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RELIGION Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Leicester guilds hospitals endowments employment priests duties church services prayer

Subject: Provision by a gild for employment of a priest
Original source: Borough archives, Locked Book, p.4
Transcription in: Mary Bateson, ed. Records of the Borough of Leicester, (London, 1901), vol.2, 282-83.
Original language: Middle English
Location: Leicester
Date: 1477


This arrangement and agreement was made by indenture on 20 September 1477 between dom. Robert Syleby, master of the hospital of St. John Evangelist and St. John Baptist of Leicester, and the brethren of the same place, on the one part, and Richard Wiggeston of Leicester, steward of the gild of the same St. John, on the other part. It witnesses that Richard and his successors as stewards of the gild, in consultation with the mayor and his successors, are to provide for as long as the gild endures a good and capable priest to say or sing mass in the chapel of the gild of St. John, and on two days each week in the chapel of St. John located at the Town's End in Leicester, unless the master or his successors at any time wish to say mass there themselves. On which occasions, or when they are out of town, the gild priest is to sing or say high mass at the high altar of [the hospital of] St. John; and he is to assist the master and his successors with singing and readings in the choir there during divine service on every holy day in the year. Saying special prayers for the souls of Piers Celler and his wife and for the welfare and the souls of all the brothers and sisters of the gild and hospital, and general [prayers] for all other kind benefactors of the hospital or gild. The master and his successors are to provide the gild priest with sufficient food and drink, or else 40s. cash a year for his board. The steward and his successors are to pay the remnant of his salary, as negotiated with him, and to find him a room within the [hospital of?] St. John. Should it happen through the default of the master or his successors that the gild priest fail to receive his board or the 40s., as he ought to have at the appropriate times, then it is permitted to the steward or his successors during their terms as stewards to enter into a place that belongs to St. John, currently occupied by Thomas Davy grocer, located outside the East Gate of Leicester between the property of the gild of Corpus Christi in St. Martin's church on the west side and St. Margaret's Lane on the east side; and there take and carry off a distress for the 40s., as often as there is a default in [provision of] the board or payment of the 40s. annually. In testimony to which, the common seal of the hospital and the seal of the stewards have been appended to the opposing halves of this indenture.


The hospital of St. John, with which a college of priests was associated, was an early foundation at Leicester, in existence by the close of the twelfth century. We have records of endowments of lands around the turn of the century, and at the same time it was said that the hospital had been endowed with a monthly supply of grain by the second earl of Leicester, who lived in the first half of the twelfth century. The brethren were living under the Augustinian rule in the fifteenth century, and this was likely the case earlier. The purpose of the hospital is uncertain, but there is a reference ca.1200 to it sheltering the poor; in 1518 (some 70 years before it was dissolved and its lands turned over to the borough corporation) it housed six poor women, and this tradition was continued at its revival in the seventeenth century as an almshouse for poor widows.

In 1355 the hospital had been endowed, by the executors or trustees of the late Peter Seler (saddler) of Leicester, with a share in a tenement, adjacent to property the hospital already held outside East Gate, and 12 cottages to fund one of the brethren of the hospital serving as a chaplain for daily celebration of divine services for the souls of Peter, his wife Alice, their children, and all benefactors of the hospital. The person chosen as chaplain, a life appointment, was to take his oath of office before the mayor and community in portmoot. That arrangement had probably lapsed and the spiritual obligation to Peter was assumed under this new arrangement.

Bateson has suggested that the endowment of 1355 also marked the foundation of the gild of St. John. Whether so or not, it had a chaplain in the early fifteenth century. The purpose of the 1477 agreement was evidently to make new provisions for the financial support of that priest.



"Richard Wiggeston"
A member of a prominent local family of wool merchants. In 1483, a quitclaim to which Richard was party, as one of a group of feoffees, was witnessed by Roger Wigston as deputy mayor; Roger was mayor of Leicester in 1465/66, 1471/72, 1487/88, and other men with the surname also held the mayoralty in the second half of the 15th century. In 1513 another ex-mayor member of the family founded a hospital dedicated to St. Ursula, although during Elizabeth I's reign the name was changed to William Wigston's Hospital.

"Town's End"
A neighbourhood just outside the East Gate.

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Created: March 14, 2003. © Stephen Alsford, 2003

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