Hospitals: Shrewsbury

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.

'Hospitals: Shrewsbury', in A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2, (London, 1973) pp. 105-108. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

In this section


This institution, which stood in Frankwell, close to the old Welsh Bridge, (fn. 1) was presumably in existence by 1155, when the bridge was known as St. George's bridge. (fn. 2) It may still have been a hospital in the early 13th century (fn. 3) but is normally referred to as a chapel thereafter. Members of the Cole family, who held a substantial estate adjacent to the chapel, granted a rent charge of 40s. to the chaplain of St. George and his successors to endow a family chantry in 1278. (fn. 4) The status of the chapel in the later Middle Ages is obscure. It may have been appropriated to St. John's Hospital when the latter was rebuilt by Richard Pigot, for Pigot's will refers to the chapel of St. John and St. George, (fn. 5) but the Cole family also claimed to own St. George's in the 15th century. A Crown grant of next presentation to the 'hospital' of St. George was obtained by one John Hampton in 1449. (fn. 6) It seems likely that this represents an attempt by the Coles to reassert their claims to the chapel. St. George's was said to be annexed to St. John's in 1463 (fn. 7) but two years later John Cole demised the chapel to the warden of St. John's and his successors, requiring prayers to be said for the Cole family and reserving the right to appoint another priest to say mass there. (fn. 8) The chapel of St. George did not figure in the lawsuits between Edmund Cole and the warden of St. John's in the 1530s, (fn. 9) nor was it recorded as part of the hospital estate at the Dissolution. (fn. 10) It had apparently been demolished by 1564 (fn. 11) and the site remained in the possession of the Cole family until the 18th century. (fn. 12)

No wardens or seal known.


This leper hospital is first recorded in 1155, when Henry II granted it 30s. a year, (fn. 13) but it was probably in existence c. 1136. (fn. 14) A later grant by Henry II of a double handful of corn and a single handful of flour from every sack sold in Shrewsbury market (fn. 15) was confirmed in 1204, (fn. 16) and in 1232 the lepers of St. Giles were granted a horse-load of wood daily from Buriwood in Condover. (fn. 17)

Scarcely anything is known of the internal life of the hospital. Its medieval estate appears to have been restricted to the suburb of Abbey Foregate and included a messuage near the English Bridge. (fn. 18) It apparently housed both men and women (fn. 19) and was under the government of a head called indifferently prior, master, or warden. (fn. 20) The community lived under a rule laid down in its foundation charter, alleged infractions of which were the subject of royal inquiry in 1348. (fn. 21) The abbot of Shrewsbury headed the commissioners in this inquiry and by the early 16th century the abbey accounted itself patron of the hospital. (fn. 22) The use made by the abbey of the church of St. Giles as a temporary resting-place for the relics of St. Winifred, c. 1136, (fn. 23) would suggest that it was in fact the founder.

Some time before the Dissolution the abbey leased the hospital to Richard Lee of Langley who later assigned his interest to John Prince. (fn. 24) A John Prince described himself as 'warden and governor' of the hospital in 1544 (fn. 25) and by 1546 had clearly appropriated its endowments. (fn. 26) The Prince family and their descendants, the earls of Tankerville, accounted themselves masters of the hospital until the 19th century. In 1591 Richard Prince assigned rents for the maintenance of the four inmates, (fn. 27) but the hospital owed its later endowments to Sir Richard Prince (d. 1665) and his father-in-law Sir Walter Wrottesley. In 1632 Prince secured the payment of arrears of the 30s. paid annually by the sheriff. (fn. 28) A body of trustees had been formed by 1633, when Prince agreed to pay them a legacy of £100 bequeathed to the hospital by Wrottesley. (fn. 29) He fulfilled this undertaking in 1637 by granting an annual rent charge of £5 4s. from lands in Abbey Foregate to provide weekly payments of 2s. for the inmates and agreed to supply a ton of coal or 10s. at Michaelmas each year. (fn. 30) By will proved in 1666 he left a further £100, (fn. 31) which by 1698 was being met by a rent charge arising from a small estate at the Punchbowl Inn, Cound. (fn. 32) In the early 19th century, when the four inmates were nominated and paid by the Earl of Tankerville, each of them received 1s. 6d. a week, an annual allowance of 3s. for coal, and 12s. 6d. for clothing at Christmas. (fn. 33) Responsibility for payment of the Cound rent charge, which by this date was regarded as the hospital's sole endowment, passed shortly before 1865 to the lord of Cound manor. (fn. 34) He and his successors were masters of the hospital until 1944, when the obligation passed, with the Cound property, to the Holt Brewery Co. (later Ansells Brewery). (fn. 35) Under a Scheme of 1969 the rent charge was redeemed and the hospital was vested in the Shrewsbury Drapers' Company. (fn. 36)

The medieval hospital may have stood west of St. Giles's Church, where foundations were still said to be visible in the early 19th century. (fn. 37) The present hospital, which was built in the mid 18th century, (fn. 38) is a small brick building north of the church, comprising four single-room dwellings.

