Hospitals: St Leonard, Bedford

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

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, 'Hospitals: St Leonard, Bedford', in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904) pp. 398-399. British History Online [accessed 18 May 2024].

. "Hospitals: St Leonard, Bedford", in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904) 398-399. British History Online, accessed May 18, 2024,

. "Hospitals: St Leonard, Bedford", A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904). 398-399. British History Online. Web. 18 May 2024,

In this section


The date of the foundation of the hospital of St. Leonard is even more uncertain than that of St. John. The first mention of it is found in a charter of King John, dated 1207, (fn. 1) in which he granted letters of safe conduct to the brethren and their preachers wherever they might go in England to preach and seek alms on behalf of their sick people. Eight years later another charter announced that the lepers of the hospital of St. Leonard were taken under the king's protection. (fn. 2) It is probable that one of the Bassets was founder of the house, for in a dispute which was brought before the bishop in 1294 with regard to the patronage it was decided that one Robert Dendon was patron in right of his wife, Agnes Basset, daughter of Simon Basset; though the burgesses of Bedford also had a share in it. (fn. 3)

There were at first six brethren in the house, of whom one was master; all were at least in minor orders, wore the habit of religion, (fn. 4) and probably kept a rule somewhat similar to that of the brethren of St. John's hospital. In 1294 Bishop Sutton sent an injunction to three of them by name to be obedient to their master until he should visit them. (fn. 5) In 1302 they sent a petition to Parliament for permission to purchase land to the value of £10, and a rent in Bedford. (fn. 6) This was probably for the enlargement of their area and the re-building of their house, for in 1306 they gave great offence to the abbess of Elstow by closing the pathway which led through their buildings to Bedford, and opening another instead which made a circuit round the hospital. There was a suit in Chancery in consequence, and the final grant for closing the pathway was not issued till 1308. (fn. 7)

Bishop Dalderby excommunicated one of the brethren for apostacy in 1306, (fn. 8) and visited the house in 1313 to inquire into the alleged impotence of the master and to appoint one of the others as coadjutor. (fn. 9) About this time the house was evidently becoming impoverished, for in 1331 an indulgence was granted for the repair of the chapel of the Blessed Mary, (fn. 10) and in 1353 the brethren obtained a licence to beg alms. (fn. 11) From this time for ward, though there was a regular succession of masters, nothing further is known of the history of the house. (fn. 12) The brethren probably died off gradually and their places were not filled up; and the later masters held the hospital in plurality with other benefices after it had become a sinecure. Its name does not appear in the Chantry Certificates, but at Cardinal Pole's visitation in 1556 it was alleged that it had been 'violated and occupied by laymen a great while in the time of the schism.' (fn. 13)

In the petition to Parliament of 1302 it was stated that the hospital owned only 67 acres of land and a rent of 26s., all in lay fees, and held in capite of the king, and no spiritualities. (fn. 14) In 1535 the value in rents, etc., was £16 6s. 8d. clear, (fn. 15) and the same amount is mentioned in 1556. (fn. 16)

Masters of St. Leonard's Hospital, Bedford

William, (fn. 17) resigned 1288

Walter of Torksey, (fn. 18) appointed 1288, resigned 1294

Robert Cuppe, (fn. 19) appointed 1294, died 1310

Gerard of Eaton, (fn. 20) appointed 1310, died 1314

John of Woodweston, (fn. 21) appointed 1313

William of Woodweston, (fn. 22) appointed 1349, resigned 1356

William of Bedford, (fn. 23) appointed 1356

William of Willington, (fn. 24) died 1392

Thomas Fisher, appointed 1392, (fn. 25) resigned 1398

Thomas Ulf, (fn. 26) appointed 1398, resigned 1436

John Leget, (fn. 27) appointed 1436, resigned 1441

William Barford, (fn. 28) appointed 1441

William Edwards, (fn. 29) resigned 1470

Richard Hyndeman, (fn. 30) appointed 1470

Edward Exmowe, (fn. 31) died 1480

Thomas Shenkwyn, (fn. 32) appointed 1480, resigned 1493

Richard FitzJames, (fn. 33) appointed 1493, resigned 1497

Bernard Andrew, (fn. 34) appointed 1497, resigned 1499

Hugh Oldham, (fn. 35) appointed 1499, resigned 1505

Richard Elwyn, (fn. 36) appointed 1505, resigned 1513

Reginald Bray, (fn. 37) appointed 1513, resigned 1517

John Pitts, (fn. 38) appointed 1517, occurs 1535


  • 1. Pat. 8 John, m. 1.
  • 2. Ibid. 16 John, m. 4. The first charter has 'Fratres hospitalis infirmorum,' and the second 'leprosos hospitalis Sci. Leonardi.' It was probably for both, like the hospital at Dunstable.
  • 3. Linc. Epis. Reg., Inst. Sutton, 99. It seems just possible that this Simon Basset may be really Simon Bascot (or Barescote), whose ancestors founded Caldwell Priory, and who was himself an alderman of Bedford.
  • 4. Rolls of Parl. (Rec. Com.), i. 154. The king's grace for a poor house of St. Leonard's, Bedford, where there are 'six brethren, perpetual chaplains, wearing the habit of religion.'
  • 5. Linc. Epis. Reg., Memo. Sutton, 106d.
  • 6. Rolls of Parl. (Rec. Com.), i. 154.
  • 7. Inq. ad q.d. 34 Edw. I. No. 226; Pat. 2 Edw. II. pt. 2, m. 15 (see Elstow Abbey).
  • 8. Linc. Epis. Reg., Memo. Dalderby, 98.
  • 9. Ibid. 247d.
  • 10. Ibid. Memo. Burghersh, 241.
  • 11. Ibid. Memo. Gynwell, 52.
  • 12. See list of masters.
  • 13. Strype, Eccl. Mem. iii. 485.
  • 14. Rolls. of Parl. (Rec. Com.), i. 154. To this they were to add land of £10 value.
  • 15. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 190.
  • 16. Strype, Eccl. Mem. iii. 485.
  • 17. Linc. Epis. Reg., Memo. Sutton.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. Ibid. Inst. Sutton, 99.
  • 20. Ibid. Inst. Dalderby, 265.
  • 21. Ibid. 272d. John de Woodweston's institution is dated before the death of Gerard; he must have been the coadjutor appointed in the impotence of the latter.
  • 22. Ibid. Inst. Gynwell, 382.
  • 23. Ibid. 396.
  • 24. Ibid. Inst. Buckingham, 358d.
  • 25. Ibid.
  • 26. Ibid. 372d.
  • 27. Ibid. Inst. Grey, 72.
  • 28. Ibid. Inst. Alnwick, 182.
  • 29. Ibid. Inst. Chedworth, 178.
  • 30. Ibid. He had just been master of St. John's.
  • 31. Ibid. Inst. Russell, 150d.
  • 32. Ibid.
  • 33. Ibid. 154d. Bishop of Rochester 1497.
  • 34. Ibid. Inst. Smith, 438.
  • 35. Ibid. 441. Rector of Shillington and Bishop of Exeter 1505.
  • 36. Ibid. 450.
  • 37. Ibid. 459d.
  • 38. Ibid. Inst. Wolsey and Atwater, 52d, and Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 190.