Hospitals: St James & St John, Brackley

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

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, 'Hospitals: St James & St John, Brackley', in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, (London, 1906) pp. 151-153. British History Online [accessed 25 May 2024].

. "Hospitals: St James & St John, Brackley", in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, (London, 1906) 151-153. British History Online, accessed May 25, 2024,

. "Hospitals: St James & St John, Brackley", A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, (London, 1906). 151-153. British History Online. Web. 25 May 2024,

In this section


About the year 1150, Robert le Bossu, earl of Leicester, gave to one Solomon, a clerk, an acre of land at Brackley whereon to build a house for showing hospitality to the poor, together with a free chapel and graveyard. His son, Robert Blanchmaines, earl of Leicester, granted 2½ acres adjoining the site of the house and other lands exempt from tolls and dues within the parish of Brackley. (fn. 2) The house and chapel were dedicated in honour of St. John the Evangelist, but afterwards re-dedicated in honour of SS. James and John. (fn. 3) The abbot and convent of Leicester, in whom the advowson of the rectory of Brackley was vested, granted the hospital leave to have a church free from all subjection to the mother-church, with rights of sepulchre, and to receive the tithes of all their lands. (fn. 4) Bishop Hugh, 1186-1200, confirmed the charters of the two earls, and granted to Solomon and his successors and to the brethren of the hospital the order of priesthood, so that they might celebrate in the chapel and officiate in the parish church during a vacancy without further warrant, as had been granted them by the authority of Pope Alexander III.

Margaret, daughter and co-heiress of Robert, earl of Leicester, son of the founder, married the earl of Winchester, and their descendants were patrons of the hospital. (fn. 5) One of the numerous benefactions to the hospital recorded among the Magdalen College Evidences is that of Roger de Quincy, earl of Winchester, who ordered a measure for corn in the shape of a coffin to be placed in the chapel of the hospital on the righthand side of the shrine wherein the heart of Margaret his mother was entombed, and left provision for filling it with corn thrice yearly for ever from the grange of Hawes or Halse, for the use of the hospital. (fn. 6)

In 1278 Pope Nicholas III. ordered the collectors of the Holy Land tenth in England not to suffer the master and brethren of the hospital for the poor of St. John's, Brackley, to be molested, in accordance with the previous exemption granted by Pope Gregory X. to lazar houses, houses of God, and poor hospitals. (fn. 7)

Various additions were made to the endowment of the hospital during the fourteenth century. In 1301 John de Segrave obtained a licence for the alienation by John le Poer to the master and brethren of the hospital of a messuage, 35 acres of land, and part of an acre of meadow in Westbury, towards the maintenance of the infirm poor. (fn. 8) In 1310 Thomas de Luton obtained a like licence for the alienation of lands and rents to the annual value of £10 to three chaplains to celebrate daily in the chapel of St. James, Brackley, for the souls of himself and his ancestors. (fn. 9) In 1316 Alice, widow of Roger le Bygod, earl of Norfolk, obtained a licence for the master and brethren of the hospital of St. John, Brackley, to acquire lands, tenements, and rents in the king's fee, their own fee, or the fee of others, to the value of £10 a year. (fn. 10) Edward II. seems to have exercised to the full the right of imposing pensioners on all houses of royal foundation or patronage. On 12 August, 1314, the master and brethren of the hospital were ordered to admit into their house William, son of Thomas le Charetter, of Grove, and to find him maintenance for life in food, clothing, and other necessaries, as he was unable to labour for himself, the Scotch rebels having inhumanly cut off his hand whilst engaged in the king's service. (fn. 11) In 1316 Nicholas Russell, who had also been maimed while in the king's service in Scotland, was sent to the hospital to receive maintenance for life, (fn. 12) and in December of the same year Ralph de Wakefield, another broken-down soldier, was sent, but the community apparently resisted further imposition, and the grant of life-maintenance in this case was changed on 15 February to the prior and convent of Breamore. (fn. 13) The master and brethren received the royal commands on 4 March, 1322-3, to admit Thomas de la Garderobe, a maimed servant of the king, in the place of 'Russellus del Aumoneri,' deceased. (fn. 14) Edward III., following the example of his predecessor, sent Lawrence le Charetter, in October, 1327, to the hospital of St. John, Brackley, to receive the same allowance that John Russell, deceased, had therein by the late king's order. (fn. 15)

