Hospitals: Ludlow (St John)

A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.

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M J Angold. G C Baugh. Marjorie M Chibnall. D C Cox. D T W Price. Margaret Tomlinson. B S Trinder, 'Hospitals: Ludlow (St John)', A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2, (London, 1973), pp. 102-104. British History Online [accessed 18 June 2024].

M J Angold. G C Baugh. Marjorie M Chibnall. D C Cox. D T W Price. Margaret Tomlinson. B S Trinder. "Hospitals: Ludlow (St John)", in A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2, (London, 1973) 102-104. British History Online, accessed June 18, 2024,

Angold, M J. Baugh, G C. Chibnall, Marjorie M. Cox, D C. Price, D T W. Tomlinson, Margaret. Trinder, B S. "Hospitals: Ludlow (St John)", A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2, (London, 1973). 102-104. British History Online. Web. 18 June 2024,

In this section


This hospital stood at the northern end of the Teme Bridge, Ludlow, and was founded by the Ludlow burgess Peter Undergod. In his foundation charter, probably executed in the 1220s, Undergod endowed the hospital with a fulling mill on the Teme, which he had acquired from Walter De Lacy's son Gilbert, and with rents in Ludlow and lands at Rock (in Stanton Lacy) and Ludford. (fn. 1) It is clear from the charter that the hospital was already in existence and that Undergod was then its master. (fn. 2) Walter de Lacy, as manorial lord, executed at least four charters in favour of the hospital before his death in 1241. (fn. 3) In addition to confirming the foundation charter he granted the hospital exclusive right to full the cloth of the men of Ludlow, liberty to trade on his estates quit of toll, and the amercements of his tenants in Rock and Stanton Lacy manors. It was not felt necessary to secure royal confirmation until 1266. (fn. 4)

By 1255 the hospital's endowments included 6 burgages in Ludlow, 8 virgates in Rock, 16 a. in Richard's Castle, and half a virgate in Corfham; (fn. 5) by the end of the 13th century it possessed lands in Overton (fn. 6) and its Ludford property included a wood. (fn. 7) Grants to the hospital under mortmain licences between 1316 and 1364, which also covered a few properties acquired in the later 13th century, included 34½ burgages or other house property in Ludlow, 2 mills and some 90 a. in Ludford, and £3 17s. 10d. rents in Ludlow, Ludford, and Hawkbatch in Arley (Worcs.). (fn. 8) The hospital also appears to have obtained possession of the manor of Ludford shortly after 1330. (fn. 9)

Nearly all these grants to the hospital were made by Ludlow burgesses, although a grant made to endow a chantry by Joan, widow of Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, in 1354 (fn. 10) is the first indication of a close relationship with the earls of March, whose patronage (fn. 11) guaranteed the hospital's survival at a period when Ludlow burgesses seem to have diverted their interests to the Palmers' Guild. (fn. 12) The foundation charter had made no reference to a patron, merely directing that masters were to be chosen by the brethren from among their number, (fn. 13) but rights of patronage appear to have been vested in the Lacy family following Walter de Lacy's confirmation, and passed with Ludlow manor (fn. 14) to the Mortimers in the early 14th century. In 1369 the Crown claimed the right to appoint a master during the minority of Edmund, Earl of March, (fn. 15) but its nominee was not instituted and in the following year licence was given to the brethren to elect a master themselves. (fn. 16) A further attempt to foist a Crown nominee was made in 1391. (fn. 17) During the 15th century, however, the earls themselves appear to have been content to confirm the candidate elected by the brethren. (fn. 18)

