Hospitals: St Giles, Kepier

Pages 111-114

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

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The hospital at Kepier, near Durham, was founded in 1112 by Bishop Flambard, who dedicated it to God and St. Giles, and endowed it with his vill of Caldecotes (fn. 1) with its appurtenances; the mill of Milneburn; and two sheaves of corn from every carucate of his demesnes of Newbottle, Houghton, Wearmouth, Ryhope, Easington, Sedgefield, Sherburn, Quarrington, Newton, Chester, Washington, Boldon, Cleadon, Whickham, and Ryton. (fn. 2)

When Cumin contended with Bishop William de St. Barbara for the possession of the bishopric of Durham, the bishop with Conyers and his men took refuge for a time in St. Giles' Church, which they fortified. Failing to obtain an entrance into Durham they retired (1144) to Bishopton, and Cumin ravaged the country and burnt down the church and hospital of St. Giles. (fn. 3) It is evident from Simeon's account of these events that the hospital then stood on the hill, close to the church; when Bishop Pudsey rebuilt it some years later, (fn. 4) he chose a lower site on the right bank of the Wear at some distance from the church, (fn. 5) for the sake, probably, of shelter and a good water-supply.

Bishop Pudsey ordained that the fraternity should consist of a master and thirteen brethren under the usual monastic vows. Six of them were to be chaplains, one acting as confessor, while the remaining seven were to undertake the respective duties of steward, keeper of the tanyard, baker, miller, granger, keeper of the stock, and receiver or attorney-general of the house. Provision was made for an infirmary, a common dormitory, and a common hall; also for an annual supply of decent clothing to all the brethren, with boots twice a year for the chaplains; and for the others, who had more active employments, footgear of a more serviceable kind ('socularibus cum coreis ligatis') as often as might be required. (fn. 6)

Bishop Pudsey confirmed Flambard's foundation and endowment, and added the vill of Clifton. He exempted St. Giles' Church, which had been originally built to serve as a chapel to the hospital, from archidiaconal control, and confirmed the possessions of the house in Weardale, viz. a lead mine, an iron mine, a toft, certain tithes, and pasture for all the cattle. (fn. 7)

During his episcopate Gilbert the chamberlain gave the brethren leave to make their mill-dam and mill-pool on his land near the new site; (fn. 8) Gilbert Hansard gave the vill of Amerston [Aymundeston] and 5 oxgangs in Hurworth for the support of a chaplain to pray for his soul and the souls of his kindred; (fn. 9) and Stephen the chaplain gave all his land at Southcroft in Gilesgate. (fn. 10) By a charter, the date of which is not known, Guy of Hutton granted lands in Hutton to the hospital, but these were subsequently transferred to Finchale Priory. (fn. 11) By various later grants the hospital became possessed of small parcels of land, &c., in Medomsley, (fn. 12) Frosterley, (fn. 13) Claxton, (fn. 14) Amerston, (fn. 15) Eppleton [Epplingden], Barnes, Estwell, Crawcrook, Derncrook, (fn. 16) and Holmersk, (fn. 17) and of the vills of Hunstanworth (fn. 18) and Iveston. (fn. 19) In 1332 the master of Kepier was accused of having acquired, without licence, a plot of pasture called 'Le Tung' and 'Enelishop' in Styford, co. Northumberland. The king took the land into his own hands, but on learning that Ralph, a former master, (fn. 20) had acquired it long before the Statute of Mortmain from Hugh de Bolbek, then lord of the said pasture, he at once restored it. (fn. 21) This pasture was held of John of Lancaster in frankalmoign; he remitted the rent of 5 marks, 4 July, 1315. (fn. 22) At some time during the fourteenth century the advowson of Hunstanworth was transferred from Durham priory to the hospital, and in 1445 Bishop Neville appropriated to it the rectory of St. Nicholas, Durham, with its glebe in Old Durham. (fn. 23) In 1371 the master held a tenement in Newcastle. (fn. 24)

