Hospitals: God's House, Portsmouth

A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1903.

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, 'Hospitals: God's House, Portsmouth', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2, (London, 1903) pp. 206-208. British History Online [accessed 30 May 2024].

. "Hospitals: God's House, Portsmouth", in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2, (London, 1903) 206-208. British History Online, accessed May 30, 2024,

. "Hospitals: God's House, Portsmouth", A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2, (London, 1903). 206-208. British History Online. Web. 30 May 2024,

In this section


In the time of King John, a hospital for the relief of the poor was founded at Portsmouth by Bishop Peter des Roches, which usually went by the name of Domus Dei, or God's House.

The dedication of this hospital apparently fluctuated considerably, generally varying between St. John Baptist and St. Nicholas, the former eventually dying out. This probably arose from the original general dedication of the whole building being changed at a period of refounding or enlarging, and this in its turn differing from the dedication of the chapel. Or there may have been two separate foundations that were amalgamated. It is named St. John Baptist in 1283, 1284, 1305 and 1308; and St. Nicholas in 1235, 1298, 1314, 1349, 1361, 1356, 1376, 1393, etc. (fn. 1)

On 2 November, 1214, King John granted a charter of confirmation to the hospital just recently built at Portsmouth in honour of the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin, the Holy Cross, the Blessed Michael, and All Saints, for the maintenance of Christ's poor. The gifts confirmed were eleven messuages from different donors in the town of Portsmouth, land at Westwood in Portsmouth, the gift of the burgesses; and 15 shillings in rents. (fn. 2)

In 1224 and again in 1236 there were further grants to this house under the title of the hospital of St. Nicholas. (fn. 3) In 1229 provision was made that the privileges of God's House should not interfere with those of the parish church, and the former was bound to pay 5s. quarterly as a pension to the mother church. (fn. 4) In the reign of Henry III. and subsequently, the head of this hospital was occasionally styled prior, but more usually master or warden.

In June, 1284, a quitclaim was granted to the Bishop of Winchester of the hospital of St. John Baptist, Portsmouth, whereof the king had recently impleaded him. (fn. 5)

The master and brethren of God's House were accustomed to receive 15s. rent charge from the tenants of the manor of Wymering by the gift of the Earl of Albemarle. In 1285 John le Botillier exchanged his manor of Ringwood for that of Wymering, and no mention was made of this charge to which he objected. Whereupon the king, desiring that the gift should be confirmed to God's House, granted John le Botillier 15s. yearly at the exchequer until he was provided with land to that yearly value. (fn. 6)

Before this hospital 'for Christ's poor' had been in existence for a century, the usual gross abuse of its funds, namely the providing largely from its small income for an absentee head, began to operate. In January, 1305, Pope Clement V. granted dispensation to Robert de Hartwedon, at the request of Hugh le Despencer, whose clerk he was, to hold the rectories of Dinton and Thingdon, as well as another benefice, conjointly with the Portsmouth hospital of Domus Dei. (fn. 7)

In 1306 the right of free warren over the manors of Portsmouth, Fodrington and Feldershey was granted to the hospital. (fn. 8) The advowson of this hospital was granted to the Bishops of Winchester in 1316. (fn. 9)

In 1319 Ralph de Camoys obtained judgment against Robert, the warden of the house of St. Nicholas, Portsmouth, with respect to the moiety of the manor of Lafham, which had been assigned to the hospital in 1299. (fn. 10)

A chantry was founded here in 1325, with the assent of William de Harewedon, warden of the house of St. Nicholas and the convent of the same, and with the bishop's confirmation. The founder was Joan, daughter and heir of Alan Plokenet, and widow of Sir Henry de Bohun. The chaplain was to be presented by Joan and her heirs, and he was to say daily mass for the founder, for Robert de Harewedon, the late warden, and for William the present one, and for their parents and friends. (fn. 11) In 1340 Thomas de Hatfield, the king's clerk, obtained a grant for life from the Crown of the hospital of St. John, Portsmouth. (fn. 12)

In 1342 Edmund Arundel, described as brother of the Earl of Arundel and kinsman of the king, petitioned the pope for reservation of a canonry and prebend of Salisbury, notwithstanding that he already held a prebend of York and the wardenship of Portsmouth hospital. The petition was at once granted. (fn. 13) On a vacancy occurring in 1348, through Arundel's death, the Bishop of Winchester, instead of hastening to secure the advowson for some resident administrator, at once petitioned the pope for a dispensation to allow his nephew John Edingdon, who, though a B.A., was only in his eighteenth year, to hold the wardenship of St. Nicholas, Portsmouth, in conjunction with a prebend of Lincoln and the rectory of Burghclere. The pope complied. (fn. 14) The pluralities that Bishop Edingdon so disgracefully secured for his young nephew are specially illustrated in this appointment. A protest was raised at Portsmouth on the appointment to the hospital of John Edingdon, as it was not considered, from the wording of the papal mandate, that the pope was aware of all the young man's preferments. But neither bishop nor pope were to be thwarted, and in 1350 John was confirmed in the wardenship of St. Nicholas, although it was acknowledged that he then held a canonry and prebend of Lincoln, the church of Cheriton, the hospital of St. Cross, and a canonry of Salisbury, with expectation of a prebend. (fn. 15) The estate of the hospital of St. Nicholas was ratified by the Crown to Nicholas de Wykeham as master on 5 February, 1388, together with four prebends, the church of Witney and the archdeaconry of Wilts. (fn. 16) Bishop Wykeham, by his will, left a set of vestments and a chalice to the hospital.

