Hospitals: St Mary within Cripplegate

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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'Hospitals: St Mary within Cripplegate', A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1909), pp. 535-537. British History Online [accessed 19 June 2024].

. "Hospitals: St Mary within Cripplegate", in A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1909) 535-537. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024,

. "Hospitals: St Mary within Cripplegate", A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1909). 535-537. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024,

In this section


The hospital of St. Mary within Cripplegate owed its origin to the compassion felt by William Elsing, mercer of London, for the blind beggars who wandered about the City without refuge of any sort. On some land belonging to him in the parishes of St. Alphage and St. Mary (fn. 1) he established, in 1331, a hospital that was intended to accommodate 100 persons of both sexes, but appears to have started with thirty-two inmates. By the founder's wish blind or paralysed priests were to be received in preference to any other people. (fn. 2) The government of the hospital and the performance of the religious duties for which the house was in part founded were entrusted to five secular priests, of whom one was to be the custos or warden. As the dean and chapter of St. Paul's had appropriated to the uses of the hospital the church of St. Mary Aldermanbury, (fn. 3) of which they were patrons, they were to have the nomination of the warden and two of the priests, the appointment of the other two resting with Elsing and his assigns. The warden was also to swear fealty to the dean and chapter and pay the pension of a mark due of old from the church of St. Mary Aldermanbury, and a second pension of half a mark in sign of the subjection of the hospital. Elsing laid down certain rules to be observed by the priests: they were not to hold any other preferment; the warden was to render an account of the revenues before two of his fellows every year; a complete suit of the same colour for all (including tunic, upper tunic, mantle, and hood), the price of which in the case of the warden was not to exceed 40s., and in that of the others 30s., was to be given to each every year, and a sum of money for other necessaries; there were also detailed regulations as to religious services in the chapel, and as to the visits to be paid to the sick in the hospital. The original endowment consisted of tenements in the parishes of St. Lawrence Jewry, St. Mary Aldermanbury, St. Alphage, (fn. 4) and St. Martin Ironmonger Lane, to which were soon added some in the parish of Allhallows Honey Lane. (fn. 5) Elsing, finding that the resources of the hospital were still too slender for its work—for shortly after the foundation there were sixty beds there —petitioned the king in council to be allowed to bestow upon it land or rent to the value of £40, and was permitted to purchase land worth £10. (fn. 6)

Within a few years of this foundation Elsing became doubtful as to the wisdom of his choice of secular canons. He may already have had proof that the hospital would suffer, as he said, through the seculars being permitted to wander about the City, and through their care for temporal things; and in February, 1337–8, he petitioned the bishop of London that regulars might be put in their place. (fn. 7) The bishop, after consultation with the dean and chapter of St. Paul's, effected the change in 1340, (fn. 8) ordering that henceforth there should be there at least five Austin Canons, and that the number should be increased as the resources of the house grew. They were to be governed by a prior, who was elected by them with the assent of the dean and chapter of St. Paul's, and presented by the latter to the bishop for his confirmation. To the dean and chapter belonged the custody of the priory during a vacancy. (fn. 9)

The house received support from several other London citizens: in 1336 William de Gayton left a tenement in the parish of St. Botolph without Aldersgate (fn. 10) to provide a chantry; Robert Elsing, the son of the founder, endowed a chantry of three priests with £12 a year; (fn. 11) in 1377, by the will of Henry Frowyk, sen., a chantry was established and endowed with rents from tenements in the parishes of St. Lawrence Jewry, St. Martin Ludgate, and in the Old Change; (fn. 12) and John Northampton, (fn. 13) in 1397, left lands in the Ropery in the parish of Allhallows the Great to provide for the maintenance of a chantry priest.