In 1306 the Scots, raiding under the command of Brus, set fire to the hospital and amongst other damage burnt down the muniment-room, thereby destroying all the ancient charters and other records of the house. (fn. 25) To remedy this disaster Bishop Kellaw issued a commission to inquire what lands the hospital held, and by what rents and services. Counterparts of some of the charters were in existence, and others were verified on oath. (fn. 26)

Five years later Peter of Thoresby, master of Kepier, was summoned to appear before the bishop to answer a charge of misappropriating the goods of the house, (fn. 27) and in the autumn of the same year (1311) the bishop ordered a visitation of the hospital, with a view to the reformation of certain defects and excesses. (fn. 28)

In April, 1312, Queen Isabel, wife of Edward II, lodged at Kepier, apparently for one night, and the sum of £18 17s. 9d. was paid to the master, Hugh de Montalto, for her expenses. (fn. 29) Probably the money was not unwelcome, for the house had been in a very depressed state since the Scottish invasion, (fn. 30) on which account Bishop Kellaw, in July, 1312, granted to it the tithes of all the recently reclaimed wastes near Gateshead and at 'Brounsyde' in the parish of Auckland. (fn. 31) At the bishop's request the brethren, possibly glad to gratify their patron, granted to William of Pencher for his good service a livery in their house, i.e. while in good health to serve in the hall and eat with the brethren at table; when sick, to have a fit place in the house, and a sufficient supply of bread, ale, &c., and when disabled, to have a robe and 6s. 8d. a year. (fn. 32)

Three years later (1315) the bishop conferred a still more substantial benefit upon the hospital. He founded the prebend of Kepier in the collegiate church of Auckland, endowing it with the tithes of certain lands newly brought into cultivation, and appropriating it in perpetuity to the master of Kepier for the time being, who was to have a stall in the choir and all the rights of a prebendary. In return the master was to provide a sub-deacon at a salary of £1 10s. per annum for Auckland church; two additional chaplains (making eight in all) were to be maintained in the hospital to celebrate mass for the souls of the bishops of Durham, past, present, and to come; ten additional paupers were to be relieved at the hospital in the daily evening distribution; and the bishop's anniversary was to be kept, masses being said for him, and a special allowance of food given to thirteen poor persons. The master was exempted from attendance at synods, (fn. 33) chapters, visitations, &c., and was to reside in the hospital unless in personal attendance on the bishop. (fn. 34)

In October, 1316, the see of Durham being vacant, the king displaced Hugh de Montalto, and made Simon of Eycote master in his stead. The mandate on this appointment is directed to the 'brethren and sisters' of the hospital; (fn. 35) and the 'sisters' are again mentioned by Bishop Tunstall in 1532; (fn. 36) but there is no account of any provision for women at Kepier. Possibly the words are merely formal.

Simon of Eycote ruled over the house for four years, at the end of which time the king, for some reason which is not stated, withdrew the appointment and restored Hugh de Montalto to his former dignity. (fn. 37) Hugh, perhaps by way of compensation, promised, so soon as he had full possession of the hospital, to enfeoff Simon of £10 worth of land in Amerston, Hurworth, and elsewhere. (fn. 38)

The tenants of the hospital suffered severely in the Black Death; and as this scourge was accompanied by a failure in the crops and murrain amongst the cattle, the house was reduced to great poverty, and Bishop Hatfield in 1351 granted an indulgence of 300 days to all who contributed to its relief. (fn. 39) The prior and convent of Durham granted to the hospital in the following year the advowson and glebe of Hunstanworth church, in exchange for an annual outrent of 13s. 4d. (fn. 40) This, however, can have been of little benefit to the hospital, for some time at least, as the necessary expenses in repairing the chancel and manse were so great as to render the presentation of a rector impossible, so that a stipendiary chaplain had to be appointed. (fn. 41)

In 1378 the priors of Durham and Finchale were commissioned by the bishop to visit St. Giles', but there is no record of their proceedings. (fn. 42) Some sixty years later (1437), under Bishop Langley, another visitation took place. (fn. 43) Richard Bukley, the master, had apparently been accused of maladministration of the goods of the house, and a searching inquiry took place, which resulted in his full acquittal. (fn. 44) When Bishop Neville succeeded Langley he granted Bukley (1439) a similar acquittance (fn. 45); and upon the master's retiring on account of age he bestowed on him a pension of 40 marks per annum. (fn. 46)

Another charge of waste and misappropriation of funds was made in Bishop Tunstall's time (1532), and he announced his intention of inquiring into the matter (fn. 47); but there are no returns of his visitation.

