Our History

Sherburn House Charity was founded by Bishop of Durham Hugh Pudsey (Hugh le Puiset) as ‘Christ’s Hospital in Sherburn’ around 1181. Its original purpose was as a leper hospital for ‘up to 65 leprous monks and nuns’

To commemorate the 800th Anniversary of the charity in 1981, the Governors commissioned Dr. Clifton W. Gibby to write a short history. While our supplies of the printed original booklet are exhausted, we have made the full text of this history available below.

The original edition of this booklet was kindly prepared by the late Dr. Clifton William Gibby in 1981 for the hospital’s eight hundredth anniversary. Supplies of the original booklet ran out some time ago, as have supplies of the reprint done in 1998.

Dr. Gibby’s text has been faithfully reproduced. The photographs and other illustrations in the original booklet have been reproduced using electronic scanning methods. Given the fact that the original photographs and illustrations are not available, it is inevitable that the quality of these has suffered to a minor extent.

Since Dr. Gibby wrote the booklet, much has changed at the hospital. However, the booklet gives an interesting insight into the foundation of the hospital and the more important events of the first eight hundred years.

Minutes from the Meetings of Governors held during the early part of the twentieth century were not available to Dr. Gibby. Nor were the hospital’s accounts for the same period. A number of documents relating to this period have since been located.

To avoid confusion, the list of “Present Governors” in the section “The Present State of the Hospital” are those Governors who were on the board at the time Dr. Gibby wrote the history.


Pudsey gave to the Hospital the vill of Sherburn, with the water-mill on the Sherburn House Beck and its appurtenances, lands at Ebchester, Whitton, Garmondsway, Raceby, Sheraton, and the churches (i.e. the tithes due to them) and the advowsons of Ebchester, Kelloe, Grindon, Sockburn and Bishopton. Other benefactors at various times gave land at Whitton, Garmondsway, Raceby and Smallmoor. In particular, in 1331 John Harpyn, Lord of the Manor of Thornley, gave to God and the Master, Brethren and Sisters of the Hospital all his lands in South Sherburn. This last gift is probably the origin of the right of the Lord of the Manor of Thornley to nominate one of the Brethren, known as the Thornley Brother, and until 1917 to be one of the ex-officio Governors. The Lordship of the Manor passed from the Harpyns to the Trollops and then to the Spearmans. In the 1940’s it was held by the Rev. John Lovebond Langdon Fulford, a descendant of the Spearmans, who duly nominated a Thomley Brother, but at the time of writing the present holder has not been identified.

The late Canon Jack Norwood, sometime Master of the Hospital, once wrote that it was “peculiar but not a Peculiar”; his phraseology was apt. The full title of the institution is “The Liberties of Christ’s Hospital in Sherburn”, and it is certainly not a “Peculiar”, for that term refers to an area exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop within whose diocese it lies and subject to some other ecclesiastical authority, e.g. the Allertonshire Peculiars – Northallerton and certain adjacent parishes, some of which were subject to the Bishop of Durham and some to the Dean and Chapter of Durham, although all lay geographically within the Diocese of York. The Bishop of Durham has rights as patron, for he appoints the Master from among three clergymen in priest’s orders in the Church of England whose names are submitted to him by the Governors, and the Master is subject in all respects to the Bishop as ordinary (the noun “ordinary” is used here as a technical term meaning “an ecclesiastical superior”). “Liberties” were originally areas exempt from the jurisdiction of royal officials, or, in the case of the County Palatine of Durham, from that of the Bishop’s Sheriff. The Hospital enjoys another kind of freedom for it is “extra-parochial”, i.e. it is outside the jurisdiction of any of the contiguous parishes of Sherburn, Shadforth, Cassop-cum-Quarrington and Shincliffe, and was apparently never under the control of the large and ancient parish of Pittington out of which it was carved.

The Liberties of Sherburn Hospital also form an independent Civil Parish Sherburn House (the Hospital was originally known as a “House” of Lepers.) Counsel’s opinion, taken in 1819, reads “A constable has been regularly appointed since 1803. One of the inhabitants has generally acted as such without regular appointment. If a place has a constable it is a township, for which overseers may be appointed and in which settlement may be gained. Sherburn Hospital is a vill or township”. (It is unfortunate that Counsel used the words “regular” and “regularly” in two different senses). “Vill” and “township” are terms denoting a unit of local civil government. “Gaining a settlement” refers to the Poor Law of 1535, now obsolete. The status of the Chapel of the Hospital is unusual. It can be used by the 185 or so inhabitants of the Liberties, and of the adjacent extra-parochial district of Whitwell House as if it were their parish church. They have rights of baptism, marriage and burial: appropriate registers have been kept since 1678, and in the days when copies had to be sent annually to the Bishop, “Bishop’s Transcripts” were duly sent in (only 1813-35 survive). But in other ways the Chapel is unlike a parish church, for it has no churchwardens, no Parochial Church Council and no Electoral Roll. It pays no “Quota” to diocesan funds. At any rate since 1858 the Master, although he has “cure of souls” (i.e. charge of spiritual welfare) has not had a “parson’s freehold”, as he can be required by the Governors to resign, for good cause, subject to appeal to the Bishop. The fabric of the Chapel is maintained, the furnishings and fittings are supplied, by the Governors, and paid for out of the funds of the Charity. The Governors also decide what services are to be held, even though out of the fifteen Governors only two, the Dean of Durham and the Archdeacon of Durham, are perforce members of the Church of England. It can probably be assumed that the Governor who is nominated by the Bishop will always be “C of E”. Neither the Master, who conducts the services, nor the members of the congregation have any right to decide upon the services. Presumably the Charity Commissioners, who laid down these arrangements, took for granted reasonable behaviour on the part of all concerned.

When a new Master takes office the Bishop uses a form of words which runs: “we do duly and canonically institute you in and to the said Mastership or Place of Master and do invest you with all its rights members privileges and appurtenances and by these presents fully commit unto you the care and Government of the said Hospital Subject nevertheless to the provisions of the Scheme for the management and regulation of the said Hospital and Saving Always and in all things our Episcopal Rights and customs and the Dignity and Honour of Our Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary in Durham”. (When the Bishop is patron “collate” is more usual than “institute”).

The Archdeacon of Durham inducts the new Master upon the same terms, some of which tend to obscure reality, as is shown elsewhere, but he claims no subsequent rights over the Chapel, such as including it in his periodical Visitations. Records of the Archdeacons’ Visitations from 1775 to 1790 do not mention Sherburn Hospital, nor do the surviving Act Books of the Official of the Dean and Chapter of Durham. The Bishop, however, has rights, as shown for example in 1735, when Bishop Chandler held a visitation to enquire into alleged abuses.

No law-abiding incumbent, church-wardens or Parochial Church Council (but not all are law-abiding) makes any change in the fabric or furnishings of a parish church without the permission of the bishop. In practice, the bishop delegates decisions in such matters to his Consistory Court, which is presided over by his Spiritual Chancellor, who is appointed by the Bishop but who, once appointed, is an independent judge of a royal court. The Chancellor may be clerical or lay, but is always learned in church law. He can and does call upon an advisory committee for advice, but he alone is responsible for granting or refusing permission in the form of a “Faculty”. The Chapel seems to be de facto outside the faculty jurisdiction of the Durham Consistory Court, though documentary justification for this, as for the absence of archidiaconal authority, is lacking. Perhaps “custom and usage” might be pleaded, for no record of any grant can be found in the list of Faculties from 1767 to 1980. The Chapel was almost completely rebuilt without a Faculty in 1868, at which time the Spiritual Chancellor was an ex-officio Governor. A portable font was introduced into the Chapel as a memorial to Canon Norwood, and various substantial pieces of woodwork were put in a few years earlier, all without Faculties. This was all done while the late Dr. Cecil Ferens was both Chairman of the Governors and Diocesan Registrar. In the latter capacity he was an official of the Consistory Court and would have made certain that its authority, if it existed, was respected. Parish churches are required to have a quinquennial inspection of the fabric by a qualified architect; the Chapel is inspected every five years as a voluntary act by the Governors.

Many College chapels are exempt from the faculty jurisdiction of Consistory Courts, but the striking feature of Sherburn Hospital Chapel is the coupling of its exemption with a partial resemblance to a parish church.

