Hospitals: Stafford, Forebridge, St Leonard

Pages 293-294

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

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The hospital of St. Leonard, Forebridge, was in existence by 1386-7; it was then in the patronage of the Stafford family. (fn. 1) In the 16th century it was believed that the hospital had been founded by Ralph, Earl of Stafford (d. 1372), for the maintenance of a priest and certain poor people. (fn. 2) It is possible that St. Leonard's Hospital was in fact a refoundation, for ordinary eleemosynary purposes, of the leper hospital at Radford. The hospital at Radford had been in the patronage of the Stafford family, but nothing is known of its history after the early years of the 14th century. (fn. 3)

The patronage of the hospital remained with the Stafford family until the attainder in 1521 of Edward, Duke of Buckingham, when it passed with the rest of the duke's possessions to the Crown. (fn. 4) Buckingham's son and heir, Henry, Lord Stafford, evidently recovered the patronage in 1531, (fn. 5) and he retained it until the hospital was suppressed in 1548.

In 1393 the hospital was said to be worth 10s. a year; (fn. 6) in 1521 it was mentioned in a survey of Buckingham's forfeited property as 'a donative called the Spitell' worth £5 a year. (fn. 7) The annual income of the master of the hospital in 1535 was £4 13s. 4d. (fn. 8) This income came from arable, meadow, and pasture held of the manor of Forebridge, (fn. 9) but it did not represent the true value of the rents deriving from these lands. The hospital and its property seem to have been leased out by 1538 for the lifetime of the master, to whom an annual income of £4 13s. 4d. was reserved. (fn. 10) In 1548 the chantry commissioners gave the gross value of the hospital's lands as £7 2s. a year, the net value being £6 19s. 10d.; it is evident, however, that the master's income was still only £4 13s. 4d. and that this was further reduced to £4 1s. 11d. a year by his assessment for the Crown's tenth and by rents due to the lord of Forebridge manor and the master of St. John's Hospital. The hospital possessed one bell at the end of the chapel but no plate or other goods in 1548. (fn. 11)

Nothing was paid to the poor in 1548, and the chantry commissioners reported that no poor had been relieved there 'these 20 years past'. (fn. 12) Although the commissioners considered that Stafford was one of the four towns in the county 'where most need is to have hospitals for relief of the poor', (fn. 13) the hospital was suppressed in 1548; the master, William Stafforton, was granted a pension of £4 1s. 11d. a year. (fn. 14) In 1550 the hospital lands were granted by the Crown to the burgesses of Stafford as part of the endowment of the grammar school. (fn. 15)

The hospital was situated one mile from Castle Church parish church, according to the chantry commissioners of 1548. (fn. 16) The site has not been precisely identified but is probably to the east of Lichfield Road between St. Leonard's Avenue and the railway. (fn. 17)

Masters or Wardens

Richard Caus, presented 1386-7, occurs 1398, died by 1422. (fn. 18)

Henry Blounte, appointed 1528. (fn. 19)

William Stafforton, occurs 1533, master at the dissolution in 1548. (fn. 20)

No seal is known.


  • 1. S.H.C. xvii. 41; Cal. Close, 1392-6, 48; 1402-5, 220.
  • 2. S.H.C. 1915, 237.
  • 3. See above p. 290. The hospitals at Radford and Forebridge were in the patronage of the same family and are not known to have existed contemporaneously. They are also connected by two other circumstances: St. Leonard's Hospital, Forebridge, owned land at Radford (see below n. 9), and its dedication may preserve a memory of the leper hospital at Radford, St. Leonard being the second most popular patron of English leper hospitals (Rotha M. Clay, The Mediaeval Hospitals of Eng. 252, 261).
  • 4. Complete Peerage, ii. 390-1; S.H.C. viii(2), 114.
  • 5. Stafford was granted back much of his father's property in Staffs. in 1522, but this did not include the manor of Forebridge to which the advowson of the hospital was probably appurtenant. Forebridge manor was granted back to Stafford in 1531: V.C.H. Staffs. v. 87. In 1528 the Crown appointed Hen. Blounte master of the hospital: see below. Lord Stafford was described as patron of the hospital in 1540: S.R.O., D.(W.) 1810, f. 108.
  • 6. Cal. Close, 1392-6, 48.
  • 7. S.H.C. viii(2), 114.
  • 8. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 119.
  • 9. S.R.O., D.(W.) 1721/1/9, ff. 186-7. This survey of the manor of Forebridge is probably to be dated 1543. Among the lands held by the hospital at this date was Edmonds Furlong 'lying by Ratford bridge': ibid. ff. 181, 186.
  • 10. S.R.O., D.(W.) 1810, ff. 108-9.
  • 11. S.H.C. 1915, 237; ibid. viii(2), 95; S.C. 12/28/12, ff. 33V.-34.
  • 12. S.H.C. 1915, 237. If this period of 20 years is to be taken precisely it would indicate that the hospital ceased to be an effective charitable institution while it was in the patronage of the Crown.
  • 13. See above p. 136.
  • 14. S.H.C. 1915, 237, 238 n. 9.
  • 15. Cal. Pat. 1550-3, 21-22.
  • 16. S.H.C. 1915, 237.
  • 17. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Staffs. XXXVII. 15 (1881 edn.). The two sites there marked 'St. Leonard's Hospital' and 'Burial Ground' are described in W.S.L. 7/00/10; these archaeological notes, compiled in the later 19th cent. for the Ordnance Survey, give the reasons for connecting the sites with St. Leonard's Hospital. The site of the Burial Ground coincides with that suggested for the hospital in L. Lambert, The Medieval Hospitals of Stafford (Manchester, n.d.), 9-10. See also W.S.L., S. 630, f. 104v.
  • 18. S.H.C. xvii. 41; Reg. Edmund Stafford, ed. F. C. Hingeston-Randolph, 335.
  • 19. L. & P. Hen. VIII, iv(2), p. 1865.
  • 20. S.H.C. 1915, 237, 238 n. 9.