Hospitals: St Mary Magdalen, Allington

Pages 98-100

A History of the County of Dorset: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

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At Allington, (fn. 1) anciently a village not far distant from Bridport and now forming part of the borough, was a lazar house or hospital for lepers dedicated to the honour of St. Mary Magdalen. Various accounts are given of its foundation. Coker, in his Survey of Dorset, attributes it to the family of the Chideocks. (fn. 2) Hutchins, reciting an instrument contained in the corporation archives of Bridport, states that it was 'founded, or rather better endowed,' by John Holtby, canon of Salisbury and custos of the house de valle scholarium or Vaux College, in the latter part of the reign of Henry VI. (fn. 3)

Other records show us, however, that the house had at that time been in existence for considerably over two hundred years, and may claim to be one of the earliest foundations of its kind within the county. In 1232 Henry III granted letters of protection without limit to the lepers of St. Mary Magdalen of Bridport, (fn. 4) as from its proximity to the town it was indifferently termed, and by her will dated St. Gregory's Day, 1268, Christine de Stikelane left among other bequests to the religious establishments of the town and neighbourhood 'vid. to the Magdalene house of Adlington.' (fn. 5) The hospital appears to owe its original endowment—if not foundation—to the de Lega or de Legh family, for by a document, previous to the year 1265, and still preserved at Bridport, William de Legh the son of Philip de Legh (fn. 6) granted to the house of St. Mary Magdalen of Allington called 'The Hospital of the Lepers of Mary Magdalen of Bridport' for the good of his soul and for the soul of his wife Dame Nicola de Legh 50 acres of arable land in 'Alingtone' with pasture for one steer, six oxen, three cows, and fifty sheep, a sufficiency of marl for marling their lands, of turf to be taken from his moor, and liberty to be 'sterefry' and toll-free in his mill. In return for these benefactions two chaplains at least should be appointed by the house 'of laudable life and honest conversation,' one of whom should say a mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a special collect for his soul and for the souls of Dame Nicola his wife, Geoffrey de Auk' and Isota his wife, Master John de Bridport, physician, and Robert the serjeant of 'Alingtone'; the other chaplain, on days not feast days, should pray in his first prayer especially for the souls of the same. (fn. 7)

Further, a covenant dated at Leghe, 1265, between William de Legh, knight and lord of Allington, and William de Stikelane and Hugh Rodhum, provosts of Bridport, and other good and lawful men, sets forth that whereas the said William had given to the said provosts &c. full power to administer his grant of lands to the two chaplains, brethren, and lepers of St. Mary Magdalen of 'Alingtone' aforesaid, they were empowered to compel the said chaplains, brethren, and lepers to observe the terms of the grant, and directed to hold an inquisition yearly at Easter and Michaelmas to ascertain whether the chaplains were living honestly, and whether the brethren and lepers were treated in a due and humane manner, together with other conditions of the grant. (fn. 8)

The later grant of John Holtby in 31 Henry VI aforementioned was of the nature of a re-foundation, the terms of which were carefully planned with a view to safeguard the interests of the parochial chapel of St. Swithun, within whose limits the hospital lay, and to prevent the possibility of any dispute between the two. Drawn up with the consent of the dean and chapter of Salisbury, here given as patrons of the house, it gave permission to the brethren and sisters of the hospital to have two chaplains to celebrate daily in their chapel, 'saving the rights of the chapel of St. Swithun.' They might receive all obventions and oblations of the said chapel, but none from the parishioners of Adelington or Allington. Certain tithes were assigned or rather confirmed to them from their first foundation and their present benefactor quitclaimed to them 1 mark of silver which they were accustomed to pay annually to the chapel of St. Swithun for their 'chantry.' The brethren and sisters were expected to provide for the chaplains. (fn. 9)

As time went on and Allington became practically merged into Bridport, we find the hospital more usually entered under the name of the latter; in the confusion thence arising, many writers have supposed that there were two religious foundations at Bridport, both of which, according to the early edition of Hutchins and Tanner, were dedicated to the honour of St. John the Baptist, while the explanation offered by the editors of the late and amended edition of Hutchins hardly accounts for the fact of two entries appearing under Bridport in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, one of which we can now see belongs to Allington. (fn. 10) All the ecclesiastical authorities of the town in 1444 joined together in aid of the work of repairing the haven, promising for themselves and their successors that all benefactors of the port should be remembered in the prayers and masses they were bound to offer daily for their founders; the list of clerical persons thus associated includes the names of John Hasard, chaplain of the 'chantry' of the Blessed Mary Magdalen, and John Brode, chaplain and stipendiary there. (fn. 11)

The Valor of 1535, which gives the hospital as the priory of Blessed Mary Magdalen of Bridport, states that it was worth £6, and that Henry Danyell was prior there (fn. 12); by the chantry commissioners it was valued at £6 8s. 4d., and again at £7 8s. 4d., and they reported that it had among its possessions 'one chalice of 6 oz.,' two pairs of old vestments, two candlesticks worth 8d., and two bells worth 20s.; the house was certified

to be ordeyned for the relief of lepers and lazar men and to one priest to say mass before them, the profits thereof the priest hath for his stipend, the poor men live by alms of the town. (fn. 13)

The last incumbent, Robert Blakewell, received a pension of £6. (fn. 14) In the third year of his reign Edward VI granted the hospital and lands belonging to it to Sir Michael Stanhope and John Bellow, and in the same year they came into the possession of Giles Kelway. (fn. 15) Under the name of the Magdalen Charity the hospital still exists as an almshouse for eight poor women.


John Brode, occurs 1444 (fn. 16)

Henry Danyell, occurs 1535 (fn. 17)

Robert Blakewell, last incumbent (fn. 18)


  • 1. In Domesday Book the village occurs as Adelingtone (Rec. Com. i, 80b). Later it is given also as Athelington or Allington.
  • 2. Op. cit. (ed. 1732), 24.
  • 3. Hutchins, Hist. of Dorset, ii, 206.
  • 4. Pat. 16 Hen. III, m. 3.
  • 5. From the corporation archives quoted by Hutchins under 'Bridport,' ii, 19, note a.
  • 6. In the reign of King John, 1206, Richard Wallensis quitclaimed to Philip de Lega and Clarice his mother all his rights in half a knight's fee in Allington; Hunter, Pedes Fin. ii, 95.
  • 7. Rec. of Corp. of Bridport (Hist. MSS. Com.), Rep. vi, App. 486.
  • 8. Ibid. 485–6.
  • 9. Hutchins, Hist. of Dorset, ii, 206.
  • 10. They hazard the conjecture that these two houses were one and the same without accounting for the fact of the separate entries. Leland's description by its ambiguity has furthered the error. Proceeding from Chideock to Bridport he says 'there was in sight or ever I came over the river into Bridport a lazar house and not far off a chapel of St. Magdalen in the which is a chantry founded. And over the bridge a little by west in the town is a chapel of St. John'; Leland, Itin. iii, 61.
  • 11. Ibid. ii, 16.
  • 12. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 232.
  • 13. Chant. Cert. 16, Nos. 51, 62.
  • 14. Pensions to Religious in Dorset, Add. MS. 19047, fol. 8d.
  • 15. Hutchins, op. cit. (ed. 3), ii, 206.
  • 16. Ibid. 16.
  • 17. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 232.
  • 18. Add. MSS. 19047, fol. 8d.