Although the Consistory Court has no jurisdiction over the building, it has certain disciplinary powers over errant clergy, and the Master might, qua cleric, still fall foul of it.

Garmondsway Moor, an area of some 1,100 acres, belongs to the Hospital, and there is some evidence that residents there had at one time rights in the Chapel. We find in the marriage Register “June 18th 1747, James Walker and Ann Shepherd, both living within the Libertys of this Hospital (Garmondsway Moor)”.

The original endowment of the Hospital by Bishop Pudsey consisted of a great deal of land, most of which is still owned by the Charity, together with the advowsons and tithes of the churches of Kelloe, Sockburn, Bishopton, Ebchester and possibly Grindon (the last named may have been the gift of a Conyers). The advowson (right to nominate the parish priest) of Kelloe was lost in the sixteenth century by malpractice on the part of one of the Masters, and ultimately passed to the Bishop. The first Scheme of the Charity Commissioners gave the Governors power to sell the advowsons of Sockburn, Grindon, Ebchester and Bishopton. Of these only Sockburn now remains; but as late as the 1917 Scheme part of the Hospital income consisted of Tithe Rent Charges in respect of Bishopton, Kelloe and Sockburn by 1969 all these had been extinguished.

Before the 1858 Scheme the patronage of Sockburn lay with the Master and Brethren; after 1858 it was to be exercised by the Governors acting on behalf and in the name of “the Master and Brethren”, but “on the nomination of the Bishop”. This appears to mean that the Bishop chose the incumbent and nominated him to the Governors, who then presented him to the Bishop, who accepted him. This roundabout procedure, which is most unusual, may be unique even in the Church of England. where anomalies are not uncommon. They usually enshrine some interesting piece of history, but in this case the origin is unknown, for the Charity Commissioners did not publish their reasons. It makes the Bishop the effective patron of the living and may perhaps he considered to cancel out the limitation of the Bishop’s right to appoint the Master to one of a terna put forward by the Governors. A parallel but more easily explicable case is the appointment of bishops. In 1973 the Queen asked the Dean and Chapter of Durham to choose a new Bishop, and at the same time told them whom to choose.

The patronage of Dinsdale, adjacent to Sockburn, belonged to the Dean and Chapter of Durham. The benefices were united by an Order in Council in 1928, and the patronage then alternated. In 1975 the Bishop made a Pastoral Order to the effect that Dinsdale-with-Sockburn was to be held in plurality with the adjoining parish of Hurworth (patrons- The Church Society Trustees), and that the patronage was to be exercised jointly by all three patrons. At the last appointment the three patrons seem to have agreed upon a nominee, whose name they sent to the Bishop, who accepted him. In previous cases it is difficult to find out exactly what happened, partly for lack of records and partly, in one case at least, because of an apparent shortage of clergy willing to be nominated. The Charity Commissioners in their 1969 Scheme (the current one) state that the patronage of Dinsdale with Sockburn is exercisable as an “alternative” right, by which it is to be presumed that they mean “alternate”.

Certain annual payments used to be made to the incumbents of Dinsdale-with-Sockburn (£100), Grindon (£l00), Ebchester (£130), Bishopton-with-Great Stainton (£70), Kelloe (£150), Wingate (£50) and Thornley (£50), but they are now made to the Durham Diocesan Board of Finance.

The Chapel was badly damaged by fire in 1866, but some years previously the tower had been refaced. An estimate for its restoration of £1,590 was agreed to in 1867, and the work was completed in the following year.

The south wall of the nave is original, though the windows are partly restored. Three sedilia, with ogee trefoiled arches, and the adjacent double piscina, may also be original though partly restored. If the design of the tower were unchanged in the refacing and restoration, it may be concluded that the lower part was of Pudsey’s time and the upper part thirteenth century.

The chancel was originally stalled for the use of the brethren: the nave seating was introduced in the nineteenth century. If the rebuilding of the chapel followed the style of the original building, it would appear that the arcade on the north side of the nave was of the early thirteenth century. Another interesting feature is a brass plate let into the sanctuary floor on the north side bearing the inscription “Thomas Leaver Preacher to King Edward the Sixte He Died in July 1577”. Leaver was Master from 1562, and described as “an eloquent Preacher, and highly valued for his learning and piety”. He had been in exile during the reign of Mary Tudor, but returned on the accession of Queen Elizabeth.

The Church Plate consists of a Chalice dated 1564-5, with the quaint inscription “DEALE JUSTLI, FOR GOD DOTH SE THAT SHERBORNE HOUSE OWYTH ME”. There are Paten and Flagon of 1712, and some more modern pieces.

The lectern was made by Mr. C. Machin, the present Estate Joiner, who also made the entrance door and screen, and the furnishings of the St. Nicholas Chapel and the vestry screen. The icon on the wall of the Chapel is of St. Nicholas and recalls the fact that an altar of St. Nicholas was once provided in the Hospital for ministering to those who were too infirm to attend Church. The organ is by Harrison and Harrison of Durham. There is one bell in the tower, cast by Smith of York in 1724.

By an Act of Parliament of 1585 the establishment was to be known as “The Master and Brethren of Christ’s Hospital in Sherborne near Durham” and thirty named brethren were incorporated. All leases subsequently made other than for twenty-one years or for three lives were to be void. The Bishop of Durham was to have the nomination of the Master, a preacher having no other charge or cure of souls: the Master was to nominate the Brethren, except for one who was to be chosen by the Lord of the Manor of Thornley. The reference to a “preacher” reminds us that not all clergy were allowed to preach at that time. Rules for the conduct of the Hospital were to be made by the Bishop, and all future Masters and Brethren were to take an oath to abide by them.

Eight years later a Commission of Enquiry found that the regulations were being observed.

Orders for the better government of the Hospital made by several later Bishops were all repealed by Bishop Chandler in 1735, on the grounds that they were “lost, concealed or mislaid or were invalid for want of ratification under seal”. The most important of Chandler’s regulations were:­

  1. That the Master should be in Holy Orders and at least a Master of Arts, capable of business and willing to apply himself to it, especially for the maintenance and prosperity of the Hospital estates.
  2. That the Master or a deputy appointed by him should usually reside in the Hospital.
  3. That the Master, even if not constantly resident should often preach and read lectures, hear complaints and see that they were redressed. (It seems to have been taken for granted that all complaints would be well founded).
  4. That the Common Seal of the Ilospital was to be in the custody of the Master, and also were counterparts of leases.
  5. That no leases were to be granted without the Common Seal.
  6. That all the Brethren were to be constant members of the Church of England and to take the oath on admission.
  7. That no woman, child or male relative should lodge in the room of a Brother, except the nurse.
  8. That no Brother should absent himself from prayers or leave the Hospital without the permission of the Master, such permission to be sparingly given and not for more than three days.
  9. That the Master should fill vacancies within one month, or at most six weeks. If he did not, the Bishop should fill them.
  10. That the Brethren should attend morning and evening prayers and the Sacrement when administered.
  11. That the Chaplain should be constant in reading morning and evening prayers, administer the Sacrement at least four times yearly and visit the sick.
  12. That no Brother should be a drunkard, commit a notorious crime or live a disorderly or offensive life. The Master was to warn offenders and if necessary report them to the Bishop.
  13. That idle vagrants should be discouraged from applying for alms at the gate, but that honest necessitous travellers should be relieved. Such as had no “legal settlement” were not to be made burdensome by indiscreet relief. (These instructions reflect the problems of Elizabethan poor relief).
  14. That the farm at Sherbum House should be kept by the Master and not let, so that a good stock of young cattle, with adequate hay and corn, should be available for the needs of the Hospital. Every Master on entry should make an exact inventory.

In 1830 an enquiry showed that sonic land belonging to the Hospital was let at annual rents, but that tar more was on leases for three lives. The rents and fines paid on renewal of leases produced an average annual income of about £2,500 for the maintenance of the brethren and the buildings. The outgoings were about £1,400 and the difference, viz. about £1,100 formed the average annual emolument of the Master. A fine is not a penalty but a lump sum.