It is evident that the state of the priory in 1431 must have been considered satisfactory by William Grey, bishop of London, for when he dissolved the college of secular priests at Thele (co. Herts., now Stanstead St. Margaret's) he transferred its possessions to Elsingspital, (fn. 14) charged with the maintenance of two regular canons at Thele and three at the priory in London to celebrate for the souls of the founders. The priory was in this way enriched by messuages, land, and £12 rent in Bowers Gifford, Chelmsford, Writtle, and Broomfield, co. Essex; land, rights of pasturage, and 100s. rent in Thele (now Stanstead St. Margaret's), Stanstead Abbots, Amwell, Broxbourne, and Hoddesdon, co. Herts.; and the advowsons of the churches of Thele and Aldenham, co. Herts., which were appropriated to the college. (fn. 15)

If the bishop by this measure had aimed not only at reforming the college of Thele but also at affording material aid to the finances of the hospital, the result was disappointing. In 1438 the house was indebted to the extent of £427 17s. 7¼d., (fn. 16) and ten years later it still owed over £200. (fn. 17) The cause of these difficulties can only be guessed at, but it may have been the building (fn. 18) or enlarging of the church, which must have been of considerable size, as after the Dissolution, when the principal aisle had been pulled down, the remaining part sufficed for a parish church. (fn. 19) An inventory in 1448 (fn. 20) of the contents of the buttery, kitchen, great and little chambers, library, (fn. 21) treasury, (fn. 22) and church does not give an impression of poverty. The church (fn. 23) possessed one or two important relics, (fn. 24) and seems to have been well provided with furniture and ornaments, (fn. 25) and especially with vestments, of which it possessed six complete sets, white and red cloth of gold, green velvet, and fustian, besides innumerable copes and other vestments of all colours and materials, including one of blue velvet powdered with stars and crowns, the gift of John Hisbery.

It seemed impossible for the priory to free itself from debt: in 1454 it owed £110 7s. 9½d., (fn. 26) and although most of this was paid off by Prior William Sayer, it was involved in 1461 to the extent of £78 18s., partly owing to faulty administration, which had allowed two canons to incur liabilities for which the house was ultimately responsible. (fn. 27)

By this date two more chantries had been established in the church: that of William Stokes, endowed with the reversion of tenements in the parishes of St. Michael Bassishaw, St. Sepulchre, and St. Botolph without Bishopsgate; (fn. 28) and that of William Flete, with an income of £30 a year. (fn. 29) The gross income of the house in 1461 amounted to £198 16s. 4d. From this deductions had to be made for payments of quit-rents, £30 6s. 8d.; for repairs and vacancies of tenements, £48; payments out of the William Flete Chantry, £12 13s. 4d.; anniversaries, £2; and payments to the poor in the hospital, £22 13s. 4d.; a total of £115 13s. 4d. The house appears in the end to have overcome its difficulties, for there is no hint of anything of this kind later.

The royal supremacy was subscribed to 22 June, 1534, by the prior, Roger Poten, and ten canons; (fn. 30) it may therefore be presumed that the priory had numbered at least as many in the middle of the fifteenth century. The house was dissolved under the Act of March, 1536, as being of less yearly value than £200. (fn. 31) There is no account of what happened to the blind and sick poor in the hospital, but as the sisters (fn. 32) who had had the care of them had a house in the close (fn. 33) assigned to them, it is possible that they were not turned adrift.

Roger Poten was made king's chaplain, and in 1536 he was given the rectories of the parish churches of St. Mary Aldermanbury, London, (fn. 34) and of St. Margaret's, Stanstead Thele, for life. (fn. 35)