The patronage of the hospital, which had passed into the hands of the earl of Winchester by the marriage of the Countess Margaret, granddaughter of the founder, came into the hands of Sir Alan la Zouch in 1296, on the death of Ellen his wife, daughter and co-heiress of Roger de Quincy, earl of Winchester. (fn. 16) In 1514 the escheator beyond Trent was directed to deliver to Robert de Holand and Maud his wife, youngest daughter and co-heiress of Alan la Zouch, the advowson, inter alia, of the hospital of St. John, Brackley, which was then declared to be of the yearly value of 110s. (fn. 17) Andrew of Brackley was instituted in January, 1331-2, with the consent of the patron, Maud, widow of Sir Robert de Holand. (fn. 18) John Dorne was collated to the mastership by the bishop of Lincoln, on 12 December, 1384; (fn. 19) he resigned in 1388, and was followed by John de Brokehampton. (fn. 20) This last was vicar of St. Michael's, Northampton, from 1400, and in 1417 he was appointed master of the hospital of St. Leonard, Brackley. For these pluralities the papal court was responsible; as warden of the hospital of SS. James and John, Brackley, he obtained a dispensation in 1399 to hold another benefice with cure or a dignity, his income not exceeding 100 marks. (fn. 21) In 1411 Pope John XXII. confirmed to him the double appointment of warden of Brackley Hospital and rector of Sheepy. (fn. 22) In the same year a papal mandate was issued to the archdeacon of Taunton, directing him, according to the petition of the warden and brethren of the poor hospital of SS. James and John, Brackley, to inquire into the statutes of the said hospital, which were reported to be obscure, and never yet confirmed by papal or ordinary authorities, and to interpret, amend, and approve the same. (fn. 23) It is not, perhaps, greatly surprising, to find that on the death of John de Brokehampton in 1423 it was reported that the revenues of the house had been grossly misused, and that it was without inmates. The master was bound by the constitution of the house to be in holy orders, but there was no obligation as to residence, and though he was sometimes termed the prior, there was no kind of religious rule to be observed by him or the secular chaplains. (fn. 24)

An inquisition was held on 29 July of that year, 1423, as to the patronage of the hospital of SS. James and John at Brackley. The king had granted the custody of the hospital to his clerk Thomas Morton, the jury declared that the hospital was vacant and had been so since the death of John de Brokehampton on 3 May of that same year, and that the presentation was for that time in the hands of the king on account of the minority of William, Lord Lovell, (fn. 25) and because the fellows to whom pertained the right of election had ceased to exist. They stated that at the last vacancy John of Brokehampton was canonically elected by his brethren of the hospital, the leave of the patron having previously been sought and obtained; that the rules of the hospital provided for such a canonical election, but that the office of master could not now be an elective one, as no fellows or brethren of the hospital remained, and, therefore, for the present the patron held the presentation to the hospital; that the master presented should be admitted and instituted by the ordinary, to whom pertained the discussion and confirmation of any election so far as admission and canonical institution were concerned. They further stated that there was not at that time within the hospital a single fellow or brother, though the statutes provided for both brothers and paupers, the brothers acting as secular chaplains; that there was no approved rule or any regularity of living within the hospital; that there were no insignia of religion (fn. 26) within the hospital, save the tonsure and a common seal; that the office of master required to be held by one in orders, but what orders they knew not; that personal or continuous residence was not demanded of the master; that the clerk Thomas Morton, now presented, was thirty years of age and in sub-deacon's orders, and held the benefices following: the prebends of Salisbury, Warwell, Aberguille, and Tamworth, and the rectory of Piddlehinton. (fn. 27)

