Hospitals: St Andrew, Denhall

A History of the County of Chester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1980.

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'Hospitals: St Andrew, Denhall', in A History of the County of Chester: Volume 3, (London, 1980) pp. 184-186. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

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In the early 1230s Alexander Stavensby, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, built a hospital at Denhall on the marshes of the Dee estuary to help the poor and the shipwrecked and annexed to it the neighbouring church of Burton in Wirral which had been ab antiquo a prebend of Lichfield cathedral. The dean and chapter of Lichfield, who were given Tarvin church as a prebend in compensation, confirmed the annexation and Stavensby's appropriation of Burton church to his new hospital in 1238. Gregory IX again confirmed the appropriation in 1241. (fn. 1) The hospital, which was dedicated to St. Andrew, (fn. 2) was known in the 13th century as a secular priory. In 1251 the pope confirmed the liberties and privileges of the prior and brethren but the community was evidently mixed at that period as the prior made a land grant in Burton 'by the wish and consent of the brethren and sisters there serving God'. (fn. 3) That is the only surviving reference to women living in the hospital and after it there are no further indications, apart from the name of priory, that in its early days the inmates lived under a religious rule.

On the appointment of a new warden in 1320 Bishop Walter Langton reiterated the 'traditional' constitution of the hospital: the new warden was to associate with himself two resident priests and all three were to wear the customary decent dress with a cross and were to celebrate masses and other services regularly. The warden was to act as hospitaller in admitting poor men, travellers arriving from Ireland, and others. (fn. 4) Even in the early days of the hospital the wardens were unlikely, however, to have resided permanently at Denhall. In the 1260s the prior was appointed one of the deputies of the bishop's official and also acted as the warden of the nuns of Chester. (fn. 5) From c. 1300 the wardenship or mastership of the hospital, which was valued at £10 a year, was usually held in plurality by secular clerks and several of the masters were prebendaries of Lichfield cathedral or of St. John's, Chester. (fn. 6) In the mid 15th century the compatibility of the two benefices of the mastership of the hospital and the rectorship of Burton was questioned but the bishop ruled in 1447 that both could be held by a secular clerk and in 1452 papal dispensation was obtained for the combination of the offices. (fn. 7)

Apart from the names of the masters little is known of the history of the hospital in the later Middle Ages. William de Newhagh who resigned the mastership in 1400 on the grounds of age and ill-health was said to have improved the buildings and increased the income of the poor inmates; he was granted an annual pension of 10 marks from the revenues. (fn. 8) In 1499, after the hospital had ceased to have an independent existence, extensive privileges were claimed by the master on behalf of the inmates which may have dated from the foundation. Among them were free fishing in the Dee within the hospital bounds, the right of wreck, and free warren of rabbits on the lands of the hospital. No boats were to anchor there without the master's permission and tolls were claimed on merchandise landed there for transport to Chester by land or sea. The masters had the right to make voyages in the small boat belonging to the hospital carrying corn and other necessities without licence and to buy victuals in Chester free of toll. Sheriffs and other officials could not enter the lands or waters of the hospital to exercise their offices and the master claimed to be under the special protection of the earl of Chester. (fn. 9) There is no record of further endowments after Stavensby's grant of the church of Burton though the hospital held property in St. John's Lane, Chester in the later 14th century. (fn. 10)

In January 1496 the hospital was united by the bishop with St. John's Hospital, Lichfield on the grounds that it was too impoverished to continue independently. (fn. 11) It is possible that some connexion with Cheshire was maintained after the union of the two hospitals as one of the almsmen in 1539 bore the Cheshire surname of Capenhurst. (fn. 12) The site of the Denhall hospital, which came to form the most valuable estate of St. John's Hospital, was leased after the union to Sir Thomas Smith of Hough and the buildings seem then to have been used as the parsonage house of Burton church. (fn. 13) In the 17th century the masters of St. John's tended to treat the former hospital as their personal property and in 1675 Francis Ashenhurst settled the site of the Denhall hospital and the glebe and tithes of Burton on his future wife. (fn. 14) It remained in the hands of the Ashenhurst family and in 1738 part of the hospital buildings were demolished with the permission of the bishop and the master of St. John's and a new parsonage house built in a less remote position. In 1751 the remains of the hospital buildings, then in a ruinous state, were demolished, apart from one outlying building which had been converted into a barn. (fn. 15) Some remains were still visible in 1897 and stone from the buildings was used in the wall skirting the field in which the hospital had stood. (fn. 16)

Priors, Masters, or Wardens

William, occurs about 1268-9. (fn. 17)

Auynger, occurs before 1293. (fn. 18)

Thomas of Denton, occurs 1293. (fn. 19)

Simon de Schirele, collated 1302, occurs 1310. (fn. 20)

William de Steping, occurs 1318. (fn. 21)

William de Chaveley, collated 1320. (fn. 22)

Nicholas de Hethe, occurs 1343-9, resigned by 1352. (fn. 23)

John de Charnes, or Charnele, provided 1352, died 1374. (fn. 24)

William de Newhagh, collated 1375, resigned 1400. (fn. 25)

John Luggor, or Loghere, collated 1400. (fn. 26)

William Piers, resigned 1404. (fn. 27)

William de Newhagh, collated 1404. (fn. 28)

Robert Dykes, occurs 1427. (fn. 29)

Thomas Wykersley, died 1434. (fn. 30)

Roger Wall, collated 1434, resigned 1440. (fn. 31)

Edmund Tebbet, collated 1440, died 1445. (fn. 32)

Roger Wall, collated 1445, resigned 1449. (fn. 33)

John Bothe, collated 1449. (fn. 34)

No seal is known.