In 1417 Edmund, Earl of March, gave the hospital licence to convert its fulling mills on the Teme into corn mills and to grind the corn of the inhabitants of Ludlow there (fn. 19) and in 1458 his nephew Richard, Duke of York, granted to it the chapel of St. Mary Magdalen in Ludlow castle. (fn. 20) Patronage of the hospital passed to the Crown on the accession of Edward IV. In consideration of the losses suffered by the hospital at the hands of the Lancastrians, presumably during the sack of Ludlow following the 'Rout of Ludford' (1459), Edward IV in 1466 granted it the right to hold view of frankpledge on its estate in Ludlow, Ludford, Rock, Hawkbatch, and Overton, and acquitted it of clerical taxation and of suit at the county and hundred courts. (fn. 21) Mortimer patronage may account for the comparative esteem in which the hospital was held locally in the early 15th century. On at least three occasions it was called upon to act as guarantor that endowments of Palmers' Guild obits were applied to their proper purposes. (fn. 22) In 1407 the master was among those appointed to collect a clerical tax in the diocese, (fn. 23) in 1433 a papal bull obtained by the parishioners of Ludlow was deposited at the hospital, (fn. 24) and in 1435 the master was empowered to conduct a visitation on behalf of the bishop in Ludlow and at Limebrook Priory (Herefs.). (fn. 25) These features may, however, be no more than a reflection of the local reputation of the master, Hugh Ferrour. (fn. 26)

Little is known of the hospital's internal life. Its original function was to provide relief for the poor and infirm, (fn. 27) and its site at the entrance to the town suggests that it was also intended as a rest-house for travellers. By the early 15th century the hospital seems to have developed into a small college of priests whose principal functions were to serve chantries and obits in the hospital church and in the chapels at Ludlow castle. Masters of the hospital were usually referred to as priors after 1300 and the institution was known indifferently as a hospital or a priory in the 15th and 16th centuries. The decay of hospitality to poor travellers and strangers was among the reasons given for the annexation of the chapel of St. Mary Magdalen in 1458 (fn. 28) and an appreciable part of the hospital's income continued to be spent on alms until its dissolution.

The foundation charter had directed that the brethren should be regulars, living under certain religious rules (fn. 29) and, as in many other hospitals, the Augustinian rule had been adopted here by the later 14th century. (fn. 30) Their claim to be regulars led to occasional clashes between the brethren and the bishop of Hereford, as in 1435, when they submitted to the collation by the bishop of one of their number as master but indicated that this should not be treated as a precedent. (fn. 31) In 1512 the master refused to proffer obedience to the bishop on the ground that he was a regular of the order of St. Augustine. (fn. 32) If the lists of those brethren responsible for electing priors in the later Middle Ages represent all the brethren in residence, numbers were very small. Four brethren are named in 1384, (fn. 33) two in 1435, (fn. 34) and three in 1457. (fn. 35) By 1535 the hospital contained a master, and two chaplains, both of whom had been there for at least 20 years. (fn. 36) A deponent in the later 16th century described the habit worn by the brethren: a hooded cape of murrey and blue with a cross on the breast. (fn. 37)

The hospital church was built at, or shortly after, its foundation and the hospital's right to celebrate divine service there was confirmed by the patron before 1241. (fn. 38) The hospital possessed rights of burial, at least for its inmates, since there is a reference to its graveyard in 1418. (fn. 39) An indulgence for the repair of the hospital's bells was obtained in 1411. (fn. 40)

The endowment of a daily mass in the hospital church by Richard of Eastham in 1364 (fn. 41) was presumably only one of several such services of which no record survives. In the later Middle Ages, however, the principal obligation of the brethren was to maintain regular services for their Mortimer patrons in the castle chapels of St. Peter and St. Mary Magdalen. A service in St. Peter's chapel for Roger, Earl of March, was established by his widow in 1354 (fn. 42) and in 1458, following the annexation of St. Mary's, Richard, Duke of York, specified in some detail the services to be performed in both chapels for his soul and that of his wife. (fn. 43)

