Hospitals: Domus Dei, Bury St Edmunds

Pages 133-134

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

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The hospital of St. John, more usually known as the 'Domus Dei' or God's House, was founded by Abbot Edmund 1248-56.

There is a chartulary in the British Museum, drawn up about 1425, when Thomas Wyger was warden, pertaining to the Domus Dei, 'gallice Maysondieu'; described as being outside the south gate of the town of St. Edmunds, and under the governorship of the prior of the monastery. (fn. 1)

It was established by Abbot Edmund, when Richard was prior, for supplying hospitality and refreshment to Christ's poor without any fraud or diminution. If any of the poor in the hospital fell into any grave sickness and were not able to depart, they were to tarry till strong enough to go on their way. No brother or sister was to be admitted except they were approved by two wise and discreet wardens who were to act under the guidance of the almoner. Mass was not to be celebrated in the house, nor any altar erected, but a room was to be provided for private prayer. (fn. 2)

A revised ordination of this house by Abbot Simon and the convent shows that the original house had proved inconvenient, so that a new and much enlarged house was built. In this enlarged Domus Dei a chapel and altar were provided for the inmates, and there was also a graveyard attached for the burial of any who might die within the walls. (fn. 3)

Several masters or chaplains of this house are named in the chartulary. They were instituted by the prior of the abbey. Thus in 1394 Prior John Gifford inducted Reginald Sexter, and in 1416 Prior Robert Iklynham inducted Richard Sudbury. (fn. 4)

Richard II in 1392 licensed Robert Stabler chaplain, William Say chaplain, John Redgrave chaplain, and two others, to alienate to this hospital property in Bury and Westhill, in aid of sustaining a chaplain to celebrate in the chapel of Domus Dei; the charter recites the consent of the abbot and convent in 1379 to the founding of a chantry in this hospital for the souls of John Kokerel and Clare his wife, Stephen Kokerel and Agnes his wife, and several others. The stipend for this chantry priest was to be 33s. 4d. to be paid by the master; in addition to board and lodging and fire. (fn. 5)

William Place, priest, master of the hospital of St. John Evangelist, by will of 21 July, 1504, proved on 1 December, 1504, bequeathed small sums to the church of St. Mary, Bury, and to various friars at Lynn, and particular gifts to the abbey of Bury. He made no mention of the hospital of which he had charge, but possibly it benefited, for he left the residue of his goods to his executors to do other good deeds as they should think best to the pleasure of God. (fn. 6)

Wardens of Domus Dei, Bury St. Edmunds

Adam, (fn. 7) temp. Hen. III

Simon de Sermingham, (fn. 8) 1332, 1337

John de Serton, (fn. 9) 1371

Reginald Sexter, (fn. 10) 1394

Richard Sudbury, (fn. 11) 1416

Thomas Wyger, (fn. 12) c. 1425

William Place, (fn. 13) died 1504


  • 1. Arundel MS. i. This chartulary consists of thirtynine folios, the last nine of which are on paper.
  • 2. Ibid. fol. 1.
  • 3. Ibid. 1b, 2; Harl. MS. 638, fol. 138b, 139.
  • 4. Arundel MS. i, 16a, 17a.
  • 5. Harl. MS. 638, fol. 24,192; Pat. 16 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 11.
  • 6. Tymms, Bury Wills, 105-6.
  • 7. Arundel MS. i, fol. 8.
  • 8. Ibid. 14.
  • 9. Ibid. 15a.
  • 10. Ibid. 16a.
  • 11. Ibid. 17a.
  • 12. Ibid. passim.
  • 13. Tymms, Bury Wills, 105.