Hospitals: St Leonard, Leicester

Pages 41-42

A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1954.

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According to Henry of Knighton, the founder of the Hospital of St. Leonard at Leicester was William the Leper, son of Robert ès Blanchemains, Earl of Leicester. (fn. 1) Knighton wrote long after the hospital's foundation, but he may well have had reliable information about the origins of an institution which stood close to the abbey where he was himself a canon. It is not known what the original endowment of the hospital was Simon de Montfort granted to it an annual rent from the honour of Leicester, and in exchange the hospital gave up its rights to a revenue of £3 previously paid to it from the bailiwick of Hinckley. (fn. 2) As Hinckley formed part of the honour of Leicester, (fn. 3) a rent from it may have been granted by William of Breteuil, the eldest son of an Earl of Leicester. In 1308 a licence was granted to the Earl of Lancaster to alienate to St. Leonard's 3 messuages, with 4 acres and 1 rood of meadow. (fn. 4) The king, in 1330, granted his protection to the masters and brethren of the hospital, collecting alms. (fn. 5) In the next year- Philip Danet granted to the hospital 5 messuages and 7½ virgates in Whetstone, Croft, and Frisby by Galby (Leics.), in return for which the hospital was to maintain a chaplain to celebrate masses in St. Clement's church, Leicester, for the souls of Philip and others. (fn. 6)

There were both brothers and sisters at St. Leonard's Hospital, at least in the 14th century. (fn. 7) They were under the control of a master, who wore a black habit bearing a red crescent and star, (fn. 8) but it is not known whether they lived under any rule. The hospital is said to have been founded to succour lepers, (fn. 9) but there is no evidence for this statement. Under the terms of an agreement of March 1396-7 for free access to the parish church of St. Leonard, which was probably adjacent to the hospital, the master of the hospital paid a yearly rent of 10s. to the Abbot and convent of Leicester, to whom the parish church was appropriated. (fn. 10) The Abbot of Leicester visited the hospital in 1397, and again in 1406. (fn. 11)

In or before 1472 St. Leonard's Hospital was bought from the king (fn. 12) by William, Lord Hastings, who granted it to the College of the Newarke at Leicester. (fn. 13) The hospital apparently continued to exist, as in 1491 it was under the supervision of the college's treasurer. (fn. 14) When the College of the Newarke was suppressed under Edward VI's Act for the Dissolution of Chantries, St. Leonard's Hospital presumably shared its fate. (fn. 15)

Masters Of St. Leonard's Hospital

John of Barrow, occurs 1367. (fn. 16)
Thomas Thornton, occurs 1392. (fn. 17)
Richard Mannefeld, occurs from 1397 to 1405. (fn. 18)
Robert Matfeyn, occurs 1438, (fn. 19) died 1445. (fn. 20)
Thomas Lughtburgh, presented 1445. (fn. 21)
Richard Ednam, presented 1461. (fn. 22)
John Kery, presented 1464. (fn. 23)
William Est, presented 1466. (fn. 24)

A 12th-century seal (fn. 25) of the hospital is a very large vesica, 3 by 1¾ in., showing St. Leonard, abbot, seated and blessing. The legend is broken away.

Another of the hospital's seals, (fn. 26) of the 15th century, is 2½ by 1 9 / 16 in. It shows a full-length figure of St. Leonard standing in a niche, holding fetters in his right hand and a crosier in his left. Below is a priest in prayer. The legend reads:



  • 1. Hen. Knighton, Chron. (Rolls Ser.), i, 62, 64. The Wm. in question is probably Wm. of Breteuil, the earl's eldest son, who died 1189-90: Complete Peerage, vii, 533.
  • 2. Rot. Parl, i, 390, where the rent granted by Simon is given as £6. 19s. 1d., and Cal. Close, 1318-23, 622, where the rent is given as £7. 19s. 1½d.
  • 3. L. Fox, 'The Honour of Leicester. Origin and Descent', E.H.R. liv, 390.
  • 4. Cal. Pat., 1307-13, 75.
  • 5. Ibid., 1330-4, 11.
  • 6. Ibid., 1330-4, 156. Nichols, Leics. i, 324, wrongly states that this grant was made to St. John's Hosp., Leicester.
  • 7. Cal. Pat., 1330-4, 156; Rot. Parl. i, 390.
  • 8. Visitations in the Dioc. of Linc. [1420-49], ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, ii, 190.
  • 9. Nichols, Leics. i, 321; T. Tanner, Notitia Mon. (1744), 242.
  • 10. Nichols, op. cit. 5, 322, citing Bodl. Libr., Laud MS. 625.
  • 11. Nichols, op. cit. i, 322.
  • 12. The patronage of the hosp. was by 1445 in the hands of the D. of Lanc. (R. Somerville, 'D. of Lanc. Presentations, 1399-1485', Bull. Inst. Hist. Research, xviii, 75) to which many of the lands of the earls of Leicester had passed (E.H.R. liv, 396-9).
  • 13. Cal. of Chart, and Other Doc. Belonging to the Hosp. of Wm. Wyggeston at Leic., ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, 89. In 1465 the next presentation to the mastership of the hosp. was granted to Hastings: Bull. Inst. Hist. Research, xviii, 75.
  • 14. Hamilton Thompson, Hist, of the Hosp. of the Annunciation in the Newarke, 131.
  • 15. The 'messuage called Saynt Leonarde's' granted away in 1550 (Cal. Pat., 1549-51,122) may have been St. Leonard's Hosp.
  • 16. Leic. Boro. Rec., 1327-1509, 401.
  • 17. Ibid. 408.
  • 18. Nichols, Leics. i, 322, citing Bodl. Libr., Laud MS. 625; Cal. of Chart, of Hosp. of Will. Wyggeston, ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, 325.
  • 19. Nichols, op. cit. i, 322; Cal. Papal Letters, 143147, 69.
  • 20. Bull. Inst. Hist. Research, xviii, 75. A grant, dated 1461, of the custody of the hosp., void by Matfeyn's death, to John Walter occurs on the Pat. R. (Cal. Pat., 1461-7, 46), but this entry does not agree with the continuous series of presentations recorded in the D. of Lanc, rec., the evidence of which has been preferred here.
  • 21. Bull. Inst. Hist. Research, xviii, 75.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. Ibid. He was a Franciscan.
  • 24. Ibid. Also a Franciscan.
  • 25. B.M. Seals, lxvi, 69.
  • 26. B.M. D.C., F46, xxxv, 66.