The establishment at that time consisted of a Master (The Rev. Andrew Bell), a chaplain, a nurse and thirty Brethren. Some of the latter preferred to live out. The Brethren who lived in received one quart of good beer and one pound of boiled or roast meat daily (except on Fridays and fast days, when one pound of pudding replaced the meat) together with eighteen (old) pence weekly instead of the bread, cheese and small beer envisaged by Bishop Chandler’s regulations. There were special allowances for food on feast days; but only beer and meat received specific mention. The tenant of the home farm provided and cooked the meat and paid the cash allowance for £350 p.a. Each brother had two loads of coal delivered to his door annually, and at each Christmas a suit of strong drab cloth. Furniture, hells and hedlinen (washed by the nurse) were provided. The Master provided, as a free gilt and not as an obligation, a cloth cloak annually. There was also a cash allowance of £.3.6. per head per quarter, with I /- per week for good behaviour. In the event of bad behaviour the shilling of’ the errant Brother was shared out among the other Brethren.

The nurse received £1 2 shillings p.a. with a house and three loads of coal: the surgeon £14 p.a. for attendance and Medicines. The Chaplain was appointed by the Master and licensed by the Bishop at £120 p.a. together with a house, garden and clothes worth £30 p.a. He assisted the Master and deputised in his absence. The Master and the Chaplain were stated to pay great attention to the wants of the Brethren especially their provisions (the report does not allude to pastoral care). Some of the Brethren received small payments for acting as clerk, sexton, bell­ringer and porter in the Chapel.

By 1853, owing largely to the prosperity of the coal mining industry, the surplus income available to the Master had risen to about £4,600 p.a.

In 1857 a Scheme for the administration of the Hospital was put forward by the Charity Commissioners, bringing great changes.

The general management lay with a body of fifteen Governors, seven of them being the Master (Chairman), the Dean and the Archdeacon of Durham, the Chancellor of the Diocese, the Mayor of Durham City, the Chairman of Quarter Sessions and the lord of the Manor of Thornley. The Governors were solely responsible for the entire management of the property of the Hospital. Instead of the Master paying all the expenses of running the establishment and retaining for himself the balance of’ income over expenditure, he and other officers were paid fixed salaries, (generous by the standards of those times). Fifteen In-Brethren were to have free board, lodging, clothing and attendance, with four shillings per week. The right of nomination to vacancies lay with the Master, with the concurrence of the Governors. There was great competition for vacancies.

Provision was made for the education of poor children resident in the townships of Sherburn House and Whitwell by setting money aside for the erection and maintenance of a school, and for grants to schools in Durham St. Giles, Shadforth and Shincliffe, attended by children of miners or labourers living on Hospital estates.

The Master was to be a clergyman appointed by the Bishop and was to have the general supervision of the inmates and officers, subject to the overriding authority of the Governors.

The total number of Brethren was to he thirty: fifteen living in and fifteen living out. There was no longer any reference to the casual relief of wayfarers at the gate.

The construction of a hospital in the modern sense of the word was envisaged, the number of patients being initially limited to thirty-five, and the building was completed by 1863. For various reasons admissions did not begin until 1872.

A dispensary, providing free medical treatment for the poor, was opened in part of the Master’s house in 1858 and later in a special building. The average annual attendance soon exceeded 3,700.

The 1857 Scheme operated without great modification until 1917, when a new one was approved by the Charity Commissioners. The chief changes were:-

  1. The Governors were to be three ex-officio members viz. the Dean of Durham, the Archdeacon of Durham and the Chairman of Quarter Sessions, eight representative governors, appointed by Durham County Council, (2) Northumberland County Council, Durham City Council, Newcastle City Council, Sunderland Borough Council, Durham Rural District Council and the Council of the College of Medicine in the University of Durham, and four co-opted Governors. It will be noticed that the Master was not a Governor, unless co-opted, still less was he to be Chairman of the Governors. He was to have the general supervision and control of the whole establishment except for the hospital (in the modern sense) and the Dispensary, as well as the spiritual and moral care of the In-Brethren, patients and staff. He was to be subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishop, and was not to hold any other “cure of souls”.
  2. There were to be fifteen In-Brethren. The numbers of Out-Brethren and (Out) Sisters was to depend upon the funds available.
  3. In-Brethren were to have between four and six shillings per week each, Out-Brethren ten shillings and Sisters eight to ten shillings. The In-Brethren and patients might be supplied with clothing in special cases. The Master was no longer to nominate applicants for admission to the Governors.
  4. After payments for repairs, insurance and administration, the first charge on the funds was to be the salary of the Master and the second the maintenance of the Chapel. A yearly sum was to paid for the benefit of persons in the United Kingdom suffering from leprosy. The link with Bishop Pudsey’s foundation was thus revived for the first time.

1953 saw yet another Scheme, in which the principal changes were:­

  1. The Board of Governors was to consist of sixteen members. One of the ex-officio members was to be the Chairman of Quarter Sessions for the County of Durham (for whom the Circuit Judge of the Durham Crown Court was substituted in due course). Seven Representative Govemors, including two from Durham County Council and one from the Court of the University of Durham. One Governor nominated by the Bishop of Durham. Four co-optative Governors.
  2. In addition to In-Brethren, Out-Brethren and Sisters, a fourth class of beneficiary was envisaged as a possibility viz. “Elders”.
  3. The Master was to be appointed by the Bishop from among three men in Priest’s Orders nominated by the Governors.
  4. The number of Elders was to depend upon the funds available. They were to be aged poor persons. Out Brethren and Sisters should receive eight to ten shillings per week if not entitled to an Old Age Pension, or five shillings per week if so entitled. Elders were to be required to contribute to the costs of maintenance. In-Brethren and Elders were to be lodged and boarded, but, apart from the uniform for In-Brethren, provided with clothing only in special circumstances.
  5. The right of presentation of the Thornley Brother should lapse to the Governors if no presentation were made through lack of a Lord or Lady of the Manor of Thornley of full age.

In 1969 a further Scheme, the current one, came into operation. The membership of the Board of Governors remained unchanged, but the Master was not to be eligible for appointment by the Bishop as a “Nominated Governor”.

The Governors might appoint an administrator, (but it was not specified that he should have the title of “The Administrator”) who was to be responsible for the general management of the Charity, subject to the direction of the Governors.

The Governors might permit retired clergymen of the Church of England to occupy flats in the large building the whole of which was formerly the Master’s House. In-Sisters appear for the first time and part of the building was assigned for their accommodation.

The Master was to be responsible for the spiritual welfare of the residents and staff (but no longer for their moral welfare!), for conducting the chapel services, for investigating the characters and circumstances of applicants and for giving to the Governors “such general advice as they may require”.

The salaries of the Master and the administrator were bracketed as a first charge on the income after the expenses of management.

The Governors might make it a condition of appointment that brothers, sisters and elders, whom they appointed, should contribute towards the cost of maintaining themselves, subject to the approval of the Charity Commissioners.

A new provision under “Relief in Need” allowed the Governors to relieve either individually or generally persons resident in the area of the Ancient Diocese of Durham (i.e. the modern Diocese of Durham and most of the Diocese of Newcastle).

The Governors act in the name of “The Master and Brethren of Christ’s Hospital Sherburn”, but the status of’ both the Master and the Brethren has changed a good deal over the centuries. That of the former has diminished progressively.

To Bishop Tunstall’s Enquiry in 1557 complaint was made that two Masters had granted or leased property of the Hospital without the knowledge and consent of the brethren and sisters; but in later statutes there is no implication that the Brethren were to be involved in the management of the affairs of the Hospital.

By the 1857 Scheme there were to be 15 In-Brethren and 15 Out-Brethren, one of the former being the Thornley Brother. They were to be poor and deserving men, unable to maintain themselves. Sickness apart, the In-Brethren were to attend all the Chapel services.

Patients in the new hospital wards were to be styled “Inmates”, not exceeding 35 in number, being male and female in approximately equal numbers. They were to be deserving persons resident in the Diocese, married or single, “decayed or indigent”. They were to be appointed by the Governors after consultation with the Master, for fixed periods with the possibility of extension. Those suffering from chronic sickness were to have preference. Except in special cases each In-Brother and each Inmate was to have a separate room, but spouses might live in. The Master might, with the concurrence of one or more Governors, suspend the allowance of an Inmate for misconduct.

