Hospitals: Hospital of the Savoy

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: Hospital of the Savoy', A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1909), pp. 546-549. British History Online [accessed 15 June 2024].

. "Hospitals: Hospital of the Savoy", in A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1909) 546-549. British History Online, accessed June 15, 2024,

. "Hospitals: Hospital of the Savoy", A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1909). 546-549. British History Online. Web. 15 June 2024,


The hospital of the Savoy, dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and St. John the Baptist, was founded by King Henry VII in 1505 on the south side of the Strand, (fn. 1) on the spot once occupied by the palace of Peter of Savoy, uncle of Eleanor of Provence. (fn. 2) The king seems to have died before the work was really begun, and the fulfilment of the scheme was left to his executors, who in 1512 obtained letters patent from Henry VIII empowering them to erect a perpetual hospital to consist of a master and four other chaplains who were to be a corporate body, with a common seal, and received licence to acquire in mortmain land to the annual value of 500 marks. (fn. 3) The buildings, for which Henry VII had bequeathed 10,000 marks, (fn. 4) and which were intended to accommodate 100 poor men (fn. 5) every night, must have taken some time to complete, and this is probably the reason why the first master, William Holgill, and the chaplains were not appointed before 1517. (fn. 6)

The statutes drawn up by the executors in 1523 give an interesting picture of the institution and its working. (fn. 7) The master was supposed to superintend the house generally, and had certain duties with regard to the management of its property (fn. 8); the four chaplains exercised the functions of seneschal, sacristan, confessor, and hospitaller (fn. 9); there were besides two priests, four altarists to assist in the services in the chapel, a clerk of the kitchen, a butler, a cook, an under cook, a door-keeper and an under doorkeeper, a gardener, a matron, and twelve other women. (fn. 10) The master received a stipend of £30 a year, each of the chaplains £4 and the priests £3 6s. 8d., and the others in proportion, (fn. 11) all except the master being fed at the expense of the hospital. (fn. 12) The uniform of all officials, male and female, was blue with a Tudor rose in red and gold embroidered on the breast. (fn. 13)

Every evening an hour before sunset, the hospitaller, the vice-matrons and others stood at the great door and received the poor, who, on being admitted, proceeded first to the chapel to pray for the founder, and then to the dormitory, where the matron and some of the women allotted the beds to them, (fn. 14) and four others prepared the baths and cleansed their clothing. The hospital only provided a lodging for the night except in the case of the sick, who were allowed to remain after the departure of the other men and were tended by the doctor and surgeon and the sisters. (fn. 15)

The daily accounts of the clerk of the kitchen and the monthly accounts of the seneschal were to be made in the counting-house, but those of the master and all other officers in a room called the exchequer. (fn. 16) Two rooms in the tower opposite the great gate were appointed for a treasury, in which were to be kept the chests containing a reserve-fund of 500 marks, the yearly surplus, the money for the daily expenses, the legacies and gifts to the hospital, the jewels and ornaments not in every-day use, and charters and muniments. (fn. 17)

The visitation of the hospital was entrusted to the abbot of Westminster. (fn. 18)

William Holgill, the first master, seems to have been rather a privileged person: he received a larger salary than was to be given to any future master, (fn. 19) and in spite of the statute forbidding the master to accept any other office or administration, (fn. 20) he was allowed to act as surveyor to Wolsey, (fn. 21) and afterwards to hold the prebend of South Cave. (fn. 22) The income of the hospital, £567 16s. 3¾d. in 1535, (fn. 23) can have been barely sufficient to meet the necessary expenses, since when food rose in price Holgill had to draw on the reserve fund, (fn. 24) and the commissioners who under Sir Roger Cholmley, chief baron of the Exchequer, visited the hospital in 1551, found that the revenues fell short of expenditure by £205 4s. 2d., (fn. 25) and they had evidently no fault to find with the way the establishment was conducted. (fn. 26)

The house was dissolved in 1553, (fn. 27) and its lands given by the king to Bridewell and St. Thomas's, Southwark, (fn. 28) but in 1556 it was refounded and endowed afresh by Queen Mary, (fn. 29) whose maids of honour provided the beds and other furniture. (fn. 30)

This new foundation had been in existence only a few years when it was almost ruined (fn. 31) by Thomas Thurland, the master, who was removed in 1570, but not before he had burdened the hospital with his private debts by a misuse of the common seal, granted unprofitable leases, taken away the beds, and disposed of jewels and other treasures of the house. (fn. 32)

During the Civil War the place was used for the accommodation of sick and wounded soldiers, (fn. 33) and the master was superseded by a governor (fn. 34) or overseer. (fn. 35) At the accession of Charles II, the hospital was restored to its former state, (fn. 36) but some of the buildings were taken by the king in 1670 for the use of the men wounded in the Dutch war, (fn. 37) and the promise to give them back was not fulfilled either by him or his successors. (fn. 38)

It is probable that long before this time the office of master had practically become a sinecure. At any rate Dr. Walter Balconquall, who was master from 1621 to 1640, managed to combine his duties of master of the Savoy with those of dean of Rochester, and afterwards of Durham. (fn. 39) The report of a commission under William III shows that the hospital had outlived its usefulness, the relief of the poor being utterly neglected, and it was proposed to annex the mastership to the bishopric of Gloucester, and to pay pensions to twenty poor widows as well as the salaries to the four chaplains, (fn. 40) but nothing was done.

