Hospitals: St John the Baptist, Wilton

Pages 364-367

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

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The first authentic facts (fn. 1) recorded about this hospital seem to be that in 1195 Hubert Claud, prior of the 'hospital of St. James', held lands in Ditchampton and Bemerton, and that one Gervase quitclaimed to him, for the perpetual maintenance of a bed in the hospital, 16 acres of arable and 1 of meadow in the fields of Ditchampton and Ugford. (fn. 2) A chapel in the hospital, which lay in Ditchampton, west of Wilton, is said to have been dedicated in 1217. (fn. 3) In documents of the 14th century sisters of the hospital are occasionally mentioned in addition to a prior and brethren. (fn. 4)

Henry III, visiting Wilton in March 1218, requested the Bishop of Salisbury to confirm the church of St. Michael, Kingsbury (Wilton), to the brethren of the hospital as their own property, and the bishop seems to have complied. (fn. 5) The sheriff was ordered in 1221 to distrain on 'R. dean of Wilton' and the Prior of St. John's, at the suit of Nicholas son of Richard. (fn. 6) In 1225 the justices in Wiltshire were ordered to ascertain whether 6 messuages in Wilton belonged to St. Michael's Church or to lay fees, and in the same year Walter Wineman sued the prior before the justices in respect of a messuage and appurtenances. (fn. 7) In 1241-2 the prior paid 6d. to the sheriff, with 6d. for the year before, for an encroachment in Wilton. (fn. 8)

William Longespée, Earl of Salisbury, bequeathed a number of cows to this and other hospitals in 1225. (fn. 9) Henry III gave wood for its hearth on six occasions between 1223 and 1235 referring to it in 1229 as the Domus Dei of Wilton. (fn. 10) Robert de Careville, Treasurer of Salisbury, left £1 to it in 1267. (fn. 11)

In 1236 the prior bought from Geoffrey of Billeg, for £2, a virgate of land in 'Billeg' (Billhay Farm, West Tisbury) at 1s. a year. (fn. 12) Jacob, son of David, sued him for debt in 1244. (fn. 13) In 1267 Cecily, Geoffrey Husse's wife, left money to the hospital. (fn. 14) In 1268 the prior recovered from Humphrey de Bridel the arrears of a rent of one quarter of corn and one of rye for maintenance of the poor infirm in the hospital. (fn. 15) It was found by inquisition in 1300 that the warden held divers tenements, and paid 8d. rent of assize at Easter and Michaelmas and 4s. 9¼d. landgable on St. Andrew's day. (fn. 16)

Benefactions began to accumulate. Richard of Chisledon had licence in 1318 to grant 8 acres of land and 3 of meadow in the suburb of Wilton, and 12 of land and 1 of meadow in Washern near Wilton, to find a chaplain to celebrate daily in the hospital church for the souls of his family. (fn. 17) In 1323 Thomas le Porter, Vicar of St. Peter, Bulbridge, had licence to grant 4 messuages in Wilton and the suburb, to maintain a chaplain, a brother of the hospital, to celebrate daily in Bulbridge church for certain souls; the grant was confirmed by Bishop Mortival in 1325. (fn. 18) In 1324 John (son of Alan) and Agnes of Longford had licence to convey to the hospital 2 messuages, a carucate of land, 12½ acres of meadow, and 19s. rent in Winterbourne Ford (in Laverstock), Little Langford, Milford (in Salisbury), Laverstock, and Hurdcott (in Barford St. Martin), to find a chaplain to celebrate daily in Little Langford church for the souls of the family. (fn. 19) John of Harnham the elder had licence in 1330 to grant a messuage, 10 acres of land, and a rent of 6s. in Compton Chamberlayne, to celebrate the obit of Robert the Chamberlain yearly in Compton church, and to find two wax lights to burn daily at the high altar there at high mass. (fn. 20) Simon of Wylye had licence in 1334 to grant 2 messuages, 60 acres of land, 1s. 4d. rent, and pasture for 12 oxen and 180 sheep in Monkton Deverill and Wylye, to find a chaplain to celebrate daily in Wylye church for the souls of Simon and his ancestors; Simon died that year without fulfilling his purpose, but the necessary further licences were granted in 1335 and 1336. (fn. 21) Robert le Boor, who appears to have been one of Simon's executors, is said to have transferred to the hospital a chantry which he had founded in 1319 at Hill Deverill church and granted at first at Longleat priory. (fn. 22)

