Colleges: Chapel and Gild of the Holy Ghost, Basingstoke

Pages 214-215

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

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The extensive and beautifully situated ruins of the chapel of the Holy Ghost, in a large and well-planted cemetery to the north of the town, are well known by sight, as they stand so close to the railway station and at once attract attention.

Hasty observers might be apt to conclude that the cemetery was of comparatively late origin, but on the contrary it is far older than the ruins. It is supposed that this extramural bury ing-place for the town had its origin during the interdict in the reign of John (1208-14), when churchyards were closed. On the removal of the interdict the ground would be consecrated, and a chapel probably erected for masses for the faithful departed there buried. At all events it is an historic fact that a chapel of the Holy Ghost stood in the liten or corpseland, as it is still called, prior to the year 1244, when William Raleigh, Bishop of Winchester, assigned a third of the offerings in that chapel to the vicar of Basingstoke. Simon, chaplain of the chapel of the Holy Ghost, is one of the witnesses to a deed of 1250 in the muniment room of Merton College.

That the chapel was one of considerable size and importance becomes manifest when St. David's, acting for the Bishop of Winchester, held a large ordination therein on 24 May, 1309. The numbers then ordained were 45 first tonsure, 30 acolytes, 24 subdeacons, 20 deacons and 22 priests. (fn. 2)

In 1463, Michael Skylling conveyed to John Powlett, William Brocas and others (as trustees) certain messuages, gardens, lands and tenements in Basingstoke which he had lately had by the gift of John Bettys, for the endowment of an obit to be kept yearly in the chapel of the Holy Ghost on the anniversary of John Bettys. The trustees were to keep the buildings in repair, and to distribute on the Monday next after the Ascension to the priests, clerks and poor people attending 3s. 4d., yielding the surplus to the wardens of the chapel for the remuneration of the chaplain there celebrating. At what time a gild was attached to the chapel has not been ascertained. The licence or charter granted by Henry VIII. on the joint petition of Bishop Fox and Lord Sandys is dated November, 1525, and recites that the townfolk, 'out of their devotion to the third person in the Divinity,' had long before begun and tontinued the maintenance of a gild or fracernity in honour of the Holy Ghost which the king desired to establish on a permanent basis. The brethren and sisters were accordingly vested with powers to receive and hold gifts of land and other property, being constituted a corporate body with a common seal, and were empowered to elect an alderman and two wardens annually for their better government. No provision was made for a chaplain (one had been already endowed), nor was there any reference to any educational object.

The Valor of 1535 gave £6 13s. 4d. as the chaplain's income. The tithe of all ecclesiastical benefices having been assigned to the king, the sum of 13s. 4d. was demanded. But the warden of the gild for the year 1536 refused payment, and the bishop together with the collector petitioned to be exonerated on certain specified grounds. Thereupon the Crown ordered the sheriff to hold an inquiry, with the result that a return on oath was made, testifying that long before the passing of the late Act, certain wardens of the gild, out of their devotion and freewill, and by reason and consideration of the unhealthiness of the air and of the pestilential infection which frequently broke out in the parish and town of Basingstoke, maintained a chaplain to celebrate divine service in the chapel of the Holy Ghost, and were accustomed to pay him the yearly stipend of £6 13s. 4d. provided he in all things behaved himself well; that the said chaplain had no possessory title except the will of the wardens and was removable at their pleasure; and that there was no fixed chantry, nor ever had been in the said chapel. The wardens either forgot or conveniently ignored the obit endowment of 1463 which was among their documents. The exchequer, in 1540, devised the exoneration, and the wardens were released from any further demands.

This gild of the Holy Ghost escaped the operation of the Act of 1545 for the suppression of such institutions, on account of the king's death; but it fell a victim to the renewed legislation of Edward VI. In 1550 the Crown granted the confiscated possessions of the gild to John Doddington and William Warde for the sum of £1,675 4s. 8d. In 1552 a portion of the estates were leased by the Crown for twenty-one years to John Carter. In 1556 the townsfolk petitioned Philip and Mary for a revival of the gild and a restoration of its endowments. A new charter of incorporation was granted, wherein, in reviving the fraternity, it was stated that the licence of Henry VIII. provided for the celebration of divine service in the chapel and for the instruction and education of young men and boys within the town. The estates were restored and the old government of aldermen, wardens, and brethren and sisters re-established. The funds were to be used for providing a suitable priest who was to be responsible for the chapel services and for the education of the young.

The later history of the gild will be found in the section upon the Schools of the county.


  • 1. A short account of the history of this chapel and gild was issued by Rev. S. Loggon in 1742, of which an enlarged edition was printed in 1819. The History of Basingstoke by Messrs. Baigent & Millard (1889) deals thoroughly with the subject, pp. 110-71, and appendix 663-77. The sketch here given is mainly based on this last volume.
  • 2. Winton. Epis. Reg., Woodlock, ff. 320b, 321.