House of Knights of St Lazarus: The preceptory of Locko

Pages 77-78

A History of the County of Derby: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.

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The order of St. Lazarus, having for its main duty the care of lepers, and taking its name from the gospel statement as to Lazarus (St. Luke xvi, 20), was of great antiquity. The earliest certain date that can be assigned to its operations is the year 370, when a large hospital was founded in the suburbs of Caesarea, under the direction of St. Basil, for the reception and nursing of lepers. When the Hospitallers had been converted into a military fraternity, and the Templars established on a similar footing, the Lazarites followed their example and decided to combine knightly prowess with religious asceticism and charitable fervour. Hence it came about, in the dawn of the twelfth century, that the order of St Lazarus was formed on a joint religious and military basis. Those among them who were afflicted with the disease of leprosy, or desired to profess entire service to lepers, carried on the peaceful and religious duties of their hospitals, following the rule of St. Augustine; but such of the order as were not lepers and desired to bear arms joined the ranks of the kings of Palestine in resisting the continued inroad of the infidels, and specially charged themselves with the duty of defending the Christian leper-houses, whose numbers were constantly being recruited from among both pilgrims and soldiers. The whole order, of both grades, was subject to a grand master who was bound to be a leper. After the expulsion of the Crusaders from Palestine, the order made its head quarters in France, where Louis VII, in 1253, gave them lands at Boigny, near Orleans, and a large building at the gates of Paris, which they turned into a lazar-house for the lepers of the city. Various preceptories of the order, chiefly in France, became directly subject to the rule of the Paris house, where the grand master was established, in accordance with a bull of 1255.

The church of Spondon was granted by William de Ferrers about 1180, to the hospital of Burton Lazars in Leicestershire, a grant that was confirmed by both Henry II and John. (fn. 1) This hospital, founded in the reign of Stephen, and dedicated to the Virgin and St. Lazarus, was the chief leper-house in England, and it is usually stated, but without sufficient warrant, that the inferior lazar, or leper, hospitals throughout England were in some measure subject to its master, in the same way as he was to the master of the whole order at Jerusalem. (fn. 2) This may have been true in the twelfth and part of the thirteenth centuries, but was certainly not the case in the fourteenth century.

In addition to the valuable rectory of Spondon, Burton Lazars eventually became possessed of a good deal of landed property and rents in different parts of the parish, not only in Spondon proper, but in the hamlets of Borrowash, Chaddesden, and Locko. (fn. 3)

The Hundred Rolls (fn. 4) show that in 1274 the brethren of St. Lazarus held £10 of land in Spondon itself as well as the church, and also 100s. of land in Borrowash, and forty acres in Locko, all of which had been acquired of various donors in or before the reign of Henry III. (fn. 5)

The Taxation Roll of 1291 states that the brethren of the house of St. Lazarus held a manor at Spondon and another at Locko, and their united annual value was entered at £5 6s. 10d. These lands were confirmed to the brethren in 1296.

The master of St. Lazarus of Burton paid 26s. 8d. on land at Spondon in 1302, (fn. 6) and again in 1346, (fn. 7) and this at £2 for a fee is equivalent to the two-thirds of a fee held there by the brethren in 1296. (fn. 8)

On the confiscation of the Ferrers estates (fn. 9) at Locko there was a preceptory of the order with hospital attached dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen.

This preceptory of Locko (the only regular preceptory of the Lazarite order in England of which we have found any record), owed direct allegiance to the mother-house of the order at Paris, and hence was regarded as an alien establishment during the fourteenth-century wars with France.

On 30 July, 1347, Edward III granted letters patent to the warden and scholars of the newly founded King's Hall at Cambridge, assigning to them, towards the construction of their buildings then in progress, £20 a year from the preceptory of Locko, which is there styled 'Domus de la Maudeleyne de Lokhay in com. Derb. Ordinis militie Sci. Lazari Jerusalem.' It is stated in the letters that this was the sum paid yearly as apport or tribute by the preceptor of Locko to the head house of the order in France, and that it had become forfeited to the crown owing to the war that was being waged between England and France. This entry is followed on the Patent Roll by a copy of the mandate sent to the preceptor of Locko commanding him and his successors henceforth to pay the £20 apport to the master and scholars of King's Hall, Cambridge. This assignment of the apport was reentered in the following November, and again renewed, during the continuance of the war, in 1351. (fn. 10)

At the conclusion of the war it would appear probable that arrangements were made whereby this heavy charge of £20 was transferred, with the rest of the Lazarite property, to the general control of the English house of Burton Lazars, and Locko ceased to exist as a preceptory. At all events, when that hospital was dissolved by Henry VIII the property in Spondon township (irrespective of the rectory) was estimated to be of the annual value of £14 9s. 4d., in Locko £7 5s., in Borrowash £4 9s. 4d., and in Chaddesden 11s. 3d.


  • 1. Chartul. of Burton Lazars, Cott. MSS. Nero, C. xii, fol. 172, 205.
  • 2. Nichols, Leic. ii, 272-6.
  • 3. See various references cited in Cox, Churches of Derb. iii, 293-4.
  • 4. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i, 58.
  • 5. In 1268 the master of the Hospital of St. Lazarus calls Felice de Grey, who is resident in Devon, to be his warrantor for 6 bovates of land in Burrowash. Assize R. 144, m. 13d.
  • 6. Feud. Aids, i, 151.
  • 7. Ibid. 158.
  • 8. Inq. p.m. 25 Edw. I, No. 51.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Pat. 21 Edw. III, pt. 3, m. 34, 21; 25 Edw. III, pt 2, m. 23.