A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.
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25. DR. MILLEY'S HOSPITAL, LICHFIELD
The almshouse in Lichfield now known as Dr. Milley's Hospital (fn. 1) seems to have been founded on property given by Bishop Heyworth in 1424 for the use of the poor. (fn. 2) The bishop's grant makes no mention of the foundation of a hospital, but two circumstances suggest that Dr. Milley's Hospital did originate in the bishop's benefaction and that it was therefore founded about 1424. First, Heyworth gave the property to the cathedral sacrist and the master of St. Mary's Guild, and until recent years the sacrist has always had a special responsibility for Dr. Milley's Hospital. (fn. 3) Secondly, the property on which the hospital now stands — a long narrow piece of land running back from Beacon Street and curving south to the Leamonsley Brook (fn. 4) — is almost certainly that which Heyworth gave in 1424. The ground seems once to have been a ditch which formed the town defences between the north-west corner of the fortified Close and the bishop's fishponds. (fn. 5) The ground floor of Dr. Milley's Hospital is now well below the level of Beacon Street, and this is undoubtedly due in part to its situation in the town ditch.
The hospital's endowment was increased by various other benefactions made during the 15th century. Probably at some time before 1438 a house in Beacon Street and a croft in Sandford Street were given by Hugh Lache who, as sacrist, was doubtless responsible to some extent for the running of the hospital. (fn. 6) Thomas Heywood, Dean of Lichfield (1457-92), gave a pasture in King's Bromley; Thomas Reynold, a canon of the cathedral from 1471 until his death in 1497, (fn. 7) gave a house in Wade Street; and some time before 1504 the hospital acquired land in Lichfield called Godscroft (fn. 8) from Thomas Atwell. By 1504 the cathedral chantry chaplains were making an annual payment to the hospital out of the revenues of an obit founded in memory of John Meneley, Prebendary of Offley (d. 1480). (fn. 9)
It is clear that at the beginning of the 16th century the hospital was not well endowed. In 1504 the annual income from these early benefactions amounted to only £2 1s. 10d. (fn. 10) Fines for entry on leases may have increased the average annual income from the landed part of this property, but with so small an endowment any such increase cannot have been very great. Money, however, may have been available from other sources. Four of the chantries in the cathedral, for example, are known to have provided money for the poor, and in at least one case the money was specifically assigned to the poor in almshouses. (fn. 11) Moreover the sacrist and the authorities of St. Mary's Guild, both associated with the origin of the hospital, had charitable funds at their disposal (fn. 12) and may have been able to subsidize the hospital.
The hospital was re-endowed and probably rebuilt in 1502-4 by Thomas Milley, a canon residentiary of the cathedral. (fn. 13) In 1502 he gave to twelve feoffees, who included three of his fellow residentiaries and the sacrist, houses and land in Lichfield and lands at Borrowcop, Pipehill (both in St. Michael's, Lichfield), Elmhurst (in St. Chad's, Lichfield), Birchills (in Walsall), and Chorley (in Farewell). The rents from this property amounted in 1504 to £8 13s. 8d. Taken with the income from the earlier endowments they thus brought the hospital's gross income in that year to £10 15s. 6d.; chief rents, however, reduced this to £9 17s. 3d. net. According to an indenture drawn up in 1504, a few weeks before Milley's death, the feoffees were to allow the sacrist to use the income from this property for the support of fifteen almswomen; they were to live in the hospital and receive 5s. or 6s. a quarter if possible, in money and household necessities. The sacrist was also to keep the hospital in a good state of repair. He was to receive 13s. 4d. a year for carrying out these duties and was to be responsible to the Dean of Lichfield.
The hospital continued to be governed in this way until modern times: the property has been vested in successive bodies of feoffees (fn. 14) and the income received and expended by the sacrist. The sacrist's duties with regard to the hospital were such that he became known as its 'master' (fn. 15) or 'steward'. (fn. 16) During vacancies in the office of sacrist the cathedral chapter seems to have made temporary arrangements for the custody of the hospital. In October 1664, for example, the chapter instructed the subchanter to carry out the sacrist's duties and ordered the appointment of 'a sufficient able man' to receive the rents of 'the Women's Hospital', to pay the almswomen their salaries, and to assume responsibility for the cure of their souls and for the fabric of the hospital. The following month the subchanter was ordered personally to take charge of the rental and to receive and expend the hospital's income himself. (fn. 17)
The landed endowment remained substantially the same during the three centuries following Milley's refoundation. (fn. 18) Nevertheless the almswomen's income was increased by a number of late-16th- and early-17th-century benefactions. The almswomen benefited jointly with the almsmen of St. John's Hospital from legacies made by John Feckenham and George Saturford in 1585 and 1586. Feckenham's Charity has continued to produce an income for the almspeople of the two foundations. Saturford's benefaction, however, which paid £1 16s. a year to the almswomen and £1 4s. to the almsmen until 1815, was realized as capital in that year by the feoffees of Dr. Milley's Hospital. (fn. 19) Other benefactions made at this period consisted of four gifts and legacies of money to the corporation of Lichfield; the interest on two of these sums was to be given to the almswomen, while that on the other two was to be shared between them and the almsmen of St. John's Hospital. In the later 17th century the corporation paid the almswomen £7 19s. a year in respect of these benefactions, while since the same period the almsmen of St. John's have received £1 8s. (fn. 20)
During the 18th century the almswomen continued to receive gifts and legacies. George Hand left them £5 in 1745, and in 1780 his son, another George, devised £100, which was invested by the feoffees. (fn. 21) In 1771 the feoffees were given £90 by a Mrs. Sandford; they distributed £10 to the almswomen and lent out the rest at interest. (fn. 22) Jane Gastrell gave the hospital £100 in 1786 and this was committed by the feoffees to Henry White, the cathedral sacrist, for investment. (fn. 23) A few years later she left another £100 to the hospital, which was spent by the feoffees on repairs and improvements. (fn. 24)
