Hospitals: Coventry

Pages 109-112

A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

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Early in the reign of Henry II, the hospital of St. John Baptist was founded with the approval of Prior Lawrence and his convent, chiefly at the charges of Edmund, archdeacon of Coventry (1161-75), for a warden or master with several brothers and sisters. Its object, as was the case with almost all the numerous town hospitals of England dedicated to the honour of the Baptist, was threefold, namely (1) to provide a small permanent staff to supervise the house and maintain the chapel services, (2) to afford temporary relief and lodgement for poor wayfarers, and (3) to give more permanent relief to certain of the local poor who were sick or aged.

Dugdale quoted largely from documents pertaining to this house, which were in his time in the possession of John Hales of Coventry, the representative of that John Hales who, after the suppression of this hospital, played so large a part in the foundation of the grammar school on this site. (fn. 2) The deeds quoted by Dugdale include the charter of foundation and its confirmation by the archdeacon and by Richard, archbishop of Canterbury (1174-84). (fn. 3)

In 1249 Roger de Montalt and Cecilia his wife, on the grant of their manor of Coventry to the monks of the priory, reserved for this hospital a weekly load of wood to be delivered by the priory foresters. (fn. 4) From the Valor of Henry VIII it is found that the priory supplied daily to the hospital, from its first foundation, bread, beer, and two messes of meat, the portion of two monks, which was to be used there for the poor. The annual cost of this allowance was £14 13s. 2d.

Henry III in 1261 granted protection to the master, brethren, and sisters of this hospital, and to collectors whom they might employ to collect alms. From Popes Urban IV and V they obtained bulls of immunity from all secular exactions. (fn. 5)

The Taxation Roll of 1291 merely names 6s. 8d. in temporalities, in the archdeaconry of Leicester, as pertaining to this hospital; the rest of its possessions were either exempt or included under the priory. (fn. 6)

In 1327 the master, brethren, and sisters had licence under privy seal to acquire in mortmain land and rent to the yearly value of 100s. In the same year and in 1329 the hospital received small grants covered by this licence. (fn. 7)

A composition was entered into in June, 1424, between the vicar of Holy Trinity, Coventry, and the master, brethren, and sisters of this hospital, through the arbitration of the prior of Coventry. The point at issue was the loss incurred by the vicar of Holy Trinity through the subtraction of his parishioners of the hospital. The decision of the prior was to the following effect, and any breach of the ruling was to be subject to a penalty of £100. The master of the hospital was to administer peaceably or cause to be administered the sacraments in the hospital according to ancient usage, save the privilege of baptism, and to receive all oblations by reason of such sacraments. The hospital was to indemnify the vicar for all loss and injury by the payment of £15, in three separate sums at the next festival of Christmas, Easter, and Michaelmas, and also at Michaelmas to begin the payment of an annual pension of 6s. 8d. (fn. 8)

On 29 March, 1426, Thomas Everdon, the warden, and the greater part of the brothers and sisters of the hospital appeared in the chapterhouse of the great priory, in the presence of Prior Richard and the greater part of his convent, before William Heyne, papal notary, and two assessors, for amicable arbitration as to certain matters in dispute between the warden and the prior. The elaborate decree then put forth certified that the prior and convent were the founders of the hospital chiefly endowed by Archdeacon Edmund; that they were bound to supply daily provision sufficient for two monks; that the admission, reception, and profession of the warden, brethren, and sisters were to be always the right of the prior; that the warden on appointment was to take a prescribed oath of obedience and submission in every detail to the prior; that the prior was the visitor, but was not to visit more than once a year, nor with more than eight in his train; that he was not to remove any warden, brother, or sister without legitimate cause, nor to take any goods of the hospital for his use or that of the cathedral church; that the warden was not to sell or part with any property of the hospital nor grant any corrody without the prior's licence; that each brother, priest, layman, or sister entering the hospital should make the threefold vow of profession and obedience to the prior after a prescribed form; that if any brothers or sisters to be admitted or professed have but very slight knowledge of the Latin tongue that they shall make their vow or profession clearly and openly in the vulgar tongue; that no one shall be admitted warden save a priest of good life and conversation; that the warden, brothers, and sisters should wear decent habits, according to the previous use of the hospital, the outer garb of black or dark brown, ample and flowing, but closed and marked with a black cross, of decent length, not remarkable for either excessive length or shortness, and not buttoned, (fn. 9) that they should also use cloaks similarly marked with a black cross, and never be seen in the city outside their house without them; the under garb of the brothers should be a scapular of like colour and similarly marked with the cross; that the sisters should use a white veil and long closed mantles or cloaks when without the house; that all might have underwear of linen according to their ancient use, unless anyone chose for the sake of devotion to abstain from such use; that the warden was to administer discipline at a weekly chapter, but that grave offences were to be reported to the prior; that the use of Sarum was to be followed at the masses and hours; that if any of the brothers or sisters were altogether unlearned, they were to say, in lieu of mattins, thirty Our Fathers and the like number of Hail Marys, and one Creed, and at the other hours, seven Our Fathers and Hail Marys and a Creed; that the literates were to say the hours of Our Lady, with the psalter of the same; that none were to be absent from the hospital without just, honourable, and necessary cause; and that the sisters might be sought night and day, so often as there was need for their ministration, to visit and tend the infirm.

