Hospitals: St Nicholas, Royston

A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1971.

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'Hospitals: St Nicholas, Royston', in A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 4, (London, 1971) pp. 464. British History Online [accessed 4 March 2024]


The hospital of St. Nicholas, Royston, with a chapel in which mass was to be said three times a week for lepers there, was founded, according to the statement of the warden in 1358-9, (fn. 1) by a certain Ralph son of Ralph son of Fulk, who afterwards granted the chapel and advowson of the hospital by charter to Giles de Argentein. As, however, the house was certainly in existence in 1213 (fn. 2) and Ralph was still living in 1283, (fn. 3) he appears to have been the founder of the chapel rather than of the hospital. Possibly the patronage of the chantry was given to the Argenteins because they were already connected with the house: for they seem to have been lords of the site, (fn. 4) which there is good reason to believe was on the Cambridgeshire side of Royston. (fn. 5)

King John received the brothers of the house into his protection in January 1212-13, (fn. 6) and granted them a fair to be held on the vigil and feast of the Translation of St. Nicholas (fn. 7); and Henry III in March 1235-6 confirmed to them the fair, extending its duration to three days. (fn. 8)

This fair and 30 acres of land in the neighbourhood given for the maintenance of the chaplain (fn. 9) comprised apparently the whole endowment of the hospital, which must have depended largely on alms.

Poverty, plague or fear of robbers may have brought it to an end. In July 1359 it was reported as long deserted, 'lepers refusing to come or dwell there,' and the services with the chantry endowment had in consequence been transferred from the chapel of St. Nicholas to that of St. James. (fn. 10) No names of masters survive, for although John de Norwich was called Warden of St. Nicholas in 1359, there was then apparently no hospital of that name in Royston.


  • 1. Chan. Inq. p.m. 33 Edw. III (1st nos.), no. 44. He was concerned to prove that the hospital and chantry were not of royal foundation, and that their lands therefore should not have been taken into the king's hands. Apparently he established his case (Cal. Close, 1354-60, p. 587).
  • 2. Rot. Lit. Pat. (Rec. Com.), 96.
  • 3. See Broadfield, V.C.H. Herts. iii, 210.
  • 4. In 1359 the land was held of the Earl of Richmond and John Argentein by the service of finding a lamp in the church of Wendy, co. Camb.
  • 5. The old burial ground found at the north end of the town (Kingston, op. cit. 46-7) was probably the cemetery of this hospital, for the advowson of St. Nicholas Chapel, Royston, figures in the 15th century among the Cambridgeshire possessions of the Alingtons, the descendants of the Argenteins (Chan. Inq. p.m. 38 & 39 Hen. VI, no. 42).
  • 6. Rot. Lit. Pat. (Rec. Com.), 96.
  • 7. Cal. Rot. Chart. 1199-1216 (Rec. Com.), 189b.
  • 8. Inspeximus July 1371 (Pat. 45 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 32).
  • 9. Cal. Close, 1354-60, p. 587.
  • 10. Cal. Close, 1354-60, p. 587.