In 1786 the reserved rents from the hospital lands amounted to £87 16s. (fn. 25) By 1821 rents from landed property had increased to £346 2s. 10½d. a year. (fn. 26) This increase was due to the energetic measures undertaken by a new body of feoffees appointed in 1808. The following year a select committee of the feoffees discovered that some of the hospital's lands had been lost and that rents were considerably in arrears. The committee recommended the appointment of an agent or accountant to assist the sacrist in the administration of the hospital. The feoffees duly appointed an agent so that from 1809 the sacrist's responsibility for the hospital's financial affairs was exercised by a professional assistant. (fn. 27) In 1809 also the hospital's landed property was surveyed, and the feoffees resolved to discontinue the granting of long leases for nominal rents and high entry fines. By 1821 almost all leases of hospital lands which did not include houses had been reduced to terms of 21 years at rack rents, and the feoffees had by then decided to follow the same policy with regard to the leasing of houses belonging to the hospital. (fn. 28) In addition to landed income the hospital drew interest of £30 a year from invested capital in 1821, which brought the revenues in that year to a gross total of £376 2s. 10½d. (fn. 29)
In 1786 each of the fifteen almswomen received £1 1s. a quarter from the hospital, which also bore various other 'necessary expenses' on their behalf. (fn. 30) Their income at this time was still augmented by independent charities founded two centuries or so earlier. (fn. 31) The value of the pensions increased at this time in proportion with the increase in the rents from the hospital property. In 1805 each almswoman received 1s. 6d. a week and an additional £1 11s. 6d. a quarter; (fn. 32) by 1821 these amounts were 5s. a week and £1 every quarter, while payments from the independent charities then raised each almswoman's weekly income to about 7s. 5d. (fn. 33) The yearly stipend of the sacrist had also increased from the original 13s. 4d. of 1504. By 1781 he was receiving £5, (fn. 34) and in 1798 this was raised to £8, which remained the chaplain's stipend until 1955. (fn. 35) In the early years of the 19th century the sacrist's duties as chaplain to the almswomen seem to have consisted of reading prayers in their chapel and once a year preaching and administering the sacrament to them. (fn. 36)
No important changes to the hospital's constitution were made until the present century. Since 1893 it has been governed under Schemes of the Charity Commissioners. (fn. 37) The 1893 Scheme provided for the maintenance of fifteen resident almswomen; in 1902, however, when the trustees were proposing to rebuild the hospital, this was amended to provide for nine residents. When the building was restored and reduced in size in 1906-7 the Scheme was further amended to provide for only eight resident almswomen. (fn. 38) The hospital is now administered under a Scheme of 1953. (fn. 39) Its management and the appointment of the almswomen are vested in a body of seven trustees, of whom the Dean of Lichfield is normally one. The only land now owned, apart from the ground behind the building, is at Chesterfield (in Shenstone); the greater part of the annual income, which in recent years has been just over £630, is now derived from investments. Eight almswomen reside in the hospital, and the trustees may grant pensions to them and to out-pensioners. The scheme permits the trustees to pay the sacrist of the cathedral for acting as chaplain. The office of sacrist, however, has been vacant since 1940, and since 1948 the chaplaincy has usually been exercised by one of the two priest vicars in the cathedral. (fn. 40) The chaplain's stipend was raised from £8 to £15 15s. in 1955. (fn. 41) Services for the almswomen are held in the hospital chapel each Thursday, and there is a monthly communion service also on Thursday. (fn. 42)
The hospital building appears to date largely from the early 16th century. (fn. 43) It is a two-storied structure of red brick, with a stone plinth and stone dressings. Originally the building was L-shaped in plan: from the southern end of the front range a long rear wing extended back along the southern boundary of the property. (fn. 44) The front range, which faces eastwards into Beacon Street, contains a central stone porch giving access to a wide entrance hall flanked by rooms for the matron and almswomen; on the first floor the space above the porch forms the east end of the almswomen's chapel. (fn. 45) The rear wing has a corridor on each floor, and these corridors originally gave access to almswomen's rooms on the south. North of the corridors is the staircase and also a two-storied addition, probably of the late 18th century, containing two rooms. The internal partitions are of heavy close-studded timbering and incorporate many of the original early-16th-century doorways.
A view of the front, drawn in 1841, (fn. 46) suggests that a number of alterations had been made in the 18th century. These included the facing of the exterior with plaster, the insertion of wood casement windows, and the addition of gabled dormers to the roof. The pedimented tablet above the entrance, which commemorates Thomas Milley's refoundation of the hospital, is also of this period.
By the beginning of the present century the hospital was in need of modernization and repair. In 1900 the trustees, on the advice of a local architect, proposed a complete reconstruction of the building. (fn. 47) The Charity Commissioners, however, advised instead a careful restoration of the existing structure, and their recommendations were carried out in 1906-7 under the direction of Charles Lynam of Stoke-upon-Trent. (fn. 48) The rear wing was made narrower by moving its south wall back from the boundary of the property; (fn. 49) the truncated rooms to the south of the corridors were converted into small fuel stores, pantries, and lavatories. These alterations allowed for only eight resident almswomen, who were however more comfortably accommodated than their predecessors. New stone-mullioned windows were inserted on the front elevation, and the external plaster was stripped away to reveal the brickwork. The general appearance of the hospital buildings has remained the same since the alterations of 1906-7, though further restoration and repairs were carried out in 1953-4 and 1967-8 by J. A. Chatwin & Son of Birmingham. (fn. 50)