A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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34. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, WELLS
This hospital was founded by Hugh de Wells, Archdeacon of Wells from 1204 to 1209 and Bishop of Lincoln from 1209 to 1235. He was greatly assisted in his project by his brother Jocelin de Wells, Bishop of Bath (1206–42), and in his charter by which he confirmed his brother's gift Bishop Jocelin gave the hospital a chantry and the right to have and ring bells and a cemetery for the brethren 'qui signati sunt et sub signo viventes ibidem conversati.' (fn. 1) The original endowment is not quite evident. In the draft of his will made in 1212 (fn. 2) Bishop Hugh gave his brother 500 marks for that purpose, but in his final will he granted to 'my lord the Bishop of Bath my brother' (fn. 3) the wardship of Tunring, to the use and repair of the hospital at Wells, and 200 marks for the work of the hospital and wardship of the land and heirs of Crombwell to apply the profits to the work of the hospital at Wells. It is probable that lands at Keinton Mandeville and Babcary formed either a portion of this bequest or were granted to the hospital in the earlier part of this century, as in the early years of Edward I the prior is entered as possessed of lands there. (fn. 4) Jocelin himself had given the church of Evercreech with the chapel of Chesterblade to the house, and the gift was confirmed by Thomas Prior of Bath in 1213. (fn. 5)
Prior William bound the hospital to Richard de Button the precentor of Wells (fn. 6) to perform services annually at the altar of St. John in their house for the soul of the said Richard, of Bishop William de Button and of his ancestors. In April 1314 (fn. 7) Bishop Drokensford formally ordained the foundation of a chantry in the chapel of the hospital by John de Wyk, Canon of Crediton, who had given his rectory of West Down, Devon, for that purpose. The hospital however was ill-endowed, and in 1323 (fn. 8) the brethren appealed to Bishop Drokensford to grant them the congé d'élire without payment of the usual fees. The bishop did so, and confirmed the selection of Philip de Eston as prior or master. (fn. 9) Three years afterwards, 1326, the bishop by inspeximus ratified the foundation by Philip, the prior, of a chantry of St. Nicholas in the chapel of the hospital for the benefit of the soul of William de la Wythy late burgess of Wells. (fn. 10) Wythy had enriched the hospital by giving the brethren five houses and parcels of land in the borough and 8 acres elsewhere in the town.
In January 1331 (fn. 11) Bishop Ralph wrote to the prior to admit William Bisshop, clerk 'ad gerendum habitum religionis illius.'
In April 1350 (fn. 12) the bishop ordained the foundation of a chantry in the hospital chapel, and assigned for its endowment the rents, lands, etc., which he had received as a gift from William de Luttleton, canon and precentor of Wells, and William de Bourwardsleye. A chaplain was to pray for his soul and for the soul of John de Somerton, formerly Abbot of Muchelney, at the altar of St. Martin in the cathedral church of Wells, and the hospital was to provide a chaplain to pray for the bishop and for the soul of William formerly Abbot of Shrewsbury in the chapel of the hospital, and the number of brethren in the house should be increased to a prior and ten brethren, and if the funds of the hospital could not support this chaplain and so many brethren, then the hospital was to enjoin one of their number so to pray for the soul of Bishop Ralph.
In 1362 Walter de Compton bequeathed 20s. for the repair of the hospital, and other small bequests were made from time to time. (fn. 13)
In 1475 through the appeal of William Drew, one of the brethren, Pope Sixtus IV granted certain privileges and protection against hasty interdicts to the brethren of the hospital. (fn. 14)
In the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 (fn. 15) John Pynnock is entered as prior, and the endowments of the hospital are valued at £40 0s. 2d. arising from rents of lands and houses in the city of Wells, a mill at Wookey and rents at Wookey, Dinder, Pynckmore, Keinton Mandeville, and the rectories of West Down near Ilfracombe, North Devon, and Evercreech.
The hospital was surrendered to the king on 3 February 1539, and the lands and buildings were given to Bishop Clerk in exchange for the manor of Dogmersfield in Hants.
Priors of St. John's Hospital
Peter, 1228, occurs 1251 (fn. 16)
John, occurs 1292 (fn. 17)
Philip de Eston, appointed 1323 (fn. 20)
Henry de Exton, collated 1348 (fn. 21)
John Type or Typpe, died 1409 (fn. 22)
John Bartlett, appointed 13 July 1410 (fn. 23)
John, appointed 1462 (fn. 28)
Reginald ap David, appointed 1487 (fn. 31)
Richard Smith, died 1524 (fn. 34)
John Bartram, appointed 1524 (fn. 35)
John Pynnock, occurs 1535 (fn. 36)
Richard Clarkson, surrendered 1539 (fn. 37)
The 13th-century seal of the Hospital of St. John Baptist at Wells (fn. 38) is a vesica, 2¼ in. by 1½ in., with a figure of the patron saint holding a roundel with Agnus Dei upon it, and standing between two croziers which refer to Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln, the founder, and Jocelin, Bishop of Bath, benefactor of the hospital. The legend is:—
SIGILL' HOSPITAL' S[ANCTI] IOHANNIS D' WELLES.