Hospitals: St Julian by St Albans

Pages 464-467

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

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Geoffrey Abbot of St. Albans (1119-46), with the consent of the convent, built a hospital for lepers outside St. Albans on a piece of land called Kingesho along Watling Street, and dedicated it to the honour of St. Julian. (fn. 1) For its maintenance he assigned (fn. 2) tithe of rent of the vill of St. Albans, viz., 60s. (fn. 3); rent of 30s. from Sarratt; tithe of corn of the lordships of 'Hamstede' (fn. 4) and Kingsbury; portions of tithes in the parishes of St. Michael and St. Stephen, Aston, Codicote, and in the lordships of St. Albans and of Roger de Limesy in Bradway in St. Paul's Walden, and certain tithes in Streatley, Henlow, Silsoe, Stanford in Southill (co. Beds.), Ralph Perot's lordships of Lindsell and Hawkswell (co. Essex), and a hide which Robert son of Weneling had in Astwick (co. Beds.). The endowment of Geoffrey and others was confirmed to the hospital by Henry II, (fn. 5) who himself made the lepers a perpetual grant of 1d. a day, (fn. 6) and the sum of 30s. 5d. was paid to them annually by the Sheriff of Hertfordshire from 1160 onwards. (fn. 7)

The brothers received two papal bulls, (fn. 8) that of Pope Gregory (fn. 9) extending the protection of St. Peter to them and their goods and confirming the gifts of Abbot Geoffrey, the King of England and others; that of Pope Innocent (fn. 10) granting papal protection and confirmation and forbidding tithes to be taken of their orchards, woods and animals.

The perpetual right which the Perots claimed to place a leper in the hospital was disputed in 1278. The master refused to admit Ralph Perot's nominee, and a suit was consequently brought against him. (fn. 11) However, in the end Abbot Roger came to terms with Ralph and settled the difficulty. (fn. 12)

No light is thrown upon the working of the hospital until the 14th century, but in 1305 it had as master a certain papal chaplain, Reginald of St. Albans, (fn. 13) who held three churches and three prebends, so that it is hardly likely that the lepers received much of his attention.

The events recorded in an undated petition of the lepers to the king (fn. 14) occurred probably in the reign of Edward II. (fn. 15) It states that the abbot while on a visitation had demanded the keys of the common chest and view of the lepers' own goods. On their demurring he had them turned out of their house, and had broken the locks and carried off their private property to the value of £60 and more, the greater part of which belonged to two brothers, Walter and Hugh de Aylesbury; he had moreover broken open the common chest and taken away their charters and privileges. They therefore begged the king to appoint persons to inquire into these and other matters which they would then disclose. The confiscation of the money seems sheer robbery, but it is not easy to arrive at the truth in these cases. The brothers resented, and probably resisted the visitation itself, as contrary to their rights, (fn. 16) and in this were quite wrong. The constitutions made by Abbot Michael in 1344 (fn. 17) show that discipline was lacking there, and the author of the Gesta Abbatum (fn. 18) says plainly that the lepers had hitherto had more freedom than was good for them or the reputation of the hospital. These regulations, after stating that there were often fewer lepers (fn. 19) than could be supported on the hospital property, (fn. 20) provided that in future there should be six lepers there who were to be admitted by the abbot or his archdeacon; preference was to be given to monks of St. Albans or persons born within the abbey's jurisdiction, and married men were not to be received except under certain conditions. (fn. 21) Their dress of russet colour was to consist of a tunic with sleeves which were to extend to the hand and were not to be stitched up or buttoned, a super-tunic closed to the ankles with sleeves covering the elbows, and a cowl; when they went to church they were to wear black cloaks with hoods as of old; they were to have large boots and might wear hose. At a suitable hour, not very early because of their ill-health, a bell was to be rung, and they were to go to the chapel to hear hours and mass said by the rector, called the chaplain of the lepers; afterwards they must go straight back to the hospital. They were forbidden to loiter on the high road between the church and the house, or to pass the bounds of the hospital except by leave of the master, who must never allow them to go to the town of St. Albans, to stay away the night, or to enter a brewery, bakehouse or grange. (fn. 22) No women were to enter the hospital but the washerwoman on her business or near relations of the brothers visiting them in sickness, and then only in daylight. When a leper was received as brother he was to make an inventory of the goods he brought with him, onethird of which he might bequeath by will to servants of the place or meritorious persons; the rest at his death went to the community. By old custom each leper was allowed 7 loaves a week, 5 white and 2 brown, 14 flagons of ale or 8d.; on certain feasts (fn. 23) a loaf, a measure of ale or 1d., and ½d. in money; at Christmas 40 flagons of good ale or 40d.; at Martinmas a pig from the store or money; and during the year a quarter of oats, a bushel of beans, another of peas and 2 bushels of salt or the current price, 14s. for firing, 4s. for clothing, an occasional penny for a pittance and a share of the king's gift of 30s. 5d. (fn. 24) Instead of the one priest (fn. 25) there were to be five, and more if the income of the place increased; they must be men of good character (fn. 26) and were to be examined by the archdeacon and admitted by him or the abbot. Their dress, like that of the priests of Pré, was to be a tunic, long-sleeved super-tunic closed to the ankles, tabard and hood, all of black, (fn. 27) and each was to have a mark a year for clothing, the master 2 marks. They were to have meals together, (fn. 28) and were to live and sleep in pairs until a common dormitory could be made. Services (fn. 29) were to begin at dawn, the priest of the week (fn. 30) saying the hours and another brother the mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary; then were to come the services for the lepers, to be followed by the mass of the day said by the priest of the week; all the inmates were to attend vespers and compline; arrangements were made for festivals, and for prayers for the benefactors of St. Albans and St. Julian's. The master, who was to be chosen from the chaplains by the abbot and if unsatisfactory was removable by him, was empowered to correct small faults, but correction otherwise was to be left to the abbot. Chapters were to be held twice a week; and pensions and corrodies (fn. 31) were never to be granted on any pretext whatever.

