Hospitals: St John the Baptist, Devizes

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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'Hospitals: St John the Baptist, Devizes', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3, (London, 1956) pp. 337. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]


The first reference found to this hospital occurs in 1314, when John Wyt, of Potterne, priest, was presented to the 'Priory of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist' by the Mayor and Burgesses of Devizes. (fn. 1) Of the four remaining recorded presentations, two (in 1321 and 1513) were made by the mayor and burgesses, (fn. 2) one (in 1469) by the mayor alone, (fn. 3) and one (in 1336) by the queen, (fn. 4) who held the town in dower. (fn. 5) In 1399 the king granted the custody of the hospital to one Nicholas Coventry for life. (fn. 6)

About 1325 the Bishop of Salisbury, through his commissaries the Prior of Bradenstoke and the Abbot of Stanley, intervened in a dispute—which had reached the Holy See—between the Prior of St. John's Hospital and the Rector of 'the parish church' of Devizes. The rector, Thomas of Yorkfleet, had been presented in 1312 to the church of St. John the Baptist, Devizes, (fn. 7) which by 1398, (fn. 8) and probably much earlier, became annexed to the church of St. Mary, Devizes. The cause of the dispute of 1325 seems to have been encroachment by the prior of the hospital, which in the 16th century is expressly said to be within the parish of St. Mary, (fn. 9) upon the parochial rights of the Rector of Devizes. The award, confirmed in 1326 by the bishop, safeguarded the right of the rector to receive oblations, and the like, on those occasions when his parishioners were admitted to the hospital chapel, or when special services were held there. The right of the prior or the sick of his house to all bequests made to them was likewise safeguarded, provided the bequests did not deprive the rector of any income due to him. The prior and all the inmates of his house were, it was emphatically stated, parishioners of 'the parish church' of Devizes. (fn. 10)

William Salter, clothier of Devizes, left 2s. 6d. to the prior in 1404. (fn. 11) An indulgence of 40 days in favour of the hospital was granted by the bishop in 1503. (fn. 12)

The chantry commissioners of 1546 and 1548 made returns for the free chapel of St. John the Baptist, but make no mention of a hospital. In 1546 the free chapel had a clear income of £2 13s. 2d. after paying 8s. 2d. rent resolute to the queen. (fn. 13) In 1548 the commissioners reported that the free chapel had property in Bishop's Cannings, Stert, Rowde, and Poulshot worth £4 2s. 4d. a year, and still paid the rent of 8s. 2d.; it had goods and ornaments worth 14s. 8d., and a bell worth 6s. 8d.; the incumbent (who had been incumbent of Whaddon 1533-8) (fn. 14) was honest, of good report, with no other living. (fn. 15) In 1550 the late free chapel and its possessions (except bells, lead on roofs, and advowsons) was sold by the Crown to Richard Roberts of London. (fn. 16) The property appears to have come later into the hands of the Old and New Almshouses. This forms part of the story of Devizes town.


  • 1. Reg. Simon de Gandavo (Cant. & York Soc.), ii, 824.
  • 2. Phillipps, Wilts. Inst. i, 18, 191.
  • 3. J. Waylen, Chronicles of the Devizes, 240.
  • 4. Phillipps, Wilts. Inst. i, 31.
  • 5. Cal. Pat. 1330–4, 55, 332.
  • 6. Ibid. 1399–1401, 141. Coventry was a well-known Devizes name.
  • 7. Phillipps, Wilts. Inst. i, 11.
  • 8. Ibid. 84.
  • 9. E 301/56/44.
  • 10. Sar. Reg. Mortival, ii, f. 191. A précis of the award is given by Waylen in Chronicles of the Devizes, 240–6.
  • 11. Waylen, op. cit. 284.
  • 12. Sar. Reg. Audley, f. 172.
  • 13. E 301/56/44.
  • 14. W.A.M. xli, 206.
  • 15. E 301/58/73.
  • 16. Cal. Pat. 1549–51, 6–7.