Hospitals: Freeford, St Leonard

Pages 274-275

A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.

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The leper hospital of St. Leonard, Freeford (in St. Michael's, Lichfield), was in existence by the mid 13th century. It may have been founded by a prebendary of Freeford; the patronage was certainly m. 21d.) and by 1292 to 124s. (E 372/137, m.8). By the latter date, as a long-standing debt, it was being entered held by the prebendary in the late 15th century. (fn. 1)

In the 13th century several grants and casual gifts were made to the hospital by the Crown and its officers. In 1246 Henry III gave to 'the lepers of Lichfield' 15 carcasses of salt pork from the stores at Nottingham castle. (fn. 2) In 1257 the lepers of St. Leonard's Hospital received a grant of protection for five years from the Crown. (fn. 3) A further grant, for one year, was made in 1266 to the master and brethren of the hospital. (fn. 4) In 1280-1 William Trumwyn, keeper of Cheslyn Hay in Cannock Forest, gave the lepers the salted carcass of a buck which had been killed by wolves in the forest. (fn. 5)

Little is known of the endowments of the hospital. By the later 13th century it possessed some land in Burway Field, one of the common fields of Lichfield. (fn. 6) In the mid or later 13th century Robert Talecok granted the hospital a rent of 1d. from a parcel of land outside Tamworth Gate, Lichfield. (fn. 7) The hospital also held two half-messuages in the town itself during the reign of Henry III. (fn. 8) By 1333-4 it possessed land which was probably near Greenhill (in St. Michael's, Lichfield). (fn. 9)

By 1366, when its warden was an absentee, the hospital may have lost whatever eleemosynary character it had possessed a century earlier. The plurality returns of that year show that Adam de Eyton, Rector of Berrington (Salop.), was warden of the hospital; (fn. 10) he was normally obliged to reside in Berrington. (fn. 11) The wardenship of the hospital was then worth 40s. a year. (fn. 12)

In 1485 George Dawne, Prebendary of Freeford, granted to the bishop the next presentation to the free chapel of St. Leonard, Freeford. In 1490 the warden, Ranulph Worthyngton, resigned and was given an annual pension of 33s. 4d. for his food and clothing. John Paxson was collated by the bishop in his place. (fn. 13) In 1496 Paxson freely resigned the wardenship of St. Leonard's Hospital and, with the assent of the Prebendary of Freeford, it was united to St. John's Hospital, Lichfield. (fn. 14) In return Dawne and his successors in the prebend were granted the right to nominate one of the thirteen almsmen in the the new foundation. The prebendaries retained this right until 1927. (fn. 15)

The hospital seems to have stood near to Freeford Manor about a mile from St. Michael's Church along the road to Tamworth. No buildings now remain but the site of the hospital was indicated by the discovery of the chapel burial ground in 19171918. (fn. 16)


Robert de Suthwode, occurs temp. Henry III. (fn. 17)

John of Dunchurch, occurs 1314. (fn. 18)

Adam de Eyton, occurs 1366. (fn. 19)

Ranulph Worthyngton, probably warden in 1485, resigned 1490. (fn. 20)

John Paxson, collated 1490, resigned 1496. (fn. 21)

No seal is known.


  • 1. Harwood,Lichfield, 548.
  • 2. Close R. 1242-7, 425-6.
  • 3. Cal. Pat. 1247-58, 572.
  • 4. Ibid. 1258-66, 637.
  • 5. S.H.C. v(1), 163.
  • 6. S.H.C. 1924, p. 208, where 'the land of St. Leonard's Hospital of Freeford' (evidently lying beside the road from Lichfield to Tamworth) is mentioned.
  • 7. Ibid. p. 197.
  • 8. S.H.C. ix(1), 47. At some unspecified period the hospital possessed a tenement in Wade Street called the Goose House (Anon. Short Account of the Ancient and Modern State of the City and Close of Lichfield (Lichfield, 1819), 169) which is possibly to be identified with these or one of them.
  • 9. Harwood, Lichfield, 536 and n. 63. It evidently lay beside the road from Lichfield to Burton-upon-Trent.
  • 10. S.H.C. N.S. x(2), 218. Eyton had been presented to the rectory of Berrington by the Crown in 1361 during a vacancy in Shrewsbury Abbey: Cal. Pat. 1361-4, 90.
  • 11. In May 1367 Eyton was granted leave of absence from his rectory for two years, and in the following March (as an acolyte) received letters dimissory for all orders: S.H.C. N.S. viii. 35, 42.
  • 12. S.H.C. N.S. x(2), 218.
  • 13. Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/A/1/12, f. 61. In the event of one Roger Bilston's dying during Worthyngton's lifetime Worthyngton's pension was to be increased to 5 marks a year; this suggests that Bilston may formerly have been warden of the hospital. Bilston was a vicar choral, but by 1487, possibly through old age, was incapable of looking after his own affairs and they were put in the hands of two other vicars, John Paxson and Wm. Webbe: D. & C. Lich., Chapter Act Bk. ii, f. 26.
  • 14. Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/A/1/13, f. 165; Harwood, Lichfield, 548-9.
  • 15. See below pp. 281, 285.
  • 16. A. D. Parker, A Sentimental Journey in and about the Ancient and Loyal City of Lichfield (Lichfield, 1925), 53; T.N.S.F.C. lii. 135; Staffs. Advertiser, 16 Feb. 1918. Some buildings were still standing in 1508 when Ric. Egerton, Master of St. John's Hospital, Lichfield, leased 'a messuage and certain lands at Freeford called the Spyttell Howse' to Wm. Wryght: Sta. Cha. 2/34/143, m. 6.
  • 17. S.H.C. ix(1), 47.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. See above.
  • 20. See above. For a possible predecessor of Worthyngton see above n. 13.
  • 21. See above. He was named as an executor in the will (1489) of Sir Hen. Willoughby, of Wollaton (Notts.), and there described as 'Sexton of the Close of Lichfield': Hist. MSS. Com. Middleton, 122. In fact Paxson was the cathedral sacrist until 1495: D. & C. Lich., Chapter Act Bk. iii. f. 27; S.H.C. 1915, 168.