St John the Baptist, Wells


Victoria County History



William Page (editor)

Year published




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'Hospitals: St John the Baptist, Wells', A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 2 (1911), pp. 158-160. URL: Date accessed: 21 November 2014.


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This hospital was founded by Hugh de Wells, Archdeacon of Wells from 1204 to 1209 and Bishop of Lincoln from 1209 to 1235. He was greatly assisted in his project by his brother Jocelin de Wells, Bishop of Bath (1206–42), and in his charter by which he confirmed his brother's gift Bishop Jocelin gave the hospital a chantry and the right to have and ring bells and a cemetery for the brethren 'qui signati sunt et sub signo viventes ibidem conversati.' (fn. 145) The original endowment is not quite evident. In the draft of his will made in 1212 (fn. 146) Bishop Hugh gave his brother 500 marks for that purpose, but in his final will he granted to 'my lord the Bishop of Bath my brother' (fn. 147) the wardship of Tunring, to the use and repair of the hospital at Wells, and 200 marks for the work of the hospital and wardship of the land and heirs of Crombwell to apply the profits to the work of the hospital at Wells. It is probable that lands at Keinton Mandeville and Babcary formed either a portion of this bequest or were granted to the hospital in the earlier part of this century, as in the early years of Edward I the prior is entered as possessed of lands there. (fn. 148) Jocelin himself had given the church of Evercreech with the chapel of Chesterblade to the house, and the gift was confirmed by Thomas Prior of Bath in 1213. (fn. 149)

Prior William bound the hospital to Richard de Button the precentor of Wells (fn. 150) to perform services annually at the altar of St. John in their house for the soul of the said Richard, of Bishop William de Button and of his ancestors. In April 1314 (fn. 151) Bishop Drokensford formally ordained the foundation of a chantry in the chapel of the hospital by John de Wyk, Canon of Crediton, who had given his rectory of West Down, Devon, for that purpose. The hospital however was ill-endowed, and in 1323 (fn. 152) the brethren appealed to Bishop Drokensford to grant them the congé d'élire without payment of the usual fees. The bishop did so, and confirmed the selection of Philip de Eston as prior or master. (fn. 153) Three years afterwards, 1326, the bishop by inspeximus ratified the foundation by Philip, the prior, of a chantry of St. Nicholas in the chapel of the hospital for the benefit of the soul of William de la Wythy late burgess of Wells. (fn. 154) Wythy had enriched the hospital by giving the brethren five houses and parcels of land in the borough and 8 acres elsewhere in the town.

In January 1331 (fn. 155) Bishop Ralph wrote to the prior to admit William Bisshop, clerk 'ad gerendum habitum religionis illius.'

In April 1350 (fn. 156) the bishop ordained the foundation of a chantry in the hospital chapel, and assigned for its endowment the rents, lands, etc., which he had received as a gift from William de Luttleton, canon and precentor of Wells, and William de Bourwardsleye. A chaplain was to pray for his soul and for the soul of John de Somerton, formerly Abbot of Muchelney, at the altar of St. Martin in the cathedral church of Wells, and the hospital was to provide a chaplain to pray for the bishop and for the soul of William formerly Abbot of Shrewsbury in the chapel of the hospital, and the number of brethren in the house should be increased to a prior and ten brethren, and if the funds of the hospital could not support this chaplain and so many brethren, then the hospital was to enjoin one of their number so to pray for the soul of Bishop Ralph.

In 1362 Walter de Compton bequeathed 20s. for the repair of the hospital, and other small bequests were made from time to time. (fn. 157)

In 1475 through the appeal of William Drew, one of the brethren, Pope Sixtus IV granted certain privileges and protection against hasty interdicts to the brethren of the hospital. (fn. 158)

In the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 (fn. 159) John Pynnock is entered as prior, and the endowments of the hospital are valued at £40 0s. 2d. arising from rents of lands and houses in the city of Wells, a mill at Wookey and rents at Wookey, Dinder, Pynckmore, Keinton Mandeville, and the rectories of West Down near Ilfracombe, North Devon, and Evercreech.

