Hospitals: St John, Bedford

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


'Hospitals: St John, Bedford', A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904), pp. 396-398. British History Online [accessed 13 June 2024].

. "Hospitals: St John, Bedford", in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904) 396-398. British History Online, accessed June 13, 2024,

. "Hospitals: St John, Bedford", A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904). 396-398. British History Online. Web. 13 June 2024,

In this section



The date of the foundation of the hospital of St. John Baptist at Bedford is somewhat uncertain. It is dated 980 in the transcript of the foundation charter which was entered in 1399 in the episcopal registers at Lincoln, (fn. 1) and 1280 in the Chantry Certificates of Henry VIII. and Edward VI.; (fn. 2) the first date seems too early, and the second is certainly too late. Perhaps the correct date is 1180, for the first mention of the hospital is found in 1216, (fn. 3) and not long after this Bishop Hugh de Wells ordained a vicarage for the church of St. John, which belonged then to the brothers of the hospital. (fn. 4)

The founder's name was Robert de Parys; other benefactors being John and Henry St. John. (fn. 5) The original endowment was intended to support two or three religious brethren, of whom one should be master; it was to be a house of charity, where all needy persons free born of the town of Bedford (but from no other place) who had become poor by misfortune rather than by fault might seek admittance and be maintained; though none should be presented by the mayor and burgesses unless with the consent of the founder and his successors. The brethren were to live as religious, having a common refectory and dormitory; they were to have the tonsure of a priest and to wear clothing of any sober colour, covered by a dark mantle. They were to remain in the hospital for life, and, when admitted, to take an oath of obedience to the statutes and to the master; they were every day to sing the canonical hours and celebrate the divine office for the living and the dead, praying especially for the soul of the founder and other benefactors. The master was to correct the brethren ordinarily, but he might appeal to the bishop in case of necessity. (fn. 6)

In 1306 Bishop Dalderby wrote a fuller rule for the brethren, which was practically an adaptation of the rule of St. Augustine to their particular circumstances. (fn. 7) It is clear that though they were so few in number they were expected to live quite as strictly as the religious of large communities.

The church was rebuilt early in the fourteenth century, and the brethren then had a licence to beg alms for this purpose on account of their poverty. (fn. 8) The master of the hospital, Robert Rous, was appointed in 1333 to hear the confessions of all the subjects of the archdeacons of Bedford and Huntingdon. (fn. 9) He died in 1349, (fn. 10) probably of the pestilence. In 1399 (fn. 11) the hospital was reconstituted on the old foundation by Bishop Beaufort, with the same number of brethren and the same rule as before. When inquiry was being made at the end of the reign of Henry VIII. into the condition of chantries and hospitals, it was said that no poor person was kept there, nor had been for many years. (fn. 12) It appears also that there were no longer any brethren, but only a master, who was also rector of the church. (fn. 13)

The hospital was not taken into the king's hand at that time, but in 1591 an attempt was made to prove that it had reverted to the Crown by the death of the master and religious brethren. Oliver St. John and others were commissioned to inquire into the foundation and to find out who were the heirs of Robert de Parys. (fn. 14) It was finally proved that it had been united with the parish church and was the property of the mayor and corporation, who in 1628 petitioned that there should be no further proceedings against them in respect of it, 'except only by course of law.' (fn. 15) At the end of the eighteenth century the rector of the church was still called master of the hospital, and ten beadsmen received ninepence weekly from the funds of the old foundation. (fn. 16)

Neither the church nor the hospital of St. John is mentioned in the Taxatio of Pope Nicholas, but in 1216 the brothers owned a mill in Bedford. (fn. 17) In 1302 the master held one-twentieth of a knight's fee in Clophill. (fn. 18) In 1535 the revenue of the hospital, consisting mainly of small rents, amounted to £21 0s. 8d.; (fn. 19) at the end of the reign of Henry VIII. to £20. (fn. 20)

Masters of St. John's Hospital, Bbedford

Baldwin, (fn. 21) appointed 1286

William of Buckingham, (fn. 22) died 1316

Richard of Buckingham, (fn. 23) appointed 1316

Robert Rous, (fn. 24) appointed 1333, died 1349

William Rous, (fn. 25) appointed 1349, died 1374

John Appelond, (fn. 26) appointed 1374

Walter of Swineshead, (fn. 27) occurs 1384 and 1410

Thomas Hore, (fn. 28) died 1444

John Thorpe, (fn. 29) appointed 1444

John Brinklo (fn. 30)