After some delay the hospital was re-established in 1425; its ordinances were approved by the patron William, Lord Lovell, and ratified by Archbishop Chicheley, who visited the foundation ten years later, in 1435. (fn. 28) The number on the foundation was reduced according to the new constitution, on account of the insufficiency of the revenues; 6 loaves of the value of 3d. were ordained to be given weekly in the chapel to the poor, and a decent house with six or four bedsteads was to be provided within the hospital for the free relief of poor travellers for one night, or longer if necessary. Henry Grene was presented in 1449. Apparently the old evil practice of non-residence had not been relinquished, for there was a priest of the same name, and probably to be identified with him, rector of Boddington, and somewhat later of Middleton Cheney. A commission was issued in April, 1421, to inquire into a complaint of brethren of this hospital that a certain Robert Marshall and others had entered the hospital on 20 March and carried off divers utensils and beasts belonging to it, alleging them to be the property of Henry Grene, the late master, a servant of Henry VI. The offenders were ordered to be arrested and imprisoned. (fn. 29)

James Stanley, the last master, was appointed in February, 1471-2; he became bishop of Ely in 1506. In February, 1484, Francis, Lord Lovell, granted the advowson and patronage of the hospital to William Waynflete, bishop of Winchester, for the sum of 400 marks, in order that it might form part of the endowment of the bishop's newly founded college of Magdalen, Oxford, and the following year the formal annexation took place; the deed for its execution justifying the action on the ground of neglect of the duties of hospitality and almsgiving. (fn. 30)

Masters Of St. James And St. John, Brackley

Solomon, at the time of foundation

Alan, occurs as prior c. 1200

Stephen, occurs c. 1220

Thomas, occurs 1256-1269 (fn. 31)

Thomas Cust, (fn. 32) died 1271

William de Shaldeston, (fn. 33) elected 1271, resigned 1274

John de Chenoure, (fn. 34) elected 1274, died after April 1289 (fn. 35)

Geoffrey de Hansho, elected 1289-1309 (fn. 36)

William de Dorsete, elected 1309

John Abbot, alias le Bere, (fn. 37) died 1332

Andrew de Brackley, (fn. 38) elected 1332

Robert de Tadmarton, (fn. 39) elected 1336, died 1349

Alan de Chacombe, (fn. 40) elected 1349

John Dorne, (fn. 41) appointed 1384

John Fane, occurs 1386, resigned 1388 (fn. 42)

William Fesaunt presented by archbishop 1387 (fn. 43)

John de Brokehampton, (fn. 44) elected 1388, died 1423

Thomas Morton, (fn. 45) appointed 1423, died 1449

Henry Grene, (fn. 46) elected 1449, died 1472

James Stanley, (fn. 47) elected 1472, consecrated bishop of Ely 1506

A fragment of the seal of this house, enclosed in an old damask bag attached to a charter of 1240, (fn. 48) represents a cross pattée. Legend all but defaced: . . . . ILLV . . . .

Fragment of another seal attached to a charter dated 1317. (fn. 49) It is a pointed oval, and represents the feet only of St. John standing on a carved corbel. The legend is wanting.

