A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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23. THE HOSPITAL OF HOLY TRINITY AND ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, BRIDGNORTH
This hospital stood to the north of St. John's Street, set back from the road and adjoining Morfe Forest on the east. (fn. 1) It is said to have been founded by Ralph Lestrange (fl. 1179-95), (fn. 2) who left 3½ virgates at Alveley to the hospital. (fn. 3) Apart from property in Bridgnorth other early grants included a half virgate in Ewdness, first recorded in 1255, (fn. 4) a half virgate in Upton Cressett, acquired in the mid 13th century, (fn. 5) and property at Dudmaston, where the hospital was among the tenants of Robert of Dudmaston in 1305. (fn. 6) It received several grants of wood from neighbouring royal forests in the earlier 13th century (fn. 7) and, like St. James's hospital, obtained the right to a daily horseload of dead wood from Morfe Forest in 1232. (fn. 8) Timber from Shirlett Forest was given to build the hospital chapel in 1257. (fn. 9)
During the later Middle Ages the hospital also had a substantial estate in Bridgnorth itself, mainly in the adjacent parts of Low Town but including houses in Little Brug and St. Mary's Street. (fn. 10) In the later 14th century it owed rents of 29s. ¾d. for lands in Bridgnorth held of Lilleshall Abbey. (fn. 11) Much of this town property was acquired between 1317 and 1344, when five daily chantry services at the hospital were endowed by Bridgnorth burgesses. Two messuages, lands, and rents in Bridgnorth, Quatford, and Worfield were given by Henry Canne (1317); (fn. 12) two messuages and 1½ virgate in Bridgnorth and in More in Eardington by John Huband (1324); (fn. 13) three messuages and lands in Bridgnorth by John de Isenham (1335); (fn. 14) one messuage, lands, and 60s. rent in Bridgnorth for a service of three chaplains by William de la Halle (1337); (fn. 15) and two messuages by Thomas de Holcumbe and Henry of Larden, chaplains (1344). (fn. 16) William of Aldenham and two chaplains sought licence to grant two further messuages in the town in 1371. (fn. 17)
By the 1360s, when the hospital apparently had five chantry priests in addition to the prior and six poor inmates, (fn. 18) its augmented endowments attracted the interest of the Crown. The latter regularly exercised rights of patronage for a century after 1369, at least four of the priors thus appointed being king's clerks. (fn. 19) John Cokeslane, prior in the 1380s, seems to have been living in the town in 1389, when he was licensed to hear Lenten confessions there. (fn. 20) His ten successors, most of whom held the office for little longer than a year, were probably all nonresident. In 1396 a commission was appointed to survey the hospital on the ground that recent priors had wasted its goods. (fn. 21) In 1414, during John Arundel's absentee wardenship, there was only one priest serving the hospital, the buildings were ruined, and there were no almspeople. (fn. 22) In 1421–2 the hospital estate produced £17 19s. rent: Arundel received at least £6, the chaplain £4; only 3s. 4d. was spent in alms. Repair of the buildings and property had, however, begun. (fn. 23) Arundel's successors probably had to reside. Edward Wade (appointed 1439) was apparently living in Bridgnorth in 1438 (fn. 24) and Hugh Cardmaker, of a local family, was required to reside. (fn. 25) Pensions continued to be a burden on the hospital. (fn. 26)
On the strength of an erroneous pedigree purporting to show his descent from the founder, John, Earl of Shrewsbury, procured a crown grant of the patronage of the hospital to Lilleshall Abbey in 1471 (fn. 27) and at the same time the prior made over his interest to the abbey. (fn. 28) A disappointed crown nominee questioned the validity of the abbey's title in 1497 (fn. 29) although this was confirmed in 1505 (fn. 30) and 1523. (fn. 31) By the Dissolution the hospital estate had merged with that of the abbey but among payments said to be due from Lilleshall in 1535 were a pension of £6 13s. 4d. to the Jesus chantry at Lichfield from the hospital revenues, the same sum to the hospital chaplain, and 16s. 8d. in alms on the founder's anniversary. (fn. 32) These sums accounted for over half the income of the abbey's Bridgnorth estate.
In 1539, when it was held under a conventual lease by Sir Richard Gresham, (fn. 33) the hospital was granted to Rowland Edwardes of London. (fn. 34) It had passed by 1565 to John Whitbrooke, (fn. 35) whose descendant Thomas Whitbrooke was in possession in 1588. (fn. 36) A house known as St. John's was built on its site in 1698 (fn. 37) and there are no known remains.