By the Scheme of 1895 Out-Sisters to the number of not more than 15 were added to the foundation. They were to be widows or spinsters who had resided in the Diocese (the present one) for not less than a year, during which time they must not have received poor relief. Their allowance was to be ten shillings per week. They were appointed by the Governors after report by the Master. No In­Brother or Inmate might be absent overnight without leave of the Master.

Further changes followed in 1917. Out-Brethren and Out-Sisters were to be appointed in numbers dependent upon the funds available. The same applied to the Inmates, now styled Patients. The In-Brethren received from one to six shillings per week, the Out-Brethren ten shillings, the Sisters from eight to ten shillings.

At this time there occurs the first modern reference to uniform clothing for the In-Brethren, apart from cloaks. The last reference in the Minutes of’ the House Committee is in 1939: at the beginning of the Second World War there was difficulty in obtaining the cloth. At one time Brethren were often seen in the City, wearing their brown suits of distinctive cut. A group photograph of about 1960 shows the Brethren still wearing uniforms.

The life of In-Brethren in 1872 is illustrated by the following quotations:-

“The following is the dietary of each in-brother:­ One pint of milk daily; and on Sundays, cold roast beet; suet pudding with currants; Monday, roast mutton, potatoes and rice pudding; Tuesday, three pounds two ounces of white bread, boiled beef, broth and potatoes; Wednesday, roast beef; potatoes and rice pudding; Thursday, boiled beef broth and potatoes; Friday, roast mutton, potatoes and plain suet pudding, Saturday, half a pound of butter, three pounds two ounces of white bread, boiled beef, broth and potatoes; Christmas day, roast beef, potatoes, plum pudding, one pint of mulled ale for each brother. One bottle of ale is allowed to each brother every third day. Three candles a week for each brother during the winter months.”

“The rules of the Hospital require: Every brother to wear his best suit on Sundays, and to appear in a clean Hospital suit on every other day. If attending a funeral, or visiting distant friends, be may wear plain clothes. But, with the exception of attending a funeral, in Durham and near the Hospital he must wear the Hospital Suit. On the death of any brother, his best suit is left to his successor. (Fit?) No brother is allowed to go to a distant town, or to stay out for the night, later than nine o’clock, without leave from the Master: the nurse is bound to report any such absence if unpermitted. Any brother may visit his friends for a period not exceeding, in the whole year, three months; his money allowance continues during his absence, but not his allowance of food. If any brother gives the cook notice of a permitted absence from dinner, and that be shall return in the evening, his dinner is reserved for him by the nurse. Every brother is required on his appointment, to promise that he will obey the rules and customs of the Hospital, and also, that (unless exempt by the medical officer) he will render willing assistance when required by the Master through the hind of the Hospital, in raking and sweeping the grass, etc., in the quadrangle, the long walk, and the brethren’s yard. He is also told that be is expected to make himself generally useful in the service of the Hospital when required. Prayers, with a portion of Holy Scripture, are read in the chapel daily by the master, when at home, and not reasonably hindered, in accordance with the rubric. If the Master shall be absent or unwell, the clerk of the brethren reads the prayers for that day in the brethren’s hall. Every brother is required to attend these services; and also, unless prevented by ill-health. both the services on Sunday. He is desired, but not compelled, to receive the Holy Communion”.

The Hospital Foundation has from time to time had an educational aspect, which may stem from the original provision for singing-boys, who were to be taught. The 1857 Scheme laid down that the Governors might establish a school for poor children in the townships of Sherburn House and Whitwell and provide annual sums for its support. They might also make grants to schools in the parishes with which the Hospital had special connection, viz, Ebchester, Sockburn, Grindon, Bishopton, Kelloe, Thornley and Wingate, and to parishes in which schools might be attended by the children of miners or labourers employed in the mines or estates belonging to the Charity, viz, Shadforth, Shincliffe and Durham St. Giles.

These provisions were amended by the Scheme of 1898, principally by the provision of Exhibitions of not more than £15 per annum for not more than five years for the higher education of children from public Elementary Schools.

In the 1917 Scheme these specific provisions were replaced by a more general one, that the Governors might apply surplus income to other charitable purposes for the benefit of persons in the County of Durham, subject to the approval of the Charity Commissioners. This was continued in the 1953 Scheme, but in the 1969 Scheme it was again changed to “Relief in Need” of persons resident in the Ancient Diocese of Durham, i.e. most of the area from the Tees to the Tweed.

Stanley Ritson was Medical Officer to Sherbum Hospital from shortly after the end of the first World War until the surgical unit closed as a result of the introduction of the National Health Service. He was born in Jarrow, and trained at King’s College Hospital, London, qualifying in 1911. During the first World War he was a captain in the R.A.M.C., serving in this country and in Fgypt. He was invalided out with an estimated life expectancy of six months; he died in 1977 at the age of 88 as a result of a fall.

In addition to his work at Sherburn Hospital he was for 25 years Honorary Surgeon to Monkwearmouth Hospital, and also worked at Grindon Hospital and Sunderland Royal Infirmary. He is believed to have performed well over 50,000 operations, and had a tremendous reputation in the north-east, particularly for thyroid gland operations; but judging by such records as survive at Sherburn, he was a general surgeon in the best sense of the term.

For over 20 years he was honorary surgeon to Sunderland Association Football Club. In 1941 he was appointed a Director of the Club, and was Chairman from 1958 to 1960. He was a J.P. and was awarded the O.B.E. in 1973.

In 1858 some disused rooms at the western end of the Master’s House were walled off and fitted up as a dispensary. A year later Mr. Gillespie was appointed Medical Officer and continued until 1880. By that time the number of patients attending had grown so much that, with the sanction of the Charity Commissioners, a new building was erected at a cost of £2,000+ from the designs of Mr. C. Hodgson Fowler of Durham. At the turn of the century about 18,000 consultations per annum were being held. 4,000 tickets were issued per annurn to Clergy and large employers of labour. The Medical Officer at that time was Dr. Lionel Booth. A Dispenser was employed, medicine being provided free. The building remains, put to other uses, but the Dispensary as an institution came to an end with the start of the National Health Service in 1946.

The discretion of the Master in the admission of Brethren was temporarily curtailed in 1666 by a Royal Command, transmitted to the Master by Bishop Cosin.

ORDER concerning Maimed Seamen and Soldiers.

The ORDER of Bishops Cosin’s to John Machon Master of Sherburn Hospital to admit none but Maimed Seamen and Soldiers into the Hospital, pursuant to an Order of the King and Councel. 7th August 1666.

WHEREAS his Majesty of his Princly Care and Tenderness towards those who in his Wars have exposed their Lives at Sea, in His and their Country’s Service, and have therein either by loss of Limbs or otherwise been rendered unable to gain a Livelyhood for the future; having amongst other comfortable Provisions designed for their Relief and Subsistance, directed and commanded, that the Alms Mens Places in all the Hospitals within this Kingdom, which are at present or shall become void, be preferred and kept for such as are or shall be fo maimed as aforesaid.

These are therefore by express Order from his Majesty and his most honorable Privy Council, to require You in his Majesties name, not to dispose of any Alms Mans or Brothers Place or Places which are or shall be vacant in your Hospital, to any Person or Persons whatsoever, but that You reserve the fame with all necessary Accomodations thereunto belonging, for the relief and support of such maimed Seamen and Soldiers as shall be sent unto You from his Majesties Commissioners for sick and wounded Men (whose Names are hereunder set down) to whom You are to give speedy Notice of any such Place that is or shall become void in your Hospital, and further to signify to You, that if You shall after the Receipt hereof fill any vacant Place or Places with any other Person or Pesfons, You will not only thereby incurr his Majesties Displeasure, but his Majesty will cause such Person or Persons to be removed to make room for such maimed Seamen. Given at Auckland Castle the Seventh Day of August in the Eighteenth Year of his Majesties Reign.

Reign, Annoq; Dom. One Thousand Six Hundred and Sixty Six.

To Mr. John Machon Mafter of Christs Hospital in Sherburne in the County of Durham, who is desired to give me Notice of the Receipt hereof, so soon as it comes to his Hands.


The Commissioners for maimed Seamen.

The Earl of Manchester
The Lord Craven
The Lord Arlington
The Lord Hollis
Sir George Carteret
Sir William Morrice
Sir John Nicholas

At present (1981) the tendency is to refer to all “In-Brethren” and “Elders” as “Residents”, although the older terms have not been officially abolished.