Priors, Masters, or Wardens of the Hospital of St. Giles, Shrewsbury, Before the Dissolution

Alan of Cronkhill, occurs 1328. (fn. 39)

Nicholas de M . . ., occurs 1370. (fn. 40)

An impression of the pointed oval hospital seal is attached to a receipt of 1370. (fn. 41) It measures 2×1½ in. and shows the figure of St. Giles, with staff in his right hand, standing upon a hind. Legend lombardic:



Although not recorded before the 1220s (fn. 42) it is likely that this hospital, like that of St. Giles, Shrewsbury, (fn. 43) was established in the 12th century. It may have been a royal foundation, since wardens were regularly appointed by the Crown on this pretext after 1370. (fn. 44) In the early 13th century, however, the brethren found it necessary to obtain the consent of the dean and chapter of St. Chad before conveying a shop in the Market Place to Shrewsbury Abbey, (fn. 45) suggesting that in its early years the hospital was to some degree subordinate to the parochial clergy of St. Chad.

The greater part of the hospital's modest estate, which is not known to have been enlarged after the early 14th century, lay like the hospital itself in the suburb of Frankwell. Two shops in Shrewsbury were acquired from Baldwin of Hodnet, c. 1221. (fn. 46) The brethren leased shops in High Street in 1290. (fn. 47) Some part of the Frankwell estate, however, was possibly being kept in hand in the early 14th century, when the hospital's goods included a few plough-beasts. (fn. 48) In 1314 William Vaughan gave 4 messuages and 18d. rent in Shrewsbury to endow a chantry in the hospital chapel (fn. 49) and in 1342 lands worth 4 marks a year were given by the bailiffs of Shrewsbury to endow a chantry for Edmund, Earl of Arundel. (fn. 50) The latter gift was probably intended as an augmentation of the existing service, since in 1439 the bailiffs appointed a priest to Vaughan's chantry. (fn. 51)

Richard Pigot, who was presumably warden, was engaged in rebuilding the hospital at the time of his death, c. 1369, (fn. 52) perhaps at the same time annexing the chapel of St. George as a hospital chapel. (fn. 53) Instructions for a visitation of the hospital issued by the Crown in 1376 alleged that it was in a dilapidated condition. (fn. 54) The purpose of the visitation, however, may have been simply to confirm the new arrangements. It took place at the beginning of the wardenship of Thomas Barker and may well have been set on foot at his request. Barker obtained a papal indulgence in favour of the hospital in 1391. (fn. 55) Although another warden was nominated in the same year, (fn. 56) Barker's title was confirmed in 1410 (fn. 57) and he continued in office until the 1430s. (fn. 58)

St. John's evidently remained a hospital for some years after Pigot's rebuilding, for it contained at least two brethren in addition to the warden in 1375. (fn. 59) Like many other small hospitals, however, it later became no more than an almshouse and was so described in 1471. (fn. 60) A commission for visitation in 1466 charged the warden with having neglected its fabric, books, vestments, and ornaments and with the alienation of its estates. (fn. 61) John Bickley, the warden at this date was a member of a Frankwell family and his successor Robert Dax was possibly also a local man: by this period the office was merely a sinecure. Some part of the hospital building, apparently including its chapel, was leased in 1523 to Richard Scriven. (fn. 62) Another part may be represented by the 'old hall', possession of which was the subject of lawsuits between the warden and Edmund Cole in the 1530s. (fn. 63)

In 1546, when the hospital was said to be in great decay and ready to fall down, its estates were valued at £5 17s. 6d. a year. (fn. 64) These included a dozen messuages or cottages in Frankwell, 6s. in rents in the same place, Calcott farm, and 5 shops in Glovers' Row, Shrewsbury. (fn. 65) A slightly higher valuation was given in 1548, when the only recorded item of expenditure by the warden was an annual payment of 5s. to the poor. (fn. 66) The latter were presumably the inmates of three cottages adjoining the hospital. They were excepted from the Crown grant of the hospital estate to Robert Wood in 1549, when the hospital itself was reserved for use by the town in time of plague. (fn. 67) The cottages, known in the later 16th century as St. John's Almshouses, (fn. 68) had become part of Wood's estate by 1555. (fn. 69) They were damaged by fire in 1593 (fn. 70) but are said to have survived, under the name of Cole's Almshouses, into the 17th century. (fn. 71)