In 1702, however, Lord Keeper Wright visited the house and removed the chaplains because, in contravention of the statutes, they had omitted to subscribe to the oath on taking office and had not resided within the hospital. (fn. 41) As no master had been appointed since Dr. Killigrew's death in 1699, (fn. 42) the hospital was now without master and chaplains, and was declared by Wright to be dissolved. (fn. 43) Although it was exceedingly doubtful whether a visitor possessed such powers, (fn. 44) the Lord Keeper's action was effectual, and the hospital of the Savoy came thus to an end.

According to the statutes of 1523 the master was to be elected by the chaplains, (fn. 45) but from the time of Thurland the sovereign seems to have appointed (fn. 46) in reality, though the chaplains went through the form of election. (fn. 47)

The Savoy in 1535 (fn. 48) held rents of assize in London, the manors of Shoreditch, 'Colkennington' (Kenton), and Goldbeaters, and some land in Shoreditch, co. Middlesex; the manors of Dengie, Helion Bumpstead, Aveley, Tailfeers, and Gerons, (fn. 49) co. Essex; the manors of Langley and land in Greenstreet, co. Herts; the manors of 'Denham-Duredent' and Marsworth, co. Bucks; the manors of 'Topcliffe,' 'Byrdlyns,' 'Nedehall in Hynton,' 'Alyn,' and land in Fulbourn, co. Camb.; the manors of Hastingleigh, 'Corston' (Cuxton?), Combe Grove, and 'Frannycombe,' co. Kent; the manors of Tibshelf, co. Derby, and of Bewick, co. York. (fn. 50) The advowson of Dengie church also belonged to the hospital. (fn. 51)

At the second dissolution of the house its possessions, which appear to have been worth £2,497 a year, with the exception of Dengie manor, seem to have been entirely different. (fn. 52) They comprised some land at Mile End, co. Middlesex, the manor of Dengie and rent of the manor of 'Sow,' co. Essex; rent out of Shabbington manor, co. Bucks; the manor of 'DentonGowerty,' co. Lincoln; Stanton under Bardon, co. Leicester; 'South Dowes' Hospital, Abington Mills, Harpale Mills, East Haddon, and lands in West Haddon, co. Northants; the manor of Garstang, rent out of the manor of 'Rannworth,' co. Lancaster, Howorth Grange, the manors of Acklam and Houghton, Sutton Grange, Woodhouse Grange, Cudworth, 'Kirkstall Inge,' 'Shelton-Coates,' (fn. 53) and Ryhill in co. York and the manor of 'Hallatreholm' in co. Durham.

Masters of the Savoy Hospital

William Hogill, appointed 1517, (fn. 54) occurs 1529 (fn. 55) and 1541 (fn. 56)
Robert Bowes, appointed 1551 (fn. 57)
Ralph Jackson, appointed 1556 (fn. 58)
Thomas Thurland, occurs 1559 (fn. 59) 1561, (fn. 60) deposed 1570 (fn. 61)
Dr. William Mount, died 1602 (fn. 62)
Dr. Richard Neale, appointed 1602 (fn. 63)
Dr. George Montaigne, appointed 1608, (fn. 64) occurs 1617 (fn. 65)
Walter Balconquall, appointed and resigned 1618 (fn. 66)
Marc Antonio de Dominis, archbishop of Spalato, appointed 1618, (fn. 67) resigned 1621 (fn. 68)
Dr. Walter Balconquall, elected 1621, (fn. 69) occurs 1640 (fn. 70)
Dr. Sheldon, occurs 1660, (fn. 71) resigned 1663 (fn. 72)
Dr. Henry Killigrew, elected 1663, (fn. 73) died 1699 (fn. 74)

A fine seal of this hospital is attached to a charter of 1559. (fn. 75) It represents St. John the Baptist, his head surrounded by a nimbus. The saint stands on a mount replenished with herbage and flowers; he holds in his left hand the Agnus Dei and a banner flag and points to the lamb with his right. In the field on the left is a Tudor rose; on the right a portcullis, chained and ringed; above these two sprigs. Legend:—



