House of Knights Hospitaller: Preceptory of Battisford

Pages 120-121

A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1975.

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There was a preceptory or hospital of the Knights of St. John at Battisford at least as early as the reign of Henry II, for that king gave lands at Bergholt to the Hospitallers of Battisford. (fn. 1) Henry III, in 1271, granted these knights a market, a fair, and free warren on their lands at Battisford. (fn. 2) William de Batesford gave them, in 1275, 40 acres of land and 6 of wood; at the same time they had a grant from Henry Kede of Battisford of a certain messuage with the customary service pertaining thereto. (fn. 3)

Brother John de Accoumbe, preceptor of the house of the hospital of Battisford, together with two other brothers who were being sent by the grand prior to Scotland on business of the order, in April, 1321, obtained a safe-conduct for two years. (fn. 4)

That remarkable source of information as to the knights hospitallers in England in the reign of Edward II, namely the report of Prior Philip de Thame, in 1338, to the Grand Master of the whole order, is very explicit with regard to the Suffolk preceptory. (fn. 5)

The bailiwick or preceptory of Battisford had two members or 'camerae' attached to it, namely those of Coddenham and Mellis. The total receipts for the year 1338 amounted to £93 10s. 7d. Half the church of Battisford was appropriated to the hospitallers, and was worth 10 marks a year, whilst the rectory of Badley produced £10 a year.

By far the largest source of income was 'de Fraria (fn. 6) ad voluntatem contribuentium,' which produced that year the large round sum of £50.

There were messuages (houses) with gardens at both Coddenham and Mellis, in each case valued at 3s., with arable and other lands and rents, and in the case of Coddenham a windmill; the total receipts of the former were £10 5s. 8d. and of the latter £4 3s. 1d.

The expenses enable us at once to see that the chief local charges on the income were those of maintenance and hospitality. Following the general rule, it is found that there was (1) a preceptor or master of the house, Richard de Bachesworth, who acted as receiver and who was himself a knight; (2) a confrater or brother, William de Conesgrave, also a knight; (3) a salaried chaplain at 20s.; and (4) a corrodian, one Simon Paviner, who in return for certain benefactions had board and lodging at the house. In addition to these there were of the household a chamberlain, a steward, a cook, a baker, each receiving 6s. 8d. a year, two youths at 5s. each, and a page at 3s.

The board for all these, in addition to the hospitality they were bound to extend to visitors, particularly the poor, caused an expenditure of £7 4s. in wheat and oats for bread; £3 4s. for barley for brewing; and £7 16s. at the rate of 3s. a week, for fish, flesh, and other necessaries for the kitchen. The robes, mantles, and other necessaries for preceptor and brother cost £3 9s. 4d. The three days' visit of the prior of Clerkenwell, the mother-house of the order in England, caused an expenditure of 60s. The total outlay for the year was £33 3s. 10d., leaving the handsome balance of £60 0s. 10d. to be handed over to the general treasury. There were two other small sources of income for the Hospitallers from this county, in 1338, which were paid direct to Clerkenwell, namely 10 marks from Dunwich, of which the particulars are given elsewhere, and 5s. from Gislingham, being the yearly rent of a life lease of much waste property in that parish. In both cases these estates had originally pertained to the Templars. (fn. 7) The value of the property of this bailiwick deteriorated after the Black Death. The Valor of 1538 gave its clear income as £52 16s. 2d. (fn. 8)

After the dissolution of the order, Henry VIII granted this preceptory in July, 1543, to Andrew Judde, alderman of London. (fn. 9) In the following September he obtained licence to alienate it, (fn. 10) and on 18 April, 1544, it was granted to Sir Richard Gresham. (fn. 11)

Preceptors of Battisford

John de Accoumbe, (fn. 12) occurs 1321

Richard de Bachesworth, (fn. 13) occurs 1328

Henry Haler, (fn. 14) died 1480

Giles Russel, (fn. 15) c. 1530


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. (1st edition), ii, 552.
  • 2. Chart. R. 56 Hen. III, m. 4.
  • 3. Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), ii, 193.
  • 4. Pat. 14 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 16.
  • 5. Edited by Mr. Larking for the Camden Society in 1857. The details as to Battisford occur on pp. 84-6.
  • 6. The 'Confraria,' 'Fraria,' or 'Collecta' was the regular annual collection for the needs of the order made throughout the particular district assigned to a preceptory (in this case, as in most, a whole county) by authorized clerks.
  • 7. Larking, Knights Hospitallers, 167.
  • 8. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 403; the return is not quite perfect. Speed gives the value as £53 10s.
  • 9. Pat. 35 Hen. VIII, pt. iii, m. 4.
  • 10. Ibid. pt. vi, m. 27.
  • 11. Ibid. pt. xv, m. 24.
  • 12. Pat. 14 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 16.
  • 13. Larking, Knights Hospitallers, 85.
  • 14. Killed at the siege of Rhodes, 1480. Porter, Knights of Malta, ii, 321.
  • 15. Porter, Knights of Malta, ii, 291. Giles Russel, joint preceptor of Battisford and Dinghley (Northants), was nominated lieutenant-turcopolier about 1535, and turcopolier in 1543. Turcopolier was the title peculiar to the chief knight of the English language. He was commander of the turcopoles or light cavalry, and had also the care of the coast defences of Rhodes and afterwards of Malta.