Hospitals: Tamworth, St James

Pages 294-296

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. James, Tamworth, was founded by Sir Philip Marmion probably shortly before 1274 or 1275, for it was then reported that 'a religious house' had been newly built on land at Tamworth which Marmion had taken from the inhabitants. (fn. 1) In 1294 a jury stated that the land was part of John de Hastings's manor of Tamworth and that Marmion had built a hospital there and placed in it a master and brethren. The hospital was therefore presumably built between 1266, when Marmion was granted Henry de Hastings's demesnes at Wigginton and Tamworth, (fn. 2) and 1275. In the latter year Marmion was apparently making determined efforts to strengthen his title to Hastings's land, (fn. 3) probably in order to convey a secure title to his new foundation.

In 1283 Marmion granted St. James's Hospital and its appurtenances to William de Crouebyrihal', chaplain; (fn. 4) he was to reside in the hospital and celebrate divine service there for the souls of the founder and his family and all the faithful departed. Marmion apparently added to the endowments of the hospital by including in his grant pasture in 'Asscheland' sufficient for four oxen and two horses. He retained the power to dismiss William from the hospital should he be found guilty of incontinence or of neglecting divine service there. In the event of William's dismissal or death his goods were to be retained for the use of the hospital.

It is evident that at the time of this grant Marmion was planning the foundation of a house of Premonstratensian canons at Tamworth, for William de Crouebyrihal' was to retain the hospital only until the canons of the new monastery were ready to take control of it. (fn. 5) The canons were then either to receive William as a canon or brother or else to provide him with the same food and clothing as a canon. (fn. 6) Marmion may have intended that the hospital itself should be the nucleus of his new Premonstratensian foundation (fn. 7) for in 1285 he was planning a considerable increase in its endowment for the maintenance of five chaplains there. It was, however, found that his proposed alienation would be to the detriment of the Crown, and this seems to have thwarted Marmion's purpose. (fn. 8)

Nothing more is heard of Marmion's proposed monastic foundation, and he died in 1291 without having carried his plans into effect. It is also unlikely that he succeeded in further endowing his hospital, for he was in debt during his later years. (fn. 9) In fact the master and brethren of his hospital left because of their poverty, and after their departure Marmion took its lands into his own hands and leased them out. (fn. 10)

St. James's Hospital nevertheless survived, though it remained poorly endowed — probably too poorly endowed to serve any eleemosynary purpose. The patronage evidently passed to the Frevilles and subsequently, in 1419, to the Willoughby family of Wollaton (Notts.), who were descended from Sir Philip Marmion's grand-daughter and coheir, Joan. (fn. 11) When Sir Henry Willoughby visited the hospital chapel in 1524 he made an offering of 4d. and paid 1s. to a friar there who heard his confession and that of his wife. On the same occasion he paid 1s. 'for bread and ale there' and 1d. 'in alms there'; (fn. 12) it is unlikely, however, that either of these payments can be taken to indicate that the hospital was still an effective eleemosynary foundation. Indeed the Willoughbys appear at least occasionally to have followed Marmion's example by granting the hospital lands without appointing a master. Sir Henry Willoughby gave the hospital lands to John Marmion, one of his household servants, and after Marmion's death to his chaplain Robert Parrot; Parrot, however, came to be regarded as the beneficed incumbent of the hospital. (fn. 13) This use of the hospital lands to provide virtual annuities for the Willoughbys' servants may not have left the chapel entirely without the services of a priest: the friar there in 1524 may well have been a stipendiary priest employed by the grantee of the hospital. (fn. 14)

In 1535 the income of the 'free chapel or hospital called Saint Jamys Spytell', amounting to £3 6s. 8d. a year from certain lands and pastures, appears to have belonged wholly to the 'chaplain' of the hospital. (fn. 15) In 1546 the chantry commissioners stated that there were no jewels, ornaments, plate, or goods belonging to the hospital. (fn. 16) Despite the observation in the 1548 chantry certificate that Tamworth was one of the four places in the county 'where most need is to have hospitals for relief of the poor', (fn. 17) the hospital was suppressed in that year; the incumbent, Robert Parrot, received a pension of 60s. a year. (fn. 18) In 1548 the chapel and its lands were sold; (fn. 19) some at least of the lands seem eventually to have passed to John Voughton, yeoman, of Tamworth, who in 1593 devised 'Spittelfield' and 'Spittelhill' to his son Humphrey. (fn. 20)

The hospital chapel stands between the roads from Tamworth to Ashby and Wigginton, about a mile north of St. Edith's Church in Tamworth. Some of the chapel's architectural features, typical of an earlier period than that of Marmion's foundation, suggest that it may incorporate remains of an older building. (fn. 21) By the end of the 18th century it had been turned into a barn, and half a century later it was serving as 'a small dwelling-house and barn'. (fn. 22) An attempt was made in 1855 by brethren of the Guild of St. Alban to establish a monastic community in the ruined chapel. (fn. 23) This failed, however, and the chapel seems to have become simply a dwelling-house once more. (fn. 24)

In 1906, when the remains of the chapel were threatened by plans to build on the site, proposals were made to restore the chapel. (fn. 25) The restoration was carried out during 1909, (fn. 26) and the chapel was dedicated by the Bishop of Lichfield in 1914. Since then it has served as a mission church in the parish of Wigginton. (fn. 27)

Masters or Chaplains

William de Crouebyrihal', appointed 1283. (fn. 28)

Thomas ad Crucem, occurs 1319. (fn. 29)

Robert Parrot, occurs 1535, chaplain at the suppression in 1548. (fn. 30)

No seal is known.


