A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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36. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. MARY CHICHESTER (fn. 1)
This hospital is said to have been founded in the reign of Henry II by William, dean of Chichester, and was certainly firmly established by 1229, in which year the king licensed the demolition of the poor and dilapidated church of St. Peter in the market and the annexation of its only two parishioners to the hospital of St. Mary. (fn. 2) From this, and from incidental references in contemporary deeds, it seems that the original buildings were connected with the church of St. Mary-in-the-Market near the present market cross. Whoever may have actually founded the hospital there can be no doubt that it was practically refounded by Thomas of Lichfield, dean of Chichester from 1232 to c. 1248, during which period also most of its property in Chichester and the neighbourhood was acquired.
There were at this time thirteen inmates, male and female, under a master, or prior as he is called in Dean Thomas's statutes, (fn. 3) part of the inmates being sick and infirm and the others sound. The right of admission rested with the prior who, after satisfying himself of the suitability of any candidate, caused him to take the vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty; after which the newly admitted person if a male kissed the brethren, or if a female the sisters, and had his, or her, hair cut short. Excellent rules were laid down for the punishment of offences, the usual punishment being to fast on bread and water sitting at the bottom of the table without a napkin. Sick persons without friends were to be admitted without cavil, and upon their recovery allowed to depart with their clothes and money, unless they chose to offer anything; if they died in the hospital without making any will their property was to be kept for a year and then if not claimed should go to the house. Directions were given for the care of poor persons arriving late at night and departing the next morning, and for the repetition of Paternosters, Aves, and memorial prayers for benefactors. From these statutes it appears that while it was expected that there would often be a priest present no special provision was made for one, but shortly after this Martin, a citizen of Chichester, and Julian his wife gave lands for the support of a chaplain who was to rank next to the prior and was to be present at all the canonical hours, as well as celebrating certain special masses. (fn. 4)
In 1269 the Friars Minor left their original settlement and moved to the site of the destroyed castle of Chichester, and the king gave leave for the hospital to be removed to the place lately occupied by the friars; whether such removal took place at this time is not clear, but the warden and brethren were licensed to retain this land in 1285, (fn. 5) and were allowed in 1290 to close a path running across it. (fn. 6) Probably, therefore, it is to the latter date that we should ascribe the final establishment of St. Mary's in its present situation.
In spite of the wise regulations set out in the statutes there appears to have been much mismanagement, and in 1382 a commission was issued for the visitation of the hospital, to inquire as to the diminished number of inmates, waste of property, and defects in buildings and furniture. (fn. 7) This is further borne out by Bishop Reade's visitation in 1402, when it was found that the services were neglected, and the thirteen poor inmates defrauded of their ancient allowance of broth and sometimes kept for twenty weeks without their weekly salary of a groat. (fn. 8) A visitation in 1442 showed that there were then only two brethren and two sisters, (fn. 9) and in 1478 there were, besides the warden and chaplain, five inmates, (fn. 10) which number does not seem to have been exceeded after this date.
The year 1528 marked an important epoch in the life of this institution, for the dean, William Fleshmonger, drew up a fresh series of regulations for its government. The warden was in future to be a priest, and was to visit the hospital once a month, to see that mass was duly celebrated in the chapel and by the chantry priest, to have general control of the house and to render yearly account to the dean and chapter; for this he should receive £8 yearly and 13s. 4d. for his steward. The number of poor inmates was limited to five aged and infirm persons, each having a room and garden and 8d. a week; they were all to learn, if they did not already know, the Lord's Prayer, the Salutation, and the Creed. One of the brethren was to be elected as 'Prior' to maintain order in the house. (fn. 11)
Thanks possibly to its recent reformation St. Mary's survived the stormy period of religious change under Henry VIII and Edward VI and prospered, its income rising from £35 6s. 3d. in 1535 to £44 17s. 7d. in 1550. (fn. 12) At last in 1582 the hospital was re-established by a charter of Queen Elizabeth on almost the same lines as the regulations of 1528, the number and stipends of the poor remaining unaltered and the patronage continuing with the dean and chapter. (fn. 13) Unfortunately the latter thought more of making money out of the hospital property than of caring for its inmates, so that it was a change for the better when in 1656 Cromwell put the hospital under the control of the mayor and corporation of Chichester, authorizing them to increase the number of inmates up to ten, the greatest number that could be accommodated, and to spend the surplus upon such charitable works as they thought fit. (fn. 14) The total income of the charity at this time was nearly £278, out of which the chapter had only allowed the brethren £42 5s. 10d.
Upon the Restoration the dean and chapter recovered their patronage and again appear to have neglected their duties, as in 1679 Archbishop Sancroft reproached the visitors of the hospital for never auditing the accounts, so that for many years a considerable sum of money belonging to the institution had gone into the warden's private purse. This fact was brought to light upon the appointment of Dr. Edes as warden, who brought an action against the estate of his predecessor, Dr. Whitby, for dilapidations and money illegally appropriated, recovering £171 14s. 8d. on the latter ground. We further learn from the account of this action (fn. 15) that the salaries of the poor and of the warden had alike been trebled, being respectively 2s. a week and £28 a year.
By the regulations drawn up in 1728, when Dean Sherlock was warden, and still in use, the salary of the warden was fixed at a sum equal to the whole amount received by the five poor, namely £26. A further sum of £10 was set apart for a chaplain, and amongst other rules it was laid down that if any of the inmates were sick those who were well should nurse them if so ordered by the warden on pain of expulsion. (fn. 16) Between 1815 and 1835 the warden's income averaged within a few pence of £170, and that of each inmate was over £30. (fn. 17) A further £1,000 of stock was left to the hospital by Mr. Baker in 1840. (fn. 18)
Wardens Of The Hospital Of St. Mary, Chichester (fn. 19)
Henry, occurs 1230 (fn. 20)
Gilbert, occurs 1285 (fn. 25)
Walter, occurs 1288 (fn. 26)
Gilbert, occurs 1298 (fn. 27)
William de Selebourne, occurs 1316 (fn. 30)
Thomas, occurs 1343 (fn. 31)
Alan de Leverton, appointed 1385 (fn. 32)
Walter Forey, exchanged 1389 (fn. 33)
John Courderay, appointed 1389 (fn. 34)
John Ayleston, occurs 1412 (fn. 35)
John Croucher, resigned 1447 (fn. 36)
John Goswell, appointed 1447 (fn. 37)
Ivo Darrell, occurs 1478 (fn. 38)
John Worthyall, 1537, occurs 1542 (fn. 41)
The thirteenth-century seal is a pointed oval; the Virgin seated on a carved throne, with crown, the Child, with nimbus, on the left knee. In the field, on the left a star of six points between two crescents, each enclosing a roundle; on the right a crescent enclosing a roundle between two stars. (fn. 42) Legend:—