The following account of the Masters of Sherburn Hospital is incomplete and probably can never be otherwise. In some cases, particularly the early ones, the available records are inadequate: even in some of the later ones information is lacking. Some sources are mutually contradictory.

Up to the end of the eighteenth century it was the accepted system in the Church of England for appointments of clergy to depend on personal, family or political influence. The holding of several posts simultaneously was an economic necessity if they were poorly paid, and was condoned even if they were well paid. Dates of appointment obtained from different sources do not always agree, and dates of resignation sometimes cannot he found at all, except, as will he seen, by searching in the records of places far from Durham. It must not he assumed, therefore, that plurality was as great as appears at first sight.

The information available does show, however, that many of the Masters of the Hospital were eminent and able men, that some of them took their duties very seriously and served the Charity loyally, while others abused their position scandalously to their own personal profit and to the detriment of the Foundation.

Arnold or Ernold de Auclent or Aclent (Auckland) “rector of the house of lepers”. His name occurs 1200-1210.

Warren Godet

Ralph the Monk by 1225.

Martin de Sancta Croce “rector, proctor or procurator”. His name occurs 1245 – 60. Rector of Bishopwearmouth 1249, of Gerardeston, Sarum 1237. Prebendary 1 of York 1260.

Roger de Seyton “custos” occurs about 1270. Official 2 to Bishop Kirkham. Rector of Wyke Harnon, Lincs. in 1258, Judge of Common Pleas 3 1268. Chief Justice 1272-78. Canon and Prebendary of York.

William de Insula “rector” in 1302. Rector of Wearmouth in 1288. Baron of the Exchequer 4 1332. 5

Lambert de Torkyngham “custos” by 1315. Judge of Common Pleas of the King’s Bench 1316-20, Baron of the Exchequer 1320.

Thomas de Hessewell 1330-39. The first to be styled “Master” as were all his successors.

Thomas de Nevill(e) 1339-62. Rector of Sedgefield 1313. Prebendary of Chester­le-Street 1333, of Norton 1330, of St. Patrick’s, Dublin 1335, of Lincoln 1340, of Darlington, of Howden 1351. Archdeacon of Durham 1334. (The Nevilles, of Raby, were a very influential family).

Alan de Shotlyngton “presbyter” (i.e. in priest’s orders) 1362-67. Rector of Hemingburgh 1348-75, of Middleton-St. George 1359-65, Steward of the Halmote Courts 1362-72 6 Vicar-General 1365 7

Thomas de Bernolby 1367-80(?). Master of St. Mary Magdalene Hospital, Bamburgh 1366. Canon and Prebendary of Auckland 1373.

John de Waltham 1384-88. Canon of Abergwili 1349, of Shrewsbury 1353, of Lichfield 1361, of York 1368, of Auckland 1379, of Lanchester 1381, of Hereford 1380, of Lincoln 1381, of Southwell and of Howden. Master of Bawtry Hospital 1362. Archdeacon of Richmond 1384-88, Rector of Berkhamstead 1379, Lord Privy Seal 1386, Master of the Rolls 8 and Bishop of Salisbury 1388.

Thomas Haxey Master in 1388. Rector of Pulham 1384, of St. Nicholas, Cole Abbey 1384, of Toppesfield 1386, of Dengey 1387, of Crawley 1387, of Histon St. Andrew 1390, of Laxton 1393, Master of Leysingbury Hospital 1391, Canon and Prebendary of Chester 1384, of Lichfield 1390, of Southwell 1405, of Sarum 1390, of York 1405, of Ripon 1419, of Beverley 1423, of Howden. Treasurer of York Minster 1418. Master of York Mint 1423.

Henry Godebarne LI.D. Master in 1389. Rector of Egremont 1372, of Hornsey 1374. Master of Leysingbury 1384. Canon and Prebendary of Ripon 1371, of York 1372.

John Burgeys or Burgess 1388 (?) -1403. Canon and Prebendary of Llandewi Brefi 1379, Master of Greatham Hospital 1384-1407, Vicar of Hesledon 1384-5, Rector of Meldon 1384-87, Bishop’s Treasurer 1387, Dean of Lanchester 1388­-99, of Auckland 1395-1409. Removed from Mastership by Bishop Skirlaw for malversation.

Alan de Newark 1403-9. Canon and Prebendary of Lanchester 1399, Vicar of Norton 1401, Archdeacon of Durham 1408, Master of Nantwich Hospital.

John Newton 1409-1427. Rector of Ashe, Essex 1395, of St. Benet-Sherehog, London 1396, Master of St. Edmund’s Hospital Gateshead 1407-10, Rector of Haughton-le-Skerne 1410, of Wearmouth 1424-26. For some reason he was regarded as a great pluralist, though not obviously worse than some others. Is said “to have nearly ruined the Foundation by leases, grants and pensions”.

Nicholas Dixon 1427-33. Rector of Cheshunt, prebendary of York, Howden and Sarum. Baron of the Exchequer. Did much to repair the harm done by his predecessor.

John Marchall 1433-69. Ll.B. Vicar-General of the Bishop Langley, Prebendary of York.

Alexander Lyghe or Legh 1469-89 (?), M.A, Ll.D.(?). Rector of Fen Ditton 1468­73. Canon of Windsor 1469. Prebendary of York 1471-1501. Temporal Chancellor 9 1490. Rector of St. Bride’s, London 1471-85, of Houghton-le­Spring. For some years the King’s Resident Ambassador in Scotland.

Robert Dykar 1489-1501. came from Bath and Wells with Bishop Fox. He was a layman and a Notary Public: he was ordained sub-deacon four months before becoming Master. When Bishop Fox left Durham for Winchester, Dykar plundered the Hospital to his own profit and allowed the buildings to decay. He sold the advowson of Kelloe, but it was taken later by the Bishop, with whom it still remains. 10

Roderick Gundisalve 1501-?. Appointed by Henry VII during a vacancy of the See.

Geoffrey Wren, M.A., Known to be Master in 1524. Chaplain to Henry VII and Henry VIII. Rector of Loughborough, Rector of Boldon 1502-05, Prebendary of York 1508, of Lichfield 1511. Rector of St. Margaret, Fish Street, London and of Hanslope, Bucks. Canon of Windsor.

Edward Fox, M.A., D.D., 1527-35. Provost 11 of King’s College, Cambridge. Prebendary of York 1527, Rector of Combe Martin, Devon. Archdeacon of Leicester and Dorset. Bishop of Hereford 1535. Often employed as Ambassador.

Thomas Leghe LI.D. 1535-45. One of the King’s Commissioners for the Visitation of the Monasteries. Followed the example of some of his predecessors in plundering the Hospital. Had valuable grants of land on the dissolution of various monasteries and was one of the Commissioners who received the surrender of Durham Abbey.

Anthony Bellasis 1545-52. Prebendary of Chester-le-Street. Rector of Whickham 1533, Vicar of St. Oswald’s Durham 1533-39, Rector of Brancepeth 1539. Prebendary of Westminster 1540, of Auckland 1541, of Ripon 1543. Archdeacon of Colchester 1543. Prebendary of Lincoln 1543, of York 1549. Master of St. Edmund’s Hospital, Gateshead; in addition to other appointments.

Anthony Salvin B.D., 1552-59. One of the Salvin family of Croxdale. Prebendary of Norton 1544. Rector of High Ham, Som. 1552, of Winston 1545-59 Prebendary of Durham 1556-59. Master of University College, Oxford 1557-58. Vicar-General of Durham 1558. Rector of Ryton 1558-59. Rector of Sedgefield 1558. Deprived 12 of all his offices 1559.

Ralph Skynner, M.A. 1559-62. Warden of New College, Oxford 1551-53. Rector of Sedgefield 1562-63. Temporal Chancellor of the Diocese 1561. Dean of Durham 1561-63. M.P. for Leicester 1547-52, Bossiney, Cornwall 1554, Westbury 1559. Rector of Broughton Astley 1550-53.

Thomas Lever M.A., B.D., 1562-77. Master of St. John’s College, Cambridge 1551-53. In exile at Zurich during the Marian persecution: chief pastor of the English congregation there. A staunch puritan and non-conformist. but was not on that account barred from the Mastership. Rector and Archdeacon of Coventry 1559-77.

