Hospitals: St Peter, Bury St Edmunds

Pages 134-135

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

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St. Peter's Hospital stood without the Risby gate, but within the abbey jurisdiction. It was founded by Abbot Anselm towards the close of the reign of Henry I, for the maintenance of infirm, leprous, or invalided priests, or in their absence of other aged and sick persons.

The earliest deeds in the muniment room of the Guildhall, Bury St. Edmunds, are a parcel chiefly of the reigns of Henry III and Edward I, concerning the possessions of the hospital of St. Peter, which are now attached to the Grammar School. There is one, however, of the reign of Henry II which recites the gift to this hospital by Simon de Whepstede of 12d. rent for the lights before the altar of St. Mary within the hospital church.

Scientia, widow of Gilbert de la Gaye, gave 10s. annual rent from a building in St. Edmunds, in return for which Robert de Baketone, clerk, then prior of the hospital, granted her a weekly mass for her soul and the souls of her ancestors and the souls of brethren dying in the hospital. What was left of the rent, after paying for the masses, was to be expended in shoes for the brethren. (fn. 1) There are also at the Bodleian a variety of other undated deeds, temp. Henry III, of small grants to this hospital, (fn. 2) and several grants of rents in the reign of Edward I, (fn. 3) and in 1324 an annual rental of 12d. from a messuage in St. Edmunds, in Scolehallestrete, was granted to Thomas de Swanstone, warden of St. Peter's. (fn. 4)

The last pre-Reformation master, Christopher Lant, occurs in a deed of 1538, whereby the master and brethren appointed Edmund Hurste, their proctor, to ask and collect in their name, throughout England, alms and charity for the leprous of the hospital of St. Peter. (fn. 5)

Though not originally founded exclusively for lepers, this hospital gradually become confined to such cases. It was ordained by the abbot and convent in 1301 that when any priests of the charnel were disabled by any incurable disease, they were to be maintained at St. Saviour's Hospital; but if they were infected with any contagious disorder, they were to be sent to the hospitals of St. Peter or St. Nicholas. (fn. 6)

There is a reference in another of the abbey registers to the Leprosi extra Risby Gate. (fn. 7) In its later history, the hospital of St. Peter was always referred to as a lazar-house. The Valor of 1535 gives the gross income of the chapel of St. Peter of the foundation of the abbot of St. Edmunds, of which Christopher Lant, clerk, was then master, as £20 16s. 8½d., and the net income as £10 18s. 10½d. Out of the gross, £4 is entered as paid in alms 'pauperibus le Lazares House extra Rysbygate de Bury.' (fn. 8)

It is rather singular that the income of this hospital was specially assessed in 1535; for in 1528 a bull was obtained from Pope Clement authorizing the annexing of this hospital, together with St. Saviour's, to the abbey, the income being specially appropriated for hospitality at the abbot's table; in the case of St. Peter's, however, this project does not seem to have been carried out. (fn. 9)

In the first instance, St. Peter's hospital was under the immediate control of the abbey almoner; (fn. 10) but in the time of Henry III and onwards it was ruled by a master who was a secular priest appointed by the almoner. This hospital continued after the dissolution of the great majority of kindred institutions, for in 1551 protection (or licence to beg) was granted to the lazars of the hospital of St. Peter nigh St. Edmunds Bury, for one year; and George Hodgson, 'guide' of the house, was appointed their proctor. (fn. 11)

Masters or Priors of the Hospital of St. Peter, Bury St. Edmunds

Alan, (fn. 12) c. 1225

Gilbert de Pollekot, (fn. 13) c. 1240

Robert de Baketone, (fn. 14) c. 1260

William son of Bartholomew alias Livermore, (fn. 15) c. 1275

Robert, (fn. 16) occurs 1280

William, (fn. 17) c. 1300

Thomas de Swanstone, (fn. 18) occurs 1324

Walter Burton, (fn. 19) occurs 1439

Christopher Lant, (fn. 20) occurs 1538

George Hodgson, (fn. 21) occurs 1551


  • 1. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiv, App. viii, 155-6.
  • 2. Ibid. 29, 31-3, 40, 47, 61, 62, 65, &c.
  • 3. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiv, App. viii, 72, 78, 90, 91.
  • 4. Ibid. 100.
  • 5. Ibid. 151.
  • 6. Reg. Sacr. fol. 86.
  • 7. Reg. Kansyk, fol. 94.
  • 8. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 465.
  • 9. Rymer, Foedera, xiv, 244-5.
  • 10. Reg. Nigrum, fol. 185.
  • 11. Strype, Eccl. Mem. Edw. VI, ii, 249.
  • 12. Bodl. Chart. Suff. 28, 83.
  • 13. Ibid. 66.
  • 14. Ibid. 76.
  • 15. Ibid. 77.
  • 16. Ibid. 70, 84, 87.
  • 17. Ibid. 1386.
  • 18. Ibid. 100.
  • 19. Ibid. 113.
  • 20. Ibid. 151.
  • 21. Strype, Eccl. Mem. Edw. VI, ii, 249.