House of Knights Hospitallers: The preceptory of Carbrooke

Pages 423-425

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

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In the time of Henry II, Maud, countess of Clare, gave the church of St. Peter, Great Carbrooke, and of St. John Baptist, Little Carbrooke, to the Knights Hospitallers, together with the manor and other endowments. The house itself of the preceptory was dedicated to St. John Baptist, with a chapel attached. The sixteen stalls in the parish church of Great Carbrooke were supposed by Blomefield to indicate the number of Knights of the Order there resident; but this was an error, for the house was far smaller, accommodating one knight or preceptor, and two brethren, who would all worship in their own chapel. (fn. 1)

The preceptories of this order were occasionally called Hospitals, in cases where the inmates had no other hospitality to discharge than that of relieving wayfarers or cases of special distress; but the foundation of Carbrooke specially entitled them to the name hospital, as they had the charge of twelve poor persons.

Blomefield states that Sir Alexander de Mitcham was master or preceptor from 1307 to 1315, and he occurs in 1308 as witness to a grant by Richard de Carbrook. (fn. 2). The only other preceptors he names are Elias, 1256; Robert de Heugham, 1285; and John Halligate, 1424.

The general return of the Knights Hospitallers in England made by Philip de Thame, the English prior, in 1338, gives £192 2s. 4¼d. as the annual value of Carbrooke Preceptory. In addition to many acres of land and pasture at Carbrooke, Costessy, and Bamburgh, which they farmed themselves, the preceptory had large rents both in money and kind, the latter being paid in barley, oats, or poultry, as well as autumn services from villeins. The court fees and perquisites averaged £4; two windmills brought in 40s., and the dovecote 6s. 8d. The rectories of the churches of Great and Little Carbrooke produced an annual income of £40, whilst the freewill offering collected in the neighbourhood, possibly throughout the whole county, averaged 130 marks.

The list of expenses (which amounted to £71 12s. 7½d.) shows that those who had their daily board in the house were the preceptor, two brethren, the vicar of Great Carbrooke and his servant, two secular chaplains, who celebrated for the soul of the founder, four clerks who collected the offerings of the district, twelve poor persons, one of whom had a loaf of bread weighing sixty ounces, eight servants of the houses, and also those who were occasionally hospitably entertained. The stipends of the two chaplains celebrating in the chapel were 40s. A robe for the steward of their courts and his fee amounted to 46s. 8d., the robe and stipend of the preceptor's squire 20s., and those of the chamberlain, bailiff, cook, baker, porter, warrener, carpenter, and gardener, 6s. 8d. each. Two boys of the preceptor had 3s. 4d. each, and the stable boy and kitchen boy 5s. each. The washerwoman was paid 4s. a year, and the prior's three days' visitation cost them 60s. The handsome balance of about £120, after paying all expenses, went to the English Prior-General at Clerkenwell. Sir Alan Macy was at this time preceptor; the two brethren were Thomas de Hinton (chaplain) and William de Boyton. (fn. 3)

The most distinguishing feature of the accounts of Carbrooke is the large sum of £86 13s. 4d. entered under fraria ad voluntatem contribuentium. The confraria, fraria, or collecta, as it was diversely termed, was a highly important item of the accounts of the commanderies or preceptories of the Knights Hospitallers. Voluntary collections were made by clerks specially deputed for the purpose from churches and the faithful in general. The total collected in England and Wales in this way, in the year 1338, was £888 4s. 3d. Carbrooke Preceptory actually contributed nearly a tenth of the whole amount. There can be little doubt that they gathered from the whole county of Norfolk, as theirs was the only preceptory within its bounds; and this would account for their keeping the exceptional number of four clerks for the purpose.

Innocent VI issued his mandate in 1353 to the prior and archdeacon of Norwich and to the precentor of Hereford to carry out the ordinances touching apostates in regard to William de Boyton, Hospitaller, who left the hospital of Carbrooke, in the diocese of Norwich, and then desired to be reconciled to it. (fn. 4)

At some time before the Valor of 1535 was taken this preceptory had become amalgamated with that of Chippenham, Cambridge; they were both under the same preceptor, Sir Thomas Copledyke. The rectory of Carbrooke then produced £6 10s. The vicar had a pension of £4, which was probably in addition to his board at the preceptory. Two priests had £5 each for celebrating. The temporalities of Carbrooke (without Chippenham) realized £36 1s. 1½d. Six boys are entered as maintained according to the foundation charter at a cost of £12, but this apparently refers to Chippenham: there is no reference to the twelve poor persons sustained at Carbrooke in the fourteenth century.

An inventory was made of the goods and chattels of the late commandery of Carbrooke on 21 November, 1541, by Sir Richard Southwell and Thomas Mildmay, as King's commissioners. The contents of the chapel were poor, namely, a chalice, a mass-book, two cruets, a sacring bell, an old surplice, two corporas-cases, two old rent altar-cloths, a covering on the altar of black buckram, 'a cloth before the altar with the pycture of seynt Ihu olde,' an old psalter, two latten candlesticks, and a bell weighing 20 lb.

The total value of the goods and chattels, including corn in the barn, corn and hay in stacks, and ten acres of sown wheat, was estimated at £46 19s. 4d., exclusive of the silver chalice. There was allowed to Sir Thomas Copledyke, as preceptor, 'accordynge to the statut' a sixth part of this value. The annual value of the vicarage of Carbrooke is stated to be £8, (fn. 5) but a much corrected Valor of the possessions of this preceptory, temp. Henry VIII, probably of the year of its suppression, gives the value of the rectory of Carbrooke at 10s. 10d.; the rents of assize, £ 15 3s. 5½d.; the manor farm, £15 4s. 8d.; the foldcourse for 200 sheep, 30s.; and the court perquisites 20s. (fn. 6)

The site of the house, the manor and the rectory were granted in 1543 to Sir Richard Gresham and Sir Richard Southwell.

Sisters Hospitallers of Little Carbrooke

Maud, countess of Clare, at the same time that she established the preceptory of Knights Hospitallers at Great Carbrooke, placed some sisters of their Order in a hospital near the church of Little Carbrooke. But very soon after their foundation, namely, in 1180, Henry II gave the order the monastery of Buckland, Somerset, on the condition that they should there place all the English Sisters Hospitallers, who had previously lived in several preceptories. Henceforth Buckland was the only English house for these sisters, those of Little Carbrooke being at once transferred there. From Little Carbrooke 13s. 4d. was paid as an annual pension to the Somerset nunnery; that sum appears in the Valor of 1535. (fn. 7)


  • 1. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. ii, 335.
  • 2. Anct. D. (P.R.O.), A. 2964.
  • 3. The Knights Hospitallers in Engl. (Camd. Soc. 1857).
  • 4. Cal. Papal Reg. iii, 515.
  • 5. Ch. Gds. L.R. Norf. 12/1.
  • 6. Rentals and Surv. (P.R.O.), Portf. 12/33.
  • 7. Taylor, Index Monasticus, 34.