C.J. (Charles James) Billson.

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refer to houses. One large area, known as " St. IVIichael's Croft,"
comprised a considerable number of gardens. The extremely
rural aspect presented by this part of the town as late as 1495
may be gathered from a deed of that date, which describes a
piece of land in St. Michael's parish. It was surrounded by
hedges, which were said to contain 88 ashtrees and two aspens.

The church itself probably escaped any very serious damage
in the great sack. At any rate, it seems to have been in use some
twenty or thirty years after the siege, for tv/o of the witnesses


to Richard Basset's charter to St. John's Hospital, executed about
that time, were " WiUiam, Priest of St. Michael, " and " Alexan-
der, Chaplain of St. Michael." In the year 1221 William Eyton
was the vicar, and Henry de St. Martin in 1323. The church
continued to be used during the 14th century, and we hear of
a monk living as an anchorite there who had been trained by the
great Leicester Abbot, William de Clowne. Like most of the
14th century churches of Leicester, it had its religious Guild,
founded some time before 1 361, in which year a house in Belgrave-
gate was conveyed to Sir William of Birstall, chaplain, and Robert
of Belgrave, skinner, " Brethren of the Guild of St. Michael at
Leicester." Thomas of Beeby, who died about 1383, left a
legacy to this guild. But there are some signs that the fortunes
of the church were even then failing ; and one may note that a
man named Thomas, who was charged before the Portmanmote
in 1378-9 with trespass, and was distrained " by a tabard and
slop and a bed price 20 shillings," is described as being " late
chaplain of the church of St. Michael."

The use of the church was discontinued in the 15th century ;
indeed Throsby says that it was totally demolished " about 1400."
In 1487 there was no vicar, and evidently there had been none for
some time. The lands of the church then belonged to the Abbot
of Leicester, " pendente vacatione vicariae," the Bishop of Lin-
coln having waived any claim. The church itself seems to have
disappeared at any rate before 1500, and the parish became united
first with St. Peter's, and then with All Saints'. It lay between
those two parishes, the church being situated somewhere in
the " Back Lanes," between the old High Street and the eastern
wall of the town. It was approached by a street described in
old deeds as " the common way which leads to the church of
St. Michael," which ran westward out of that part of the King's
highway that was called Torchmere. Some land belonging to
St. Michael's church abutted on the Town Wall and ditch.

After the Leicester authorities had obtained the royal charter
in 1589, they recognized the services of their Town Clerk, William
Dethick, by giving him a share of the Borough land, and by a
conveyance bearing date the 27th day of April, 1591, they granted


to him " one parcel of ground or croft, with the appurtenances,
called St. Michael's church-yard, together with one lane at the
west end thereof, lying and being together in the parish of St.
Peter in the town of Leicester." St. Michael's churchyard was
then in the parish of St. Peter, for it was not until 1591, the year
of this deed, thatSt. Peter'sparish was united with thatof All Saints.
It is stated by Nichols that part of the land comprised in
"this conveyance was sold aboutthebeginningofthe i8th century"
to the parishioners of All Saints, " in addition to their church-
yard." The site was identified by Throsby, whose friend Mr.
Cobley owned a house which had been built upon part of the
old churchyard, and Cobley had among his titledeeds the convey-
ance to Dethick. The church is believed to have stood near the
present Vauxhall Street and Causeway Lane. The position
assigned to it, near the Castle, in the Plan of Leicester that is
published in the first volume of the Borough Records, is
manifestly erroneous.


St. Francis of Assisi died in 1226. A year or two before
his death. Friars of his Order, or Friars Minor, who were called
sometimes, from the colour of their garments, the Grey Friars,
came into England. Their Priory at Leicester is said to have
been founded by Simon de Montfort, the second of that name,
who v/as Earl of Leicester from about 1238 to 1265. The Priory
church seems to have been built about 1255, for in that year
Henry HI granted 18 oak-trees in the King's Hay of Alrewas to
the Friars Minors of Leicester " to make stalls and wainscote
their chapel."* They had certainly become established, and
their church had been completed some time before 1292, when one
of the boundaries of a messuage in St. Martin's parish was
described as "the lane which leads to the church of the Friars
Minors." The priory and church stood south of St. Martin's