Priors, Masters, or Wardens of Holy Trinity Hospital, Bridgnorth
Adam, occurs in the early 13th century. (fn. 38)
Simon, occurs c. 1280. (fn. 39)
Roger, occurs 1340-5. (fn. 40)
Henry, occurs 1354. (fn. 41)
John, occurs 1367. (fn. 42)
Adam of Knightley, appointed 1369. (fn. 43)
John of Wirksworth, appointed 1389, resigned 1390. (fn. 46)
William Newton, appointed 1392, resigned 1393. (fn. 49)
John Charlton, appointed 1393. (fn. 50)
Thomas Winchcombe, appointed 1394, resigned 1395. (fn. 51)
John Wallington, appointed 1401. (fn. 54)
John Shakill, appointed 1403. (fn. 57)
William Benet, appointed 1405. (fn. 58)
William Lamprey, occurs 1407. (fn. 59)
Christopher Ledes, occurs 1523. (fn. 70)
An 18th-century drawing of the hospital seal on a lease of 1366 (fn. 71) shows a cross paty between two mullets. Legend, lombardic:
A later common seal, on a lease of 1457, (fn. 72) is oval and measures 2½ × 1½ in. It shows the Trinity under a canopy with a kneeling figure below. Legend, black-letter:
24. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. JAMES, BRIDGNORTH
This leper hospital stood on the site of the house known as St. James's Priory, outside the town on the east of the road from Bridgnorth to Quatt and south of its junction with the road to Stourbridge; a typical site for such a hospital. It was also on the edge of Morfe Forest. It is first recorded in 1224, when the king granted its inmates a horseload of dead wood daily from this forest. (fn. 73) The circumstances of its foundation are uncertain but the tradition, recorded in 'an old writing under seal' still extant in the 18th century, that its site and adjacent assarts were given by Henry I, is not improbable. (fn. 74) According to the same source other early endowments were granted by Thomas the Clerk and the king's clerk Richard of Brecon, while the church itself was built by William de Henegate 'and other honourable men'. (fn. 75) The latter may well have been burgesses of Bridgnorth. In the early 13th century it was felt necessary to secure the assent of the burgesses to a hospital lease (fn. 76) and the bailiffs of Bridgnorth later claimed to be patrons.
Little is known of the hospital's endowments and nothing of its internal life, except that it housed men and women. (fn. 77) Later evidence suggests that its estate included about 130 a. near the hospital itself, mainly assarts and meadows along the Severn, (fn. 78) and a few houses in the town. (fn. 79) Part of this may have been granted by Peter of Bridgnorth, who obtained licence to grant lands worth 40s. a year to endow a daily service in the hospital in 1352. (fn. 80) No other late medieval acquisitions are recorded and in the early 15th century the hospital was still to some degree dependent upon alms. (fn. 81) Its estate was valued at £4 a year in 1535 (fn. 82) and at the same sum in 1546, when there were no inmates other than the warden. (fn. 83)
The bailiffs of Bridgnorth were exercising the rights of patrons by 1543, when the new warden was required to reside and to keep hospitality as his predecessor had done. (fn. 84) He was instructed to lease the hospital's arable lands on a share-cropping basis; it was expected that he would use the pastures for fattening stock and he was forbidden to lease them except on yearly tenancies. (fn. 85)
Although the hospital's endowments passed to the Crown under the Chantries Acts the bailiffs made an attempt, only partially successful, to retain possession, apparently justifying this by applying the income to the almshouses in Church Street. John Perrott, who obtained a crown grant of the hospital estate in 1557, (fn. 86) immediately sold it to one of the existing tenants, Roger Smyth of Morville. (fn. 87) In 1560 the warden and the bailiffs brought an action for recovery of the hospital (fn. 88) and in the following year Smyth was debarred from his rights as burgess. (fn. 89) At the same time the bailiffs appointed as warden Reuben Stenton, master of Bridgnorth grammar school, and admitted five poor persons to the hospital. (fn. 90) Although the lawsuit was revived in 1562 (fn. 91) Smyth and his successors remained in possession of St. James's and the adjacent lands, (fn. 92) apparently demolishing some part of the hospital building before 1574. (fn. 93) The corporation, however, retained possession of former hospital property near St. James's and in the town and until the mid 17th century, wardens continued to be appointed by the bailiffs to make leases and receive rents. (fn. 94) From at least 1573 the latter were paid to the inmates of the almshouses in Church Street and the property was later merged with the general almshouse estate. (fn. 95)
Wardens or Priors of the Hospital of St. James, Bridgnorth
William, occurs 1323. (fn. 96)
John Overton, occurs 1405. (fn. 97)
Ralph Ingestre, occurs as procurator 1411. (fn. 98)
Walter de Esenham, occurs 1414. (fn. 99)
Hugh Cardmaker, occurs 1472-83. (fn. 100)
Roger Horde, occurs 1490-9. (fn. 101)
William Byste, occurs 1507-35. (fn. 102)
A drawing of the oval common seal of the hospital, (fn. 111) in use in the early 13th century, shows the standing figure of St. James. Legend, lombardic: