Hospitals: St Leonard, Chesterfield

Pages 81-82

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

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



On the south-east side of the old borough of Chesterfield, at a place near the Rother, which still goes by the name of Spital Bridge, there was founded in the twelfth century a hospital for lepers. It was dedicated to St. Leonard the French hermit, a most popular saint with the Normans; to whom leper hospitals were frequently dedicated in recognition of his special care for the sick. The hospital was originally endowed, by John when count of Mortain, with the dues from the markets and fairs of the borough; but in 1195 a rent-charge of £6 on the manor of Chesterfield was assigned in lieu of the market and fair tolls. (fn. 1) In the first year of his reign, John granted simple protection by charter to the lepers of Chesterfield; (fn. 2) in the seventh year the income due to the hospital from the manor is entered as £6 10s., and by charter dated 26 July, 1207, the king formally confirmed 'to God and the blessed Leonard and to the infirm of Chesterfield,' the rent-charge of £1, in exchange for the grant that he had originally made of the market dues. (fn. 3)

Protection, or licence to beg alms, was granted by the crown to the leper hospital of St. Leonard, Chesterfield, in 1221; to hold good from that date until the King Henry III came of age. (fn. 4)

The crown, in 1225, granted 5 marks for the infirm of Chesterfield. (fn. 5) In the same year one Gilbert was chaplain of the infirmary at Chesterfield, by which title this hospital was doubtless signified. (fn. 6)

In 1228 Henry III granted oaks from the royal forests for the repair of their chapel, (fn. 7) and two years later assigned to the hospital six acres of pasture in Peak Forest. (fn. 8)

A grant was made by Henry III, in 1234, to the lepers of St. Leonard's, Chesterfield, that they should receive the £6 a year of the gift of King John out of the manor of Chesterfield, at two terms, namely Michaelmas and Easter, at the hands of whoever held the manor of that king. (fn. 9)

Simple protection, or warrant for begging alms, was granted by Edward I, in December, 1276, to the master and brethren of the hospital of St. Nicholas, Chesterfield; (fn. 10) but as no other reference to a hospital of this dedication can be found, it is probably an error for St. Leonard.

The Taxation Roll of 1291 gives the annual value of the hospital as £6 13s. 4d.

The apppointment to the mastership of this hospital was vested in the lord of the manor of Chesterfield, and hence was in the hands of the Wakes for some generations, and is specifically mentioned in various inquisitions. (fn. 11) The inquest held at Derby on 21 November, 1442, after the death of Joan countess of Kent, who died seised of the manor of Chesterfield and its appurtenances, stated that the advowson of the hospital of St. Leonard went with the manor.

On 1 April, 1311, Edward II granted for life to Robert de Tymparon, king's clerk, the custody of this hospital of St. Leonard, by reason that the custody of the lands and heir of John Wake were in his hands. At the same time a writ de intendendo was directed to the brethren and sisters of the hospital. (fn. 12) Protection was granted in July of the same year to the new master for two years. (fn. 13)

According to the Close Rolls of the same date, Robert de Wadehouse, escheator this side Trent, was ordered to pay to Robert de Tymparon, the master of St. Leonard's, £6 yearly and the arrears of same, which the master was wont to receive from time out of mind by the hands of the bailiffs of the manor of Chesterfield, and which had not been paid him since that manor came into the king's hands, by reason of the wardship of the land and heir of John Wake, tenant in chief of the late king, upon the death of Joan his late wife—provided he by inquisition or otherwise shows that the masters of the hospital were wont to receive the said sum. (fn. 14)

In 1319 protection was granted by the crown for one year to William de Hoveden, master of the hospital. (fn. 15)

Edward III, when at Nottingham in July 1334, granted protection for one year to the leprous men of the hospital of St. John, Chesterfield, to enable them to seek alms for the support of their house. (fn. 16) This entry of 'St. John' must we suppose, be a scribe's error for St. Leonard. Possibly there were altars both to St. John and St. Nicholas in the chapel; or there may have been two chapels within the precincts, as was the case at the hospital of Kingsthorpe, near Northampton. It may, however, have been the case that there was another small unendowed lazar-house at the gates of Chesterfield, entirely dependent on alms.

At the time of the drawing up of the Valor Ecclesiasticus (1535) the commissioners could not estimate the annual income of this hospital, as a suit was in progress between George earl of Shrewsbury and John Blythe archdeacon of Coventry with respect to its emoluments. It would appear that its income, like that of so many of the mediaeval hospitals, had gradually become estranged from its original object, and was in the main held by non-resident pluralist masters.

The Chantry Roll (fn. 17) of Edward VI explains the result of the litigation named in 1535. It says:—
There hathe been an hospytall called St. Leonard's granted by King Hen. VII to Sir Jo. Blythe clerk for term of hys lyff by letters patent XXV Aug. in XXiii yere of hys reygne. By vertue of an acte of Parlyamente Margaret late Countess of Salsburye (who held the manor of Chesterfield) toke it from Jo. Blythe by the space of xxiii yeres paste and dyd graunte the lordship in exchaunge to George late Erle of Saloppe, so Frauncysse now Erle of Saloppe is in possessyon of the hospytall.

On the extinction of hospital chantries later in the reign of Edward VI, the property of St. Leonard's was seized by the crown.


  • 1. Pipe R. 10 Ric. I.
  • 2. Rot. Chart. 1 John, pt. 2, m. 26d.
  • 3. Rot. Chart. 9 John, m. 8; and Rot. de Finibus, 9 John, m. 12.
  • 4. Pat. 6 Hen. III, m. 6.
  • 5. Pat. 9 Hen. III, m. 1.
  • 6. Close, 9 Hen. III, pt. 2, m. 9.
  • 7. Chart. R. 12 Hen. III, m. 14.
  • 8. Close, 14 Hen. III, m. 20.
  • 9. Pat. 18 Hen. III, m. 10; see also Close, 17 Hen. III, m. 10, and 18 Hen. III, m. 18.
  • 10. Pat. 5 Edw. I, m. 26.
  • 11. Inq. p.m. 26 Edw. III, No. 54; 30 Edw. III, Nos. 2, 25; 9 Ric. II, No. 54; 10 Hen. IV, No. 51.
  • 12. Ibid. 3 Edw. II, m. 10.
  • 13. Ibid. 4 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 21.
  • 14. Close, 4 Edw. II, m. 8, 2.
  • 15. Pat. 13 Edw. II, m. 43.
  • 16. Pat. R. 8 Edw. III, pt. 8, m. 4.
  • 17. Chant. Cert. 13, No. 14.