House of Knights Hospitallers: The preceptory of Melchbourne

A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1904.

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'House of Knights Hospitallers: The preceptory of Melchbourne', A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904), pp. 394. British History Online [accessed 17 June 2024].

. "House of Knights Hospitallers: The preceptory of Melchbourne", in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904) 394. British History Online, accessed June 17, 2024,

. "House of Knights Hospitallers: The preceptory of Melchbourne", A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904). 394. British History Online. Web. 17 June 2024,

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The preceptory of Melchbourne was founded in the reign of Henry II. by Alice de Claremont (fn. 1); other benefactors, including Roger de Clare, Earl of Hertford, Hugh de Beauchamp of Eaton, and William, Archbishop of York, added gifts of land and churches. (fn. 2) Richard de Clare, the son of Roger, confirmed the gifts of his father and of Alice de Claremont; (fn. 3) and after the suppression of the Templars some of their property in Bedfordshire was transferred to Melchbourne. (fn. 4) A general chapter was held at this preceptory in 1242, under the presidency of Brother Terricus de Nussa, prior of the hospital in England (fn. 5); but beyond this very little is known of the history of the house. On two occasions the Hospitallers of Bedfordshire came into collision with the canons of Dunstable, on account of one of the customs of their order. They were allowed by a special privilege of the pope to grant Christian burial to all those who had given alms to their fraternity, whatever the manner of their death. (fn. 6) So in 1274, (fn. 7) when the canons of Dunstable refused to bury a suicide, the Hospitallers impleaded them, and they had to pay a fine for the sake of peace. Again in 1282, (fn. 8) when one of the servants of John Duraunt, a merchant of Dunstable, committed suicide by jumping into a well, and his body in consequence was flung into a ditch outside the town, the Hospitallers found him and buried him in their cemetery.

The Hospitallers, like other religious, received boarders into their houses from time to time. In 1527 a certain William Browne received a grant of board and lodging in the preceptory of Melchbourne, from the prior of the hospital. References to this house are very few and far between: except in a few notices of leases, it is not mentioned in the large chartularies of the order.

The date of the dissolution of the preceptory is not known. (fn. 9) It was refounded for a very short time in 1557 by Queen Mary, and again made a part of the endowment of the order. (fn. 10)

The preceptory received at its foundation the manor and church of Melchbourne, and the churches of Dean, Riseley, Souldrop, Eaton Socon, with Hargrave (Northants), and Eakring, Ossington and Winkbourn (Notts), as well as parcels of land and wood in Riseley, Souldrop, Blakesley (Northants), Ossington and Winkbourn (Notts). (fn. 11) The prior of the hospital held in Bedfordshire in 1302 (fn. 12) one knight's fee and a half in Clifton, and I hide in Pulloxhill; in 1316 (fn. 13) the vill of Melchbourne, half a fee in Podington, one fee in Clifton, and small portions in Souldrop, Sharnbrook and Sandy; in 1346 (fn. 14) Melchbourne, half a fee in Ickwell, Clifton and Harrold, and one quarter in Souldrop, Steppingley and Sharnbrook, with a smaller portion in Stanford; in 1428 (fn. 15) the vill of Melchbourne, half a fee in Sharnbrook, Harrold, Ickwell and Clifton, and a quarter in Souldrop. At the dissolution the property of the preceptory was worth £241 9s. 10½d., (fn. 16) including the manors of Melchbourne, Ickwell, Eaton, Langford and Blakesley, and rectories of Melchbourne, Eaton, Riseley, Langford, Blakesley, and lands called the Temple in Sharnbrook. (fn. 17)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 803, 834.
  • 2. Ibid. 834 and Chart. R. 1 John (Rec. Com.) The church of Melchbourne was also granted by Roger de Clare to the priory of St. Neot's. In 1176 a suit between the Hospitallers and St. Neot's ended in the church being resigned to the former (Gorham, History of St. Neot's, II. cxiii.) It was finally appropriated in 1378 (Pat. 2 Rich. II. m. 9 and Cott. MS. Nero E. vi. f. 12). The church of Souldrop was also disputed in 1198 (Hunter, Feet of F. 9 Rich. I. 17).
  • 3. Ibid. 806.
  • 4. e.g. the church of Langford, granted to the Templars by Simon de Wahull and Sibyl his wife in the reign of Stephen, was the property of the Hospital in 1329 (Nero, E vi. f. 137), and their lands in Sharnbrook confirmed to them by John (Chart. R. [Rec. Com.], 16) belonged to Melchbourne at the dissolution. The church of Little Stoughton was in the gift of the Hospitallers in 1413, and had previously belonged to the Templars (Linc. Epis. Reg.).
  • 5. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 803.
  • 6. Pat. 4 Edw. I. m. 32d.
  • 7. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Series), iii. 260.
  • 8. Ibid. 298.
  • 9. The first report of the Crown Bailiff is dated 32 Henry VIII., the year of the dissolution of the order generally.
  • 10. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 803.
  • 11. Ibid. 834. This property in Notts seems to have been afterwards transferred to a commandery at Ossington (Cott. MS. Claudius E. vi. f. 24b).
  • 12. Feud. Aids, i. 12, 13.
  • 13. Ibid. 17, 18, 20.
  • 14. Ibid. 26, 28, 29, 30, 32.
  • 15. Ibid. 38, 39, 40, 42, 46. These knight's fees are only said to be held by the prior of the hospital; and it is possible that they may not all have belonged to the preceptory of Melchbourne.
  • 16. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 803.
  • 17. List of Min. Accts. after the suppression of the monasteries at P.R.O.