Hospitals: Hospitals in Lynn

Pages 441-442

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

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There was in the Dam Gate of Lynn an important hospital, (fn. 1) of early foundation, dedicated to St. John Baptist, consisting of a community of master and brethren, with church, hospital, hall, chambers, houses, and court.

In the thirteenth century a dispute arose as to the right of the chaplain to administer the sacraments in the hospital chapel or church. The prior of St. Margaret's endeavoured to stop what he regarded as an infringement of the rights of the mother church of Norwich, and the matter was referred to the judgement of the priors of Bury St. Edmunds and Thetford and the sacrist of Bury. The award, dated 11 February, 1234, decreed that the private chaplain of the hospital should celebrate one mass a day in the chapel for the brethren in a low voice (suhmissa voce), and that no one else was to celebrate there on the same day save the prior of Lynn and some priest nominated by him; that all oblations of every kind, without any diminution, were to be restored to the priory church of St. Margaret; that brothers and sisters dying in the hospital were to be buried in St. Margaret's; that the chaplain was not to hear confessions; that they were to be allowed a single bell for summoning the brethren; and that the prior of Lynn was annually to visit the hospital. (fn. 2)

On 26 May, 1399, the chapel was the scene of the public recantation of William Chatrir alias Sawtre, a priest of the church of St. Margaret, Lynn. There had been another recantation on the previous day in the churchyard of the chapel of St. James. Sawtre solemnly took his oath, before the bishop of Norwich in the chapel, on the book of the Gospels, that he would never after that time preach publicly the eight conclusions which he repudiated. But the next year he relapsed, abjured his repudiation, and was burnt. (fn. 3)

In 1535 the value of the hospital's small possessions at Hard wick, Clench warton, and Lynn, were estimated at £7 6s. 11d. a year; the master at that date was Robert Newman. (fn. 4)

This house was destroyed by the later legislation of Henry VIII. On 18 May, 1545, it was surrendered to the crown by Robert Bumpstead, the master. He is described as generosus, so he was clearly not in holy orders. (fn. 5)

Priors of the Hospital of St. John, Lynn (fn. 6)

Michael, (fn. 7) occurs 1273

William de Lingwode, (fn. 8) admitted 1331

John Barsham, (fn. 9) admitted 1390

John Blake, (fn. 10) admitted 1390

Roger Loksmith, (fn. 11) admitted 1401

John Vyne, (fn. 12) admitted 1405

Richard Warden, (fn. 13) admitted 1410

Thomas Lank, (fn. 14) 1418

John Lovell, (fn. 15) admitted 1418

Thomas Lovys, (fn. 16) admitted 1426

William Cowper, (fn. 17) admitted 1471

Robert Newman, (fn. 18) occurs 1535

Robert Bumpstead, (fn. 19) surrendered 1545


The hospital of St. Mary Magdalen was founded on the causeway leading to Gaywood, in the year 1145, by one Peter the chaplain. It consisted of a prior and twelve brethren and sisters; of these ten, the prior or chaplain being one, were to be sound, and the other three infirm or leprous. From the foundation deed it appears that this was a reconstruction of a yet older hospital, for the opening clause provides that the brethren were to dress after a decent fashion, like their predecessors (' secundum morem fratrum antecessorum domus '). The statutes drawn up by the founder and Archbishop Winchelsey ordered that the infirm were not to enter the quire, the cellar, the kitchen, or precincts, without reasonable cause, but to confine themselves to the places assigned them in church, hall, and court, and not to wander about in public; that the brethren were not to eat or drink outside the hospital for the space of a mile in circuit lest scandal might arise; that the common seal, books, chalices, vestments, relics, wax, and other church ornaments, and the chest with the treasury of the house, were to remain in the custody of the infirm brethren, and the common money be kept in a pix with three keys, one with the prior, and the other two with two of the sound brethren, and the alms from within or without the hospital to be placed in the pix; that if anyone wished to visit his wife or friends he might do so two or three times in the year if it seemed necessary or useful, but openly and with the consent of the prior, and not for too long; that if any of the brethren or sisters, sound or unsound, broke the rules, the use of the hospital was to be forfeited for a year, and unless willing to be castigated according to the quality of the offence within the year, the offender was to be expelled for ever; that all the brethren and sisters were to attend daily the seven canonical hours and mass and to pray for all benefactors; that all brethen and sisters were to have equal shares in all the profits of the house the same as the prior; that all should attend the general chapter the day after the feast of St. Mary Magdalen, and after chapter the mass for all buried there and for all benefactors; that all ornaments of the church and treasury were to be placed on that day for the inspection of all the brethren and sisters; that on the death of any brother or sister the house was to have the best robe and cowl, and the bed and the chest of the deceased, and if there was no chest, 8s. 6d. for wax light and 6d. for drink among the inmates; that the house should celebrate thirty days for the soul of the deceased; that 6d. was to be distributed to the brethren on each of the feasts of All Saints, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, and on St. Mary Magdalen's Day, for prayers for the founder; that his anniversary was also to be celebrated yearly in the church, under pain of excommunication, and on the same day the chaplain, brethren, and sisters, were each to receive 6d. as drink-money (ad potandum); that on Maundy Thursday a farthing (libellum) and a herring should be distributed to each brother and sister of the house and to all mendicant lepers, and that outside lepers should receive the hospitality of the house for that night. The statutes were confirmed and sealed by William, bishop of Norwich in the year 1174. (fn. 20)