In 1342 an attack had been made on the property of the hospital at Park and Tyttenhanger, and the common seal, deeds and other muniments stolen, (fn. 32) and usurpations of its possessions, attributed by Abbot Michael partly to the carelessness of the brothers, were apparently not unusual. Edward III made them the reason for appointing a commission of inquiry in 1355, on the ground that there had been in consequence a decrease in the number of lepers in the house, and therefore of prayers for his ancestors, who he assumed were founders. (fn. 33) The result is not known, but it is unlikely that Thomas de la Mare, then Abbot of St. Albans, acquiesced in this encroachment on his rights.

This abbot interested himself personally in St. Julian's, acting as confessor to the lepers in spite of the physical unpleasantness of the task. (fn. 34) He also made rules for the place. (fn. 35) After a preamble stating that the hospital was founded and maintained by the Abbot and convent of St. Albans, and that to the abbot therefore belonged the control of spiritual and temporal things there, he insisted on the rule as to clothes being kept; the lepers must wear high boots with three or four lacings, and low shoes were prohibited; those who wished to become brothers were to be on probation that their ways and speech might be under observation; the brothers were to love God and show mutual charity; in church they were to sit in the order in which they entered the hospital and not to presume through pride to take another's place, and silence must be observed during service; loitering near the high road was forbidden; none was to pass the bounds of old established; only the brother to whom such charge was committed was to enter the brewery or bake-house, and he was never to go near the bread and ale, since it was not fitting that men with their disease should touch things destined for the common use of men; the doors towards the garden were to be kept well closed to prevent scandals and other evils that might arise from free entrance, and brothers were not to go out without special leave; a brother passing the bounds should be punished by the withdrawal of his allowance, and anyone absenting himself a day and a night without leave of the abbot or archdeacon should be accounted a fugitive, and not enter again without the abbot's permission; the regulation about women was again laid down with more emphasis (fn. 36); brothers who perpetually quarrelled and sowed discord were to have their allowances withdrawn; they might have private property (fn. 37) but when they died or left the hospital it should belong to the house; no brother might make a will without the master's leave; seculars and probationers were to be excluded from chapters, and private chapters 'which might rather be called conspiracies' were forbidden. The points touched on were the same as beforem but penalties for disobedience were more clearly defined, and the inference is that the rules had not been kept and greater severity was necessary.

The advowson of the chapel of St. Julian was given in 1353 to the master and brethren of the hospital, who had permission to appropriate the church (fn. 38); but in 1396 the rectory was made over to the chamber of the Prior of St. Albans (fn. 39) on the resignation of William Burcote, the rector, who was assigned a pension for life. (fn. 40) This may mean that the charater of the place was changing, and the disturbances of the 15th century merely hastened the end of an institution already in decay. It was still called the Hospital of Priests and Lepers of St. Julian in 1470, when it was excused payment of the tenth on the score of poverty, (fn. 41) but the community probably survived only in the title.

