Hospitals: Wolverhampton, St Mary

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

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'Hospitals: Wolverhampton, St Mary', in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3, (London, 1970) pp. 296-297. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]

In this section


The hospital of St. Mary, Wolverhampton, which may have stood about a quarter of a mile south-east of St. Peter's Church, (fn. 1) was founded in 1392-5 by Clement Leveson, chaplain, and William Waterfall. (fn. 2) In 1392 they received royal licence to found a hospital in honour of St. Mary for a chaplain and six poor people and to endow it with a messuage and 3 acres in Wolverhampton; part at least of this land was intended as the site. (fn. 3) A few weeks after the licence had been granted Waterfall was authorized by the Crown to acquire lands or rents to the annual value of £10 for the further endowment of the hospital. (fn. 4) The original endowment evidently formed part of the manor of Stow Heath, (fn. 5) as the alienation of the property was also licensed in 1394 by the lord of the manor, Hugh, Lord Burnell. (fn. 6) A final licence was granted to the founders in January 1395 by Lawrence Allerthorpe, Dean of Wolverhampton, within whose jurisdiction the hospital was to be situated. Allerthorpe permitted the founders to make suitable statutes and regulations, but he reserved the power to authorize and approve the foundation when it was completed and to add to and interpret the regulations whenever it should be necessary. (fn. 7)

The founders' regulations, (fn. 8) presumably drawn up shortly after Allerthorpe's licence was issued, contain elaborate provisions concerning the patronage of the hospital, its relations with Wolverhampton church, and the duties of the chaplain or warden. The patronage was vested in Leveson, Waterfall, and the latter's wife Joan during their lives, with successive remainders to William Waterfall's heirs in tail, and to John Waterfall, (fn. 9) Richard Leveson of Wolverhampton, Nicholas Waryng of Wolverhampton, Richard Leveson of Willenhall, Roger Leveson, and Hugh, Lord Burnell, in tail. The patron was to present the chaplain of the hospital to the Dean of Wolverhampton for induction and to nominate the almspeople. Should he fail to do this within 6 months of a vacancy, nomination was to lapse to the dean.

As the hospital lay within the peculiar jurisdiction of Wolverhampton, the responsibility for visiting it was laid upon the dean or his official or upon their commissary. Should the chaplain or any almsperson be convicted more than once of any serious sin, the visitor was to expel him from the hospital and inform the patron.

The chaplain, before induction, was to take an oath of canonical obedience to the Dean of Wolverhampton and was also to swear not to infringe the rights of that church to any of its tithes, offerings, or other revenues. All offerings made to the hospital were to be brought to St. Peter's by the chaplain. The six almspeople, who might be male or female, (fn. 10) were the chaplain's special responsibility. Each day he was to say mass, vespers, and 'other divine services' in the hospital chapel. On Sundays and double feasts, however, he was to be present in the mother-church during matins and vespers and at mass until the Gospel had been read; after the Gospel he was to cross to the hospital chapel to say mass for the almspeople. Prayers were to be said daily at mass in the hospital chapel for Clement Leveson, William and Joan Waterfall, Lord Burnell, and Lawrence Allerthorpe, and for all the faithful departed. The rights of St. Peter's Church were safeguarded by a regulation which forbade the almspeople to receive the sacraments from anyone but their parochial chaplain (fn. 11) unless licensed by him to do so or in time of necessity. On Sundays and the four principal feasts, moreover, such almspeople as could do so were to attend St. Peter's; for those who were too infirm to go the hospital chaplain could provide only the ministration of holy bread and holy water. (fn. 12)

Little is known of the hospital's subsequent history. William Waterfall presented the first recorded chaplain, one John Pepard, who was inducted in 1402. (fn. 13) Waterfall seems also to have increased the endowment of the hospital, for in 1415 Pepard took possession of certain lands which Waterfall had held of the Prebendary of Monmore. (fn. 14) These lands were later leased out by Pepard, and the rent included 'one competent carriage of land coals to be drawn with five horses'. (fn. 15)

Pepard was still alive in 144. (fn. 16) He may in fact have occupied the chaplaincy of the hospital for a long time and given it his name: (fn. 17) in 1529 one Thomas Bradshaw was inducted to the free chapel called 'Pepers Chapell in Wolverhampton'. By that time the patronage had passed to the Leveson family, for Bradshaw was presented by James Leveson. (fn. 18)

'Pyper's Chapel' is mentioned in an inventory of goods (apparently relating to the year 1541) of the various chapels and guilds of St. Peter's Church, (fn. 19) but nothing more of its history is known. Like the chantries and guilds of St. Peter's the hospital is not mentioned in the Staffordshire chantry certificates. (fn. 20) It seems, however, to have been suppressed, and its property probably passed to the Leveson family. (fn. 21)

Wardens or Chaplains

John Pepard, inducted 1402, probably still warden in 1415. (fn. 22)

Thomas Bradshaw, inducted 1529. (fn. 23)

No seal is known.