The hospital was surrendered to the king on 3 February 1539, and the lands and buildings were given to Bishop Clerk in exchange for the manor of Dogmersfield in Hants.

Priors of St. John's Hospital

Peter, 1228, occurs 1251 (fn. 160)

John, occurs 1292 (fn. 161)

Walter, occurs 1314, (fn. 162) died 1323 (fn. 163)

Philip de Eston, appointed 1323 (fn. 164)

Henry de Exton, collated 1348 (fn. 165)

John Type or Typpe, died 1409 (fn. 166)

John Bartlett, appointed 13 July 1410 (fn. 167)

Nicholas Cousin, collated 1439, (fn. 168) resigned 1445 (fn. 169)

Thomas Yle, collated 1445, (fn. 170) resigned 1462 (fn. 171)

John, appointed 1462 (fn. 172)

Thomas Cornish, 1483, (fn. 173) resigned 1497 (fn. 174)

Reginald ap David, appointed 1487 (fn. 175)

John Marler or Morler, appointed 1500, (fn. 176) resigned 1510 (fn. 177)

Richard Smith, died 1524 (fn. 178)

John Bartram, appointed 1524 (fn. 179)

John Pynnock, occurs 1535 (fn. 180)

Richard Clarkson, surrendered 1539 (fn. 181)

The 13th-century seal of the Hospital of St. John Baptist at Wells (fn. 182) is a vesica, 2¼ in. by 1½ in., with a figure of the patron saint holding a roundel with Agnus Dei upon it, and standing between two croziers which refer to Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln, the founder, and Jocelin, Bishop of Bath, benefactor of the hospital. The legend is:—



145 Cal. Wells D. and C. MSS. (Hist. MSS. Com.) i, 49.
146 Ibid. 431.
147 Lincoln Lib. Cantarium. fol. 155–6.
148 Cal. Wells D. and C. MSS. i, 68.
149 Ibid. i, 531.
150 Cal. Wells. D. and C. MSS. i, 531.
151 Drokensford's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc.) 71.
152 Ibid. 223.
153 Ibid. 228.
154 Ibid. 265.
155 R. of Shrewsbury's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc.) 66.
156 Ibid. 633.
157 Somers. Med. Wills (Somers. Rec. Soc.), passim.
158 Batten, Fox's Reg. 40.
159 Valor. Eccl. (Rec. Com.) i, 140.
160 Cal. Wells D. and C. MSS. i, 139.
161 Foundation deed of Canon Lechlade's Chantry in Exeter Cathedral.
162 Drokensford's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc.) 223.
163 Ibid.
164 Ibid. 228.
165 R. of Shrewsbury's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc.) 581.
166 Wells Epis. Reg. Bubwith, fol. 37.
167 Ibid. folios at end.
168 Collated by the bishop through lapse as there were only two brethren who had a right to vote for the master or prior. Wells Epis. Reg. Stafford, fol. 156.
169 Ibid. Beckington, fol. 40.
170 Again a collation by the bishop as there were only two brethren in the hospital. He was a brother of the hospital at Bridgwater. Ibid. fol. 41.
171 Wells Epis. Reg. Beckington, unnumbered folio at end.
172 Ibid. Five brethren in the hospital. He was a Canon Regular of St. Austin and Vicar of Devizes. Suffragan of Wells 1459–79, as 'episcopus Tinensis.'
173 Wells Epis. Reg. Stillington, fol. 113. Provost of Oriel College, Oxford, 1493. Suffragan of Wells 1486–1513, as 'episcopus Tinensis.'
174 Wells Epis. Reg. King, fol. 6. Buried in Wells Cathedral.
175 Ibid.
176 Ibid. fol. 139.
177 Hadrian, fol. 80.
178 Wells Epis. Reg. Clerk, fol. 9.
179 Ibid.
180 Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.) i, 140.
181 He got a pension of £12; and at the same time three other brethren i.e. apparently the whole convent, received pensions, William Markes £4, John Dyte £2 13s. 4d. and John Carnyicke £3 6s. 8d. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. vol. 245, fol. 111.
182 Cat. of Seals B.M. 4289, lvi, 64.