  • 1. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 116; C. F. R. Palmer, Hist. of the Baronial Family of Marmion (Tamworth, 1875), 86. Thanks are due to Mr. P. Edden and Mr. J. Gould, both of Tamworth, for drawing the writer's attention to some of the sources used in this article.
  • 2. S.H.C. vi(1), 294; Cal. Pat. 1258-66, 642, 643. Hastings, having played a prominent part against Hen. III during the Barons' Wars, had forfeited his lands and been excluded from the provisions of the Dictum of Kenilworth: Palmer, Baronial Family of Marmion, 91-92; Cal. Inq. Misc. i, p. 105; D.N.B.
  • 3. Cal. Pat. 1272-81, 96, 120-1; S.H.C. vi(1), 294.
  • 4. For this para. see Hist. MSS. Com. Middleton, 77-78.
  • 5. According to the statutes of the Premonstratensians a guest-house or 'hospitale pauperum' was an essential part of any foundation of the order: H. M. Colvin, The White Canons in Eng. 306-7, 309.
  • 6. Hist. MSS. Com. Middleton, 77-78.
  • 7. Two Premonstratensian houses, Cockersand Abbey and Hornby Priory (both in Lanes.), seem to have originated as hospitals: Colvin, White Canons in Eng. 138-9, 144-5, 309.
  • 8. Palmer, Baronial Family of Marmion, 86; List of Inquisitions Ad Quod Damnum Pt. I (P.R.O. Lists and Indexes, xvii), p. 16. Marmion's proposed endowment comprised a mill, various messuages, rents, and lands and the advowson of Wilksby church (Lincs.). These were appurtenances of the manor of Scrivelsby, which was held in chief, and were worth £8 19s. 1½d. a year.
  • 9. Palmer, Baronial Family of Marmion, 83-84, 96; Cal. Pat. 1272-81, 393; 1281-92, 118; Cal. Fine R. 1272-1307, 271.
  • 10. S.H.C. vi(1), 294, where no date is given for the departure of the master and brethren. The likeliest date, however, would seem to be after the inquisition ad quod damnum of 1285. By 1294 the hospital lands had been leased for life to Rob. de Pitchford, a canon of St. Edith's: S.H.C. vi(1), 294; Cal. Pat. 1292-1301, 122.
  • 11. For the descent of the Freville and Willoughby families from Joan see Dugdale, Warws. ii. 1051-2, 1135.
  • 12. Hist. MSS. Com. Middleton, 366.
  • 13. S.H.C. 1915, 271, where Willoughby's name is wrongly given as Hugh. During the years 1497-1500 Marmion was acting as collector, receiver or bailiff in various Notts. manors belonging to Willoughby: Hist. MSS. Com. Middleton, 307, 308. He was a kinsman of Willoughby and an executor of his two wills: ibid. 121-2, 126. Parrot (alias Perot), like Marmion, was concerned in the administration of the Willoughby estates, being a receiver to Sir John Willoughby during the years 1536-46: Hist. MSS. Com. Middleton, 314, 315, 316. Parrot seems to have let the lands to another of the Willoughbys' servants, Isebrand Barnaby: Cal. Pat. 1548-9, 38; Hist. MSS. Com. Middleton, 371, 387, 388.
  • 14. For the employment of a friar in the chapel of St. John's Hospital, Stafford, in similar circumstances see above p. 291.
  • 15. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 148. The same income was reported by the chantry commissioners in 1546 and 1548: S.H.C. 1915, 272.
  • 16. S.H.C. 1915, 272.
  • 17. See above p. 136.
  • 18. S.H.C. 1915, 272, 275 n. 39.
  • 19. Ibid. 272; Cal. Pat. 1548-9, 38-39.
  • 20. P.C.C. 13 Dixy. For Spittal Field see C. F. Palmer, Hist. of the Town and Castle of Tamworth (Tamworth, 1845), map at frontispiece.
  • 21. J. Gould, 'Spital Chapel, Tamworth' (TS. in possession of Mr. Gould).
  • 22. Shaw, Staffs. i. 430; Palmer, Town and Castle of Tamworth, 348.
  • 23. P. F. Anson, The Call of the Cloister (1964 edn.), 50-51.
  • 24. C. Lynam, 'The Chapel of the Hospital of St. James, Wigginton, Tamworth', Jnl. Brit. Arch. Assoc. June 1906, 125. For a photograph of the chapel still in the ruinous condition described by Lynam see R. K. Dent and J. Hill, Historic Staffs. (1896), 177.
  • 25. Jnl. Brit. Arch. Assoc. June 1906, 126-7; H. C. Mitchell, Tamworth Parish Church, 77.
  • 26. Mitchell, Tamworth Parish Church, 78; Rotha M. Clay, The Mediaeval Hospitals of Eng. 123.
  • 27. Tamworth Herald, 5 Sept. 1914; Lich. Dioc. Ch. Cal. (1915), 130; Lich. Dioc. Dir. (1968), 126.
  • 28. See above p. 295.
  • 29. D. & C. Lich., AA 3.
  • 30. Valor Eccl. iii. 148; see above p. 295.