Hospitals: St John & St James, Royston

Pages 462-464

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

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The founder of the hospital of St. James at Royston (fn. 1) was probably Richard Argentein, as stated in 1547-8. (fn. 2) The patronage belonged in 1276 to his son Giles Argentein, and continued to be exercised by his descendants (fn. 3); while the house was certainly in existence in Richard's time, since in 1227 Walter de Gray, Archbishop of York, granted an indulgence of thirteen days to all who contributed to the support of the sick brothers and sisters coming to the hospital of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. James of Royston. (fn. 4)

Possibly it was a hospital not only for the sick but for poor wayfarers: in 1389 it is mentioned as the house of alms, (fn. 5) and the Chantry Returns, although confusing the hospital with a chantry there, (fn. 6) report that it was founded for the relief of poor people coming and going through the town of Royston.

Letters of protection were given by Henry III to the master and brothers in 1251, (fn. 7) and in 1267, when the hospital is called St. James and St. John. (fn. 8)

In 1302 Bishop Dalderby visited the hospital by deputy, and found its state entirely satisfactory. (fn. 9)

Very little is known about its affairs. The master of St. James was a party to a law-suit about a tenement in 1260-1, (fn. 10) and in 1295 the hospital was taxed at 11s. 2¾d. for the eleventh and seventh. (fn. 11) Before the middle of the 14th century the chapel of St. Nicholas was amalgamated with the hospital of St. James, (fn. 12) to the material benefit of the latter, which also in August 1359 received permission from the king to acquire in mortmain land to the annual value of 100s. (fn. 13)

In 1389 Thomas Strete bequeathed to the house 20s. to buy beds, (fn. 14) and in 1393 Henry Strete left 6s. 8d. towards the roof of its chapel.

How long the place continued as a hospital is uncertain : in 1486 it was already a free chapel. (fn. 15) It is still called hospital in the Valor, (fn. 16) but the term is evidently a mere survival, as in the Chantry Returns of 1549-50 where it is applied to what was obviously the chantry of St. Nicholas refounded in the hospital of St. James in the 14th century. (fn. 17)

Its yearly value in 1535 was £5 6s. 10d. net, (fn. 18) in 1549-50 £7 5s. 5d. gross and £6 8s. 6½d. net, (fn. 19) its revenues being apparently derived from property in Barley and Therfield (co. Hertford), Kneesworth, Melbourn and Chishall (co. Cambridge). (fn. 20)

Masters or Wardens of the Hospital of St. John and St. James, Royston

William, occurs 1291 (fn. 21); William de Melreth, died 1297 (fn. 22)

John de Litlington, instituted 1297, (fn. 23) died 1335 (fn. 24)

William de Langrave, instituted 1335, (fn. 25) resigned 1355 (fn. 26)

John de Norwich, priest, instituted 1355, (fn. 27) occurs 1358 and 6 July 1359 (fn. 28)

Walter Spersholt, resigned 1363 (fn. 29)

John de Eston, instituted July 1363 (fn. 30)

Philip Walles, resigned 1377 (fn. 31)

Richard Freman, instituted 1377, (fn. 32) resigned 1389 (fn. 33)

Thomas Gery, instituted 1389 (fn. 34)

Thomas Foulmere, resigned 1397 (fn. 35)

John Wigworth, instituted 1397 (fn. 36)

Robert Eyr, instituted 1408 (fn. 37)

John Yernyng, instituted 1444 (fn. 38)

William Alyngton, died 1452 (fn. 39)

John Byke, presented 1452, (fn. 40) died 1486 (fn. 41)

Thomas Payn, presented 1486, (fn. 42) died 1514 (fn. 43)

John Colyngton, presented 1514, (fn. 44) occurs 1517 (fn. 45)


  • 1. From a survey of the parish taken in 1630 the hospital was evidently situated at the corner of Baldock Street and Dead Street in co. Hertford (Add. MS. 5820, fol. 33, 34 d.).
  • 2. Chant. Cert. 20, no. 62.
  • 3. Clutterbuck, op. cit. iii, 561.
  • 4. Archbp. Gray's Reg. (Surt. Soc.), 24 ; Cussans, Hist. of Herts. Odsey Hund. 102.
  • 5. Lond. Epis. Reg. Braybrook, fol. 398 d. No other hospital is known at Royston at this date but that of St. John and St. James.
  • 6. It is called the hospital of Richard Argentein founded by licence of Edward III to find a priest for ever for the relief of poor people, &c. Part of this refers to the chantry of St. Nicholas, which was refounded in the reign of Edward III, but part does not. (See Hospital of St. Nicholas, Royston.)
  • 7. Pat. 35 Hen. III, m. 9.
  • 8. Ibid. 51 Hen. III, m. 20.
  • 9. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Dalderby, fol. 49 d.
  • 10. Kingsbury, Hist. of Royston, 48.
  • 11. Lay Subs. R. bdle. 120, no. 5.
  • 12. See Hospital of St. Nicholas, Royston.
  • 13. Pat. 33 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 12. Licence was given at the request of John of Gaunt, Earl of Richmond, who appears to have been the overlord of the Argenteins (Chan. Inq. p.m. 33 Edw. III [1st nos.], no. 44).
  • 14. Lond. Epis. Reg. Braybrook, fol. 398 d., 405 d. The first was rector of Much Hadham, the other, rector of Barley.
  • 15. Cal. Inq. p.m. Hen. VII, i, 14. William Alington, who died in 1486, held the advowson of a free chapel in Royston. His descendant, Sir Giles Alington, had the advowson of the hospital of St. John and St. James (Feet of F. Div. Co. East. 2 & 3 Philip and Mary), so the free chapel was clearly the same as the hospital. The Alingtons were the heirs of the Argenteins.
  • 16. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 278.
  • 17. Chant. Cert. 20, no. 62.
  • 18. Valor Eccl. loc. cit.
  • 19. Chant. Cert. 20, no. 62.
  • 20. Pat. 5 Jas. I, pt. xvii, m. 16.
  • 21. Lay Subs. R. bdle. 120, no. 2.
  • 22. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Sutton, fol. 91 d.
  • 23. Ibid. It is now called the hospital of Saints John and James.
  • 24. Ibid. Inst. Burghersh, fol. 383.
  • 25. Ibid.
  • 26. Ibid. Gynwell, fol. 359.
  • 27. Ibid.
  • 28. Chan. Inq. p.m. 33 Edw. III (1st nos.), no. 44; Cal. Close, 1354-60, p. 587. He is called warden of the hospital of St. Nicholas, but that had been amalgamated with the house of St. John and St. James.
  • 29. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Buckingham, pt. i, fol. 283 d.
  • 30. Ibid.
  • 31. Ibid. fol. 314 d. He then exchanged with Freman, but is still called master of the hospital of Saints John and James, Royston, in 1381 (Cal. Pat. 1377-81, p. 555).
  • 32. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Buckingham, pt. i, fol. 314 d.
  • 33. Ibid. pt. ii, fol. 258.
  • 34. Ibid. He exchanged with Freman.
  • 35. Ibid. fol. 286.
  • 36. Ibid. He exchanged with Foulmere.
  • 37. Ibid. Repingdon, fol. 338.
  • 38. Ibid. Alnwick, fol. 167.
  • 39. Clutterbuck, op. cit. iii, 562.
  • 40. Clutterbuck, op. cit. iii, 562.
  • 41. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Russell, fol. 138.
  • 42. Ibid.
  • 43. Clutterbuck, op. cit. iii, 562.
  • 44. Ibid.
  • 45. Kingston, op. cit. 207.