In the returns of 1535-6 the clear value of Kepier Hospital is given as £167 2s. 11d. per annum. (fn. 48) The house was surrendered to the king 14 January, 1545-6, and was granted in the same year to Sir W. Paget, who afterwards reconveyed it to the king in exchange for the college and manor of Burton-on-Trent and other lands. (fn. 49) Edward VI granted it to John Cockburn, lord of Ormiston, (fn. 50) who, seventeen years later, sold it with all its dependencies to John Heath, warden of the Fleet. (fn. 51)

Masters of Kepier Hospital

Adam, occ. 1189 (fn. 52)

Ralph, occ. between 1228 and 1237 (fn. 53)

De Argentino, occ. between 1241 and 1249 (fn. 54)

John de London, occ. 1254, 1258 (fn. 55)

Peter de Tylynsby, occ. 1300 (fn. 56)

Peter de Thoresby, occ. 1306-15 (fn. 57)

Hugh de Montalto, occ. 1311-17 (fn. 58)

Simon de Eycote, app. 17 October, 1316 (fn. 59)

Hugh de Montalto, restored 22 November, 1320 (fn. 60)

Edmund Howard, occ. 1341-45 (fn. 61)

William Legat, occ. 1348 (fn. 62)

Richard Rotere, app. 14 January, 1362-3 (fn. 63)

Hugh Herle, or Neile, occ. 1388 (fn. 64)

Robert Wycliff, occ. before 1405; d. 1423 (fn. 65)

Richard Bukley, app. 1423; res. 1439 (fn. 66)

John Lound, app. 1439 (fn. 67); occ. 1455 (fn. 68)

Henry Gillowe, res. 1479(?) (fn. 69)

Ralph Booth, app. 1479 p.r. Gillowe (fn. 70)

Thomas Colston, app. 1497 p.m. Booth (fn. 71)

Roger Layborn, 1501-3 (fn. 72)

Thomas Wytton (fn. 73)

John Boer (fn. 74)

William Franklyn, occ. 1520; res. 14 January, 1545-6 (fn. 75)

Two illustrations of the seal of St. Giles' Hospital are given in Archaelogia Aeliana; each is in shape a pointed oval: the first (? thirteenth century) bears the cross of St. Cuthbert, with the legend—


