History of medieval Yarmouth


Register of the Hospital of St. Mary: A Calendar


In the name of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Ghost – and the most blessed Virgin Mary, mother of the god and man Jesus Christ, saviour of mankind, we Ralph Ramseye, Nicholas de Drayton, Warin Lucas, and Adam Heyron bailiffs of Great Yarmouth, and John de Beverle, John Elys, William atte Gappe, John Beketon, Richard Elys, John de Rollesby, Robert atte Gappe, Alexander Fastolf, John Hakon, Edmund Sylke, Hugh atte Fen, Roger Adam, William de Oxneye, Robert Howlyn, Thomas Marche, John de Halle, Peter Beneyt, Simon Geryng, Oliver Spicer, Edmund Bie, Laurence Stevens, Thomas Bateman, John Rayl, Adam Alot and certain other burgesses of the town, with the unanimous consent of the whole community, for the well-being of our souls and those of our descendants [establish the hospital].

[Ordinances for the operation of the hospital, dated 2 May 1386. These are repeated in a later English translation (summarized below), probably tempore Henry VI, in a subsequent section of the register:]

Constitutions and ordinances of the hospital:

There are to be a warden, 8 brothers and 8 sisters. The warden is to be chosen by the bailiffs and burgesses; he is not appointed for life but may be replaced whenever necessary, at the will of the bailiffs.

The residents are to be selected by the bailiffs and burgesses and may be evicted if they commit misdeeds.

Each brother or sister chosen is to take oath to be faithful to [the rules of] the hospital and are to make a true declaration to the warden of any assets or liabilities.

While alive, residents may not freely dispose of their goods; after their death, the goods are to be divided between the other residents, with a share going towards the repair of the hospital.

Within six days of entering the hospital, a resident is to take an oath of obedience to the warden. They are only to wear cloth of the colour of russet or "blekkyed" [black?]. Sisters are not to wear silk veils on their heads.

The warden is to hire a priest to celebrate divine services and to pray for the bailiffs, community, warden, residents and the benefactors of the hospital. He is not, however, to perform any rites which properly belong to the parish church.
[St. Nicholas' being only a short distance north of the hospital.]

There is to be a "little bell" [rung] to summon residents to divine service.

The warden is to hand over all oblations to the Prior of Norwich.

All residents are to be present at Mass.

Residents are to remain chaste or forfeit one-quarter of the yearly alms. No married man or woman is to be accepted as a resident.

Residents may practice the crafts that they have learned. They may also dine with friends in town, but must not stay out after the curfew bell is rung at St. Nicholas'. They may go on pilgrimage, or go to stay with friends in country or town, with the permission of the warden.

No-one is to be accepted as a resident unless 30 years old or more, except in special cases. [f.30v] They are to live peaceably without arguing among themselves. They are not to frequent common taverns, nor bring pleas for trespass [in the town court] but are to make complaints only to the warden – only if he cannot lawfully settle the complaints may they bring a plea.

The warden may compel the residents to do the gardening and other domestic work, with a reward for undertaking such chores at his discretion.

The warden is to appoint one brother and one sister of good character to report to him all troubles between residents. He is also to choose a brother to have custody of the keys to the cloisters where residents sleep [f.31r] (they being locked in after curfew).

If any residents are rebellious against these ordinances, the warden may discipline them by withdrawing their alms money; if this fails, they are to be expelled.

When a new hospital priest is engaged he must take oath before the bailiffs and the Prior to obey these ordinances.

Every warden is to take a similar oath.

[Manship's translation of the register contents.]

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Created: November 11, 1998. Last update: March 18, 2000 © Stephen Alsford, 1998-2003