  • 1. The site of the hospital may have been the later Pepper's Croft: Bilston Par. Reg. (Staffs. Par. Reg. Soc.), 217. In 1609 it was owned by Sir Wal. Leveson of Wolverhampton and extended eastwards in length as far as Can Lane (now partly represented by Pipers Row): W.S.L. 60/63, p. 1; G. P. Mander and N. W. Tildesley, Hist. of Wolverhampton to the Early Nineteenth Cent. 35 and endpaper map. Thanks are due to Dr. A. K. B. Evans for supplying several of the references used in this article.
  • 2. Leveson was vicar of the prebends of Wobaston, Hatherton, and Monmore in St. Peter's Church, and he and Waterfall were two of the wardens of the light of St. Peter in the same church: S.H.C. 1928, p. 131.
  • 3. Cal. Pat. 1391-6, 139. Leveson and Waterfall paid 5 marks for this licence.
  • 4. Ibid. 176. Waterfall paid 45 marks for this licence.
  • 5. C 143/414/12.
  • 6. S.R.O., D.593/B/1/26/4/4. And see ibid. /B/1/26/6/ 40/4; Shaw, Staffs. ii. 166; Complete Peerage, ii. 435.
  • 7. S.R.O., D. 593/B/1/26/4/3.
  • 8. For this and the two succeeding paras. see ibid. /5.
  • 9. John Waterfall was perhaps Wm.'s brother: Mander and Tildesley, Wolverhampton, 34.
  • 10. Not women only (as stated in G. Oliver, Historical and Descriptive Account of the Collegiate Church of Wolverhampton (1836), 54) or men only (as stated in Mander and Tildesley, Wolverhampton, 34).
  • 11. i.e. not the hospital chaplain.
  • 12. For holy bread (eulogiae) and holy water see J. Bingham, Origines Ecclesiasticae, vi (1719), 719-21; S.H.C. 1924, pp. 40, 41, 280; F. M. Powicke and C. R. Cheney, Councils and Synods, ii(1), 211. Able-bodied inmates of hospitals often had to go to the parish church for the sacraments; holy bread and holy water were administered to the infirm: Rotha M. Clay, Mediaeval Hospitals of Eng. 197-8, 201-2; V.C.H. Yorks. iii. 307. These substitutes for sacraments were abolished in the liturgical reforms of 1548-9: J. Ridley, Thos. Cranmer, 275, 294-5.
  • 13. Bilston Par. Reg. 216-17.
  • 14. Ibid. 217.
  • 15. Ibid. 217-18.
  • 16. Pepard (or Pipard) was a party to a number of property transactions between 1405 and 1440: S.R.O., D. 593/B/1/ 26/6/23/6 and 9; /24/17; /25/2; /37/9. He is referred to as deceased in a document dated 1462-3: ibid. /B/1/26/6/ 26/1. None of these transactions, however, appears to connect him with St. Mary's Hospital. See also S.H.C. xvii. 150.
  • 17. Mander and Tildesley, Wolverhampton, 35. This seems a more circumstantial explanation of the chapel's name than that put forward in S.H.C. 1915, 338 n. 4. The suggestion made ibid. 322, that 'Pyper's chapell' was in the south transept of St. Peter's Church is not supported by the source there cited.
  • 18. S.R.O., D.593/J/5/4/3. The Jas. Leveson who presented Bradshaw would seem, from the pedigree in Shaw, Staffs. ii. 169, to be descended from Ric. Leveson of Willenhall (fl. 1369-1409). But this pedigree is probably incomplete, and the heirs of Ric. Leveson of Wolverhampton (who had a prior place in the entail of the patronage) had not died out.
  • 19. Shaw, Staffs. ii. 161 (citing the MS. now W.S.L., S.MS. 386/2, no. 80).
  • 20. S.H.C. 1915, 322.
  • 21. This would seem likely from the fact that the foundation deeds passed to the Leveson family whose archives are now in S.R.O. (D.593). See also above n. 1.
  • 22. See above.
  • 23. See above. He was possibly the Thos. Bradshaw who was a vicar choral in St. Peter's in 1533 and who died in 1564-5: S.H.C. 1915, 333, 356, 363.