37. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. MARY MAGDALEN, COLCHESTER
It appears from a charter (fn. 1) of Henry II that
Eudo Dapifer, the founder of St. John's Abbey,
founded this hospital at the direction of Henry I.
This king, after Eudo's death, in his grant (fn. 2) to the
abbey of the manor of Brightlingsea reserved a rent
of £6 yearly from it for the use of the infirm of the
hospital, and placed them under the charge of the
abbot. Stephen granted to them in alms 14 acres
of land for which they had been accustomed to
pay 3s. 5d. yearly to the farm of Colchester.
Henry II confirmed the grant of £6 yearly from
Brightlingsea; and by another charter (fn. 3) he confirmed to the abbot the charge of the hospital.
Richard I on 8 December, 1189, granted to
the lepers a fair yearly on the vigil and the day
of St. Mary Magdalen. These grants to the
hospital were confirmed by later kings in 1268, (fn. 4)
1336, (fn. 5) 1378 (fn. 6) and 1400. (fn. 7) The master of the
hospital was rector of the church of St. Mary
Magdalen in Colchester, in which capacity he
claimed 14 acres of land in the suburbs in 1254. (fn. 8)
The authority given to the abbey produced
disputes; and early in the fourteenth century the
brethren of the hospital complained (fn. 9) to Parliament
that, although Henry I had granted to them the
tithes of the abbey in bread, ale, and other
victuals for their maintenance, a former abbot,
Adam, had persuaded them to show him their
charter, which he then threw into the fire, and
since then he and his successors had detained the
tithes. The present abbot, moreover, had
detained the £6 rent from Brightlingsea; and
he had also come in great force to the hospital,
demanded their charters and common seal and
ordered them to obey him, and because Simon
de la Neylonde, master, and one William de
Langham would not do his will he caused them
to be dragged out of their church, threw them
and kept them out of their house, and put in a
brother to the destruction of the house and
contrary to the charters of the kings. But when
an inquisition was taken on the matter, the abbot
was successful at every point and disproved the
allegations. (fn. 10)
The chartulary of the abbey contains an early
grant (fn. 11) of land by the brethren of the hospital,
and an agreement (fn. 12) about a right-of-way made in
1327 between the prior, brethren and sisters of
the hospital and the abbey.
In the return (fn. 13) to the taxation of a fifteenth
in 1301 the prior and lepers were said to own a
brazen pot worth 1s. 8d., a cart worth 2s., cattle
worth £3 3s. 4d. and grain worth 16s. 8d.
On 24 February, 1320, the king made a
grant (fn. 14) of protection for two years to the master
and brethren on account of their poverty.
The hospital is returned in the Valor as being
worth £11 yearly. In the certificates of colleges
and chantries it is described (fn. 15) as 'The hospitall of
Mary Magdalene, foundid to fynd a priest for
ever, and the foundacyon cannot be shewid.
The said hospitall is and hath ben reputed and
taken for a parishe church without remembraunce
of any man nowe lyving and ther is in the
parishe about 4 score husselyng people,' and said
to be worth £11 10s. 2d. yearly; the net value
after deductions of 25s. 6d. for rents and 22s.
for the tenth being £9 2s. 8d.
After the dissolution of the hospital Queen
Elizabeth on 4 May, 1565, granted (fn. 16) various
lands belonging to it in Colchester, Greensted
and Layer de la Haye to Nicasius Yetsweirt and
William Tunstall. On 21 July, 1582, an
inquisition (fn. 17) concerning the possessions of the
hospital was taken, and some were restored to the
James I on 9 October, 1610, reciting that
the hospital was then almost decayed and its
chapel totally destroyed, re-founded (fn. 18) it under the
title of 'The college or hospital of King James.'
