Earl of Chester
The founder is usually said to have been Ranulph III, Earl of Chester, but the hospital may have existed before 1181 as 20 shillings a year was paid to the ‘infirm’ of Chester during the minority of Ranulph III and that sum was paid in the 14th century to the lepers of Boughton as ancient alms. Ranulph III gave an annual rent charge of 10 shillings to St. Werburgh’s from which the monks were to feed 100 paupers once a year and to give 20 pennies a year to the lepers of Boughton to commemorate his father. The inmates of the hospital later claimed that their extensive privileges, which included a toll on all food bought for sale in Chester and a fishing boat on the Dee, were also given by Ranulph III. Three fishing stalls included in the claim of privileges in 1499 were given by Robert the Cham-berlain, probably in the 1190's.
The hospital also came to possess land and rents in and near Chester
and, although the names of the original benefactors seldom survive, some
of the property probably came to the hospital with new inmates. For example
land in Eastgate Street was given by the relatives of Yseult, who, "mitten
by the scourge of a visitation from on high", had been admitted to the
When Henry III annexed the earldom of Chester after 1237 he was a generous patron of the hospital. Between 1237 and 1240 he gave £5 yearly and in 1238-39 and 1240 additional grants of 10 marks towards its maintenance. He also allowed the lepers a tithe of the expenses of the royal household at Chester allegedly in continuation of a grant by the earls of Chester. In 1243 and 1252 he gave them 30 marks and £10 to buy clothes. At least one leper in the house received an individual benefaction: the Crown continued to pay alms of 1 penny a day which had been granted to Amice de Costentin in the time of John, earl of Chester, until 1277.
On his accession Edward I reduced alms to the hospital to the custom-ary payment of 20 shillings a year. There were few signs of royal favour or interest in the 14th century apart from the regular confirmation of the privileges of the hospital and a grant of £3 6s. 8d. by the Black Prince in 1353. As patron the Crown nominated inmates: in 1390 William le Cryor was created a brother and granted a portion and a decent dwelling in the hospital and in 1401 Henry White, specifically described as a leper, was appointed to a place.
Relations with the citizens of Chester
The relations of the hospital with the citizens of Chester and the monks of St. Werburgh’s were not always happy. Around 1300 the masters were involved in legal disputes concerning detention of rents, tolls or alms, the Dee fishery, and usury. The tolls claimed by the hospital on all victuals bought for sale in Chester were particularly resented by the tenants of St Werburgh’s Abbey. In 1353 the right of the proctors of the hospital to demand tolls from the tenants of the abbey was referred to the county court and in the following year the abbot objected to the arrest of his tenants for refusing to pay tolls when they had no obligation ‘to make any contribution to the hospital’s".
The privilege of collecting the tolls was still being claimed in 1499 and exercised in 1537 when the city authorities pointed out that, whereas the privilege had originally been granted to relieve the sick, the inmates of the hospital were by then able-bodied; it was ordered that admissions should be confined to the sick of the city of Chester on penalty of loss of the market tolls. Little else is known of the history of the hospital in the later Middle Ages apart from some benefactions: David Bars, who was master in the mid 15th century, was said to have received money for the hospital and in 1505 Henry Raynford, rector of Holy Trinity, left 20 pennies to ‘the sele folk at Boughton’. By the 16th century the inmates evidently lived in individual houses and kept animals on the land around the hospital. In 1537 they were forbidden to wash food or clothes in the newly built conduit at Boughton and were ordered to prevent their animals damaging the conduit and to see that the pipes were properly covered.
Dissolution Act of 1547
The hospital escaped dissolution under the Act of 1547, probably because of its charitable activities. In 1553 the master was given custody of two small bells in the chapel, a silver chalice, and a paten weighing four ounces; the communion book and the other goods in the chapel, which were not worth selling, were given to the inmates.
By the early 17th century the cottages which made up the hospital seem to have become heritable properties. In 1606 the seven inmates, six men and one woman, agreed not to receive vagabonds and beggars into their houses, to ring their swine, and to fence the hospital lands. In 1619 the right of the brothers and sisters of the hospital to be free of the payment of pannage, pontage and murage was confirmed.