On the resignation of the mastership of St. Nicholas by Thomas Kirkeby, in 1461, Bishop Waynflete collated William Elyot to that office. (fn. 17)

When the Valor Ecclesiasticus was drawn up (1535), John Incent held the mastership. The gross annual value was returned at £79 13s. 7½d., and the clear value, after distribution of alms, etc., at £33 19s. 5½d., the latter sum being apparently the master's income.

Leland, who was at Portsmouth about 1539, says: 'There is also in the west south west part of the town a fair Hospitale sumtyme erected by Petrus de Rupibus, Bishop of Winchester, Whereyn were a late xij poore men and yet vj be yn it.' This last master of the Portsmouth hospital and of St. Cross, Winchester, is identical with John Incent, born at Berkhamstead in 1480, who became dean of St. Paul's in 1540. He took the degree of bachelor of laws at All Souls' College, Oxford, in 1507, and in 1513 was made commissary to Fox, Bishop of Winchester. He is best known as the founder of Berkhamstead Free Grammar School in 1541. (fn. 18)

This house was formally surrendered to the Crown by John Incent on 2 June, 1540. (fn. 19) The chapel was spared, being first used as a chapel royal attached to Government House, and afterwards converted into a garrison chapel.

Masters and Wardens of God's House, Portsmouth

Robert de Hartwedon or Harewedon, (fn. 20) 1305, 1319
William de Harewedon, 1325
Thomas de Hatfield, (fn. 21) 1340
Edmund Arundel, 1342, 1348
John de Edingdon, nephew of the Bishop of Winchester, (fn. 22) 1348, 1350
Thomas de Edingdon, nephew of the Bishop of Winchester, resigned in 1366
Nicholas de Portsmouth, (fn. 23) 1366
John de Wormenhall, 1376
Richard de Wykeham, 1376-8
Nicholas de Wykeham, (fn. 24) 1378
John Stacy, king's clerk, (fn. 25) 1386
Thomas Kirkeby, 1461
William Elyot, (fn. 26) 1461
John Incent, 1535, 1540


  • 1. Wright's Domus Dei of Portsmouth (1873). This is in the main an account of the garrison chapel; but it has a good historical introduction.
  • 2. Charter Roll, 16 John, pt. 1, m. 6.
  • 3. Pat. 20 Hen. III. m. 120.
  • 4. Woodward's Hist. of Hants, iii. 334.
  • 5. Pat. 12 Edw. I. m. 11.
  • 6. Ibid. 13 Edw. I. m. 14. John le Botillier received this 15s. from the exchequer until 1293, when knd in lieu was found for him; Pat. 21 Edw. I. m: 5.
  • 7. Cal. of Papal Letters, ii. 10.
  • 8. Charter Roll, 35 Edw. I. n. 8.
  • 9. Ibid. 10 Edw. II. n. 5.
  • 10. Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.) p. 334.
  • 11. Winton. Epis. Reg., Stratford, f. 14. The Patent Rolls of a later date (1331) show that William de Harewedon was not only collated by the bishop to this wardenship, but also to the church of Crondale.
  • 12. Pat. 14 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 28.
  • 13. Cal. of Papal Petitions, i. 8; Cal. of Papal Letters, iii. 81.
  • 14. Cal. of Papal Petitions, i. 144, 153; Cal. of Papal Letters, iii. 274.
  • 15. Cal. of Papal Letters, iii. 357.
  • 16. Pat. 11 Rich. II. pt. 2, m. 36.
  • 17. Winton. Epis. Reg., Waynflete, i. f. 125b.
  • 18. Cussans' Hertfordshire, iii. 76. It is strange that Dean Incent is omitted in the Dict. of Nat. Biography.
  • 19. Dep. Keepers' Reports, viii. app. 2. p. 38.
  • 20. Cal. of Paper Letters, ii. 10.
  • 21. Pat. 14 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 28.
  • 22. Cal. of Papal Petitions, i. 144, 153; Cal. of Papal Letters, iii. 274.
  • 23. Winton. Epis. Reg., Edingdon, i. 134b.
  • 24. Ibid. Wykeham, i. ff. 79, 100.
  • 25. Pat. 10 Rich. II. pt. 1, m. 20.
  • 26. Winton. Epis. Reg., Waynflete, i. f. 125b.