The hospital seems to have fallen into decline during the mastership of John Holland (c. 1502-28). This was no doubt due in part to the absence of a local patron, although a fire said to have destroyed stores and crops belonging to the hospital in 1515 (fn. 44) may also have contributed. Holland, who had been found guilty of incontinence before his election as master, (fn. 45) found it necessary to expel one of the brethren, c. 1517. (fn. 46) He clearly took an interest in the management of the hospital estate, for he was presented at the borough court in 1526 for oppressing Whitcliffe Common with sheep (fn. 47) and for inclosing the commons there in the following year. (fn. 48) Holland was succeeded by Edward Leighton, an Oxford graduate who had 'made himself as bare as ever was Job' in seeking the appointment from Cardinal Wolsey and who had turned for help to Thomas Cromwell in October 1529. (fn. 49) In the following month the next presentation was granted to two of Leighton's kinsmen, one of whom was a doorward at the Tower of London, (fn. 50) and Leighton was instituted prior in the following year. (fn. 51) Like his predecessor Leighton was presented for inclosing the commons; (fn. 52) he may have farmed directly a part of the hospital estate, for in 1535, when the whole estate had a gross annual value of a little more than £30, its 'demesne lands' were separately assessed and were said to be worth £5 a year. (fn. 53) As in the 14th century the estate then lay in Ludlow, Ludford, Overton, Rock, and Hawkbatch. (fn. 54) Although no detailed survey survives it is known to have included over 40 burgages in Ludlow. (fn. 55)

The forms of a religious life were still being observed in 1535, for two chaplains received stipends of £2 apiece, and £3 6s. 8d. was said to be spent annually on alms. A lay steward and receiver were employed, and a further £4 was being paid to a Crown corrodiary. (fn. 56) In 1537 Leighton granted the hospital to William Foxe and his son Edmund (fn. 57) and in 1539, with the consent of the bishop, Leighton surrendered the mastership to Charles, brother of Edmund Foxe, who subsequently received a pension of £6 a year from the grantees. (fn. 58) Although Edmund Foxe stated in 1546 that he was paying £9 19s. 8d. a year to the two priests for their service in the castle chapel of St. Peter and 60s. a year in alms, (fn. 59) it is clear that conventual life had ceased by this date. (fn. 60) In 1547 the hospital's estates were granted by the Crown to John, Earl of Warwick, (fn. 61) who immediately conveyed them to William and Edmund Foxe. (fn. 62)

Part of the hospital buildings was converted into a house, which was occupied by various members of the Foxe family until the early 17th century. (fn. 63) The church was still being used for worship, presumably as a private chapel, in 1564, when Jane, widow of William Foxe, left a chalice and other church goods there to her son Edward. (fn. 64) It was apparently intact in 1577, when a sketch shows a small rectangular building with a round-headed door on its northwest gable, two round-headed windows on the southwest wall, and a bellcote near the south-east gable. (fn. 65) The church was described as 'decayed' in 1593 (fn. 66) and was largely demolished by Ludlow corporation in 1636, when the materials were used to repair the parish churchyard wall. (fn. 67)

St. John's House, facing Ludford Bridge at the corner of Lower Broad Street and Temeside, incorporates a small part of a building which originally stood at the south-west corner of the hospital site. Its west wall contains medieval masonry and there are remains of a pointed archway on the south gable. The latter has been largely reconstructed but the western jamb and the lower part of the arch, which are intact, date from the early 13th century. The Foxe family inserted upper floors in this part of the house and added a two-bay stone wing to the east in the later 16th or early 17th century. Other parts of the hospital may have survived in a range of tenements extending northwards on Lower Broad Street. These were occupied by 'labourers and journeymen artificers' in the mid 18th century but were rebuilt c. 1770. (fn. 68) The hospital site (2½ a.) was still accounted extra-parochial in 1790. (fn. 69)

Masters or Priors of St. John's Hospital, Ludlow

Peter Undergod, occurs c. 1220. (fn. 70)

Stephen, occurs 1293-7. (fn. 71)

John, occurs 1300. (fn. 72)

Richard, occurs 1346. (fn. 73)

William of Onibury, instituted 1349, (fn. 74) died 1369. (fn. 75)

Richard de Wottone, instituted 1370. (fn. 76)

Philip Kymley, elected 1384. (fn. 77)

Nicholas Stevens, occurs 1392. (fn. 78)

Hugh Ferrour, occurs from 1399, (fn. 79) died 1435. (fn. 80)

John Thorpe, collated 1435, (fn. 81) died 1457. (fn. 82)