Richard of Chisledon had licence in 1335 for the further gift of a messuage, a mill, and a virgate of land at South Newton, to find a chaplain to celebrate daily in the hospital for his family; he died almost at once, but apparently he had assured the endowment. (fn. 23) In the same month Thomas West had licence to grant 2 messuages, 110 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, and 6d. rent in North Burcombe, Ugford St. James, and Swallowcliffe, with the advowson of North Burcombe church, to find two chaplains to celebrate daily in the churches of Swallowcliffe and St. John, Wilton; the hospital had licence for the appropriation of North Burcombe church, which was carried out in 1347. (fn. 24)

It was found by inquisition in 1339 that the prior held ¼ knight's fee in Hurdcott, worth £1 6s. 8d. a year, of the heirs of Sir Giles de Badlesmere; (fn. 25) and in 1362 that he held 2 acres of pasture at Emwell, in Norton Bavant manor, let at a rent of 1s. (fn. 26)

A royal retainer was sent to the hospital in 1325 for maintenance, food, and clothing for life. (fn. 27) John of Tamworth, king's clerk, had a grant of the hospital in 1344, but he surrendered it at once; he had had an equally abortive grant of St. Giles's Hospital. (fn. 28)

The hospital's not inconsiderable possessions brought successive priors into conflict with the forest laws. In 1270 it was found that the prior's predecessor had enclosed 2 acres at Whitbourne, in Corsley, without licence. (fn. 29) Under Edward III the prior was obliged to pay £2 for leaving land enclosed in the same place, which was then within the bounds of Selwood Forest. (fn. 30) In 1370 the prior had to pay 14s. 4d. for having 12 swine not 'hambled' (amillat) in Clarendon Forest, which rootled the king's land throughout the year. (fn. 31)

In 1388 John Waltham, Bishop of Salisbury, announced a 40-days' indulgence in favour of the hospital, the fabric of which was ruinous through lapse of time. (fn. 32)

In 1392 the wardenship of the hospital was disputed between John May and Geoffrey Gilot. May had been presented to the office by the king in March. (fn. 33) Gilot, despite the fact that the king had presented John Were in June 1391, (fn. 34) and John Graunger on Were's resignation in September of the same year, (fn. 35) was said to have held the office for the past eight years. (fn. 36) Pending a decision in Chancery on the dispute, the hospital was put into the hands of Peter de Barton and John Gauwyn, two royal clerks. (fn. 37) The outcome is unknown, but in July 1392 both disputants undertook by a bond of £100 to abide by the decision to be made by the Bishop of Salisbury. (fn. 38) In 1395 one Geoffrey, possibly Gilot, was prior. (fn. 39)

The prior and convent, in 1395, engaged a priest to celebrate where and when the prior should ordain; the detailed terms included a priest's maintenance in meat and drink, and £1 6s. 8d. a year for clothing, and an allowance for expenses if he were sent out of Wilton. (fn. 40)

John Watcombe, prior in 1404, was warned by the Dean of Salisbury to wear his habit, as other priors had done, on pain of 'provocation'. His successors made their profession of obedience before the dean, in the chancel of their church, in 1405 and 1407. (fn. 41)

In 1435 Bishop Neville united to St. John's Hospital the rectories of St. Michael Kingsbury (or South Street), St. Nicholas West Street, St. Mary West Street, and St. Nicholas in atrio. (fn. 42)

