Hospitals: Cirencester

Pages 122-123

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

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According to a statement of the townsmen of Cirencester in 1343, the hospital of St. John was founded by Henry I and endowed with a third of the tithe of the royal demesne of Cirencester, and three cartloads of underwood from his forest of Oakley every week. (fn. 1) They declared that by the king's provision a chaplain should sing mass daily in the oratory of the hospital, and should have a daily allowance of food from the monastery of Cirencester. The abbot and his predecessors since 1155 had appropriated the tithe, had made laymen wardens, and taken money for appointments for life. 'And so,' the townsmen continued, 'they have abated the said chantry of the king a long time; but that a widow from Cirencester, Aleyze de Weston, gave £60 to the abbot for having a chantry to chant for herself, as appears by a charter which they could show.'

It is probable that the hospital was founded by Henry I. (fn. 2) In 1222 Honorius III confirmed the appropriation of it to the abbot and convent. (fn. 3) There is no evidence to show that the hospital had a chapel which was served by its own chaplain from the time of the foundation. In 1319 Cobham, bishop of Worcester, notified to the master and the poor of the hospital that, whereas there were many old and feeble persons among them who were unable to attend mass at the parish church, he had granted a licence to them to build an oratory within the hospital and to have a priest to celebrate mass, saving the rights of the mother church. (fn. 4) An undated document in the chartulary of the monastery gives the abbot's consent, and provides that the mass in the chapel of the hospital should be celebrated after the mass in the parish church, and that the warden should pay to the convent all offerings made in the chapel. (fn. 5) The abbot and convent stated that the hospital was founded and built by their predecessors, and that they had always been in possession of the hospital free from the visitation of the ordinary, with full power over its affairs, and the right of appointment to the custody of it. The inmates were supported by the alms of the faithful, and the daily distribution of food by the almoner of the monastery, according to ancient custom.

The complaints of the townsmen were fruitless. On 20 September, 1348, for £300, Edward III gave a charter to the abbot and convent confirming their rights and privileges, including the appropriation of the hospital and the power of appointing and removing the custos. (fn. 6)

In 1535 the office of keeper of the hospital was held by one of the canons, and its income was reckoned as a part of the revenues of the monastery. (fn. 7) The gross yearly value was £6 5s. 4d.; there was a rent charge of 5s. 6d., and 13s. 4d. was paid for salt and flour to make pottage for the poor folk therein. (fn. 8) In the almoner's account a special alms of 6s. 8d. to the sisters of St. John is noted. (fn. 9) It is probable that they had their maintenance from the almoner. At the dissolution of the monastery the hospital was treated as a separate endowment, and continued. In 1546, as the result of the commission to inquire into hospitals and chantries, it was returned that the hospital was founded to find a master or keeper for ever with a salary of £2 15s. 4d., to find six poor folks for ever to have yearly 14s. 5d.; the gross income was £4 14s. 7d., the expenses were 10s. 6d., and the poor therefore got an additional sum of 14s. 4d. (fn. 10) The hospital was their parish church. It has had a continuous existence to the present day as an almshouse. (fn. 11)


According to the statement of the townsmen of Cirencester in 1343, Edith Biset of Wiggold founded the leper hospital of St. Lawrence on land which she held of the king in chief. (fn. 12) The lepers used to be maintained partly by the alms of the townsfolk and partly from the lands and rents. They alleged that the charters of the hospital had been taken away by Adam abbot of Cirencester (1307-19); that brother John of Baudington, who had been appointed master by Adam de Orlton, bishop of Worcester (1327-32), was ousted in 1336 by the abbot and his council, and a sister appointed in his stead. The lands were worth 40s. a year. The truth seems to be that Abbot William Hereward converted the leper hospital into an almshouse for women, but the complaints of the townsmen were of no avail. In 1343 Edward III confirmed the hospital to the abbot and convent. (fn. 13) In 1546, at the inquisition into hospitals and chantries, a return was made that the hospital of St. Lawrence was founded for two poor women, and that they had for their stipend the value of the land, which was worth £3 6s. 7d. a year. (fn. 14) There was no chapel in the hospital. (fn. 15) It has had a continuous existence as an almshouse. (fn. 16)


The hospital of St. Thomas at Cirencester was founded for four decayed weavers by Sir William Nottingham, who died in 1427. (fn. 17)

It has had a continuous existence.


  • 1. Brist. and Glouc. Arch. Soc. Trans. viii, 225.
  • 2. Ibid. 226.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Worc. Epis. Reg. Cobham, fol. 61 d.
  • 5. Brist. and Glouc. Arch. Soc. Trans. viii, 226.
  • 6. Cart. R. 17 Edw. III, No. 13.
  • 7. Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.), ii, 471.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Ibid. 469.
  • 10. Brist. and Glouc. Arch. Soc. Trans. viii, 228; Certificate of Chantries, Glouc. 21.
  • 11. Brist. and Glouc. Arch. Soc. Trans. xvii, 53; Kelly, Direct. of Glouc. (ed. 1906). The chapel is only a ruin.
  • 12. Brist. and Glouc. Arch. Soc. Trans. xvii, 54.
  • 13. Cart. R. 7 Edw. III, No. 13.
  • 14. Brist. and Glouc. Arch. Soc. Trans. xvii, 56.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. Kelly, Direct. of Glouc. (ed. 1906).
  • 17. Tanner, Notitia Monastica (ed. 1744), p. 152.