The decree also contained various provisions as to the burial of the members, custody of their seal, and as to their muniments and possessions.

In 1444 a tripartite indenture was made between John Pake, warden, and the brothers and sisters of the one part; John Lusterley, master of Corpus Christi and St. Nicholas gild, and their brethren of the second part; and John Blakeman and his wife Margaret of the third part. The deed states that the warden, for the great love and benefit shown to the hospital by John and Margaret, covenants with them and the master of the gild to nominate and assign one bed in the hospital, on the west side of the church near the door, to be called 'Blakeman's bed,' to be at the disposal of the Blakemans during their life, and afterwards at that of the master of the said gild. They covenant not to place in such bed any mad, quarrelsome, leprous, infected, or loose person wandering about at night, otherwise the master can remove an objectionable person and admit a proper one. The warden further covenanted to keep the anniversary of John and Margaret for one hundred years.

In 1518 John Haddon, draper, made the sensible bequest to the hospital ' for the mayntenance of the pour folks beddes lxxx yards of white freese.'

The Valor of 1535 gave the clear annual value of the hospital as £83 3s. 2d.; of this sum £16 was paid as salary to three chaplains celebrating within the hospital. The bread and ale given weekly at the hospital gate was valued at 26s., and alms at certain anniversaries 31s. 4d. The annual sum of 60s. was put down for the expense of keeping twenty beds in repair for the sick poor and wayfarers, and for food supplied to bedridden sick. (fn. 10)

This hospital was surrendered to Henry VIII on 4 March, 1545; the surrender is signed by William Waller as warden and by Richard Fulgeam. (fn. 11)

The site and possessions were granted in the following year to John Hales, clerk of the hanaper, who established here a grammar-school. (fn. 12)

Wardens (fn. 13)

Godfrey, temp. Henry III

Peter, c. 1309

Walter, c. 1309

Philip de Bedeford, 1343-9 (fn. 14)

Henry Aston, c. 1352-61

Richard de Westeley, c. 1387

Richard Raynbold, c. 1398-1405

Thomas, c. 1414

Thomas Everdon, c. 1423-39

John Pake, 1444-65 (fn. 15)

John Rastell, 1472

Richard Leylond, 1473

John Ursewike, 1477

Thomas Smythe, 1482-95

William Wethake, 1500-8

William Balden, 1510-16

John Watwood, 1522

William Waller, 1533-45

The fourteenth-century seal is pointed oval: St. John Baptist, standing in a canopied niche with tabernacle work at the sides, holding in the left hand the Agnus Dei on a plaque, and pointing to it with the right hand. The corbel ornamented with foliage. Legend:—

S' HOSPITAL . . . COVENTRE. (fn. 16)


Hugh Kevelioc, earl of Chester, founded a hospital for lepers, dedicated to the honour of St. Mary Magdalene, temp. Henry II, at Spon, on the west side of the city of Coventry. The earl had in his household a certain knight named William de Anney, who suffered from leprosy. This incident led to his assigning his chapel at Spon, with the site and half a carucate of adjoining land, for the maintenance of such lepers as should happen to be in the town of Coventry. (fn. 17) The foundation consisted of a priest or chaplain, with certain brethren and sisters to take charge of the lepers.

When Sir Roger de Montalt and Cecily his wife granted the manors of Coventry and Cheylesmore to the monks of the priory in 1250, the leper hospital of Spon was among the reservations for themselves and their heirs. (fn. 18) By this was meant that they reserved the patronage or the appointment of the master or chaplain.

In the release made by Cecily in her widowhood to the priory, it is stated that this hospital had at one time belonged to the abbey of Basingweek, Flintshire. (fn. 19) But ere long it changed hands, for it was in the possession of the Coventry monks in 1280. (fn. 20) When, however, the manor of Cheylesmore came to the crown, this leper hospital was included, and it so continued until 1474. On 6 November of that year, Edward IV, in consideration of £12 paid in the hanaper, granted the king's free chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, at Spon by Coventry, with all its emoluments, in free alms to the prior and convent of Studley; coupling the grant with the condition of praying for the good estate of the king, of Elizabeth his consort, and their first-born son, Edward, Prince of Wales, and for their souls after death. (fn. 21)