It became customary, in the later 15th century, to elect the priors of St. John's as burgesses of Wilton. Prior Thomas Baker was steward of the borough in 1489-91, and one of the auditors in 1500; (fn. 43) and in 1467, 1520, and 1537 the prior was elected portreeve (prepositus) of the borough. (fn. 44) John Ogbourne, clerk, was a burgess from 1461 to his death in 1474; (fn. 45) he was prior of St. John's when he set out for Rome and was captured and held in prison overseas. (fn. 46)

The master or prior in 1535 returned the annual value in rents of assize, lands, meadows, pasture, and corrodies as £16 18s. 4d., and the charges (rents, payments to the Bishop and the Chapter of Salisbury and to the Archdeacon of Wilts, and 17s. 4d. in alms to four poor inmates) as £2 4s. 5½d. (fn. 47) The chantry commissioners of 1546 found a master or warden, a chaplain, and four poor brethren and sisters; a gross income of £21 4s. 8d. from scattered properties, mainly let since 1540 for terms of from 60 to 99 years; outgoings of £3 1s. 2½d. including £1 6s. 8d. a year granted for life to Richard Palmer, the receiver; and ornaments worth £3 8s. 8d. (fn. 48) The commissioners of 1548 also found the clear value as £18 3s. 5½d., stated that the master received it for his own use and no poor persons were maintained; and held that the foundation was charitable and not superstitious. (fn. 49)

The hospital survived, but the charge brought against the master in 1548 was repeated about 1613. The 'minister' in the time of Archbishop Laud (1633-44) 'allowed the poor but very little' of the revenues. (fn. 50)

In 1821 the master or prior was a clergyman, nominated by the Dean of Salisbury, and he selected the two poor men and two poor women for maintenance. (fn. 51) In 1825 the hospital was 'unused and going to decay'. (fn. 52) It was rebuilt in 1851; the chapel was restored in 1868 and repaired and enlarged about 1902. The buildings, of flint and stone with some red brick patching, stand on the main London-Exeter road between the parish church and the Wishford turning.

The Charity Commissioners found in 1903 that the Dean of Salisbury had been the patron for several centuries past; that two poor men and two poor women were still maintained; and that the corporation's claim to nominate the men was unfounded. The gross annual income was £871 7s. 6d., of which the ancient endowments in land yielded £29 1s. 6d. (fn. 53)

Masters, Priors, or Wardens

Hubert Claud', occurs 1195. (fn. 54)

Stephen, occurs 1236, 1244. (fn. 55)

Thomas, occurs 1268. (fn. 56)

Hugh, occurs 1307. (fn. 57)

John of Norridge, occurs 1314-15, 1325. (fn. 58)

John of Tamworth, appointed 1344. (fn. 59)

Roger Hudd, occurs temp. Edw. III. (fn. 60)

Henry, occurs 1370. (fn. 61)

Geoffrey Gilot, appointed c. 1384; occurs 1397 or later. (fn. 62)

John Were, appointed 1391; John Graunger, appointed 1391-2; John May, appointed 1392. (fn. 63)

John Watcombe, occurs 1404. (fn. 64)

Richard Bereford, installed 1405. (fn. 64)

John Hyle, installed 1407. (fn. 64)

Edward Pynkebryge, occurs 1467. (fn. 65)

John Ogbourne, died 1474. (fn. 66)

Richard Fox, occurs 1477, 1478. (fn. 67)

Thomas Baker, occurs 1489, 1500. (fn. 68)

William Hawarden, occurs 1516, 1517. (fn. 69)

Richard Dudley, occurs 1535. (fn. 70)

John Roberts, occurs 1548. (fn. 71)

William Awbrey, appointed 1590, resigned 1595. (fn. 72)

Thomas Skales, appointed 1595, resigned 1599.

Garrett Williamson, appointed 1599, resigned 1600.

Giles Thornburgh, appointed 1600.

John Houghton, appointed 1600.

Giles Thornburgh, appointed c. 1635(?). (fn. 73)

Andrew Bowerman, appointed 1637, occurs 1650. (fn. 74)

John Houghton, appointed 1660, occurs 1662. (fn. 75)

Richard Kent, appointed 1677, died 1692.

