A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1909.
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22. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. MARY WITHOUT BISHOPSGATE
The priory or hospital of St. Mary without Bishopsgate was founded on the east side of Bishopsgate Street (fn. 1) by Walter Brown, (fn. 2) a London citizen, and Rose his wife, on ground demised to them for that purpose by Walter son of Eildred, an alderman. Brown endowed it with other land adjoining, which extended to the City boundary, and with 100s. rent from tenements in Blanchapelton, and in various London parishes, Allhallows Staining, St. Margaret Pattens, St. Peter the Little, St. Martin Ludgate, St. Sepulchre, and St. Martin Outwich. The foundation stone was laid by Walter, archdeacon of London, June, 1197, and the building was dedicated by William de Ste. Mère l'Eglise, bishop of London, 1199–1221, to the honour of God and the Blessed Virgin. The house consisted (fn. 3) of Austin canons, whose duties were religious, and lay brothers and sisters to whom the care of the sick poor was entrusted, all being under the charge of a prior. The prior and brothers acknowledged themselves subject to the bishop of London, and promised that they would not make alienations of land without his leave, which he could not, however, refuse unless it was clear that loss to the hospital would result. His permission had also to be asked in case of vacancy before the canons proceeded to elect. (fn. 4) The priory had only been in existence a short time when for some reason it was refounded in 1235, (fn. 5) and the church was moved farther to the east. (fn. 6) The all-important question of the water supply was settled at the end of 1277 (fn. 7) by the gift to them of a spring called 'Snekockeswelle' in Stepney by John, bishop of London, who gave them leave to inclose it and bring the water by underground pipes into the hospital precincts. The original endowment must by this time have been supplemented by numerous grants, but the income of the hospital up to 1280 evidently did not keep pace with the expenditure, since at that date the priory owed £63 8s. (fn. 8) for meat. Apparently all difficulty on this score had not vanished in 1303, for the archbishop of Canterbury, after a visitation, expressly stated that in his opinion the annual revenue of 300 marks (fn. 9) was sufficient to maintain the accustomed number of inmates, viz. twelve canons, five lay brothers, and seven sisters. Judging from these ordinances the administration of the priory had become rather lax. The ancient custom of allotting to the hospital a third of the convent flour supply, which the sisters afterwards distributed as needed, had been abandoned; bequests for special purposes had been diverted to other uses, (fn. 10) and the lamps which at one time had been kept burning between the beds in the hospital had been taken away. (fn. 11) The sisters seem to have received neither their proper portions of food (fn. 12) nor their share of pittances, and no allowance was made to them for dress, which they appear to have provided for themselves out of the legacies (fn. 13) left by their charges to the priory. With regard to the canons the archbishop ordered that money was not to be given to them for clothing, (fn. 14) but that they should be provided with clothes uniform in colour and quality, and that on receiving the new they should give up the old; that those holding offices were to render full accounts before the whole convent, (fn. 15) and that the cloistral canons and other hospital officials were not to go beyond the boundaries of the house singly or together, nor were they to ask leave of the prior to do so except for the evident utility of the priory. Their conduct indeed had not been exemplary: disobedience was not uncommon, (fn. 16) and scandal and prejudice to the monastery had been caused by their frequenting the houses (fn. 17) of Alice la Faleyse and Matilda wife of Thomas, who apparently lived within the precinct. That the canons were themselves not anxious for reform is shown by the fact that in 1306 they elected as prior a certain Robert de Cerne, (fn. 18) a notoriously unfit person, and as such promptly deposed by Ralph, bishop of London. Ralph then exercised the right he had in such a case by appointing the sub-prior of St. Bartholomew's, Philip de London, whose probity he knew and who he hoped would improve both the tone of the house and the administration of its temporal affairs. Philip and the canons arranged (fn. 19) that the deposed prior should receive a double allowance of bread, ale, and other food, 40s. per annum for his other necessaries, and a room near the infirmary, and for his servant a black loaf, a gallon of small beer, and one dish from the kitchen every day, and 5s. annual wages, and that a companion should also be assigned to him.