The hospital, of which there are no surviving remains, stood to the north of the road leading into Frankwell from the old Welsh Bridge, nearly opposite the chapel of St. George. (fn. 72) Hospital and chapel both stood close to 'The Stew', where remains of fishponds were extant in the early 19th century. (fn. 73)

Wardens of St. John's Hospital, Shrewsbury

Thomas, occurs 1227. (fn. 74)

John de la Chirche, occurs 1339. (fn. 75)

Richard Pigot, died c. 1369. (fn. 76)

Roger Harlescott, appointed 1370. (fn. 77)

Thomas Barker, appointed 1374, (fn. 78) occurs to 1437. (fn. 79)

Roger Marsh, resigned by 1439. (fn. 80)

William Shelve, appointed 1439, (fn. 81) died c. 1462. (fn. 82)

John Bickley, appointed 1462, (fn. 83) occurs to 1480. (fn. 84)

Robert Dax, possibly appointed in 1495, (fn. 85) occurs to 1522. (fn. 86)

William Edwards, appointed 1523. (fn. 87)

David Owen, occurs between 1526 and 1539. (fn. 88)

Christopher Draper, occurs 1546-8. (fn. 89)

No impression of the hospital seal has been found. (fn. 90)


  • 1. T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. i. 303; ibid. lii. 226–7; S.R.O. 1831 uncat., deeds, 1493, 1573. A fragment of carved stonework, dating from the early 13th century, was found on the supposed site, c. 1900: Cranage, x. 1008.
  • 2. N.L.W., Shrews. Cart. no. 36.
  • 3. Indulgence in favour of hospital of St. George by 'W.', Bishop of Coventry: Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 467. The bishop was either Walter Durdent (1149–61) or William Cornhill (1214–24).
  • 4. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 467; T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. i. 292.
  • 5. Phillips, Hist. Shrews. (1779), 114.
  • 6. Cal. Pat. 1446–51, 256.
  • 7. Ibid. 1461–7, 295.
  • 8. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 468.
  • 9. See p. 107.
  • 10. T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. x. 309–10, 344–5; E 318/39/2095.
  • 11. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 469.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 640; Cal. Chart. R. 1300–26, 292; Eyton, Itin. Hen. II, 14; Pipe R. 1156–8 (Rec. Com.), 43. This annual payment was still being made to the hospital in 1969: ex. inf. Mr. M. de C. Peele, the undersheriff of Shropshire.
  • 14. When the church of St. Giles, presumably in origin the hospital chapel, is first recorded: Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 40–41.
  • 15. Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), i. 122; Dugdale, Mon. vi. 640.
  • 16. Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), i. 122.
  • 17. Cal. Chart. R. 1226–57, 167.
  • 18. T.S.A.S. [1st ser.] i. 28–29; Cal. Pat. 1327–30, 274.
  • 19. Cal. Pat. 1321–4, 276.
  • 20. T.S.A.S. [1st ser.] i. 28–29; Cal. Pat. 1281–92, 68; 1327–30, 274; 1348–50, 177.
  • 21. Cal. Pat. 1348–50, 177.
  • 22. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 173.
  • 23. Ibid. 40–41.
  • 24. Ibid. 173.
  • 25. Shrews. boro. rec. 1795.
  • 26. No property, apart from a croft, was recorded by the chantry commissioners: T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. x. 311.
  • 27. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews, ii. 173–4; cf. T.S.A.S. 4th ser. viii. 124.
  • 28. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews, ii. 74.
  • 29. C 93/15/8; 24th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 231, pp. 272 (1831), xi.
  • 30. 24th Rep. Com. Char. p. 272.
  • 31. T.S.A.S. 4th ser. viii. 127.
  • 32. L.J.R.O., Cound glebe terrier, 1698.
  • 33. Owen, Hist. Shrews. (1808), 320; Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 174; 24th Rep. Com. Char. p. 272.
  • 34. Char. Com. files.
  • 35. Ibid.
  • 36. Ibid.
  • 37. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 174.
  • 38. Owen, Hist. Shrews. (1808), 320.
  • 39. Cal. Pat. 1327–30, 274.
  • 40. E 213/14.
  • 41. Ibid. Cf. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 172–3.