Thomas Naish, appointed 1692, died 1713.

Richard Eyre, appointed 1713, died 1745.

William Hillman, appointed 1746, died 1773.

Charles Greene, appointed 1773, died 1803.

Charles Ekins, appointed 1803, died 1826.

Henry Venn Elliott, appointed 1826, resigned 1831.

Charles Buchanan Pearson, appointed 1831, died 1881.

William Savage, appointed 1881, died 1894. (fn. 76)

The Hon. Douglas Hamilton Gordon, appointed 1894, died 1902.

Allan Becher Webb, appointed 1902, died 1907. (fn. 77)

Eldon Surtees Bankes, appointed 1908, died 1914.

H. W. Carpenter, appointed 1914, died 1936. (fn. 78)

Charles Tunnacliff Dimont, instituted 1936, died 1953. (fn. 79)

The pointed oval seal (1 15/16; by 1 9/16; in.), now in use, and probably of much earlier design, bears the Agnus Dei with the legend:



  • 1. References are collected in B.M. Add. MS. 24831, ff. 297–310. The account of the foundation quoted by Hoare seems purely imaginative: Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Hundred of Branch and Dole, 199. No authority has been found for the statement that the hospital was founded in 1190 by Bp. Hubert: R. M. Clay, Hospitals of Med. Engl. 329.
  • 2. Feet of F. 1182–96 (Pipe R. Soc. xvii), p. 33.
  • 3. W.A.M. xix, 261.
  • 4. Cal. Pat. 1330–4, 21; 1334–8, 61; Sar. Reg. Waltham, f. 12 (1388).
  • 5. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i, 353; Book of Fees, 382.
  • 6. Cur. Reg. R. 1221–2, 208.
  • 7. Pat. R. 1216–25, 593, 600.
  • 8. Pipe R. 1242, ed. H. L. Cannon, 167.
  • 9. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), ii, 71.
  • 10. Ibid. i, 529; Close R. 1227–31, 221; 1231–4, 46, 370; 1234–7, 30, 218.
  • 11. Sar. Chart. & Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 344.
  • 12. Cal. Feet of F. Wilts. 1195–1272, ed. Fry, p. 26; CP 25(1)/250/10/62.
  • 13. J. M. Rigg, Exchequer of the Jews, i, 59-60.
  • 14. Cat. Anct. D. iii, D 291.
  • 15. B.M., Add. MS. 24831, f. 307.
  • 16. Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1242–1326 (Index Libr.), 266.
  • 17. Cal. Pat. 1317–21, 105.
  • 18. Ibid. 1321–4, 357; Wilton Corp. MS. 198; Sar. Reg. Mortival, ii, f. 175.
  • 19. Cal. Pat. 1321–4, 390; Feet of F. 1272–1327 (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), p. 115. The land of Hurdcott was near a stone quarry 'upon Cloudhull' by Baverstoke: B.M. Stowe MS. 882, ff. 26b, 73.
  • 20. Cal. Pat. 1330-4, 21; Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1327–77 (Index Libr.), 66–67.
  • 21. Cal. Pat. 1334–8, 7, 61, 110, 246; Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1327–77 (Index Libr.), 97, 118; Abbrev. Rot. Orig. (Rec. Com.), 91.
  • 22. W.A.M. x, 287; for the chantry see Sar. Reg. Mortival, i, 89.
  • 23. Cal. Pat. 1334–8, 61; Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1327–77 (Index Libr.), 108.
  • 24. Cal. Pat. 1334–8, 77; Sar. Reg. Wyville, i, f. 193.
  • 25. Cal. Inq. p.m. viii, p. 138; Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1327–77 (Index Libr.), 134.
  • 26. Cal. Inq. Misc. iii, p. 180.
  • 27. Cal. Close, 1323–7, 490.
  • 28. Cal. Pat. 1343–5, 257.
  • 29. E 32/200.