Thomas Oteley, instituted 1457, (fn. 83) occurs 1466. (fn. 84)

John Holland, occurs 1502-28. (fn. 85)

Edward Leighton, instituted 1530, (fn. 86) resigned 1539. (fn. 87)

Impressions of the pointed oval seal of the hospital, attached to deeds, 1404-47, (fn. 88) measure 1¾ × 13/8 in. They show the seated figure of the Virgin with Child; a dove hovers above the Virgin's head and there is a crescent moon in a cusped niche at her feet. Legend, lombardic:



  • 1. Reg. C. Bothe (C. & Y.S.), 185–6. A corrupt version appears in Dugdale, Mon. vi. 681.
  • 2. He was described as 'founder and warden' in an early-13th-century grant: B.M. Add. Ch. 41296.
  • 3. T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. iv. p. xviii; xlix. 217; B.M. Add. MS. 6276, ff. 83–84; Dugdale, Mon. vi. 681–2.
  • 4. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 681–2; cf. Eyton, v. 298 n.
  • 5. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 65, 69, 72, 80, 107; Eyton, v. 73.
  • 6. S.R.O. 356/MT/1203.
  • 7. Ibid. 356/MT/762.
  • 8. Cal. Pat. 1313–17, 621; 1324–7, 51; 1340–3, 229, 234– 235; 1348–50, 464; 1354–8, 87, 311; 1361–4, 495. For Hawkbatch see B.M. Add. MS. 6276, ff. 84–86.
  • 9. T.S.A.S. xlix. 221–2; B.M. Add. Ch. 41300.
  • 10. Cal. Pat. 1354–8, 87; C 143/316/4.
  • 11. For Mortimer confirmation charters, 1379–1417, see B.M. Add. MS. 6276, ff. 84–90.
  • 12. See p. 136.
  • 13. Reg. C. Bothe (C. & Y.S.), 185–6.
  • 14. Eyton, v. 279.
  • 15. Cal. Pat. 1367–70, 305.
  • 16. Ibid. 338, 369–70; Reg. L. Charlton (C. & Y.S.), 57.
  • 17. Cal. Pat. 1388–92, 461.
  • 18. Reg. T. Spofford (C. & Y.S.), 204–5; Reg. J. Stanbury (C. & Y.S.), 40.
  • 19. S.R.O. 462/1; ibid 52/48.
  • 20. Reg. J. Stanbury (C. & Y.S.), 47–50.
  • 21. Cal. Pat. 1461–7, 542.
  • 22. S.R.O. 356/MT/848, 857; ibid. box 347B, obit agreement, 1408. The same sanction was used at the foundation of Hosier's almshouses, 1486 (see below, p. 108) but by the early 16th century the Ludlow friaries were a more common choice.
  • 23. Reg. R. Mascall (C. & Y.S.), 108.
  • 24. Reg. T. Spofford (C. & Y.S.), 152.
  • 25. Ibid. 185–6.
  • 26. Ibid. 204–5; S.R.O. 783, box 12, deed 1399.
  • 27. Reg. C. Bothe (C. & Y.S.), 185–6.
  • 28. Reg. J. Stanbury (C. & Y.S.), 47–50.
  • 29. Reg. C. Bothe (C. & Y.S.), 185–6.
  • 30. Reg. J. Gilbert (C. & Y.S.), 65–66.
  • 31. Reg. T. Spofford (C. & Y.S.), 204–5.
  • 32. Reg. R. Mayew (C. & Y.S.), 143–4.
  • 33. Reg. J. Gilbert (C. & Y.S.), 65–66.
  • 34. Reg. T. Spofford (C. & Y.S.), 204–5.
  • 35. Reg. J. Stanbury (C. & Y.S.), 38–40.
  • 36. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 200.
  • 37. T.S.A.S. xlix. 225.
  • 38. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 681–2.
  • 39. Reg. E. Lacy (C. & Y.S.), 21.