Richard Hylston, (fn. 31) resigned 1448

William Athall, appointed 1448, (fn. 32) resigned 1456

John Goldsmith, (fn. 33) appointed 1456, resigned 1456

Thomas Kynges, (fn. 34) appointed 1456, resigned 1457

John Dovey, (fn. 35) appointed 1461, resigned 1462

Thomas Horne, (fn. 36) appointed 1462

Richard Hyndeman, (fn. 37) appointed 1462, resigned 1470

Henry Rudyng, (fn. 38) appointed 1470, died 1497

William Morgan, (fn. 39) appointed 1497, died 1509

Humphrey Gascoigne, (fn. 40) appointed 1509

William Wroxill, (fn. 41) resigned 1520

William Franklin, (fn. 42) appointed 1520

John Stringer, (fn. 43) appointed 1530

A seal of this hospital represents St. John Baptist standing, holding a long scroll inscribed SIGILLUM HOSPITALIS SANCTI JOHANNIS BAPTISTÆ DE BEDFORD. The same legend is around the margin of the seal, which is oval and very clear and distinct.


  • 1. Idbi. Memo. Beaufort, 22d. The first figure in the date is cancelled and 980 written afterwards (Beds N. and Q. i. 193).
  • 2. Chant. Cert. (Beds), I, 4.
  • 3. Pat. I Hen. III. m. 3d.
  • 4. A. Gibbons, Liber Antiquus, 20–5.
  • 5. Linc. Epis. Reg., Memo. Beaufort, 22d.
  • 6. Linc. Epis. Reg., Memo. Beaufort, 22d.
  • 7. Beds N. and Q. i. 321; transcribed from Camb. Univ. Library MS. Dd x. 28. It is dated 2 Aug. 1306. It is an amplification of the shorter rule in the episcopal register, with more than one reference to 'the rule of blessed Augustine'; alludes to the three vows of obedience, chastity and poverty, 'but above all things charity'; and prescribes penances for the transgression of the rule. The only regulation that seems a little unusual is the permission to speak briefly in low tones in the refectory; though the usual strict silence is enforced in the church, cloister and dormitory. The colour and shape of their habit was not exactly prescribed; the bishop only orders that they wear a 'uniform and humble habit, marked with a cross.'
  • 8. Linc. Epis. Reg., Memo. Burghersh, 38, 106d (1321 and 1323).
  • 9. Ibid. 268.
  • 10. Ibid. Inst. Gynwell, 378.
  • 11. Ibid. Memo. Beaufort, 22d.
  • 12. Chant. Cert. (Beds), 1.
  • 13. The Valor Eccl (Rec. Com.), iv. 191, gives only the name of a rector, who was also warden.
  • 14. S. P. Dom. Eliz. ccxl. 142.
  • 15. Ibid. Chas. I. cxxiv. 84.
  • 16. Add. MS. 5832 (Cole MSS.), f. 86.
  • 17. Pat. 1 Hen. III. m. 3d. Other small properties are mentioned Pat. 29 Edw. I. and Inq. ad q. d. 40 Edw. III. n. 7.
  • 18. Feud. Aids, i. 14.
  • 19. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 191
  • 20. Chant. Cert. (Beds), 1.
  • 21. Linc. Epis. Reg., Memo. Sutton.
  • 22. Ibid. Inst. Dalderby, 274.
  • 23. Ibid.
  • 24. Add. MS. 5832, f. 89. The masters from Richard of Buckingham are nearly all given here by Cole, as he copied them from a parish register of St. John's Church.
  • 25. Linc. Epis. Reg., Inst. Gynwell, 378.
  • 26. Ibid. Inst. Buckingham, 389.
  • 27. Add. MS. 5832, f. 89.
  • 28. Linc. Epis. Reg., Inst. Alnwick, 184.
  • 29. Ibid.
  • 30. Add. MS. 5832, 89.
  • 31. Linc. Epis. Reg., Inst. Alnwick, 187, 189. The name is given in one place as Hylston and the other as Ilvestone.
  • 32. Ibid.
  • 33. Ibid. Inst. Chedworth, 165.
  • 34. Ibid. 165d..
  • 35. Ibid. 168d.
  • 36. Ibid. 172.
  • 37. Ibid. 172d.
  • 38. Ibid. 178.
  • 39. Ibid. Inst. Smith, 438.
  • 40. Ibid. 457d.
  • 41. Ibid. Inst. Longland, 240.
  • 42. Ibid.
  • 43. Add. MS. 5832, f. 89; and Chant. Cert. (Beds), 4.