*Alrewas is in Staffordshire, and there is still an" Alrewas Hay Farm"
near to it. After a great quantity of timber had been blown down by
the violent gale which swept over England in 1222, King Henry HI.
addressed letters of instruction to the officials of the Royal Forests. His
Staffordshire forests were then described as " Kenifer," (Kinver),
" Canoe," (Cannock Chase), "Alrewas and Hopwas." See J. C. Cox,
"The Royal Forests of England," (London, 1905,) p. 6.


churchyard, and the large gardens and grounds belonging to
the Order extended from the upper end of the Market Place
nearly as far as the old High Street. One of the Gateways
opened on Friar Lane, and there was another entrance from
what is now called Peacock Lane. The church was destroyed
soon after the dissolution of the monastery, and some of its old
stones and timber were used for the repair of St. Martin's
church. '

Nichols has collected a few particulars of this Priory ; but the
most exciting event in its history happened in 1402, when two
of the brethren were hanged at Leicester, for saying that Richard
the Second was still alive, and the Prior himself was drawn and
quartered in his religious habit at Tyburn for a similar offence.

After the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, and the death
of Richard IIL, his body was brought to Leicester, and interred
in the church of the Grey Friars. Ten years afterwards, " a fair
tomb of mingled-coloured marble adorned with his statue " was
erected over his remains by his successor, Henry the Seventh.
Leland states that " a knight called Mutton, some time Mayor
of Leicester," was buried there, but no Mayor of this name is
known. The tomb which Leland noticed was in all probability
that of Sir William Moton, of Peckleton, Knight, who, according
to Burton, was buried at the church of the Grey Friars in Leicester
in the year 1362.


The collegiate church founded by Henry, Duke of Lancaster,
in honour of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, was an
enlargement of his father's original foundation, which had provided
a Hospital within the Newarke. In the year 1353 he obtained
a bull for carrying out his design, and in the following year royal
letters patent were issued, granting him license to build a monas-
tery in honour of the Annunciation of Our Lady out of his father's
hospital, and to ordain a college of dean and canons secular.
The Statutes for the regulation of the new foundation were


completed in 1355, and the College, richly endowed, began
its existence.*

The new Church had not been finished when the good Duke
was swept away by the second epidemic of the Black Death in
1 361 . In his will he enjoined his executors to complete it ; and he
bequeathed to it all the furniture and relics of his chapel, and
ordered that his body should be buried therein " on one side
of the high altar over against the place where the body of our
lord and father is interred." After his death, John of Gaunt,
during the latter years of his life, took a personal interest in the
building ; and when he died, in 1399, he bequeathed to the
church his red garment of velvet embroidered with gold suns,
and all the apparel connected with it, and the whole of his missals
and some of the books belonging to his chapel. In the same year
King Henry the Fourth executed a deed, in which, after reciting
that his grandfather had begun the foundation of a collegiate
church at Leicester, and that John, Duke of Lancaster, his father,
had been desirous to complete the same, he granted a writ of
aid for masons and material for the completion of the building.
When the church was actually finished is not known. It was
still incomplete when Henry the Fifth came to the throne in
1413, but was probably finished within a few years after his ac-

It was not a large building. " The College Church is not
very great," wrote Leland. who saw it about 1536, " but it is
exceeding fair." It lay on the south side of the quadrangle,
the north side of which was occupied by the hospital. The
cloisters ,which stood on the south-west side of the church, were
described by Leland as " large and fair " ; and the houses in
the compass of the area of the college for prebendaries all seemed
to him " very pretty." The walls and gates of the college were
stately. " The rich cardinal of Winchester," (Cardinal Beaufort),
" gilded all the flowers and knots in the vault of the church."

* The Statutes may be read in full in Mr. A. Hamilton Thompson's
comprehensive " History of the Hospital and the New College of the
Annunciation of our Lady of the Newarke at Leicester," published in
the Papers of the Associated Architectural Societies, 191 3- 191 6.