Abbot William Albon by appointing Ralph Ferrers master for life in 1475 (fn. 42) caused considerable trouble to one of his successors. Ramryge, who became abbot in 1492, wanted to deprive him for dilapidating the property, and hoped to attain his object through a doctor of canon law named Robinson, who was to have the office if Ferrers could be removed. (fn. 43) At some stage of the proceedings the abbot managed to get possession of Ferrers's letters of collation and sequestrated the revenues of the hospital. (fn. 44) But it was all useless. Although Robinson was appointed, (fn. 45) he could not turn his rival out, and at last resigned his claim to the abbot. (fn. 46) When Ferrers died Ramryge granted the nomination to the king, but meanwhile Dr. Robinson gave the hospital for maintenance to Sir Robert Sheffield, knight, who put in his brother and five others to occupy it for him. The abbot at the king's request took measures to get rid of the interlopers and was thereupon accussed of riot by the disappointed Dr. Robinson. It was probably the result of this affair that he obtained the king's licence on 7 May 1505 to annex the hospital or free chapel of St. Julian to St. Albans. (fn. 47)

The property appears to have been worth then about £16 a year. (fn. 48)

Masters of the Hospital of St. Julian By St. Albans

Ilbert, occurs 1145 (fn. 49)

William (fn. 50)

Nicholas, appointed in 1235 (fn. 51)

William Peytevin, occurs 1278 (fn. 52)

Reginald de St. Albans, occurs December 1305 (fn. 53)

John de Lancaster, appointed 2 June 1349 (fn. 54)

John Trylle, occurs 3 December 1449 (fn. 55)

John Walter, appointed 10 January 1463-4 (fn. 56)

John Hankyn (fn. 57)

Ralph Ferrers, LL.D., appointed 20 December 1475, (fn. 58) occurs 1500 or 1501 (fn. 59)

William Robinson, appointed in succession to Ferrers (fn. 60)