The bishopric being vacant in 1316 commissaries of the dean and chapter of St. Paul's visited St. Mary's and issued some injunctions. (fn. 20) The canons at first declined to pay procurations, though it is difficult to see on what grounds, considering that when they needed to elect a prior in 1279 (fn. 21) in similar circumstances they had tacitly acknowledged that the dean and chapter occupied the bishop's place. However, after a threat of excommunication (fn. 22) they owned themselves wrong and paid the sum demanded, and the chapter of St. Paul's returned it to them for the use of the sick of the house.
The better administration desired by the bishop appears to have been inaugurated by Prior Philip. The convent had been enriched to some extent between 1303 and 1331: in 1314 a chantry for four chaplains was erected by John Tany, (fn. 23) one for two in 1325 by Roger de la Bere; (fn. 24) in 1306 Edward I (fn. 25) had given to the priory some land in Shalford and the advowsons of the church of Shalford with Bromley Chapel annexed, of 'Woghenersh,' (fn. 26) Puttenham, and 'Duntesfeld,' (fn. 27) and leave to appropriate Shalford and Bromley and 'Woghenersh'; and in 1318 Edward II had granted the convent acquittance from all tallages, (fn. 28) aids, pontages, pavages, and other payments. When the king in 1341 ordered the exemption (fn. 29) of the priory from payment of the subsidy, he certainly said that its endowment was so slender as hardly to suffice for the maintenance of the convent and the poor in the hospital. This, however, may be another way of stating that the charity dispensed there was very great, as he had good reason to know, more than one of his old servants (fn. 30) finding an asylum there. The position occupied by the priory must have by this time attained some importance, for the prior was appointed one of the valuers (fn. 31) of the 9th fleece, sheaf, &c., in co. Middlesex in 1340.
The house was evidently the reverse of affluent towards the end of the fourteenth century. In 1394 a sum of £86 10s. 6d. was owing to St. Paul's Cathedral for obits, chantries, and rents unpaid in some cases for many years; (fn. 32) in 1399 the prior had to pawn a silver gilt censer for £10; (fn. 33) and in 1400 it was arranged that in return for 300 marks granted to the prior and convent 'in their very great necessity for the relief of their house which was heavily burdened with debt,' they would give 12 marks annual quitrent from their possessions in certain London parishes to the chaplain of the chantry of St. John Baptist in St. James's Garlickhithe. (fn. 34)
The causes of its poverty can only be conjectured, but were probably the depreciation in the value of its lands owing to the Black Death, and repairs to the church and other buildings, since it is unlikely that they had escaped without much damage from the floods which in 1373 were said to occur there annually. (fn. 35) The pope in 1391 granted an indulgence to those who visited and gave alms to the church and its chapels and to the hospital at Christmas, Easter, and other great festivals, (fn. 36) and the benefit derived may have been considerable, for crowds of people flocked to the priory on the three days following Easter Sunday, (fn. 37) doubtless attracted by the sermons preached at the Cross in the churchyard. (fn. 38)
The ordinances of William bishop of London, dated 20 June, 1431, (fn. 41) do not disclose anything very much amiss. They chiefly concern the sisters, who as usual had been deprived of their due both as regards food and clothing. Some scandal had apparently been caused by their access to the convent kitchen, and the bishop ordered that a straight and inclosed way (via recta et clausa) should be made at the expense of the priory from the door of the sisters' house to the kitchen window, from which the sisters could, without hindrance, carry away their own dishes and those for the sick. To provide against their frequent visits to the pantry their allowance of bread and ale was to be given out weekly, though the good this would do is not very obvious, as they still had to go for bread and ale for the sick and candles for watching as needed. Anyone desiring to become a sister was to be admitted at a year's probation, and, if rejected, was to pay her own expenses, which otherwise were to be paid by the priory. At the admission and profession of a sister no exactions were to be made by the prior and convent; after profession the sisters were to be obedient to the prior, and were not to go beyond the bounds of the house except with the prior's leave and for the benefit of the house. The houses occupied by the sisters and by the sick were in need of repairs, which were to be done as quickly as the priory was able.