  • 30. E 32/216.
  • 31. E 32/318.
  • 32. Sar. Reg. Waltham, f. 12.
  • 33. Cal. Pat. 1391–6, 39.
  • 34. Ibid. 1388–92, 432. Eight days earlier Were was granted the wardenship of the hospital or chapel of 'St. Radegund' by Wilton: ibid. 429. This hospital has not been identified, although there may have been a chantry chapel of that name in Wilton Abbey. Were had also been appointed to the hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr, Marlborough, in 1388; see above, p. 343.
  • 35. Cal. Pat. 1388–92, 479.
  • 36. Ibid. 1391–6, 54.
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Cal. Close, 1392–96, 74–75.
  • 39. Jnl. of Brit. Arch. Assoc. xvii, 316.
  • 40. Ibid.
  • 41. Sar. Reg. Neville, ii, f. 4.
  • 42. Ibid. ii, f. 59v.; Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Hundred of Branch and Dole, 177–9.
  • 43. Wilton Corp. MS. 21, ff. 53–79.
  • 44. Ibid. ff. 24, 165, 104, 141.
  • 45. Ibid. ff. 591–601.
  • 46. C 1/31/24.
  • 47. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii, 99–100.
  • 48. E 301/56/6, E 301/59/6; Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Hundred of Branch and Dole, 127–9.
  • 49. E 301/58/87; Hoare, op. cit.
  • 50. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1611–18, 219; Hist. MSS. Com. 4th Rep., App. p. 131.
  • 51. John Rutter, Monasticon Wiltonense.
  • 52. Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Hundred of Branch and Dole, 126.
  • 53. Endowed Char. (Wilts.), H.C. 273–1, pp. 846–70 (1908), lxxxi.
  • 54. Cal. Feet of F. Wilts. 1195–1272, ed. Fry, p. i; Feet of F. 1182–96 (Pipe R. Soc.), xvii, no. 37.
  • 55. Cal. Feet of F. Wilts. 1195–1272, ed. Fry, p. 26; J. M. Rigg, Exchequer of the Jews, i, 59–60.
  • 56. B.M. Add. MS. 24831, f. 307.
  • 57. Reg. Simon de Gandavo (Cant. & York Soc.), 880.
  • 58. Sar. Reg. Mortival, ii, f. 175; Wilton Corp. MS. 198. Norridge was a hamlet of Upton Scudamore. The earlier date is given by Sir T. Phillipps, Exc. ex Reg. Episc. Sar. 23, but the entry in the registers at Salisbury has not been found.
  • 59. Cal. Pat. 1343–5, 257.
  • 60. W.A.M. xix, 362.
  • 61. E 32/318.
  • 62. Cal. Pat. 1391–6, 39, 54; Jnl. Brit. Arch. Assoc. xvii, 316.
  • 63. See above, p. 366.
  • 64. Sar. Reg. Neville, ii, f. 4.
  • 65. Wilton Corp. MS. 21, f. 24.
  • 66. C 1/31/24.
  • 67. Wilton Corp. MS. 21, ff. 586–7.
  • 68. Ibid. ff. 53–79.
  • 69. Ibid. ff. 85, 102.
  • 70. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii, 99. 1507 Precentor of Salisbury: Fasti Eccl. Sar. ed. Jones, 332.
  • 71. E 301/58/87.
  • 72. This and subsequent names and particulars, unless otherwise stated, are taken from the Dean of Salisbury's Act Bk. or (in a few cases) from the Subscription Bks. (D. & C. Sar.).
  • 73. Hist. MSS. Com. 4th Rep. App. p. 131. A comparison of dates seems to show that Thornburgh, a notable pluralist, was reappointed Master of St. John's and not elected to St. Giles's.
  • 74. W.A.M. xl, 306.
  • 75. Ibid. xlv, 478.
  • 76. Vicar of Burcombe.
  • 77. Dean of Salisbury.
  • 78. Archdeacon of Sarum.
  • 79. Chancellor of Salisbury.
  • 80. W.A.M. xix, 362.