, master, and John de Coventry, second chaplain. They were instituted on the same day that Archbishop Scrope confirmed the establishment of the chantry, namely on 22 July 1400. (fn. 5)
Boniface IX in 1402 granted to the warden and others of the hospital of the Annunciation of St. Mary the Virgin, at the Bridge End, Nottingham, exemption for all their houses, possessions, and goods, present and future, from all jurisdiction of the ordinary, taking them under the immediate protection of St. Peter and the apostolic see, to which alone they were to be subject both in spiritualities and temporalities; with indult to the warden and his successors to grant to the brethren and sisters plenary remission in the article of death, and power to choose and depute three or more fit priests, over and above the number of two priests as instituted by the founder, for the celebration of divine offices. The pope further directed that the warden and chaplain shall in future, on greater double feasts, celebrate or cause to be celebrated mass and other divine offices in the hospital chapel solemnly with music. (fn. 6)
Although thirteen widows are named in the foundation of this house, it does not appear certain that the endowments were ever sufficient in old days to maintain such a number. The will of Anne Plumtree, 1403, leaves to the widows of this hospital a dozen of woollen cloth to be divided among them. The will of Henry Plumtree, elder brother of the founder, 1408, left 12d. to every bed of the hospital then occupied. (fn. 7)
By a singular choice, this chapel was used in January 1408-9 for the marriage of Sir Edward Pierrepont to Margaret Rempston; a licence for this purpose was issued by the archbishop to Thomas Tawburne, the warden. (fn. 8)
An enrolment of enfeoffment, at the local court, of John de Plumtree of the possessions of his hospital, dated 20 May 1414, is extant among the town muniments. From this document it appears that there were two chapels within the precincts, evidently distinct buildings, one of St. Thomas the Martyr and the other of St. Mary; probably the former was a small oratory pertaining to the masters. (fn. 9) Both chapels were to the rear or to the east of the dwelling portions; that of St. Thomas on the north or Fishergate side, and that of St. Mary on the south.
The founder in 1415, probably disappointed of the help of others in this foundation, and recognizing that there was not a sufficiency to support thirteen widows, executed an amending instrument, by which he confirmed the appointment of two priests, raising the stipend of the warden to £6, and limiting the number of poor widows to seven. At the same time he augmented the chantry by giving it his dwellinghouse in Cuckstool Road, after his death and after the death of Thomas Plumtree, chaplain, his kinsman. Shortly after this the founder died, leaving 20s. to each of the widows. (fn. 10)
Save for the record of the institution of successive chaplains, nothing more is known of this hospital until 1503, when in a taxation of lands and tenements of Nottingham the brief entry is made:—'The Chaunterie of John Plomtre at ye Briggend, £18.' (fn. 11)
The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1534 gives the full annual value of the hospital property as £13 10s. William Baker was warden, and he and his fellow chaplain would absorb £11; £1 10s. was all that went to the poor (the widows seem to have quite disappeared), whilst the remaining 20s. went in various small dues to the burgesses of Nottingham, Lenton Priory, Newstead Priory, and the manor of Sutton Passeys. (fn. 12)
The commissioners for the survey of chantries, hospitals, &c., preparatory to their dissolution in 1545-6, certified that there were no poor widows left in this house, but that the revenue was employed in the living of the two chantry priests, Peter Bursall and William Browne. (fn. 13) It was then described as the Hospital and Chantry of Our Lady at the Bridge End, and the revenues were estimated at £11 1s. (fn. 14)
During the next three years the secondary chaplain disappears, for when the commissioners of 1548-9 arrived to carry out under Edward VI the designs of his father, they found that there were no poor supported, but that the lands were wholly employed for the benefit of Peter Bursall, the surviving senior chantry priest, or master. (fn. 15)
The hospital at this date became vested in the Crown, and various masters or wardens obtained successive patents to enjoy the revenues, without fulfilling any of the former functions of the office. At last, in 1644, one Huntingdon Plumtree, of the founder's kin, obtained the patent and made allowances of 5s. a month to certain poor, with an additional 6d. on New Year's Day. In 1650 he pulled down the old ruinous buildings and erected a new hospital, a brick building of some distinction, of which Thoroton gives a plate. (fn. 16) Eventually, in 1751, the building was made capable of accommodating thirteen widows according to the founder's original intention, through the action of John Plumtree, grandson of Huntingdon Plumtree. The present hospital was built in 1823-4 by John Plumtree of Fredville, Kent. The endowments then brought in £680 a year, out of which the thirteen resident almswomen received £1 10s. a month, as well as an annual ton of coals and a gown; in addition thirty out-pensioners received £10 a year. (fn. 17)
At the present time the income of the hospital is £1,100 a year, and each of the thirteen inmates receives £13 10s., a ton of coals, and a gown yearly; there are also forty out-pensioners, each of whom receives £13 a year.