The gross income of the priory in 1535 was £239 13s. 11½d., net income £193 15s. 6½d. (fn. 36) The lands and tenements from which this was derived lay for the most part in London parishes, St. Mary Aldermanbury, (fn. 37) St. Alphage (Philip Lane), (fn. 38) St. Lawrence Old Jewry, St. Mary le Bow (Hosier Lane (fn. 39) and Bow Lane (fn. 40) ), St. Martin Ironmonger Lane, (fn. 41) St. Michael Bassishaw, Allhallows the Great, (fn. 42) St. Vedast (Old Change), (fn. 43) St. Sepulchre, (fn. 44) St. Giles without Cripplegate, St. Michael Paternoster Royal, St. Botolph without Bishopsgate, (fn. 45) Allhallows Honey Lane, (fn. 46) St. Dunstan and Allhallows Barking; (fn. 47) to these must be added property in Hendon, co. Middlesex, the manor of Bury or Bowers Gifford and rent in Chelmsford, co. Essex, and rents in Thele, Amwell, Hoddesdon, and Stanstead Abbots, co. Herts. The priory held the churches already mentioned of St. Mary Aldermanbury (fn. 48) and Thele. (fn. 49)

Warden of the Hospital of St. Mary

John de Cataloigne, (fn. 50) 1331
Priors of the Hospital of St. Mary
William Elsyng? (fn. 51)
John de Wyndelesore, occurs 1353 (fn. 52)
Robert Draycote, occurs 1377, (fn. 53) 1387, (fn. 54) 1401, (fn. 55) and 1406 (fn. 56)
John Dally, resigned 1427 (fn. 57)
Henry Hoddesdon, elected 1427, (fn. 58) occurs 1431, (fn. 59) resigned 1438 (fn. 60)
John Bell, elected 1438 (fn. 61)
William Sayer, installed 1454, (fn. 62) occurs 1461 (fn. 63)
William Bowland, occurs 1496 (fn. 64)
John Wannel, resigned 1532 (fn. 65)
Roger Poten or Pottyn, elected 1532, (fn. 66) occurs 1533; (fn. 67) was prior when the house was suppressed (fn. 68)

The seal of the hospital used in the fourteenth century (fn. 69) is in shape a pointed oval, and represents the Virgin standing in a carved and canopied niche, with a smaller niche containing a geometrical window overhead; she wears a crown, and holds on the left arm the Child, in the right hand a flowering branch. The field is diapered lozengy, with small quatrefoil in each space. At each side there is a shield of arms: to the left Our Lord on the Cross, Elsyng, founder; right, England. In the base, under a carved round-headed arch, the prior kneels in prayer to the left, with the words of his prayer in two lines on the pediment or string-course above the arch: EXORA: NATE: ME: PIA: VIRGO: BEATVM. Legend:—



