Hospitals: St John Evangelist, Berkhamstead

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

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'Hospitals: St John Evangelist, Berkhamstead', in A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 4, (London, 1971) pp. 459-460. British History Online [accessed 14 April 2024]

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The hospital of St. John the Evangelist for lepers was founded at Berkhampstead certainly before 1213, for it is the subject of a charter of Geoffrey Fitz Piers Earl of Essex, who died in that year. The earl, who was evidently patron of the hospital, (fn. 1) committed it to the custody of the brothers of St. Thomas of Acon, so that under their supervision its goods and alms might be expended on the poor and sick of the hospital, and not be removed elsewhere. (fn. 2)

The master, brothers and sisters of the house received letters of protection in February 1222 until the king's coming of age, (fn. 3) and in May 1227, when the king had attained his majority, the protection was renewed. (fn. 4) A few weeks before Henry had ordered the constable of Berkhampstead to supply the lepers of St. John's for their maintenance with 4 qrs. of corn from his grange and two 'bacones.' (fn. 5)

Whatever Fitz Piers's charter may have given the canons of Acon, (fn. 6) the right of appointing the master of St. John's was not included. This apparently belonged to the owner of Berkhampstead (fn. 7) : in November 1336, when the honour was in the king's hand, he gave the custody of the hospital to one of his clerks (fn. 8); and Henry VI, while he held the manor, presented the warden. (fn. 9)

In 1391 the house is mentioned as the hospital of brothers and sisters of St. Thomas the Martyr and St. John the Evangelist. (fn. 10)

Edward IV in November 1461 inspected and confirmed Fitz Piers's deed in favour of the brothers of Acon, (fn. 11) and when the hospital, with that of St. Leonard, came to an end in 1515-16 (fn. 12) the master of St. Thomas of Acon entered into possession of the house and its property. (fn. 13) Probably the chapel was served for some years longer. (fn. 14) In September 1533, however, the place was made over to Thomas Jakes of Berkhampstead, gentleman, who in January 1536 disposed of a gilt chalice, a mass-book, three vestments and other ornaments, and in September 1539 sold the lead roof of the chapel and its bells. (fn. 15) The existence of the house was over long before the king granted it and its lands in June 1540 to Robert Horderne. (fn. 16)

Wardens of the Hospital of St. John the Evangelist, Berkhampstead

John de Rasen, appointed 15 November 1336 (fn. 17)

Henry Cows, chaplain, appointed March 1390-1 (fn. 18)

John Mildenale, resigned 1423 (fn. 19)

William Seyntpoul, appointed 11 December 1423, (fn. 20) died February 1447 (fn. 21)

Walter Osbarn, appointed 24 February 1447 (fn. 22)


  • 1. No doubt in virtue of the king's grant of Berkhampstead Manor to him.
  • 2. Inspeximus and confirmation 3 July 1325 (Cal. Pat. 1324-7, p. 128)
  • 3. Cal. Pat. 1216-25, p. 325.
  • 4. Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, p. 35.
  • 5. Rot. Lit. Claus. (Rec. Com.), ii, 173.
  • 6. As far as is known the house of Acon had no land at Berkhampstead, and in that case the suit of court there owed by the master in 1498 and 1507 (Ct. R. [Gen. Ser.], portf. 177, no. 15) can only have been due from him as representative of the Berkhampstead hospitals.
  • 7. The honour, which reverted to the Crown soon after Geoffrey Fitz Piers's death, seems after the gift of it with the earldom of Cornwall by Henry III in 1227, to have been held by the Earls of Cornwall. It was thus held by John de Eltham, who was created Earl of Cornwall in 1328 by his brother Edward III; and it was in the interval between John's death in Oct. 1336 and the bestowal of the duchy of Cornwall upon Prince Edward in Feb. 1337 that the king presented to the hospital. From this date for a long period the manor belonged to the Duke of Cornwall or Prince of Wales, and in 1423 the hospital was said to be in the gift of the king as Prince of Wales (Cal. Pat. 1422-9, p. 163). For the descent of the manor of Berkhampstead see V.C.H. Herts. ii, 165-8.
  • 8. Cal. Pat. 1334-8, p. 336.
  • 9. Ibid. 1422-9, p. 163; 1446-52, p. 42.
  • 10. Lambeth, Cant. Archiepis. Reg. Courtenay, fol. 280 d.
  • 11. Cal. Pat. 1461-7, p. 60.
  • 12. By the voluntary departure of the inmates (Rentals and Surv. [Gen. Ser.], portf. 25, no. 37).
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. At the inquiry of Mar. 1540 it was stated that Laurence Copferler, late master of St. Thomas of Acon, and John St. John, chaplain, held the hospitals and the issues of their property from Apr. 1525 to Sept. 1533 (ibid.). There seems to be a mistake as regards the first date, for Copferler did not become master of St. Thomas of Acon until 1527 (V.C.H. Lond. i, 495).
  • 15. Rentals and Surv. (Gen. Ser.), portf. 25, no. 37.
  • 16. Pat. 36 Hen. VIII, pt. ix, m. 26.
  • 17. Cal. Pat. 1334-8, p. 336.
  • 18. Through delay in appointing the master, the nomination had fallen to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the see of Lincoln being then vacant (Lambeth Cant. Archiepis. Reg. Courtenay, fol. 280 d.).
  • 19. Cal. Pat. 1422-9, p. 163.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Ibid. 1446-52, p. 42.
  • 22. Ibid.