St Mary Magdalen Hospital

From Historical Hastings

The exact foundation date of this hospital and the reasons for its formation are unknown. The first mention of it appears on the 21st of March, 1294 when Petronilla De Cham, a widow, 'gave to the brethren and sisters of the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen in Hastings 5 acres of land in the parish of St. Margaret' (the Maudlin Lands in order that; 'Any man or woman that hayth borne hymselfe well and conveneally and ys of good conversation during theyre tyme and be impoveryshed of theyre goods and cattels and have nott whereof to lyve' would be accepted into the hospital without fee. [1] The master and brethren were granted Protection in 1320, [2]and in 1381 the proctors of the hospital received letters of commendation to the clergy of the diocese of Canterbury. [3][4]

The five acres was known as the Maudlin Lands, lying mostly to the west and south of the present day Bohemia Road[5], and later were occupied by Chapel Park Farm[6]

Formation and management of the Hospital

View of the hospital chapel c1820

The hospital possibly originated as a leper and pest house,[5], a clue to this is in the words of the Hastings custumal:—[7][4] "The bailiff shall have the visitation of the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen of Hastings once a year; and there shall be in the said hospital brethren and sisters, sometimes more and sometimes less; but no brother or sister shall be received into the aforesaid hospital except by the assent of the bailiff and the commonalty. And the rules of the aforesaid hospital shall be read before the bailiff at the time of the visitation, at which he shall demand and enquire whether they be well kept or not; and . . . the bailiff shall enquire into the life of all the brethren and sisters examined, and if any of them be attainted the bailiff may remove him if he will. And the bailiff by the assent of his fellows if he shall find a man in the said commonalty infirm, and who has conducted himself in accordance with the usages of the ports for all time, and who shall be impoverished . . . may put such into the said hospital to partake of the sustenance of the brethren and sisters without paying anything to the said hospital."[4]

The hospital was in the Bohemia area, an area also known as "Spitalman's Down"[8] in addition to the aforementioned 'Maudlin Lands'[9]


It is believed that the hospital survived the Reformation, still existing at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign. There is a final reference to the hospital in a notebook maintained by a town clerk in 1546, when it noted that all of the timber and wood on the 'Maudlin Lands' was to be sold and the proceeds devoted to repairs to either the pier or harbour[10]. The hospital fell out of use in the late 1500s, finally being recorded as disused by 1604, when the house, barn and lands were let to James Hunt on the 18th of August, subsequently Thomas Dann on the 18th Dec 1629[11] and the buildings converted into agricultural use. When the interior of the barn was excavated in 1862 the centre of the building was found to be full of skeletons, coffin handles and medieval pottery[12]. The farm land extended from Bohemia Road all the way down to the seafront with field names including Maudlin, Hornetey, Curtisse , Churchfields and Wallys. The farm and buildings were demolished in the 1880s to build De Cham Avenue, its possessions being diverted to other charitable objects.[4]

The name of St Mary Magdalen however persisted in the neighbourhood with reference to the name being found in the Corporation books of 12 May 1656[11]


References & Notes

  1. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiii, App. pt. iv, 354.
  2. Pat. 13 Edw. III, m. 11.
  3. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. viii, 340.
  4. a b c d British History Online: Hospitals: Hastings | British History Online, accessdate: 19 November 2019
  5. a b The Magdalen and Lasher Charity: History of the Charity – The Magdalen & Lasher Charity, accessdate: 19 November 2019
  6. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 3 February 1883 Pg. 0002
  7. Suss. Arch. Coll. xiv. 79.
  8. Sussex Advertiser - Tuesday 05 January 1864 pg. 3
  9. Historic Hastings, J. Manwaring Baines pg. 107 ISBN: 0948869003 ISBN: 9780948869006 Amazon
  10. Historic Hastings, J. Manwaring Baines pg. 107 ISBN: 0948869003 ISBN: 9780948869006 Amazon
  11. a b Sussex Archaeological Coll. Vol. 14
  12. Thomas Ross (1810-1881) 1862