  • 1. Cott. Chart. v, 2, printed in Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 704, 706. See also Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, i, 562. Stow, Surv. of Lond. (ed. Strype), iii, 73, says that he founded the hospital in a place where there had been a nunnery.
  • 2. Dugdale, op. cit. vi, 706.
  • 3. In 1331. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. ix, App. i, 17. Papal confirmation was given in 1397. Cal. of Pap. Letters, v, 10.
  • 4. Among these were tenements in Philip Lane bought by Elsing from Robert de Cherringe. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, i, 362.
  • 5. Cal. of Pat. 1343–5, p. 113. These were confirmed by the king to the new foundation, 1343, but they were acquired while the hospital was still a college of secular priests.
  • 6. Parl. R. (Rec. Com.), ii, 401.
  • 7. Cott. Chart. xi, 33.
  • 8. Ibid. v, 10, printed in Dugdale, op. cit. vi, 707. The king's confirmation is dated April, 1342. Cal. of Pat. 1340–3, p. 415.
  • 9. See also Elsing's will in Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, i, 562.
  • 10. Ibid. i, 419.
  • 11. Stow, op. cit. iii, 73.
  • 12. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, i, 201.
  • 13. Ibid. ii, 334. John Northampton had been mayor. Stow, op. cit. iii, 73.
  • 14. Lond. Epis. Reg. Gilbert, fol. 192.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. Cott. Chart. xiii, 10.
  • 17. Ibid.
  • 18. At Elsing's death the church seems to have been little more than begun, see Cal. of Wills, i, 562.
  • 19. Stow, op. cit. iii, 73.
  • 20. Cott. Chart. xiii, 10.
  • 21. There were about sixty books in the library.
  • 22. Among other articles in the treasury there were a horn with silver-gilt lid, three silver basins, a silver spice-plate, a silver salt-cellar with cover, a powderbox of silver, &c.
  • 23. Besides the high altar there were the altars of St. Mary, St. John the Baptist, St. Nicholas and Holy Cross. See also Arch. xliii, 244.
  • 24. Milk of the Blessed Virgin, a portion of the true Cross, and the head of one of the 11,000 virgins.
  • 25. There were five silver and silver-gilt chalices, a censer, and two pairs of bottles (phialae) of silver, three silver pyxes, and censers and candelabra, &c. of brass.
  • 26. Cott. Chart. xi, 68.
  • 27. Ibid.
  • 28. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, &c. ii, 530.
  • 29. Pat. 33 Hen. VI, pt. 2, m. 4, quoted in Tanner, Notit. Mon.
  • 30. Dep. Keeper's Rep. vii, App. ii, 292.
  • 31. L. and P. Hen. VIII, x, 1238. In 'The Grey Friars' Chronicle' (Monum. Francisc. [Rolls Ser.], ii, 194) there is an entry that 11 May 22 Hen. VIII, i.e. 1530, 'the challons of Esyngspittylle was put owte,' but it is clearly a mistake, for according to the Valor the prior and convent were in possession in 1535.
  • 32. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills. The sisters are mentioned in a will of 1372.
  • 33. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, 612 (7).
  • 34. Ibid. xiii (1), 574.
  • 35. Aug. Off. Bk. 232, fol. 4b. The grant is not dated, but it appears to be 1537, as it follows one of that date. See also L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), 403 (70).
  • 36. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 389.
  • 37. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii (2), 411 (1).
  • 38. Ibid. xv, 733 (42).
  • 39. Ibid. xii (2), 1311 (25).
  • 40. Ibid. xiv (1), 1355.
  • 41. Ibid. xvi, 715.
  • 42. Ibid. xviii (1), 623 (43).
  • 43. Ibid. xviii (2), 529 (10).
  • 44. Ibid. xix (1), 1035 (6).
  • 45. Ibid. xix (2), 340 (59).
  • 46. Ibid. xiii (1), p. 583.
  • 47. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 708, where an abstract of a roll 28 Hen. VIII in Augmentation Office is printed. Thomas Depden had bequeathed to the priory in 1440 a messuage called 'le Shippe on the hoop,' in the parish of Allhallows Barking. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, &c. ii, 502.
  • 48. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 389.
  • 49. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), 403 (70).
  • 50. Cott. Chart. v, 2, printed in Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 705.
  • 51. Stowe, Surv. of Lond. iii, 73, says he was the first prior, but it appears more than doubtful, as in 1348 he is still called mercer, and not prior, Cal. of Pat. 1348–50, p. 186, and probably did not live much longer, for he made his will in that year. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, i, 562. He was called warden in 1330–1, but it must have been in the sense of guardian. Ibid. i, 362.
  • 52. Sharpe, Cal. of Letter Bk. G, 16.
  • 53. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, &c. ii, 201.
  • 54. Cal. of Pat. 1385–9, p. 337.
  • 55. Harl. Chart. 44 D, 36.
  • 56. Ibid. 82 C, 42.
  • 57. Lond. Epis. Reg. Braybrook, fol. 205.
  • 58. Ibid.
  • 59. Ibid. Gilbert, fol. 192.
  • 60. Ibid. fol. 111.
  • 61. Ibid.; Cott. Chart. xiii, 10.
  • 62. Cott. Chart. xi, 68.
  • 63. Ibid.
  • 64. Stowe, Surv. of Lond. iii, 73.
  • 65. Lond. Epis. Reg. Stokesley, fol. 57.
  • 66. Ibid.
  • 67. Cott. Chart. xi, 2.
  • 68. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), p. 574.
  • 69. B.M. Seals, lxviii, 54.