Within the church were tombs, thus described by Leland :
" There lieth on the north side of the high altar Henry, Earl
of Lancaster, without a crownet, and two men children under
the arch next to his head. On the south side lieth Henry, the
first Duke of Lancaster, and in the next arch to his head lieth
a lady, by likelyhood his wife. Constance, daughter to Peter,
Kftig of Castile, and wife to John of Gaunt, lieth before the
high altar in a tomb of marble, with an image of brass (like a
queen), on it." (A grant of Henry IV recites that the Duchess
Constance, his step-mother, his wife Mary Bohun, and his
brothers lay buried in the church.) " There is a tomb of marble
in the body of the choir. They told me that a Countess of Derby
lay buried in it ; and they make her, I wot not how, wife to
John of Gaunt, or Henry IV. Indeed Henry IV, while John
of Gaunt lived, was called Earl of Derby. In the chapel of
St. Mary, on the south side of the choir, lie buried two of the
Shirleys, knights, with their wives ; and one Brokesby, an esquire.
Under a pillar in a chapel of the south cross aisle lieth the lady
Hungerford, and Sacheverell, her second husband. In the south
side of the church lieth one of the Blunts, a knight, with his wife.
And on the north side of the church lie three Wigstons, great
benefactors to the College. One of them was a. prebendary there,
and made the free grammar school."

Six Chantries were founded in this church.

1. Simon's chantry was founded by Simon Symeon in
1381-2, " for the soul of Duke Henry, for the healthful estate of
John of Gaunt, his son, Henry, earl of Derby, Simon Symeon
and Elizabeth his wife, for their souls after death and the souls
of the fathers and mothers of Simon and Elizabeth and all the
faithful departed." On the day of Simon's obit, the office and
mass of the dead were to be sung, and one of the canons was to
say mass at the altar which Simon had constructed in the north
part of the church, and three masses were to be said daily at the
same altar.

2. There was also a chantry of one chaplain, founded in
1 40 1 by a clerk in the household of John of Gaunt, known as


" Elvet's Chantry." The priest received £5 6s. 8d., and shared
a house with the chaplain of Hervey's chantry.

3. Another chantry, founded by WiUiam Bedell, had one
priest, who received £^ 6s. 8d. a year.

4. By his will John of Gaunt ordained a chantry of two
chaplains to celebrate divine service therein for ever for him and
his soul and the soul of his late well-beloved consort, dame
Constance, who was buried there, and to hold an obit for the
soul of his late consort on the 24th day of March yearly for ever.
This chantry was licensed by letters patent of March 8th, 1402-3.
The two chaplains had a joint salary of ,^13 6s. 8d., and a chantry
house and garden in the close, valued at los. a year.

5. The widow of William Hervey, who had been one of the
ladies of John of Gaunt's household, and who was afterwards the
nurse of Henry V., in the year 1406 founded a chantry of one
chaplain to be appointed by the dean, who was to say mass daily
either in the church or in the " poor folks' chapel." His salary
was ^5 6s. 8d., and he shared a chantry house in the close, valued
at los. a year, with the chaplain of Elvet's chantry.

6. The chantry of William of Wigston was founded in
15 12 for two chantry priests, who received ^14 between them,
and a house in the close, valued at 10 shillings a year, which is
still in existence. He built to the honour of Almighty God, our
blessed Lady, St. Ursula and St. Katharine, a new chapel,
" inclosed with costly works wrought and made of latten, fixed
and laid between two pillars, in the body of the church of the
aforesaid college, on the north side thereof."

The most valuable ecclesiastical asset of the church was
given to it by the good Duke of Lancaster, who brought home
from Paris, in 1351, as a present from the French King, one thorn
taken from the crown of Jesus, which had been enshrined by
St. Louis in the Sainte Chapelle. This inestimable relic was
placed near the high altar, upon a stand of pure gold. Pilgrims
from all parts of Christendom were drawn to the church, per-
haps more through the attraction of this treasure than by the
exquisite beauty of the Gothic architecture, or by the indulgences
and relaxations from penance which were granted to all those who


should visit it. But it was well worth a pilgrimage on its own
account. It hath been commended " by Knights and Squires
to have been the most fairest that ever was seen." " The flying
traceries of its windows, the variety of its mouldings, and the
general richness of its decorations made it the idol of the inhabi-
tants, and the admiration of the faithful throughout Europe."