There were to be in it a master, who was to
have the cure of souls in the parish of St. Mary
Magdalen and to celebrate divine service and
preach and administer the sacraments, and five
poor persons, each of whom was to receive 52s.
yearly at the hands of the master. Henry
Davye, one of the king's chaplains, was to be
the first master, and William Merrell, Gerard
Garrett, Helen Hubbert, Anne Thorogood and
Anne Fulthroppe the first poor persons. The
Chancellor or the Keeper of the Privy Seal was to
be the visitor with the nomination of the master
at each vacancy, and the master was to have the
nomination of the poor persons at vacancies. All
the possessions of the old foundation were
Morant tells that in 1642, during the civil
wars, Gabriel Honyfold, master, who was also
vicar of Ardleigh, had his house rifled. It appears from a letter (fn. 19) in 1655 that the rents due to
the hospital were then nine or ten years in arrear.
Colchester is included in a list of hospitals which
were to be visited by a commission (fn. 20) appointed in
January, 1691, for the correction of abuses.
A report on the state of the hospital was made
by the commissioners appointed to inquire into
charities in 1837-8. (fn. 21) In 1818 some of the
lands belonging to the hospital had been required
for the site of barracks, and were taken possession
of by the Board of Ordnance, which paid to the
master for their use a sum of £5,001 6s. When
these lands were no longer required for this
purpose they were restored.
It appeared that the successive masters of the
hospital always treated the yearly payment of
52s. to each of the five poor persons as a fixed
sum, and considered that subject to this payment
of the £13 they were entitled to receive the
whole income of the hospital.
To test this, an information was filed in the
Court of Chancery by the Attorney General, at
the relation of certain parties, against the Rev.
John Robert Smythies, then master; and by a
decree dated 18 November, 1831, the Master of
the Rolls declared that the master was not thus
entitled, and that the profit made by the agreement with the Board of Ordnance was to be
considered the property of the charity, and
the master was only entitled to the interest,
except for his costs in restoring the lands to their
previous condition, and any of the parties were
to be at liberty to lay a scheme before the master
for the regulation of the charity and the management of its estates, such schemes to be approved
of by the master in concurrence with the
Attorney and Solicitor General.
From this decree Mr. Smythies appealed to
the Lord Chancellor, who by a decree dated
29 January, 1833, reversed the decree of the
Master of the Rolls in all those parts which
appeared to authorize the raising of the salaries of
the almspeople in consideration of the increased
revenues of the charity. The effect of this
decree was therefore to establish the right of the
master to the whole revenue subject to the
yearly payment of £13.
A scheme for the regulation of the charity
was established by a decree of the court dated
23 February, 1836; and by a decree of the Master
of the Rolls dated 16 April, 1836, it was declared
that the master should be resident.
The yearly income of the hospital then
amounted to £239 5s. 0d., besides the dividends
on £4,754 3s. 7d. three per cent. Consols. The
old hospital having become dilapidated, it had
been pulled down about six years before this
decree, and Mr. Smythies had erected on its site
six tenements under one roof, adjoining the
churchyard of the parish of St. Mary Magdalen,
each containing two rooms. One was unoccupied, and the other five were inhabited by
five poor widows, to each of whom the master
paid 52s. yearly. A grove of about seven acres
in Layer de la Haye supplied the almspeople
with firing. The property of the hospital is
described in detail in the decree.
Masters or Wardens of Colchester Hospital (fn. 22)
Elias. (fn. 23)
Simon de la Neylonde. (fn. 24)
Roger de Creppyngg, (fn. 25) elected 1301.
Robert Safare, (fn. 26) occurs 1318.
Richard Martyn, (fn. 26) occurs 1323.
William Flete, (fn. 27) occurs 1391.
William Peryman, (fn. 26) occurs 1431.
Thomas Skypwith, (fn. 28) occurs 1490.
John Wayn. (fn. 26)
John Phelyp (fn. 26) , occurs 1515.
Thomas Gale, (fn. 29) occurs 1557.
William Wilkinson, (fn. 26) occurs 1582.
Henry Davye, (fn. 30) appointed 1610.
Gabriel Honyfold, (fn. 26) occurs 1642.