Ralph Lever M.A., D.D.,1577-85. Brother of Thomas. Rector of Washington 1565-76, of Howick 1566-74, of Stanhope 1575-77. Prebendary of Durham 1567­85. Archdeacon of Northumberland 1565-73.

Valentine Dale, D.C.L.,1584-89 A layman 13 Dean of Wells 1574. Archdeacon of Surrey 1573. Mostly absent, being frequently employed by Queen Elizabeth as an ambassador.

Robert Bellamy M.A., D. Physic. 1589-1608. Chaplain to Bishop Barnes. Rector of Egglescliffe 1577-89, of Houghton-le-Spring 1584-89. Prebendary of Durham 1573-85.

William Shawe MA., DD., 1623-36. Rector of Egglescliffe 1623.

John Machon M.A.,1636-42. Prebendary of Lichfield 1631-71. Vicar of Hartburn 1632-36. Ejected by the Parliamentary Commissioners 1642.

John Fenwick, layman. 1642-54. A Newcastle tradesman. Guide to Lesley’s Scottish army when he invaded England.

John Fenwick 1654-60. Son of the above.

John Machon, as above, 1660-79.

John Montagu M.A.,1680-99. Fourth son of Edward Montagu, Earl of Sandwich and nephew of Bishop Crewe. Master of Trinity College, Cambridge 1683-1700. Prebendary of Durham 1683-1700. Dean of Durham 1700-28.

Thomas Rundle D.C.L.,1727-35. Chaplain to Bishop Talbot. Rector of Sedgefield 1722-27. Treasurer of Salisbury and Archdeacon of Wiltshire 1720. Bishop of Derry 1735 (resigning all his appointments in England).

Wadham Chandler M.A., 1735-38. Younger son of Bishop Chandler. Rector of Bishopwearmouth 1732-35, of Washington 1733-35. Prebendary of Durham 1735-38.

Robert Stillingfleet M.A.,D.D., 1738-59. Chaplain to Bishops Talbot and Chandler. Rector of Gateshead 1731-32, of Ryton 1732-38. Prebendary of’ Worcester 1737, of Durham 1743-59.

David Gregory, M.A.,1759-67. Canon of Christ Church Oxford 1736-56, Dean 1756. The first Professor of Modern History in Oxford 1724-36. Erected the range of buildings comprising separate rooms for the In-Brethren, with a central common hall.

Mark Hildesley M.A., D.D.,1767-72. Vicar of Hitchin, Herts. 1731-55, Rector of Holwell, Beds 1735-67. Prebendary of Lincoln 1754-72, Bishop of Sodor and Man 1755-72.

Thomas Dampier, M.A., D.D., 1774-1802, Dean of Rochester 1782-1802, Prebendary of Durham 1778-1808. Vicar of Bexley, Kent 1771-74, Bishop of Rochester 1802-08, Bishop of Ely 1808-12.

Andrew Bell LI.D., D.D., 1809-32. Was born at St. Andrew’s in 1753 and graduated there. He took Holy Orders and in 1789 became minister of St. Mary’s Church, Madras and Chaplain to Fort St. George. Becoming interested in the Military Orphanage there and finding an unworkable ratio of pupils to teachers, he devised the “Madras System”. A master taught the older children, who in turn taught their juniors, stimulated by financial rewards for success. In 1797 he published a book on his system and was asked to organise schools in England, where there were at one time over a thousand schools using this method, including the Bluecoat School in Durham City. The National Society for the Education of the Children of the Poor in accordance with the Principles of the Church of England, which supported him, founded the first teacher training college in this country. At his death he left about £30,000, almost the whole of it for educational purposes in Scotland. He was alleged by his successor to have neglected the material welfare of the Hospital.

George Stanley Faber, M.A., B.D., 1832-54. Vicar of Stockton-on-Tees 1805-08, Rector of Redmarshall 1808-32, of Longnewton 1811-32. Prebendary of Sarum 1830. Greatly improved the Hospital estate. He was the last Master of the old order having charge of finance and administration as well as the cure of souls.

Edward Prest, M.A.,1854-57 ad interim. Rector of Gateshead and Master of King James’ Hospital 1861-81. Canon and Archdeacon of Durham 1863-82. Rector of Ryton 1881-82.

Edward Prest, M.A., 1857-61. Did much to restore the Hospital estate.

James Carr, 1862-74. Perpetual Curate of South Shields 1831-62, of Westoe 1853-62.

Henry Arthur Mitton, M.A., 1874-1914. Vicar of St. Andrew Auckland 1868-74.

Douglas Samuel Boutflower MA., 1914-34. Vicar of Newbottle 1887-96, of Monkwearmouth 1896-1909, of Christ Church, Bishopwearmouth 1909-14.

Percy L’Argent Bell, M.A., 1934-37. Vicar of Monkhesleden 1908-25, of Muggleswick 1925-34.

Thomas Romans, M.A.,F.S.A., 1937-58. Vicar of St. Mark, Millfield, Sunderland 1922-37. Hon. Canon of Durham. A distinguished archaeologist.

Jack Norwood, B.A., 1958-72. Vicar of St. Aidan, South Shields 1938-46, of St. Giles, Durham 1946-58. Hon Canon of Durham.

David Edward Davison, M.A., Vicar of West Harton and Chaplain to South Shields General Hospital 1949-61. Vicar of Shotton 1961-72. Master of Sherburn Hospital and Curate-in-Charge of Pittington 1972-77. Hon Canon of Durham.

Graham Bentley Pattison, B.A., 1977- Team Vicar of Tong and Holme Wood 1970-74, Rector of the same 1974-77. Master of Sherbum Hospital and Social Responsibility Officer for the Diocese of Durham 1977-.


  1. Prebendary – one who enjoys a prebend, a share of the income of a cathedraI or collegiate church, granted as a stipend.
  2. Official – the presiding officer or judge in an archbishop’s or bishop’s court was known as the Official Principal: he is now identical with the Spiritual Chancellor. In an archdeacon’s court he was known as the Official, but not the Official Principal.
  3. The Court of Common Pleas – one of the divisions of the Royal Court. Originally it was the only higher Court of Record having jurisdiction in civil actions between private individuals. It is now the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court.
  4. Baron of the Exchequer – before the Judicature Acts of 1873 the Judges of the Exchequer Courts were called Barons, and the chief judge was the Lord Chief Baron.
  5. The Court of Exchequer – one of the divisions of the Royal Court: it bad a separate existence by 1200. Originally only for matters concerning public revenue, e,g. Crown v debtors, it later dealt with actions between private individuals. It was divided into two parts, Common Law and Equity, but the latter was later transferred to the Court of Chancery. It is now represented by the Queen’s Bench Division.
  6. The Halmote Court was a manorial Court dealing with small debts, minor misdemeanours and all matters relating to copyhold tenures.
  7. Vicar – general, a deputy for the bishop for all official acts not requiring episcopal rank.
  8. Master of the Rolls – originally a keeper of records and assistant to the Lord Chancellor: now a Judge of the Court of Appeal who is also responsible for the custody of manorial and tithe documents.
  9. Temporal Chancellor – the judge of the Chancery Court of the County Palatine of Durham (absorbed into the Chancery Division of the Supreme Court 1972).
  10. Advowson – the right of choosing the incumbent of a parish.
  11. Provost of King’s College, Cambridge – the Head of the College.
  12. “Deprived”, for refusing to submit to the Act of Uniformity of the Second year of Queen Elizabeth I
  13. Lay Dean – According to an Act of Parliament of the reign of Charles II, a dean must be in priests orders, but previously laymen might hold the office by special licence from the Crown. There were two lay Deans of Durham, Thomas Wilson, 1580-81 and Adam Newton, 1600-20.