  • 1. Magnum Registrum Album (Collns. Hist. Staffs. 1924), pp. 342–3; V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 143; 2nd Reg. Stretton, 132. There is no evidence to support the suggestion (3 Sheaf, xxxiii, p. 43) that the hospital was a pre-Conquest foundation.
  • 2. The dedication is unusual, even for a hospital of the type: R. M. Clay, Mediaeval Hospitals of Eng. 4–6, 255.
  • 3. 2nd Reg. Stretton, 132; 3 Sheaf, xvii, p. 88; Cal. Papal Reg. ii. 70.
  • 4. Mag. Reg. Alb., pp. 306–7.
  • 5. Ibid. p. 341; J.C.A.S. N.S. xiii. 102–3. The suggestion (3 Sheaf, xvii, p. 88) that the prior could have been a layman in the 13th cent. is unlikely.
  • 6. Tax. Eccl. 248; below.
  • 7. Lich. Jt. R.O., B/A/1/10, f. 56; Cal. Papal Reg. x. 128–9.
  • 8. Lich. Jt. R.O., B/A/1/7, ff. 166v.–167.
  • 9. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 542; 3 Sheaf, xxx, p. 63.
  • 10. 3 Sheaf, xxxv, p. 16.
  • 11. Lich. Jt. R.O., B/A/1/13, f. 185; V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 281. Rob. Frost, master of St. John's Hospital, Lich. claimed privileges in 1499 as master or warden of the priory or hospital of St. Andrew, Denhall: 3 Sheaf, xxx, p. 63.
  • 12. P.R.O., STAC 2/34/143. When St. Leonard's Hospital, Freeford was united with St. John's at the same date the prebendary of Freeford was given nomination of one of the 13 almsmen: V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 281.
  • 13. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 282, 284; 3 Sheaf, xxii, p. 87; Star Chamber Proc. (R.S.L.C. lxxi), 117. In 1535 it was valued at £13 6s. 8d.: Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 141–2.
  • 14. Staffs. R.O., D. 787/2.
  • 15. Wm. Salt Libr., Stafford, H.M. 42/8/7; H.M. Uncatalogued, box 45, 8(f.).
  • 16. Hilda Gamlin, 'Twixt Mersey and Dee (Liverpool, 1897), 234–5.
  • 17. J.C.A.S. N.S. xiii. 102–3. Possibly also in 1265: Mag. Reg. Alb., p. 341.
  • 18. 3 Sheaf, xvii, p. 88.
  • 19. Ibid.
  • 20. Lich. Jt. R.O., B/A/1/1, f. 24; Cal. Papal Reg. ii. 70.
  • 21. Cal. Papal Reg. ii. 172, 177. He also held benefices in Lincoln diocese.
  • 22. Lich. Jt. R.O., B/A/1/1, f. 87v.; Mag. Reg. Alb., pp. 306–7.
  • 23. Cal. Papal Reg. iii. 128, 184, 293, 319, 484. He held a prebend in St. Paul's Lond. and was rector of Hodnet (Salop.): Cal. Papal Pets. i. 68, 142.
  • 24. Cal. Papal Reg. iii. 484; 1st Reg. Stretton, 178. He also held the prebend of Colwich: Le Neve, Fasti, 1300–1541, Cov. & Lich. 25.
  • 25. 1st Reg. Stretton, 178; Lich. Jt. R.O., B/A/1/7, ff. 166v.–167. As he resigned the wardenship in 1400 on ground of age he was probably only a namesake of the Wm. de Newhagh collated in 1404: see below.
  • 26. Lich. Jt. R. O., B/A/1/7, f. 86v. He was a Dominican dispensed to hold a cure of souls: A. B. Emden, Survey of Dominicans in Eng. 392.
  • 27. Lich. Jt. R.O., B/A/1/7, f. 92.
  • 28. Ibid., f. 92v. Possibly the same Wm. de Newhagh, canon of St. John's, Chester, who also held offices and prebends in Lich. cath. and was vicar-general of the diocese in 1421: Le Neve, Fasti, 1300–1541, Cov. & Lich. 8, 13, 21, 26, 30; Ch. in Chester, 143.
  • 29. Cal. Papal Reg. viii. 16.
  • 30. Lich. Jt. R.O., B/A/1/9, f. 122.
  • 31. Ibid. For his offices and benefices in the diocese see Le Neve, Fasti, 1300–1541, Cov. & Lich. 15, 36, 47; Ch. in Chester, 150. He exchanged the wardenship and a prebend in St. John's, Chester, for the prebend of Offley in Lich. cath. See also Emden, Biog. Reg. Oxford, iii. 1966.
  • 32. Lich. Jt. R.O., B/A/1/9, ff. 124v., 127; Le Neve, Fasti, 1300–1541, Cov. & Lich. 47. For his other benefices see Ch. in Chester, 150.
  • 33. Lich. Jt. R.O., B/A/1/9, f. 127; B/A/1/10, f. 29.
  • 34. Ibid. B/A/1/10, f. 29. He was also treasurer of Lich. cath. (Le Neve, Fasti, 1300–1541, Cov. & Lich. 12) which office he resigned before 18 Nov. 1495 so he was probably the last master of the hospital; he was dead by Aug. 1496: Emden, Biog. Reg. Cambridge, 78.