A curious scene took place in this church in the year 1389
when Archbishop Courtenay ordered three Lollards, who had
adjured their heresies, to do penance. Their names were William
Smith, Roger Dexter and Alice Dexter. They were condemned
to perform their penance on three successive Sundays in the
following manner. " On the first Sunday, William and Roger,
in their shirts and breeches, and Alice in her shirt only, all with
bare feet and heads, were to walk in the procession before high
mass in the collegiate church, William carrying an image of
St. Katherine, and Roger and Alice each a crucifix in their right
hands, while all bore tapers of half-a-pound weight. Three
times during the procession, at its beginning, middle, and end,
they were to kiss the images, to the honour of the Crucified, and in
memory of His passion, and in honour of St. Katherine, bending
the knee devoutly. After the procession, they were to stand
during the whole of the mass before the great rood, holding
their images and tapers, and at the end they were to offer their
tapers to the celebrant. Their penance on the following Sunday
was to be done in the Market Place, and on the Sunday after in
their parish church."

The college was dissolved in 1547, and the grace and beauty
of this glorious church were utterly destroyed, some time before


The Hospital, or College, of St. John the Evangelist and St.
John the Baptist was a very ancient foundation at Leicester, but
little is known of its early history. There does not seem to be
any authority for Throsby's statement, that its church was
destroyed during the contests between Henry II and his son,
although the Hospital may have suffered in the sack of 1173.
It was certainly in existence in the 12th century, for, some time


before 1 200, Geoffrey Blundel of Cosby had become a Brother ot
the Hospital, and then " together with his body " gave land at
Cosby " to God and St. John and the Brethren of the Hospital."
This grant was confirmed by Richard Basset, whose charter is
still preserved among the archives of the Borough. In the year
1219-20 " the Master of the Hospital of Leicester " was called
to warrant in a case before the curia regis.

The church stood within the grounds of the Hospital,
on the north side of St. John's Lane, (afterwards Causeway Lane),
at the corner of the old High Street. We hear nothing of it
for many years, except a few trivial incidents ; as when, in 1297,
the church gave sanctuary to a burglar, and when, in 13 13, a
man who had been hung, and then taken into the cemetery of
the church for burial, came to life again. About half-a-dozen
years after the first visitation of the Black Death, a wealthy burgess
of the town, named Peter the Saddler, who probably came from
Grendon in Northamptonshire, gave property to John of North-
borough, Master of the Hospital of St. John at Leicester, and the
Brethren of the Hospital, that they might maintain a chaplain
from among the Brethren, to celebrate daily, especially for the
souls of Peter and Alice his wife, and all their sons and daughters.
Shortly afterwards, in 1 361, the second visitation of the pestilence,
which then swept over the Midlands, inflicted on this House
a terrible disaster, for nearly all the Brethren were struck down
and perished.

The Guild of St. John was founded in this church ; and,
early in the 15th century, Robert, son of Robert de Sutton, was
Chaplain of the Guild. By his will, which was proved on Febru-
ary loth, 1442, he directed that he should be buried " in St.
Mary's chapel in the church of St. John the Baptist before the
altar." In the year 1478,* when Richard Wigston was the
Steward of the Guild, he agreed with Sir Robert Sileby the Master

* The date of this agreement is given in the published Records of
the Borough (II. 282) as " September 20, 1464." This must be an
oversight, for the deed is dated in 17 Edward IV., or 1478. Throsby
and Nichols give the correct date.


and with the Brethren of the Hospital, that he and his successors
" would find evermore during the said guild a good and an able
priest to say or sing mass in the guild chapel of St. John aforesaid
(and two days in the week in the chapel of St. John set at the
town's end of Leicester), except that the master or his successors
at any time vvill say mass there themself, and what time they say
mass there or be forth of town that then the said guild priest
shall siag or say high mass at the high altar of the said St. John,
helping the said master and his successors to sing and read in
the choir there every holy day in the year divine service, praying
especially for the souls of Peter Saddler and his wife." The
priest was to have board at the Hospital, or 40 shillings a year in
lieu of board, and such salary as the Stewards agreed, and a
chamber found him " within the said St. John." In the Subsidy
list of the Diocese of Lincoln for 1526," Dom: Willelmus Walton
Curatus Leicester Johannis," was assessed on an income of £^.