Sherburn House Station lay a quarter of a mile north-west of the Hospital, on part of what was originally the Durham and Sunderland Railways. The line ran from Sunderland via Ryhope, Seaton, Murton (junction for Stockton, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough), Hetton, Pittington and Sherburn House to Shincliffe. The Shincliffe station, opposite the Railway Tavern, was opened in 1837, and until 1844 provided the only means of getting from Durham to Sunderland by rail. In 1887 there were six trains each way passing through Sherburn House, on weekdays only. In 1893 Shincliffe Station was closed to passenger traffic and trains through Sherburn House ran to the new station known as Durham Elvet, which was situated at the eastern end of Old Elvet, on the site of the present Magistrates’ Courts. In 1914 there were nine west-bound and eight east-hound trains through Sherburn House, with an additional east­bound train on Saturday afternoons. Durham Elvet Station was closed to passenger traffic in 1931, except on Miners’ Gala day, when it continued in use until 1953. Sherburn House Station closed at the same time and is now represented by the house named “Five Acres”. A branch line ran from Sherburn House to Whitwell Colliery from the opening of the latter until its closure in 1884.

(by Mr. Robert S. Boumphrey)

In the Chapel:

In the porch there is a memorial inscription to George Stanley Faber, S.T.B.,* (Master 1832 – 54) died 1854, aged 81 and his wife Eliza Sophia, died 1857, aged 77. She was the younger daughter of Major John Scott-Waring of Woodcote, Salop, M.P. for Stockbridge, Arms – On a rose gules on a chief azure two mullets argent (Faber), impaling gules on a fess engrailed or between three stags’ heads cabossed argent as many clarions sable (Waring): 2 and 3, or three catherine wheels sable (Scott).

The heraldry described by Surtees (History of Durham, Vol I) as being displayed in the chapel windows has all disappeared, probably in the fire of 1866.

On the porch of the Master’s House:

On a stone shield, the arms of the See of Durham impaling those of Bishop Van Mildert, during whose episcopate the house was rebuilt.

On a stone shield the arms of Faber as above. Crest:- out of a ducal coronet or a cubit arm erect vested gules holding in the hand a rose slipped proper.

The Dispensary: On the east wall a stone shield: The See of Durham impaling barry of six or gules on a bend sable three escalops argent (Lightfoot)

The Dispensary was built in 1883, during the episcopate of Bishop Lightfoot.

Stained Glass Windows:­ Front (1) The See of Durham (2) Bishop Lightfoot (3) Per pale gules and azure an eagle with two heads displayed argent within a bordure compony counter-compony argent and azure (The Rev. Henry Arthur Mitton, Master 1874-1914). Back:- (1) The See of’ Durham impaling Bishop Lightfoot. (2) Mitton.

Footnote *Sacrac Theologiae Baccalaureus now more usually B.D. Bachelor of Divinity.

Entering by the main gate, we see on the right the building erected in 1832 as a residence for the Master. It is now divided to provide smaller and more convenient accommodation for him, together with four flats occupied by retired clergy. At one time the Brethren lived with the Master, in a medieval building on the same site: no trace of it remains, though pictures and descriptions show it as having towers, parapets and buttresses. In the middle of the eighteenth century quarters for the Brethren were built on the opposite side of the quadrangle, and were later modified to provide two rooms for each Brother, with an adjacent communal dining hall. This row of buildings has now been named “Thornley House”, to perpetuate the long connection of the Manor of Thornley with the Hospital; it houses both men and women. Behind it is the former laundry building, now converted into self-catering flats, and named Ferens House in memory of Dr. H. Cecil Ferens, for many years Chairman of the Governors.

Facing the entrance is the large nineteenth-century building, originally the medical and surgical unit, now housing elderly men and women. Each has a bed­sitting room and the use of common rooms.

Although according to the current Charity Commission Scheme, there are In-Brethren, In-Sisters and Inmates, the present tendency is to refer to them all as “Residents”.

The Present Governors are:­

Mr. W. K. Wills – Co-optative Governor, The Archdeacon of Durham – Ex Officio, Mr. W. B. Allan – Co-optative Governor, Dr. R. M. Tyndall – Bishop’s Nominee, The Dean of Durham – Ex Officio, Councillor R. B. Carr – Durham District Council, Councillor J. E. Wright – Durham District Council, Mrs. J. Davies – Newcastle City Council, Councillor M. Corrigan – Durham County Council, Councillor R. N. Morrissey – Durham County Council, Councillor Mrs. C. Buckingham – Sunderland Borough Council, Dame Enid Russell-Smith – University of Durham, His Honour Judge A. Sharp – Circuit Judge, Mr. A. Gordon – Co-optative Governor and Mrs. L. Chapman – Co-optative Governor.

Some extracts from the Minutes of the House Committee 1919-40 (the only ones which survive).

1921 Bro. Ditchburn guilty of insobriety – the Master to remonstrate with him. Later – again guilty of insobriety – his stipend to be withdrawn for one week.

1923 Pensioner Parker intemperate – removed.

1920 Manufacture of gas discontinued. Poultry Farm – £100 to he spent on hen houses etc. and suitable person to he engaged.

1923 A reference to piggeries and the extension of the poultry farm.

1925 The Hospital recognised as a training school. Tonsil and Adenoid cases to he undertaken for Durham County Council “by contract”.

Extract from Burial Register:

“20/9/1799 Michael Jurdison, aged 89. This death seemed to be hastened by intemperance”.

Thirty In-Brethren died between 1794 and 1812. Their average age at death, as recorded in the Register, was 83.4 years, the greatest being 95.


Sherburn Hospital was founded in or about 1181 by Bishop Pudsey, who dedicated it to Christ, the Blessed Virgin, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. (fn. 1) It was built for the reception and entertainment of sixty-five poor lepers, men and women, with a master and three priests. Of these priests two were to officiate at the altar of St. Mary Magdalen, and the third to sing mass in the chapel of St. Nicholas, which adjoined the building occupied by the sisters on the south side.

The original endowment comprised the vill, mill, and pasture of Sherburn; Ebchester, ‘the place of anchorets upon the Derwent,’ for feeding animals for the use of sick brethren, and 1 carucate of land there for their shepherds; 9 oxgangs in Witton; the vill of Garmondsway; 1 carucate called Raceby; a carucate and an oxgang in Sheraton; and the churches of Kelloe, Grindon, Sockburn, Ebchester, and Bishopton. (fn. 2) Subsequent grants included lands in South Sherburn, (fn. 3) a messuage in Ebchester, (fn. 4) free warren in Sherburn, Whitwell, Garmondsway, and Ebchester, (fn. 5) and other small holdings.

Little is known of the hospital during the thirteenth century. About the middle of that period died Martin of St. Cross, master of Sherburn, a wealthy and important personage. In his will he provided for his burial at Sherburn, should his death take place there; and in that case he bequeathed some vestments to the hospital. He also left to it some books, including his Argenteus Textus (i.e. probably a copy of the New Testament written in silver characters), and a pittance of 10s. each to the inmates of any religious house where he might die. (fn. 6) Presumably his death occurred at Sherburn, as the brethren and sisters received an annual pittance on Holy Cross Day in memory of him, though the amount was reduced by Bishop Kellaw to 5s. 5d. Bishop Kellaw (c. 1316) confirmed and enlarged the original constitutions of Bishop Pudsey. He built a new chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, on the north of the old chapel, and added a fourth priest, who sang mass daily, somewhat later than the usual service, for those brethren who were too infirm to rise and hear mattins.