When Richard Cressall became prior, in 1484, he found that the property of the priory in London, the main source of the income of the house, had been allowed to fall into ruin, (fn. 42) and it was no doubt a strain to provide for the necessary repairs and at the same time to keep up the charitable work of the hospital. More revenue was needed, and in April, 1509, King Henry VII, for £400, (fn. 43) granted to the prior and convent in mortmain the priory of Bicknacre, where, at the death of the last prior, Edmund Godyng, only one canon was left. (fn. 44) Its possessions included the manor of Bicknacre and thirtyone messuages and land in Woodham Ferrers, Danbury, Norton, Steeple, Chelmsford, Mayland, Stow, East and West Hanningfield, Purleigh, Burnham, and Downham, and were estimated to be worth £40 10s. per annum. (fn. 45) Daily celebrations for the souls of the founder, benefactors, and King Henry VII were, by the bishop's orders, performed at Bicknacre by one of the canons of the New Hospital. (fn. 46) The house in 1514 further obtained licence to acquire in mortmain lands to the annual value of £100. (fn. 47)
There is no record of the light in which the religious changes of the time were regarded here, but the royal supremacy was acknowledged on 23 June, 1534, by the prior and eleven others, (fn. 48) and it is unlikely that the king had any difficulty with the house, judging from the pensions granted at its suppression in 1538. The prior, William Major, received £80 a year, (fn. 49) and payment seems to have been made with regularity (fn. 50); the president, an official of whom there is no other mention, (fn. 51) had £8 per annum; three other priests, £6 13s. 4d. each; and two others £7 10s. and £4 respectively; the two sisters 40s. each. (fn. 52) The small number of brothers and sisters, and the state of the church, the roof of which fell before the end of the year, (fn. 53) indicate either that the dissolution had been for some time foreseen (fn. 54) or that much of the spirit of monasticism had departed. Whatever view is taken of the prior and canons there can be no doubt that good work was done in a hospital of 180 well-furnished beds, (fn. 55) and Sir Richard Gresham, the mayor, in a letter to the king, begged that it might continue under the rule of the mayor and aldermen. (fn. 56) It would, indeed, have been no more than just, for the hospital had not only been founded, but to a great extent endowed, by London citizens. (fn. 57) The king, nevertheless, beyond allowing the sick already there to remain, (fn. 58) turned a deaf ear to Gresham's request, and in April, 1540, a grant was made to Richard Moryson (fn. 59) of the infirmary, the dormitory, the waste ground leading from the churchyard to the infirmary, the prior's garden and the convent garden within the inclosure, the stable in the prior's garden with some waste land adjoining, and the other tenements of the priory which extended into Shoreditch.
The income of the priory, estimated in 1318 at over 300 marks, (fn. 60) amounted in 1535 to £562 14s. 6½d. gross, and £504 12s. 11½d. net. (fn. 61) Of this the sum of £277 13s. 4d. was derived from tenements in London and the suburbs, where the house had holdings in 1318 in thirty-seven parishes. (fn. 62) It held, besides the property of Bicknacre Priory, in co. Middlesex the manor of Hickmans and lands and tenements called 'Burganes lands,' (fn. 63) probably those possessed in 1318 in Shoreditch, Hackney, and Stepney (fn. 64); in co. Herts the manor of Beaumond Hall; in co. Essex the manor of Chalvedon, (fn. 65) where land had been given by William Hobruge before 1318, (fn. 66) the manor of Sabur or Seborow Hall, (fn. 67) evidently the lands in Mocking, Orsett, and Chadwell, held by the priory in the fourteenth century, (fn. 68) the manor of Frerne or Fryern, which came into possession of the house about 1419, (fn. 69) and lands in West Tilbury and Mountnessing; in co. Surrey the manor of Long Ditton, which, with the advowson of the church, had been given to the canons by William earl of Essex, (fn. 70) the rectories and tithes of Shalford and Wonersh, and a pension from the church of Putney; in co. Cambridge lands and tenements in Whittlesea. A pension was also paid by the abbey of Bindon, co. Dorset.