  • 42. Rot. Hund (Rec. Com.), ii. 79.
  • 43. See above.
  • 44. Cal. Pat. 1367–70, 395.
  • 45. N.L.W., Shrews. Cart. no. 397; Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 469.
  • 46. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 79; Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 469–70; Eyton, vii. 56; ix. 329.
  • 47. S.P.L., Deeds 3873; T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. i. 314; Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 470.
  • 48. Shrews. boro. rec. 152–7 (local rolls of taxation, c. 1300–16).
  • 49. Cal. Pat. 1313–17, 91; Abbrev. Rot. Orig. (Rec. Com.), i. 207; C 143/98/5.
  • 50. Cal. Pat. 1340–3, 389.
  • 51. S.P.L., MS. 2, f. 324v. Dated 1437–8 in Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 470.
  • 52. Phillips, Hist. Shrews. (1779), 114.
  • 53. See p. 105.
  • 54. Cal. Pat. 1374–7, 312.
  • 55. Cal. Papal Regs. iv. 407.
  • 56. Cal. Pat. 1388–92, 489.
  • 57. Ibid. 1408–13, 236.
  • 58. Owen, Hist. Shrews. (1808), 322.
  • 59. Shrews. boro. rec. 67, f. 39v.
  • 60. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 470–1.
  • 61. Cal. Pat. 1461–7, 492.
  • 62. Ibid. 1549–51, 93; E 318/39/2095; C 78/102, no. 7; S.P.L., Deeds 464.
  • 63. C 1/864/76; C 1/901/7; Sta. Cha. 2/19/178; T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. i. 305; 4th ser. viii. 68.
  • 64. T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. x. 309–10. It had been valued at only £4 10s. 4d. in 1535: Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 185.
  • 65. Cal. Pat. 1549–51, 93; E 318/39/2095.
  • 66. T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. x. 344–5.
  • 67. Cal. Pat. 1549–51, 93; E 318/39/2095.
  • 68. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 471–2.
  • 69. Ibid.
  • 70. T.S.A.S. [1st ser.] iii. 327–8.
  • 71. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 472.
  • 72. Phillips, Hist. Shrews. (1779), 115–16; Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 470–1; T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. i. 303; lii. 226–7. An alternative site, based on some documentary evidence and first suggested by Owen and Blakeway, is the Court House, St. George's Place: Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 472; T.S.A.S. 4th ser. viii. 67; Salop. N. & Q. N.S. vii. 41, 45. Medieval references, however, indicate a site nearer to the Welsh Bridge.
  • 73. S.R.O. 1831 uncat., deeds, 1493, 1573; T.S.A.S. lii. 226–7; Owen, Hist. Shrews. (1808), 321; Salop. N. & Q. N.S. vii. 41; Salop. Shreds & Patches, iv. 232.
  • 74. T.S.A.S. 4th ser. i. 386–7.
  • 75. Cal. Pat. 1338–40, 201–2.
  • 76. Phillips, Hist. Shrews. (1779), 114. Cf. T.S.A.S. [1st ser.] x. 163; S.R.O. 1831 uncat., deed, 1352.
  • 77. Cal. Pat. 1367–70, 395.
  • 78. Ibid. 1374–7, 12.
  • 79. Owen, Hist. Shrews. (1808), 322.
  • 80. Cal. Pat. 1436–41, 254.
  • 81. Ibid.
  • 82. Ibid. 1461–7, 210, 295.
  • 83. Ibid. 210.
  • 84. Ibid. 1467–77, 227; Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 468; S.R.O. 1831 uncat., deed, 1463; S.P.L., Deeds 1186. William Leech, appointed in 1463, does not appear to have held office: Cal. Pat. 1461–7, 295.
  • 85. The date of a Crown grant of next presentation: Cal. Pat. 1494–1509, 24.
  • 86. S.P.L., Deeds 1186.
  • 87. L. & P. Hen. VIII, iii (2), p. 1315. His successor, however, claimed to have succeeded on the death of Robert Dax: C 1/864/76.
  • 88. Shrews. boro. rec. 1793 (ct. r. Apr. 1526); Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 471; T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. i. 305; 4th ser. viii. 68.
  • 89. T.S.A.S. 3rd ser. x. 309–10, 344–5. He had obtained the reversion in 1532 (L. & P. Hen. VIII, v, p. 365) and was assigned a pension of £6 in 1548 (E 101/75/28).
  • 90. A fragment of the seal, appended to a deed of 1290, is described in Owen and Blakeway, Hist. Shrews. ii. 470. This deed (S.P.L., Deeds 3873) now has no seal.