  • 1. Cott. MS. Nero, D 1, fol. 193. Charter of foundation and charter granting the lepers the land on which their houses were built free from all interference.
  • 2. Abbot Roger in 1287 confirmed to the lepers all that they then held of Geoffrey's endowment (ibid. fol. 193 d.).
  • 3. Abbot Richard de Wallingford withdrew this rent for two years, but after inspecting the brothers' charters paid it and confirmed it to them in 1329 (ibid.).
  • 4. Probably 'Henammesteda' of Domesday, now represented by Park and Tyttenhanger (see V.C.H. Herts. ii, 319).
  • 5. Cott. MS. Nero, D i, fol. 193.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Pipe R. 6-14 Hen. II (Pipe R. Soc.), passim; Hunter, Great Roll of the Pipe 1 Ric. I (Rec. Com.), 20; Close, 2 Hen. III, m. 13; Rental of St. Julians, 1506 (Cott. MS. Claud. D i, fol. 169).
  • 8. Cott. MS. Nero, D i, fol. 193.
  • 9. Probably Gregory IX, and in that case the bull was issued in 1228.
  • 10. It is dated 4 May, sixth year of his pontificate, and may have been granted by Innocent II in 1135-6, Innocent III in 1203-4, or Innocent IV in 1249.
  • 11. Assize R. 323, m. 31 (6 Edw. I).
  • 12. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 480.
  • 13. Cal. of Papal Letters, ii, 1.
  • 14. Anct. Pet. (P.R.O.), no. 7075, file 142.
  • 15. At the end of the reign of Edward I there was a royal official called Walter de Aylesbury (Cal. Close, 1302-7, pp. 67, 404, 484), and although there is nothing actually to connect him with the leper of that name, the latter and his brother were very well provided with money and were apparently the most important inmates of the hospital, for only one other of the six is mentioned. Besides extortion from dependent houses was characteristic of Hugh de Eversden, Abbot of St. Albans 1309-27.
  • 16. They considered it a contravention of Geoffrey's charter (see above).
  • 17. Cott. MS. Claud. E iv, fol. 371-4 d.
  • 18. Vol. ii, 315.
  • 19. Generally not more than three, sometimes only one.
  • 20. In 1254, according to Matthew Paris (Chron. Maj. [Rolls Ser.], v, 452), the revenues had barely sufficed for the lepers' maintenance.
  • 21. The wife must also adopt a religious life, so that the husband was freed from the marriage tie.
  • 22. A sanitary precaution for the protection of others.
  • 23. All Saints, St. Julian, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation, Trinity, St. Alban, St. John Baptist, Assumption and Nativity of the Virgin.
  • 24. The rest of the hospital income was to be applied to the maintenance of the master and chaplains.
  • 25. Certain tithes in the parishes of St. Michael and St. Stephen were allotted to him from the foundation (Cott. MS. Nero, D i, fol. 193).
  • 26. Natives of the districts ruled by the abbot to be preferred to others.
  • 27. They were to wear boots or low shoes with black or brown hose, but were not to be shod in any colour they pleased.
  • 28. In illness food was to be taken to them and money given for medicine and special diet.
  • 29. Abbot Michael gave beautiful books to the hospital both for divine service and secular use (Gesta Abbat. ii, 315).
  • 30. A table of services and those to celebrate them was to be made, so that all should take their turn in order.
  • 31. The king often provided for old servants by quartering them on religious houses. In 1318 Edward II requested the same provision to be made for Simon Plane at St. Julian's as John Giffard lately had (Cal. Close, 1318-23, p. 116). Edward III in May 1327 asked the abbot to admit a servant of his who was smitten with leprosy (ibid. 1327-30, p. 199), but when this man died another who was probably not a leper was sent to replace him (ibid. 1339-41, p. 461).
  • 32. Cal. Pat. 1340-3, p. 554.
  • 33. Ibid. 1354-8, p. 330.
  • 34. Gesta Abbat. iii, 406.
  • 35. Cott. MS. Claud. E iv, fol. 375-6 d. In the form of oath to be taken by the rector or chaplain of the lepers the abbot's name instead of being represented by a letter is given as Thomas (fol. 376 d.). After Thomas de la Mare there is no Abbot Thomas until 1492, when the need for rules at St. Julian's was over.
  • 36. The washerwoman was to be of mature age and good conduct and was to enter the brothers' houses only at certain hours. Women of bad repute were not to be allowed in the hospital. The brother who broke the rule as to female visitors, viz., with regard to the time of their departure, &c., was to be punished as if convicted of incontinency.
  • 37. The portion allotted to them in the hospital was recognized as insufficient for all their necessities.
  • 38. Cal. Pat. 1350-4, p. 481.
  • 39. Ibid. 1396-9, p. 24.
  • 40. Gesta Abbat. iii, 440-1.
  • 41. Reg. of St. Albans, ii, 86-8.
  • 42. Ibid. 120.
  • 43. Star Chamb. Proc. Hen. VIII, bdle. 34, no. 26.
  • 44. He asked to see the letters and then would not return them. See Ferrers's petition to the chancellor, c. 1493-1500 (Early Chan. Proc. bdle. 201, no. 30).
  • 45. Robinson as master of St. Julian's in 1500 or 1501 was trying to recover the muniments from Ralph, whom he called the late incumbent, and Edward Ferrers (ibid. bdle. 245, no. 20).
  • 46. Star Chamb. Proc. Hen. VIII, bdle. 34, no. 26.
  • 47. Pat. 20 Hen. VII, pt. iii, m. 18.
  • 48. £15 7s. 11d., but this did not include the tithes in the parishes of St. Stephen and St. Michael, which were let with the hospital and cemetery in 1506. Rental of St. Julian's (Cott. MS. Claud. D i, fol. 169).
  • 49. Cott. Chart. xi, 6, 8.
  • 50. He was the son of a citizen of Rochelle hanged in 1224 for his fidelity to Henry III (Matthew Paris, Chron. Maj. [Rolls Ser.], iii, 84).
  • 51. By the king during a vacancy of the abbey (ibid. 386).
  • 52. Assize R. 323, m. 24.
  • 53. Cal. of Papal Letters, ii, 1.
  • 54. Cal. Pat. 1348-50, p. 330.
  • 55. Herts. Gen. and Antiq. iii, 278.
  • 56. Harl. MS. 602, fol. 73 d.
  • 57. Cott. MS. Nero, D vii, fol. 137. He is called master of St. Julian's when he was admitted to the fraternity of St. Albans, 6 June 1478, but this must be a mistake.
  • 58. Reg. of St. Albans, ii, 120.
  • 59. Early Chan. Proc. bdle. 245 no. 20. He is then called 'the late master,' but apparently was never actually removed.
  • 60. Ibid. He professed to be master in 1500 or 1501 (see above).