Later seal of the fifteenth century, pointed oval, represents the patron saints SS. James and John full length in two canopied niches. In base under a round-headed arch the master or prior kneeling in prayer. (fn. 50)



  • 1. An extract from the chronicle of Henry Knyghton (lib. ii. cap. ii.) records that Robert, earl of Mellent, the father of Robert le Bossu, was the founder of this hospital, and that his heart, preserved in salt, was buried there in a leaden coffin.
  • 2. The chartulary of Brackley Hospital is at Magdalen Coll., Oxf.; the foundation charter and three other charters are given in Dugdale, Mon. vi. 751–2.
  • 3. In 1321 Bishop Beck granted a licence for the dedication of the church and churchyard of the hospital. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. of Beck, f. 55.
  • 4. The Brackley Evidences at Magd. Coll. Oxf., largely cited by Baker, Hist. of Northants, i. 579–582, are exceedingly full. The separate deeds dating from 1160–1165 number 945, and the chartulary of the hospital, written about 1300, numbers 80 leaves. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. App. iv. pp. 458, 460.
  • 5. A table of the descent of this lady is given in Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. App. iv. 460. The heart of the countess and that of her eldest son were buried before the high altar in the chapel of the hospital. Ibid.
  • 6. Baker, Hist. of Northants, i. 580.
  • 7. Cal. of Papal L. i. 456.
  • 8. Pat. 29 Edw. I. m. 13.
  • 9. Ibid. 3 Edw. II. m. 7.
  • 10. Ibid. 10 Edw. II. pt. 1, m. 30; pt. 2, m. 25.
  • 11. Close, 8 Edw. II. m. 35d.
  • 12. Ibid. 9 Edw. II. m. 11d.
  • 13. Ibid. 10 Edw. II. m. 17d.
  • 14. Ibid. 16 Edw. II. m. 14.
  • 15. Ibid. 1 Edw. III. pt. 2, m. 11.
  • 16. In 1274, this lady, as patron, presented John de Chenoure to the diocesan, to be instituted as master of the hospital. Linc. Epis. Reg. Roll of Gravesend.
  • 17. Close, 8 Edw. II. m. 32.
  • 18. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. of Burghersh, f. 194.
  • 19. Ibid. Inst. of Bokyngham, ii. f. 129.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Cal. of Papal L. v. 186.
  • 22. Ibid. vi. 271.
  • 23. Ibid. 294.
  • 24. Linc. Epis. Reg. Fleming, cited by Baker, Hist. of Northants. i. 581.
  • 25. John of Brokehampton was instituted on the presentation of Sir John Lovell in 1388. In 1420 Maud, widow of John, Lord Lovell, granted her manors of Bagworth and Thornton, in Lincolnshire, to trustees for the purpose of transforming the hospital within the next ten years into a house of Dominican friars, to consist of thirteen of that order, ten of whom should be chaplains and one of them prior. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 617. Lady Lovell died, however, in 1423, and her wishes were never carried out.
  • 26. 'Insignia religionis.'
  • 27. Reg. of Bp. Fleming, given in Harl. MS. 6,952, f. 60.
  • 28. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. of Gray, f. 161.
  • 29. Pat. 1 Edw. IV. pt. 1, m. 27d.
  • 30. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. App. iv. 459–60.
  • 31. The first four names are given by Macray, Notes from Muniments of Magd. Coll. Oxon. 5.
  • 32. Linc. Epis. Reg. Roll of Gravesend.
  • 33. Ibid.
  • 34. Ibid.
  • 35. Macray, loc. cit.
  • 36. Ibid. There called Geoffrey de Halsho.
  • 37. Linc. Epis. Inst. of Burghersh, f. 214d.
  • 38. Ibid.
  • 39. Ibid.
  • 40. Ibid. Inst. of Gynwell, f. 137.
  • 41. Ibid. Inst. of Bokyngham, ii. f. 129.
  • 42. Macray, op. cit. 6.
  • 43. Ibid.
  • 44. Linc. Epis. Reg. Buckingham, f. 148.
  • 45. Harl. MS. 6952, f. 60, from the register of Bishop Fleming.
  • 46. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. of Alnwick, f. 142.
  • 47. Ibid. Inst. of Chadworth, f. 82.
  • 48. Harl. Chart. 84, D. 32.
  • 49. Ibid. 84, E. 45.
  • 50. Casts at the B.M. lxix. 66.