Hospitals: West Somerton

Page 450

A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.

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Ralph de Glanville, chief justice of England, who founded the priory of Butley in Suffolk, also founded a leper hospital at West Somerton, dedicated to St. Leonard. The hospital was placed under the government of the priory. (fn. 1)

At Pleas as to the founding of the leper-house of West Somerton in 1291, the jury found that the prior of Butley had the custody of the hospital and nothing more; (fn. 2) this finding was repeated nine years later. (fn. 3)

A commission was issued by Edward I, in 1299, to inquire and judge concerning the people who forcibly entered the leper-house of West Somerton, and carried away corn and goods, together with the hospital muniments. (fn. 4)

In the following year a grant was made to the prior of Butley, keeper of the West Somerton leper hospital, in consideration of a fine of 100 marks paid by him into the exchequer, that he and his successor may hold that hospital henceforth quit of any account, on condition that the king and his heirs shall cause the said hospital (like the other hospitals of the king's advowson) to be visited by the chancellor for the time being, or other person deputed thereto, and shall correct any defects found on visitation. This came about through an action recently brought against the ruler in the king's court for him to render an account touching the issues of that hospital, since he had acknowledged in court that the advowson of the hospital belonged to the king. (fn. 5)

An inquisition held by the escheator for Norfolk, 20 Richard II, brought out the details of this foundation. It there appeared in evidence that Ralph Glanville, the founder, granted the hospital to the prior and convent of Butley on the condition that they should maintain in it thirteen lepers with all necessaries, and a chaplain to celebrate there daily with a clerk, for the souls of Ralph and his parents; that the prior, for twenty years past, had ceased the maintenance of nine of the lepers; that the chaplain and clerk with the prior and convent, withdrew for the past twelve years from the four remaining lepers seven gallons of ale a week worth a penny each, and that the hospital was worth ten marks yearly. Consequently the hospital was taken into the king's hands, and there remained (November, 1399). The prior and convent, however, produced evidence that the hospital was worth £60 yearly when first founded, but that the present income of only 10 marks would not suffice to maintain the charges, and that the hospital itself was desolate. Whereupon the crown regranted the hospital to the priory on the condition of two of the priory canons being maintained to celebrate for the king and the founder, and acquitted them of the issues of the hospital for the twenty years, and of the price of the gallons of ale for the twelve years. (fn. 6)


  • 1. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. xi, 189.
  • 2. Plac. Pasch. 19 Edw. 1, m. 9.
  • 3. Ibid. 28 Edw. I, m. 43.
  • 4. Cal. of Pat. 27 Edw. I, m. 37d.
  • 5. Ibid. 28 Edw. I, m. 3.
  • 6. Ibid. I Hen. IV, pt. iii, m. 10; Memoranda R.L.T.R. Hil. 1 Hen. IV, m. 12.