Hospitals: St Mary Magdalene, Wilton

Pages 367-368

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

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An English poem written at Wilton about 1420 refers to this hospital as then already established for twelve poor bedesmen to pray for the soul of St. Edith, the patron saint of Wilton Abbey. (fn. 1) The hospital was evidently closely connected with the abbey and at the time of the Dissolution the nuns were making an annual payment to maintain thirteen poor 'Magdalens' to pray for the souls of the founders of their convent. (fn. 2)

A chantry chapel of St. Mary Magdalene within the abbey, and its chaplain, Martin of Bridecumbe, are mentioned in 1302, (fn. 3) but no evidence has been found to support the statement that the hospital was founded in 1307. (fn. 4) A chaplain of the 'Maudelyn' is also mentioned in 1419-20 as one of the three chantry chaplains attached to the abbey at that time. (fn. 5) A number of deeds belonging to the hospital and said to date from the time of Henry III survived in 1833. (fn. 6) A series of deeds at Wilton House, not yet (1950) catalogued, throw some light on the property belonging to the hospital.

In the mid-13th century, when Maud de la Mare (1252-c. 1271) was Abbess of Wilton and John of Langport her steward, the abbess and convent granted to the brethren and sisters the reversion of a house in Wilton, opposite St. Edith's fountain. About the same time Margaret, daughter of Alexander Petre, granted them the reversion of a tenement in the marsh of Wilton, at a rent of 1s. a year and a further rent to the abbess. About 1300 the brethren and sisters let to William Smith a house under the abbey walls at 2s. a year; and later Margery, daughter of Richard Baker, granted two rents of 1s. each to the brethren and sisters and to the chaplain for the time being, from a house in Kingsbury (Wilton) held by Alfred Smith. A cottage in Washern Street was let by the abbess and convent to the brethren and sisters in 1347 for a rent of 3s. a year. (fn. 7) In 1414 a widow of New Salisbury bequeathed 2s. to the poor of the hospital. (fn. 8) In 1443 the warden, brethren, and sisters let Maudlins Mead, in Wilton, for 10 years at 15s. a year, and in 1525 they let a garden plot for 96 years. (fn. 9)

Almost nothing more is known of the early history of this hospital. The grangers of Wilton Abbey are said to have bought bread in 1328 for their cart-horses de sororibus Magdalene. (fn. 10) At the time of the Dissolution the prior of the hospital is said to have lived on the site of 'the Island' (fn. 11) opposite the west door of the hospital chapel, and close to the court of the Abbess of Wilton known as the court of the Belhouse. (fn. 12)

Maudlins Mead, in the east part of the 'suburb', was let in 1567, in 1602, 1643, 1698, and 1709 by the brethren and sisters. In 1640, 1641, 1652, 1659, 1684, 1690, 1698, and 1725 they let tenements, lands, houses, or gardens in 'the Maudlins' In 1641, 1671, 1700, and 1725 they let a hopgarden, with or without a messuage, in Kingsbury Square. (fn. 13)

Until 1831 the Maudlins (or Morlands) were five almshouses at Almonry (or Armoury) Corner, near the main entrance to Wilton House. (fn. 14) The Pembroke family, who had succeeded at the Dissolution to most of the property of the abbey of Wilton, seem to have succeeded also to the abbey's interest in the hospital. In 1833 it was stated that at least since 1717 the earls of Pembroke had paid £18 every six months as 'Maudlin money'. In 1720 there were twelve almspeople living at the Maudlins. In 1788 the number had fallen to six. In that year the Maudlins was conveyed to the Earl of Pembroke and it was agreed that he should pay an annual rent of £11 14s. until he could allot other land of equal value to the charity. (fn. 15)

George Augustus, 11th Earl of Pembroke, by his will dated 1826 bequeathed £3,000 to be invested for the benefit of the inmates of the hospital, who were to be six old men or women who had served the Pembroke family and who were to be nominated by the owner of Wilton House. (fn. 16)

In 1831 the cottages at the Maudlins had been pulled down and six new cottages were built in 1832 in Fugglestone by the Countess of Pembroke at a cost of £2,000. (fn. 17) These houses now stand in the angle of the Warminster and Woodford roads, between Fugglestone church and the St. Giles's almshouses, and are occupied by retired servants of the Pembroke estate.


John South, occurs 1443. (fn. 18)

John Langtre, occurs 1525. (fn. 19)

A pointed oval seal (fn. 20) (1 9/16; by 11/8 in.), found near the site of the hospital and possibly used by the house, shows our Lord rising from the tomb with two stars on the left and a crescent on the right; below, in an arch, a clerk holding a chalice on the altar; with the legend:



  • 1. Chronicon Vilodunense, ed. W. H. Black and R. C. Hoare (1830), stanzas 528–9. For Wilton Abbey and a note on this poem see p. 231.
  • 2. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii, 112.
  • 3. Reg. Simon de Gandavo (Cant. & York Soc.), i, 105, 116, 129.
  • 4. Survey of Lands of 1st Earl of Pembroke (Roxburgh Club), ed. C. R. Straton, lii; R. M. Clay, Hospitals of Med. Engl. 329.
  • 5. E 179/52/230.
  • 6. Endowed Char. (Wilts.) H.C. 273–1, p. 185–6 (1908), lxxxi (under Fugglestone St. Peter).
  • 7. Deeds at Wilton House.
  • 8. Salisbury Corp. MS. 145 (Domesday Bk. 1413–33), f. 10.
  • 9. Deeds at Wilton House.
  • 10. Survey of Lands of 1st Earl of Pembroke, ed. Straton, lii, liii.
  • 11. On north side of London-Exeter road, just east of the 'Pembroke Arms'.
  • 12. Survey of Lands of 1st Earl of Pembroke, ed. Straton, lii, liii.
  • 13. Deeds at Wilton House.
  • 14. W.A.M. xix, 361.
  • 15. Endowed Char. (Wilts.) 1908, pp. 185–6.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Ibid.
  • 18. Deeds at Wilton House.
  • 19. Ibid.
  • 20. Cast at Wilton House.