The Hospital with its church and all its lands passed by
Queen Elizabeth's charter of 1589 to the Mayor and Burgesses of
Leicester. Part of the site was used for the purpose of a Wool
Hall, being leased for life in 1592 to the philanthropic Thomas
Clarke with that object ; but afterwards the building reverted to
charitable uses. On an adjoining portion of the land the Town
Gaol was constructed, which was pulled down in 1792. The
ruins of the old church then came to light again, and were sketched
by Throsby, who gave a full description of them. They com-
prised an arch, which he calls " Saxon," and several pillars and
parts of walls.* The nave was 17 feet 4 inches broad, and 41
feet long. Four large oak beams had been laid on the capitals
of the pillars, to support the floor when it was converted into
a prison, and Throsby conjectured that they had been used origin-
ally to uphold the roof of the church.

* This arch was placed by Throsby in his garden. In my copy of
Throsby's History of Leicester an old note has been written, stating
that the arch was afterwards " in Mr. Berridge's garden."



The Hospital of St. Ursula, founded by William Wigston,
was built at the west end of St. Martin's churchyard, and, on
the south side of the building, next to Peacock Lane, stood the
chapel, which was put up about 1515, and " restored " in 1730.
Nichols has the following description of it. " The chapel of
this hospital was originally a beautiful little Gothic building ; the
stalls, screen, and loft of oak, neatly finished. On the outside,
the great south window, very noble, is between two rich canopies.
. . . The South window originally contained much fine painted
glass ; which in 1760 was greatly defaced ; but so lately as 1790
several fragments remained." Nichols describes the windows,
and gives the monumental inscriptions. " Such was the state
of the chapel in 1790. On a review in 1807, 1 find that the whole
has been repaired. The East and West windows, I am sorry to
say, have been blocked up ; and the fine old South window
replaced by a modern one, in which only five small pieces of the
painted glass are retained. The small gallery has also been
plastered over, and whitewashed. The whole, however, still
looks very neat."

Nichols gives two illustrations of the chapel, as it was in
his time. There is a good representation of it, as it appeared in
1875, just before its destruction, in " Glimpses of Ancient

In an agreement made by deed, soon after its foundation,
between the Abbot of Leicester, the Vicar of St. Martin's, and
the Master and Confrater of the Hospital, it was agreed that
the Vicar should administer the Sacraments to the poor people
and visit them " as they do their other parishioners when there
is need," and should bury their bodies in the churchyard when
dead ; and that the Abbot and Vicar should permit the Master
and Confrater to celebrate divine service in the chapel, and not
compel them to be present at divine service in St. Martin's
church or churchyard, or to administer the sacraments to the
parishioners or to swear obedience to them.

When Queen Elizabeth, at the request of the Earl of Hunting-
don, made new Statutes for the government of the house, after


the dissolution, it was provided that the Hospital should in
future be called " William Wigston's Hospital," and should not
thereafter bear the name of " any fancied saint or other supersti-
tious name," and that it should be one of the duties of the Con-
frater, or " Brother," to see that the poor went every dominical
day and weekday to morning and evening prayer at St. Martin's
church, but he might upon urgent cause say prayers in the chapel
belonging to the hospital. The chapel remained in use until the
hospital was removed, in 1869, to the present buildings on the
Fosse Road. Shortly after that date, in 1875, in spite of the
strenuous opposition of the Leicestershire Archaeological Society,
it was ruthlessly destroyed. Painful, indeed, it is to contemplate
a drawing, given in the Transactions of that Society, which
delineates the fine old building, stripped of the Inmates' apart-
ments, and presenting the appearance of a beautiful mediaeval
Hall, now lost for ever.

The monuments were removed to the chapel of the new
hospital. One of the " rich canopies " mentioned by Nichols
was placed on a wall in the north aisle of St. Nicholas' church,
and most of the old woodwork was transferred to the chapel of
Trinity Hospital. The fine screen of dark oak had been taken
away during the early nineteenth century " restorations," and
was put up in the year 1810 at Ockbrook Church, near Derby.
The site of the original chapel of Wigston's Hospital has been
railed oflF, at the corner of the playground of Wigston's
School, and a stone slab in the centre serves to remind the
passer-by of its former significance.


The foundation of the Hospital of St. Leonard at Leicester
is assigned by Henry of Knighton to William, the youngest son
of Robert Blanchmains, Earl of Leicester, who was a Leper.
Nichols felt some doubt about this, thinking that perhaps
William the Leper founded only the Spital in the East Suburb,

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