A hospital or almshouse was founded at Bablake, in the city of Coventry, in 1506, by Thomas Bond, a wealthy draper, sometime mayor and alderman. This house was for the sustenance of ten poor men, and of a woman who was to attend to their necessities. By his will he directed that they should have every year a black gown with a hood, having a cognizance of the Trinity before and behind; they were to attend daily at mattins, mass and evensong, and to pray for the souls of the founder and his ancestors, and all Christian souls, more especially the brothers and sisters of the Trinity Gild. The ten brethren were to be chosen from members of the Trinity Gild and in default of poor men of that gild, then one of the number of Corpus Christi Gild. Every day, after supper, they were to go into their church and there, every man kneeling, to say fifteen Our Fathers, fifteen Hail Marys, and three Creeds in the worship of the Passion of Jesus Christ, and then drink and go to bed. To maintain this establishment the founder assigned certain lands, which were continued by his son John. John Bond, by his will of 1537, ordered his son Thomas to set forth lands to the city for the continuance of the charity, but Thomas claimed the lands as his own. Whereupon the city sued him in chancery and won their suit after considerable expenditure. In 1610, the crown laid claim to the lands as being forfeited under the Chantry Suppression Act of Edward VI. In this case, as in that of Ford's Hospital, the city had to re-purchase the lands of the crown at a great cost. Alderman Simon Norton, in 1641, made a sufficient benefaction to maintain another almsman. In 1648, an increase of rents permitted of another addition to their number, with an increased allowance, so that all the eleven poor men received 3s. a week, in addition to gown, fuel, and other advantages. By the end of the century the number had grown to eighteen. (fn. 22)

The trustees of the Coventry General Charities are now the governing body of Bablake or Bond's Hospital. There are, at the present time, sixty almsmen, eighteen of whom are resident, and they all receive 6s. a week.


The Coventry Hospital known for more than three centuries as that of the Grey Friars is now more usually styled Ford's Hospital. This foundation had, however, no connexion with the Franciscan mendicants, but merely obtained its name in respect of its situation in Grey Friars Lane. It was founded in 1529, by William Fourd or Ford, of Coventry, merchant of the staple, to serve as an almshouse for five men and one woman, who were each to receive 5d. a week for their maintenance. The endowments were shortly afterwards increased by William Pisford, the founder's executor, who gave other lands, and placed there six men and their wives, assigning to each couple 7½d. a week. A third alteration as to the inmates of this house was ere long made by William Wigston, who was empowered by the two preceding benefactors to alter, add to, or diminish their wills for the better ordering of the foundation. Wigston provided that there were to be but five men and their wives, with an honest woman between the age of forty and fifty, to serve as keeper of the house, and to cook and wash for the other inmates.

The original donor had provided by his will a yearly pension of £6 to maintain a priest who was to say mass twice a week and to pray for the souls of William Fourd and his relations. Consequently under the Confiscation Chantry Act of Edward VI, the lands legally pertained to the crown. The crown's claim was overlooked until the second year of James I, and the hospital suffered to continue; but in that year the claim was enforced. Whereupon the city of Coventry purchased the forfeited lands from the crown, and 'have ever since maintained the charitable uses, with a great addition out of the Chamber of the City.' In 1621 the city added another man and woman to the inmates at their own charge, assigning 2s. a week to each married couple and 1s. a week to the nurse. Afterwards Alderman Simon Norton bestowed sufficient on the house to increase the inmates to seven couples. (fn. 23)

The raising of the allowance to 2s. occurred in 1671, when the rents of the lands were considerably raised; moreover each inmate had a blue gown every two years, and to each house was assigned 10s. worth of coals a year. (fn. 24)

Since the seventeenth century, various other changes have been made in the administration of the funds of this almshouse from time to time, in accordance with the increase in its revenues. The charity has now for some time been confined to women. There are at the present time thirty-four almswomen, fifteen of whom are resident; each receives 4s. a week, and two tons of coal annually. There is also a matron at 13s. a week and a sub-matron at 10s.


  • 1. See Mr Fretton's paper on this hospital in Trans. Birm. and Midland Inst. (Arch. Sec.), 1886.
  • 2. For an account of the school founded, or rather refounded, by John Hales, see the section on 'Schools.'
  • 3. a Dugdale, Warw. i, 179-80; Mon. vi, 658-62.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 658-62.
  • 6. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 67.
  • 7. Pat. 1 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 7, 5; 3 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 15.
  • 8. Lich. Epis. Reg. Heyworth, fol. 202b.
  • 9. Botonatus, perhaps 'fastened with clasps.'
  • 10. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 52.
  • 11. Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. ii.
  • 12. Pat. 37 Hen. VIII, m. 2.
  • 13. Dugdale, Warw. i, 180.
  • 14. Worc. Epis. Reg. Bransford, fol. 59b, 69b, 147.
  • 15. a Add. Chart. 48706.
  • 16. B.M. lxi, 92; Dugdale, Mon. vi, 656.
  • 17. Dugdale, Warw. i, 197.
  • 18. Anct. D., A. 4464.
  • 19. Coventry Chartul. fol. 79, cited by Dugdale.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Pat. 14 Edw. IV, pt. ii, m. 19.
  • 22. Dugdale, Warw. i, 193-4.
  • 23. All the above particulars are taken from inscribed tablets on the walls of the house.
  • 24. Dugdale, Warw. i, 185.