On 26 January, 1340, protection with clause rogamus (that is for collecting alms), was granted for two years to the master and brethren of St. Mary Magdalen on the causey, Lynn, as they had not enough for their support unless relieved by the faithful in other parts. (fn. 21)

In 1549 the rebels from Ket's camp at Castle Rising, on their return from trying to enter the town, sacked the hospital and destroyed the chapel and most of the buildings, so that it was henceforth greatly impoverished. (fn. 22) The hospital was seized by the crown under the Act of Edward VI, but the property was afterwards to some extent restored to the corporation for a like purpose. Its post-Reformation history will be given elsewhere.

Priors of St. Mary Magdalen, Lynn (fn. 23)

Peter, (fn. 24) before 1256

John Dulman, 1468

Nicholas Portland, occurs 1477, (fn. 25) 1482

Henry Burgh, 1482

Richard Bull, 1487

Richard Leke, 1520

Nicholas Bryggs, 1526, 1529

Roger Adams, 1534

John Dixon, 1552

Thomas Hasket, 1570


In addition to the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen, which provided partially for lepers, there were four other lazar-houses close to the town of Lynn, namely at Cowgate, West Lynn, Setchey, and Gaywood.

Stephen Guybon of North Lynn, by his will dated 1432, gave 12d. to every house of lepers about Lynn, namely West Lynn, Cowgate, Hardwick, Setchey, Magdalen, and Gaywood. (fn. 26) Hardwick, in the parish of North Runcton, is described separately, and 'Mawdelyn' obviously means the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen.

As no records can be found of these small lazar-houses, it may be assumed that they had little or no endowment, and were entirely dependent, like similar houses in other places, on alms and occasional bequests.


  • 1. It was probably founded temp. Hen. I. See Dugdale, Mon. vi, 648-9, where two early undated charters are cited from the town muniments.
  • 2. The award is with the capitular muniments at Norwich; a photographic facsimile is given in Mr. Beloe's King's Lynn: Our Borough, Our Churches (1896), where there is an excellent account of the chapel, pp. 74-77.
  • 3. Fox, Acts and Mons. (ed. 1837), iii, 225.
  • 4. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 397.
  • 5. Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. 2, 30.
  • 6. The priors of this hospital were collated by the bishop of Norwich.
  • 7. Close, 15 Edw. II, m. 35.
  • 8. Norw. Epis. Reg. ii, 42.
  • 9. Ibid vi, 150.
  • 10. Ibid. 258.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. Ibid. 320.
  • 13. Ibid. vii, 27.
  • 14. Ibid. viii, 36.
  • 15. Ibid. 38.
  • 16. Ibid. ix, 10.
  • 17. Ibid. xi, 181.
  • 18. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.).
  • 19. Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. 2, 30.
  • 20. A full transcript of these statutes is given in Mackerell, Hist. of Lynn (1738), pp. 244-6. Peter the founder died 1174.
  • 21. Pat. 14 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 47.
  • 22. Mackerell, Hist. of Lynn, 195.
  • 23. Blomefield, Hist of Norf. viii, 520-1. Blomefield also gives the names of several later masters of the hospital, under its revised form, but without dates.
  • 24. Called predecessor of the present master in 1256; Assize R. 567, m. 23.
  • 25. Cal. Bodl. Chart. p. 193.
  • 26. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. iii, 528.