Hospitals: Holy Trinity, Dunwich

Pages 137-138

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

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A hospital dedicated to the Holy Trinity, but more often mentioned as the Domus Dei, Maison Dieu, or God's House of Dunwich, was founded at an early date, though no records of it have been found before the reign of Henry III. It was then and afterwards in the patronage of the king, and consisted of a master and six brethren and certain sisters.

In October, 1304, Edward I granted simple protection to the master, brethren, and sisters of the hospital of the Domus Dei, Dunwich. (fn. 1) In the following March Robert de Sefeld, and at the same time two other benefactors, were licensed to alienate to the hospital land in Dunwich and Westleton. (fn. 2) Royal protection authorizing the collection of alms was renewed by Edward I in 1306, (fn. 3) and Edward II granted a year's protec tion in 1311, which was renewed in 1314, 1315, 1316, 1317, and again in 1323, when it was stated that the house had fallen into debt. (fn. 4)

In 1330 Edward III granted protection for three years to the master, brethren, sisters, and envoys of the Maison Dieu of Dunwich, as they were compelled by their poverty to seek alms elsewhere, (fn. 5) and in 1337 protection was renewed for a year. (fn. 6)

The arm of the civil law was invoked by the brethren and sisters of this house in 1306, to recover from the abbot of St. Osyth, Essex, a certain cross which he had taken away, and to which very many people used to resort from divers parts, bringing with them considerable offerings (non modicas largitiones). The abbot was ordered to deposit the cross in Chancery, and eventually on the sworn evidence of good men of Dunwich that this was the actual cross that had been taken from God's House of their town, the abbot was compelled, in the presence of the chancellor, to restore the cross into the hands of Adam de Bram, master of the hospital. (fn. 7)

On 24 October, 1378, Richard II revoked the letters patent of the late king granting to John Wodecot the custody of the Maison Dieu of Dunwich; for it had been granted on the false suggestion that it was void by the death of Roger de Elyngton, king's clerk, appointed in February, 1365, on the resignation of John de Tamworth. Restitution was to be made to Roger. (fn. 8)

In 1455 Sibyl Francis made a bequest to the fabric of the church of 'le Mesyndieu'; Robert Sharparew left 3s. 4d. in 1512 to the reparation of the 'Mezendew'; and in 1527 there was a legacy towards the paving of the church.

In Weever's time (1631) the church had been pulled down. He describes the hospital as decayed, like that of St. James, through evil masters and other covetous persons, but still possessing divers tenements, lands, and rents for the poor of the hospital. (fn. 9)

Gardner (1754) states that in his days the income, through 'ill-disposed rules,' was reduced to £11 17s. The master drew £2 as salary, and the rest was divided among a few Poor who live in the Masters and another old decrepid House, being all that is left of the Buildings, except a small portion of the South Wall of the Church. (fn. 10)

Masters of the Hospital of the Holy Trinity, Dunwich

Robert Falconis, (fn. 11) died 1290

Robert de Sefeld, (fn. 12) appointed 1290, removed 1305

Adam de Bram, (fn. 13) appointed 1306

John de Langeton, (fn. 14) appointed 1319

John de Tamworth, (fn. 15) resigned 1365

Roger de Elyngton, (fn. 16) appointed 1365

John Elyngton, (fn. 17) resigned 1386

John Hereford, (fn. 18) appointed 1386

William Coterell, (fn. 19) appointed 1389

Adam de Elyngton, (fn. 20) appointed 1390

John Lucas, (fn. 21) appointed 1390

John Hopton, (fn. 22) appointed 1466

The common seal of this house is a large oval, bearing in the centre the three lions of Henry III surmounted by a triple cross, on the lowest limb of which are two fleurs-de-lis. Legend:—



  • 1. Pat. 32 Edw. I, m. 2.
  • 2. Ibid. 33 Edw. I, pt. i, m. 13.
  • 3. Ibid. 34 Edw. I, m. 21.
  • 4. Pat. 5 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 22, &c.
  • 5. Ibid. 4 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 9.
  • 6. Ibid. 11 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 5.
  • 7. Prynne, Antiq. Const Regni Angliae, 1137-8.
  • 8. Pat. 2 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 25.
  • 9. Weever, Funeral Monuments, 719. He adds, 'I would to God these injuries and wrongs don to these two poore Hospitals might be restored, and reformed again to their former estate. For, surely, whosoever shall doe it, shall doe a good worke before God; I pray God bring it to passe, Amen.'
  • 10. Gardner, Hist. of Dunwich, 66.
  • 11. Pat. 18 Edw. I, m. 42.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Ibid. 34 Edw. I, m. 21.
  • 14. Ibid. 12 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 6.
  • 15. Ibid. 2 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 25.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Ibid. 10 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 11.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. Ibid. 13 Ric. II, pt. ii, m. 19, 17.
  • 20. Ibid. pt. iii, m. 4.
  • 21. Ibid. 14 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 40.
  • 22. Ibid. 6 Edw. IV, pt. ii, m. 19.
  • 23. Gardner, Hist. of Dunwich, pl. opp. p. 43.