the other a cross with two arms, and the words—



  • 1. Feod. Prior. Dun. (Surt. Soc.), 77.
  • 2. Found. Chart. printed, Mem. of St. Giles' (Surt. Soc.).
  • 3. Sim. Dun. Hist. Cont. (Rolls Ser.), 151-9.
  • 4. After 1153.
  • 5. See chart. printed, Mem. of St. Giles' (Surt. Soc.), 195.
  • 6. 'Ordinatio Hospitalis de Kepier,' printed by Hutchinson, Hist. Dur. ii, 301.
  • 7. Pudsey's Charters II, iii, Mem. of St. Giles' (Surt. Soc.), 196, 199.
  • 8. Ibid. 202.
  • 9. Ibid. 198.
  • 10. Ibid. 206.
  • 11. Chart. printed, Priory of Finchale (Surt. Soc.), 100.
  • 12. Charter, Mem. of St. Giles' (Surt. Soc.), 203.
  • 13. Ibid. 198.
  • 14. Ibid. 200.
  • 15. Ibid. 125.
  • 16. Ibid. App. A.
  • 17. Reg. Palat. Dun. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 1287.
  • 18. To hold of the bishop, by the twelfth part of a knight's fee; see Hatf. Surv. (Surt. Soc.), 109.
  • 19. Mem. of St. Giles' (Surt. Soc.), App. A.
  • 20. Ralph was master temp. Bp. le Poor (1228-37).
  • 21. Close, 6 Edw. III, m. 23.
  • 22. Pat. 8 Edw. II, pt. 2, m. 3.
  • 23. Mem. of St. Giles' (Surt. Soc.), pp. xxvii, xxviii.
  • 24. Bourne, Hist. Newcastle, 202.
  • 25. Mickleton MSS. No. 32.
  • 26. Surt. Hist. Dur. iv (2), 63.
  • 27. Reg. Palat. Dun. (Rolls Ser.), i, 34.
  • 28. Ibid. 92.
  • 29. Script. Tres. (Surt. Soc.), App. lxxxvii, pp. cv, cvi.
  • 30. Reg. Palat. Dun. ii, 1164.
  • 31. Ibid. i, 190; ii, 1164.
  • 32. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. iv, 391; Reg. Palat. Dun. iv, 411.
  • 33. The master, however, was summoned to attend a synod held in the Galilee of the cathedral, 4 Oct. 1507; Script. Tres. (Surt. Soc.), App. cccxvi.
  • 34. Reg. Palat. Dun. ii, 1272.
  • 35. Pat 10 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 11; see also Pat. 14 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 4.
  • 36. Dur. Epis. Reg. Tunstall, fol. 5.
  • 37. Pat. 14 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 4.
  • 38. Close, 14 Edw. II, m. 14 d.
  • 39. Dur. Epis. Reg. Hatfield, fol. 20.
  • 40. Reg. Eccles. Dun. iv, fol. 108.
  • 41. Dur. Epis. Reg. Hatfield, fol. 28.
  • 42. Ibid. fol. 140 d.
  • 43. Ibid. Langley, fol. 248.
  • 44. Ibid. fol. 249 d.
  • 45. Dur. Treas. Reg. iii, fol. 242.
  • 46. Ibid. fol. 241 d.
  • 47. Dur. Epis. Reg. Tunstall, fol. 5.
  • 48. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. (ed. 1846), vi, 731. In a list of hospitals in the bishop's gift in the beginning of Bishop Tunstall's Epis. Reg. 1530, the value of Kepier is stated to be £100.
  • 49. Repert. Orig. MS. B.M. iv, 200; see the Particular for the Grant, MS. Harl. 7389, p. 3.
  • 50. Pat. 23 May, 6 Edw. VI.
  • 51. Surt. Hist. Dur. iv (2), 65.
  • 52. Mickleton MS. No. 32; Surt. Hist. Dur. iv (2), 65.
  • 53. Mickleton MS. No. 32; see Close, 6 Edw. III, m. 23.
  • 54. Mickleton MS. No. 32.
  • 55. Hunter's MSS. and Script. Tres. c. vi, 43.
  • 56. Reg. iii, P. and C. Dunelm. fol. 83b.
  • 57. Reg. Palat. Dun. (Rolls Ser.), i, 34; ii, 1097, 1176, &c.
  • 58. Script. Tres. App. lxxxvi, pp. cv, cvi; Dur. Treas. Reg. ii, fol. 67b.
  • 59. Pat. 10 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 11.
  • 60. Pat. 14 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 4.
  • 61. Mickleton MS. No. 32.
  • 62. Close, 22 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 5 d.
  • 63. Dur. Epis. Reg. Hatfield, fol. 130.
  • 64. Hunter's MSS.; Surt. Hist. Dur. iv (2), 65.
  • 65. Dur. Wills (Surt. Soc), 66 n.; Hunter's MSS.
  • 66. Mickleton MS. No. 32.
  • 67. Dur. Treas. Reg. iii, fol. 241.
  • 68. Script. Tres. (Surt. Soc.), App. ccxlviii.
  • 69. Hunter's MSS.
  • 70. Mickleton MS. No. 32.
  • 71. Dur. Epis. Reg. Fox, fol. 13.
  • 72. Surt. Hist. Dur. iv (2), 65.
  • 73. Hunter's MS.
  • 74. Ibid.
  • 75. Mickleton MS. No. 32.
  • 76. Arch. Aeliana (New Ser.), ii, 56.