  • 40. Reg. R. Mascall (C. & Y.S.), 191.
  • 41. Cal. Pat. 1361–4, 495; Abbrev. Rot. Orig. (Rec. Com.), ii. 283; C 143/352/11; S.R.O. 783, box 12, letters patent, 1364.
  • 42. Cal. Pat. 1354–8, 87; C 143/316/4.
  • 43. Reg. J. Stanbury (C. & Y.S.), 47–49.
  • 44. Reg. R. Mayew (C. & Y.S.), 287.
  • 45. Ibid. 143–4.
  • 46. Reg. C. Bothe (C. & Y.S.), 33–34.
  • 47. S.R.O. 356, box 420, bailiffs' acct., 1525–6.
  • 48. Ibid. box 421, bailiffs' acct. 1527–8.
  • 49. L. & P. Hen. VIII, addenda (1), p. 218.
  • 50. Ibid. iv (3), p. 2709.
  • 51. Reg. C. Bothe (C. & Y.S.), 344.
  • 52. S.R.O. 356, box 420, bailiffs' acct. 1531–2.
  • 53. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 200.
  • 54. Ibid.
  • 55. S.R.O. 356, box 278, brief, Ludlow corporation v. Edward Foxe, 1602; cf. E 318/38/2042; S.C. 6/Edw. VI/ 392 m. 34.
  • 56. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 200.
  • 57. T.S.A.S. 2nd ser. xii. 116–17.
  • 58. Ibid. 3rd ser. x. 329–31; Dugdale, Mon. vi. 682.
  • 59. T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. x. 329.
  • 60. Leland described it as a 'church . . . sometime a college': Leland, Itin. ed. Toulmin Smith, ii. 77.
  • 61. Cal. Pat. 1547–8, 253–4, 255, 256.
  • 62. Ibid. 4.
  • 63. T.S.A.S. 2nd ser. xii. 122–33.
  • 64. Ibid. 122.
  • 65. Ibid. 4th ser. iii., plan of Bringewood Chase, 1577, between pp. 262–3. The sketch may be no more than a conventional representation and is probably incorrectly aligned.
  • 66. S.R.O. 783, box 30, marriage settlement of William Foxe, 1593; B.M. Add. Ch. 40857.
  • 67. T.S.A.S. 4th ser. iii. 271–2.
  • 68. S.R.O. 1996 uncat., case for opinion, 1790. Several of the tenements had been demolished by 1969.
  • 69. Ibid.
  • 70. Reg. C. Bothe (C. & Y.S.), 185–6; B.M. Add. Ch. 41296.
  • 71. S.R.O. 356/MT/775; Cal. Chan. R. Var. 22.
  • 72. S.R.O. 356/MT/777.
  • 73. Reg. J. Trillek (C. & Y.S.), 14.
  • 74. Ibid. 43.
  • 75. Cal. Pat. 1367–70, 305, 338.
  • 76. Ibid. 369–70; Reg. L. Charlton (C. & Y.S.), 57. William of Ireland was granted the office in 1369 (Cal. Pat. 1367– 1370, 305) but was not instituted.
  • 77. Reg. J. Gilbert (C. & Y.S.), 65–66.
  • 78. S.R.O. 356/MT/91, 94, 840. John Wyche was granted the office in 1391 (Cal. Pat. 1388–92, 461) but was apparently not instituted.
  • 79. S.R.O. 783, box 12, deed, 1399.
  • 80. Reg. T. Spofford (C. & Y.S.), 204–5.
  • 81. Ibid.
  • 82. Reg. J. Stanbury (C. & Y.S.), 38–40.
  • 83. Ibid. 42–43.
  • 84. S.R.O. 356, box 420, bailiffs' acct. 1466–7.
  • 85. Reg. R. Mayew (C. & Y.S.), 143–4; S.R.O. 356/MT/ 1183; ibid. box 421, bailiffs' acct. 1527–8.
  • 86. Reg. C. Bothe (C. & Y.S.), 344.
  • 87. T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. x. 330–1; Dugdale, Mon. vi. 682.
  • 88. S.R.O. 356/MT/428, 848, 857.