Hospitals: In and near Luton

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

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'Hospitals: In and near Luton', A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904), pp. 399-400. British History Online [accessed 17 June 2024].

. "Hospitals: In and near Luton", in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904) 399-400. British History Online, accessed June 17, 2024,

. "Hospitals: In and near Luton", A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904). 399-400. British History Online. Web. 17 June 2024,

In this section


This hospital is said to have been founded by Saint Thomas of Canterbury, on the authority of a charter issued by the brethren and sisters in October 1465. (fn. 39) Another charter dated 1377 (fn. 40) refers to the same house; there is no other mention of it earlier or later. It was evidently a hospital for the sick, served, like many other such foundations, by brethren and sisters who followed some form of the rule of St. Augustine. The charter of 1465 is a quaint and most pretentious document, (fn. 41) offering indulgences on quite a scale to all who should contribute to the support of the hospital; on the authority of five popes, eight Archbishops of Canterbury, and some also of York and many successive Bishops of London, Chester, Chichester, Valence, Hereford, Worcester, Ely, Norwich and Lincoln. It is witnessed by Lord Wenlock, Sir Thomas Hoo and the vicar of Luton. The hospital does not appear in the Valor Ecclesiasticus; it was probably richer in spiritual privileges than in temporal possessions.


This hospital, which was for the accommodation of lepers, is only known through a single mention of it in the Patent Rolls. In 1285 Nicholas le Heyward was put in exigent for burning the house of Richard atte Wynche; and for binding the lepers of the hospital of St. John Baptist, Luton. (fn. 42)


The hospital at Farley near Luton was founded early in the reign of Henry II. on lands granted by him in 1156 to the brethren of 'Santingfeld' near Wissant (fn. 1); a master is first mentioned in 1198–9. (fn. 2) The endowment consisted of lands in Ludgershall (fn. 3) near Brill, Bucks, and in Farley near Luton, worth respectively £3 and £2 a year. It was a hospital for the poor, and appears to have been dedicated to St. John Baptist like those at Bedford, Hockliffe, Toddington, etc. Its masters are several times mentioned in legal documents, but nothing is known of the history of the house and its inmates generally. It is possible that the story of the theft of some relics of St. Luke from the 'hermitage of Farley' in 1431, and how the three thieves were pursued by the men of Dunstable as far as Barnet and the relics recovered, may refer to the chapel of the hospital, (fn. 4) though there may have been an actual hermitage in the neighbourhood.

As this hospital was a cell of the hospital at 'Santingfeld,' it was reckoned in the fifteenth century amongst the alien priories, and granted in February 1448 to King's College, Cambridge. (fn. 5)

In 1291 the master of Farley had a mill, woods and rents valued at £5 12s. altogether. (fn. 6)

A monument in Luton church which was long thought to be that of Lord Wenlock is now proved to be the tomb of William de Wenlock, master of Farley 1377 to 1392. (fn. 7)

Masters of Farley (fn. 8)

Mauger, (fn. 9) occurs 1198

William, (fn. 10) " 1239

John de la Rokele, (fn. 11) occurs 1296

John of Felmersham, (fn. 12) " 1347

William Lachebury, (fn. 13) " 1347

William of Wenlock, (fn. 14) occurs 1377, died 1392


  • 39. Add. Ch. 28882.
  • 40. Ibid. 28786. These references are given in Rev. H. Cobbe, Luton Church, 74.
  • 41. The object of the charter was to appoint a new proctor to collect alms, and to revoke all previous appointments. The indulgence granted by the popes was for eight years and forty days, and covered such offences as forgotten compacts, broken vows (on condition that they were resumed), injuries to father or mother (offensus patrū et matrū), forgotten penances, etc.; forty days from the Archbishops of Canterbury, beginning with St. Thomas the founder, with a share in all present and future privileges of the church of Canterbury; and forty or thirty days from all the other bishops. Besides this, benefactors of the hospital were to share in the benefit of as many as 32,000 masses and 47,000 psalters granted by the order of Sempringham; 20,000 masses by the Cistercians and Premonstratensians, with other prayers of number unknown, and Paters and Aves also—'no one knows how many but God.' In the list of Bishops of Lincoln Grossetête appears as 'Saint Robert.'
  • 42. 1 Pat. 15 Edw. I. m. 2d.
  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 639. Thomas Cancellarius is one of the witnesses to the foundation charter. The Pipe Rolls of 1156 and 1158 mention 'terris datis fratribus hospitalis de Witsand' in Bedfordshire. The Rev. H. Cobbe, Luton Church, 498, suggests that Henry II. had been received at the hospital at Wissant after crossing the Channel in 1156, and gave the lands on that occasion.
  • 2. Feet of F. (Rec. Com.), 10 Rich. I. 30.
  • 3. The three 'hides' there given by Henry II. are thus entered in the Testa de Neville, p. 245: 'Fratres de Huntingfeud (sic) tenent de feodo de Bruhull' in Lutegareshall' iij hydas in puram elemosinam.
  • 4. John of Amundesham, Ann. Mon. S. Albani, i. 59.
  • 5. Pat. 26 Hen. VI. pt. 1, m. 7.
  • 6. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 47, 49.
  • 7. Cobbe, Luton Church, 283.
  • 8. This list is found in Luton Church, from which nearly all the references for this hospital have been obtained.
  • 9. Feet of F. (Rec. Com.), 10 Rich. I. 30; Cobbe, Luton Church, 500.
  • 10. Ibid. 501.
  • 11. Pat. 22 Edw. I. m. 7.
  • 12. Pat. 21 Edw. III. pt. 3, m. 13. William of Lachebury was restored in this year, having been master before John of Felmersham.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. Pat. 1 Rich. II. pt. 5, m. 39. His will was proved in 1391 (Cobbe, Luton Church, 283).