  • 1. In the parish of St. Clement Danes. Lond. Epis. Reg. Fitz James, fol. 118.
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 726.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Stow, Surv. of Lond. (ed. Strype), i, 210.
  • 5. Cott. MS. Cleop. C. v, fol. 34b.
  • 6. Ibid. fol. 55b, 56b.
  • 7. Ibid. fol. 4b–54b.
  • 8. Ibid. fol. 37b, 38.
  • 9. Ibid. fol. 56b. Their duties are given fol. 7–10b and fol. 23.
  • 10. Ibid. fol. 15b–16.
  • 11. Cott. MS. Cleop. C. v, fol. 20b–22. Holgill was to have £40 a year on account of his many labours and continuous diligence in building the house, fol. 20b.
  • 12. Ibid. For the sums allowed for food see fol. 40b–41.
  • 13. Ibid. fol. 26b, 27.
  • 14. Each bed was well furnished with bed clothes, including counterpanes decorated with the red rose and three portcullises. Ibid. fol. 34b, 35.
  • 15. Ibid. fol. 24–25b.
  • 16. Ibid. fol. 44.
  • 17. Ibid. fol. 45–46b.
  • 18. Ibid. fol. 30.
  • 19. Ibid. fol. 20b.
  • 20. Ibid. fol. 18.
  • 21. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, 4073, 5954.
  • 22. Ibid, ix, 661. In 1537 a certain John Parkyns begged Cromwell to give him the post of master of the Savoy, as Holgill had sufficient without it. Ibid. xii (1), 270.
  • 23. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 359.
  • 24. Lansd. MS. 20, No. 15.
  • 25. Ibid. No. 14.
  • 26. Ibid. No. 15. The behaviour of the officials was good, and the statutes had been kept since the death of the first master except in such respects as they were not in accordance with the law of the land.
  • 27. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1547–80, p. 85.
  • 28. Stow, Surv. of Lond. iv, 106.
  • 29. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1547–80, p. 85.
  • 30. Stow, op. cit. iv, 106.
  • 31. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1547–80, p. 383. Archbishop Grindal and the other visitors writing to Cecil in 1570 said that if Thurland continues in office the house cannot long stand.
  • 32. Lansd. MS. 20, No. 21. He was also accused of not being resident, of going very seldom to church, and spending his time in playing bowls and gambling, of maintaining his relations at the expense of the hospital, etc. . . . He does not seem to have been able to deny the more serious charges, see Lansd. MS. 20, No. 19.
  • 33. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1650, pp. 282, 366; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. viii, App. i, 386.
  • 34. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. x, App. iv, 510.
  • 35. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1652–3, p. 224.
  • 36. Ibid. 1660–1, pp. 16, 107, 113, about the appointment of the master.
  • 37. Stowe MS. 865, fol. 2b.
  • 38. A regiment of foot was stationed there by Charles II; James II assigned places of residence there to Jesuits, and William III to French Protestants. Ibid.; Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 726.
  • 39. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1623–5, p. 492; ibid. 1639, p. 450.
  • 40. Add. MS. 11,599, fol. 3.
  • 41. Stowe MS. 865, fol. 3b–5.
  • 42. Ibid. fol. 8.
  • 43. Ibid. fol. 5b.
  • 44. The Lords judged that a visitor had power to reform but not to dissolve. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 726; see also Stowe MS. 865, fol. 6b–8.
  • 45. Cott. MS. Cleop. C. v, fol. 18b. The statute which ordered the presentation to the abbot of Westminster never came into force as the abbey was dissolved before the first master died.
  • 46. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 726.
  • 47. Balconquall is said to be elected in 1621. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1619–23, p. 239. It was probably managed as in the case of Dr. Killigrew, i.e. the king recommended him to the chaplains, who elected him. Ibid. 1663–4, pp. 198, 200.
  • 48. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 358–9.
  • 49. In 1553 Edward VI granted the manor of Gerons with appurtenances, messuages, and lands called le Newhouse and Tailfeers and Stewards in Great Parndon to the mayor and commonalty of London. Morant, Hist. of Essex, ii, 493.
  • 50. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 358 and 359.
  • 51. Newcourt, Repert. Eccl. Lond. ii, 211.
  • 52. Add. MS. 11599, fol. 4.
  • 53. Shawcot ?
  • 54. Cott. MS. Cleop. C. v, fol. 55.
  • 55. Harl. Chart. 112, F. 23.
  • 56. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvii, 258, fol. 15.
  • 57. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1547–80, p. 34.
  • 58. Ibid. p. 85.
  • 59. Add. Chart. 1385.
  • 60. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1547–80, p. 180.
  • 61. Lansd. MS. 20, No. 21.
  • 62. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1601–3, p. 270.
  • 63. Ibid.
  • 64. Ibid. 1603–10, p. 463.
  • 65. Ibid. 1611–18, p. 496.
  • 66. He was appointed in January and resigned in March. Ibid. pp. 518 and 529.
  • 67. Ibid. p. 529.
  • 68. Ibid. 1619–23, p. 362.
  • 69. Ibid. 239. It is evidently the same Walter Balconquall who gave way before in favour of the archbishop of Spalato.
  • 70. Ibid. 1640, p. 366.
  • 71. Ibid. 1660–1, p. 113.
  • 72. Ibid. 1663–4, p. 198.
  • 73. Ibid. p. 200.
  • 74. Stowe MS. 865, fol. 8.
  • 75. Add. Chart. 385.