In 1318 the prior had the homage and service of half a knight's fee in West Tilbury and East Tilbury. (fn. 71) The plate of the house at the Dissolution was of no great quantity:—61 oz. of gilt, 106 oz. of white, and 19¼ oz. of parcel gilt. (fn. 72)
Priors of St. Mary's Hospital, without Bishopsgate
Godfrey, occurs c. 1218 (fn. 73)
Geoffrey, occurs 1231–2 (fn. 74)
Warin, occurs 1232–3 (fn. 75)
William, occurs temp. Henry III (fn. 76)
Reginald, occurs 1241–2 (fn. 77)
Robert, occurs 1243 (fn. 78) and 1248–9 (fn. 79)
Thomas, occurs 1265–6 (fn. 80)
Roger, occurs 1274–5, (fn. 81) died 1279 (fn. 82)
William, occurs 1289 (fn. 83)
Roger, occurs 1298 (fn. 84)
Robert de Cerne, deposed 1306 (fn. 85)
Philip de London, appointed 1306 (fn. 86)
William Horton, occurs 1316, (fn. 87) 1318, (fn. 88) and 1325 (fn. 89)
John de Abyndon, occurs 1337 (fn. 90)
James (fn. 91)
Thomas, occurs 1373 (fn. 92)
John de Lyndeseye, occurs 1378 (fn. 93) and 1379 (fn. 94)
William Helpaby or Helperby, resigned 1388 (fn. 95)
John Mildenhale, appointed 1388, (fn. 96) occurs 1399 (fn. 97) and 1401 (fn. 98)
Roger Pinchbeck, occurs 1406 (fn. 99) and 1407 (fn. 100)
Roger Jurdon, occurs 1428 (fn. 101) and 1432 (fn. 102)
John, occurs 1437 (fn. 103)
John Torkesey, occurs 1458 (fn. 104)
Thomas Hadley, occurs 1471, (fn. 105) resigned 1472 (fn. 106)
William Sutton, elected 1472, (fn. 107) resigned 1484 (fn. 108)
Richard Cressal, appointed 1484, (fn. 109) occurs 1498, (fn. 110) 1514, (fn. 111) and 1515 (fn. 112)
Thomas Bell, occurs 1529 (fn. 113)
William Major, occurs 1531, (fn. 114) and at the Dissolution
The first seal of the thirteenth century (fn. 115) is dark green, and bears on the obverse a representation of the Agnus Dei to the right. Legend:—
SIGILL' OSPITALIS: DEI
The reverse is a smaller pointed oval counterseal, and represents the prior, standing on a corbel, holding a book. Legend:—
S' WILLI' I . CORIS . NOVI . HOSPIH . EX . PTĀ . ECI . LP .
A seal of 1298 (fn. 116) is also dark green. It is a pointed oval, and represents the Virgin, crown on head, seated on a throne, holding the Child on her right arm, and a sceptre fleur-de-lizé in her left hand. In the field on the left is a kneeling worshipper. Legend:—
IGILL': DOM . . . . .
A pointed oval seal of the fourteenth century (fn. 117) has a representation of the Assumption of the Virgin. She is crowned, and stands on a cherub, surrounded by rays and cherubs, in a canopied niche with a small canopied niche on each side containing a sainted bishop. In the base, on a carved corbel, is a shield of arms: a cross moline voided for Brune, the founder. Legend:—
SIGILLE: CPE: NOVI: HOSPITALIS: GE MARIE: EXTRA: BYSSHOPPISGATE: TOD