English Civil War
The hospital and its privileges did not survive the English Civil War as its position in the suburbs of Chester was vulnerable. On to July 1643 the Chester garrison set fire to the hospital barns and pulled down the houses and ‘the old chapel of Spiral Boughton’ with the stone barn next to it?’ The displaced inmates complained to the mayor that while they were helping to defend the besieged city the soldiers destroyed their houses and plundered their possessions. In 1657 the master retrieved one of the chapel bells from the Pentice but it was never re-hung in a new hospital and in 1660 the restored Charles II granted to the mayor and citizens of Chester all the lands of ‘the hospital or late hospital of Boughton, otherwise Spittle Boughton’."
University of London
At the east end of Foregate-street, In a small extra-parochial district, called Spital Boughton, is the site of a hospital for lepers, founded here by earl Randal Blundeville, and dedicated to St. Giles. The founder gave to the abbey of St. Werburgh, among his other grants, a rent charge of x shillings, issuing from lands held under him by Geofiiy de Sibesey, “de quibus dicti monachi solvent leprosis de Boughton xx denarios, et de residuo poscent c pauperea, in die nativitatis patris sui, infra abbotiam Cestrae.”
To this hospital also, Robert le Chamberlain gave three stalls in Dee, under the Sea1 of Chester exchequer, “infirmis fratribus hospitalis S’c’i Egidii de Boghton.” The hospital had also a rent of xxs,. paid by the chamberlain of Chester, allowed in his general account of the profits of the shire, under the head of antiques eleemosynae.
The privileges of the hospital were confirmed by Hugh.Kevelioc, and Edward III. and are stated in a plea to a quo warranto, 15 Hen. VII. the original of which is in Chester exchequer, and a copy is extant in Harl. MSS. 2115, and in Vernon’s MSS. In the library at Somerford.
The names of the wardens or masters that have occurred, are, Rogerus, 26 Edw. I.; Radulphus de Hole, 30 Edw. I.; Ranulphus de Bebington, 32 Edw. I; Matthaeus de Hole, 2 Edw. II.; Robertua Vickars, 22 Hen.VI.; David Barrs, 31 Hen. VI.
During the civil wars, as has been before observed, the hospital and
chapel were entirely destroyed. King Charles II. in 1685 granted the site,
and lands belonging to this hospital, to the corporation: the former is
used as a church-yard, dependent upon St. John’s parish, to the present
day, In which are mingled all the remains that could be collected
of George Marsh, who was burnt here for his adherence to the reformed religion,
in 1555 — The burial ground of the Spital is now the property of Mr. Joseph
Carter, aexton of St. John’s parish, In right of his wife, whose
ancestors have bed it in possession for more than a century and a half.
* The claims were as follows~- Certain toll from every thing carried to sale at Chester market. One handful from every sack of wheat, vetches, or barley. and two handfuls from every sack of oats or malt, carried either on a hotse or cart, or in any other way; and of wheat, vetcha, barley, oats, salt fish, produce of any other kind, and particularly salt, one handful from a sack, and two from a cart a one cheese from every horse load or cart load of cheese one salmon from every horse or cart load; and in other fish, such a, sparlings. flukes, eels, &c. five from every horse’s pannier, and one from every man’s load. From fruits of trees, one double handful from each horse load, and three double handful, from each cart load. From fruits of the earth, whether horse loads or Cart loads, one handful. From all packages of earthen ware, one piece of the same; to have one horse from the horse fair; and from all carts drawn by oxen or horses carrying wood or brick, one piece of the same. To have also one boat with a fisherman above or below Dee bridge, with stallnette, flotnette, or dragnette, or any other kind of nette, night and day, and three stalls in Dee, called single lyne stalles, and not to be amenable to the justice, sheriff, or other officer of the prince, except in the court of the hospital aforesaid. In this plea are recited two charters of Randal Blundeville."