On Sundays and festivals high mass was celebrated in the principal chapel for the lepers of both sexes, who entered at their respective sides of the chapel in procession, preceded by their prior and prioress, and after service departed again within the veil of separation. (fn. 7)

The lepers were liberally supplied with food, clothing, and firing; but, considering that the inmates were all more or less afflicted, the discipline of the house was somewhat severe. In case of disobedience the prior was to chastise the offender with a rod; should that prove ineffectual, he was to be kept on bread and water; and if still contumacious to be expelled from the community. (fn. 8) During Advent and Lent all the brethren were required to receive corporal discipline in the chapel three days in the week; and the sisters in like manner in the presence of their prioress donec omnes vapulent. (fn. 9) A place in the hospital was nevertheless regarded as a thing to be coveted; Edward II asked the bishop as a favour to admit Joan widow of John Chamber, by way of showing his gratitude for the good service of her late husband against the Scots. (fn. 10)

In 1378 Bishop Hatfield issued a commission to the priors of Durham and Finchale to visit the hospital, (fn. 11) but no returns of this visitation exist. Apparently at this time the house was falling into decay, for in September, 1429, when Bishop Langley’s chancellor visited it, it was in such a destitute and miserable condition that the bishop applied to Pope Eugene IV for help. (fn. 12)

The pope readily granted him a faculty to make new rules and ordinances, which he accordingly issued on 22 July, 1434. He appointed a priest as master, to have under him four chaplains, four clerks or singing-men, and two boychoristers. Two lepers, if so many could be found, were to be maintained apart by themselves, and thirteen poor men were to be fed and clothed, to mess and lodge in the same house, and to attend mass daily. On the death of any brother the master was to choose a successor within fifteen days or forfeit a mark to the fabric of Durham Cathedral. A sober woman-servant was to attend on the brethren at the master’s expense to wash their linen and do other offices. The master was made responsible for the goods and buildings of the hospital, and was bound by an oath to perform all his duties. (fn. 13)

In 1501 Mr. Dykar was appointed master (fn. 14) on the resignation of Alexander Lee, who, owing to paralysis and other troubles, had for some months been so infirm as to require the services of a coadjutor. (fn. 15) Mr. Dykar was a most unscrupulous person. He expelled from the hospital all the poor inmates for whose benefit it primarily existed, and in their place added to the staff two priests, two deacons, and four boychoristers. The change considerably increased the master’s income, which was still further augmented by the reduction of the clerical staff in the course of the reign of Henry VIII to two priests, two deacons, and two children. (fn. 16)

In the Valor of 1535 the annual value of Sherburn Hospital is given as £142 0s. 4d. (fn. 17) As a secular foundation it was not dissolved with the religious houses, but continued to exist in a more or less impoverished and disorganized state, the subject of many broils, till in 1585 it was incorporated anew under the name of Christ’s Hospital, Sherburn. The number of brethren was raised to thirty, under a master who was to be a preacher holding no other cure; and the bishop was empowered to make rules for its good government. (fn. 18) The well-known Valentine Dale was the first master under the new régime. (fn. 19) From time to time the bishops of Durham have issued fresh ordinances for the house; those made by Bishop Butler in 1735 (fn. 20) holding good till the hospital was reconstituted by the Charity Commissioners in 1857. (fn. 21)

Masters of Sherburn Hospital

Arnold of Auckland, occ. 1184 (fn. 22)
Ralph the Monk (fn. 23)
Warren of Godet (fn. 24)
Martin of St. Cross, app. 1245, (fn. 25) occ. 1259 (fn. 26)
Roger of Seyton, occ. c. 1269 (fn. 27)
William of the Island, occ. 1302 (fn. 28)
Lambert of Trikingham, occ. 1313 (fn. 29)
Thomas of Haswell, occ. before 1330 (fn. 30)
Thomas de Nevill, presented 1340 (fn. 31)
John of Westwitton, occ. 1343 (fn. 32)
Alan of Shuttlington, coll. 15 August, 1362 (fn. 33)
Thomas of Bernolby, coll. 1367 (fn. 34)
John of Waltham, occ. 8 May, 1384, (fn. 35) res. 1388 (fn. 36)
Thomas Haxeye, app. by the king, 13 September, 1388 (fn. 37)
Henry Godebarne, estate ratified, 28 September, 1389 (fn. 38)
John Stacy, app. by king, 26 September, 1390 (fn. 39)
John Burgess, app. by king, 17 August, 1391 (fn. 40)
John Wendelyngburgh, died before 22 September, 1395 (fn. 41)
Nicholas Slake, app. 22 September, 1395, p.m. John Wendelyngburgh (fn. 42)
Alan of Newark, occ. 3 January, 1403-4, (fn. 43) res. 1409, (fn. 44) died 1411 (fn. 45)
John Newton, inducted 14 June, 1411, (fn. 46) occ. January, 1415-6 (fn. 47)
Nicholas Dixon, coll. 28 November, 1427, p.m. J. Newton (fn. 48)
John Marshall, coll. July, 1433, p.r. N. Dixon (fn. 49)
Alexander Lee, coll. c. 1490 (fn. 50)
Robert Dykar, coll. 1501, p.r. A. Lee (fn. 51)
Roderick Gundisalve, app. 11 May, 1507 (fn. 52)
Geoffrey Wren, occ. 1524, d. 4 April, 1527 (fn. 53)
Edward Fox, app. 1527 (fn. 54)
Sir Thomas Leigh, kt., coll. 14 September, 1535, d. 1545 (fn. 55)
Anthony Bellasis, app. 1545, d. 1552 (fn. 56)
Sir Richard Read, kt. occ. 1552 (fn. 57)
Anthony Salvin, app. 13 August, 1552, (fn. 58) deprived for Romanism 1559 (fn. 59)
Ralph Skinner, occ. 1559 (fn. 60)
Thomas Lever, app. 28 January, 1562-3 (fn. 61)
Ralph Lever, coll. 16 July, 1577, p.m. T. Lever (fn. 62)
Valentine Dale, pres. 17 April, 1585 (fn. 63)
Robert Bellamy, occ. 1589 (fn. 64)
Thomas Murray, app. 1608 (fn. 65)
William Shawe, coll. 11 July, 1623 (fn. 66)
David Miles, ‘curate in Sherburn Hospital,’ occ. 1626 (fn. 67)
John Machon, occ. 24 September, 1636, ejected 1642 (fn. 68)

John Fenwick, sen. occ. 1643
John Fenwick, jun. occ. 1654usurpers (fn. 69)

John Machon, restored 12 March, 1660-1 (fn. 70)
John Montague, occ. 1680 (fn. 71)
Thomas Rundle, D.D., occ. 1727 (fn. 72)
Wadham Chandler, occ. 1 August, 1735 (fn. 73)
Robert Stillingfleet, occ. June, 1738 (fn. 74)
David Gregory, D.D., occ. 15 September, 1759 (fn. 75) ; d. 1767. (fn. 76)
Mark Hildesley, D.D., occ. 21 September, 1767 (fn. 77)
Thomas Dampier, D.D., occ. 1773, res. 1774 (fn. 78)
Thomas Dampier, D.D., coll. June, 1774 (fn. 79)
Andrew Bell, D.D., occ. 1809 (fn. 80)
George S. Faber, app. 1832, d. 1854 (fn. 81)
Edward Prest, app. 1857
James Carr, app. 1861
Henry A. Mitton, app. 1874, pres. master

The seal of Sherburn House bears a full-length figure of our Lord, clad in a long robe, holding in His left hand a crown, and in His right a scroll with the words ‘Dato et retribuam.’ In the distance a lame man is represented, approaching the door of the hospital. Legend—



  1. After the Reformation it was always called ‘Christ’s Hospital, Sherburn,’ or simply ‘Sherburn House.’ In Reg. Palat. Dun. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 1224, Pat. 10 Edw. II, pt. 1, and elsewhere, it is spoken of as the ‘Hospital of S. Mary Magdalene of Sherburn’; the mistake may have arisen from a confusion between Mary Magdalen and Mary of Bethany, or from the fact that there was an altar of St. Mary Magdalen in the hospital.
  2. Allan, Collections relating to Sherburn.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Reg. Palat. Dun. ii, 1289.
  5. Allan, Coll.
  6. Wills and Invent. (Surt. Soc.), i, 8.
  7. Surt. Hist. Dur. i (2), 128.
  8. Reg. ii, Eccles. Dun. fol. 324.
  9. Surt. Hist. Dur. i (2), 128.
  10. Close, 12 Edw. II, m. 27 d.
  11. Dur. Epis. Reg. Hatfield, fol. 140 d.
  12. Allan, Coll.
  13. Dur. Epis. Reg. Langley, fol. 244.
  14. Ibid. Fox, fol. 46.
  15. Ibid. fol. 39d.
  16. Allan, Coll.
  17. In the list of hospitals in Bishop Tunstall’s Epis. Reg. 1530, the value is given as £100.
  18. Surt. Hist. Dur. i (2), 132.
  19. Dur. Epis. Reg. Barnes, fol. 19.
  20. Printed in extenso, Surt. Hist. Dur. i (2), 135.
  21. Account of Christ’s Hospital, Sherburn, by H. A. Mitton, M.A., p. 11.
  22. Allan, Coll.
  23. G. S. Faber, Master of Sherburn, 1850. MS. note in the margin of Mr. Longstaffe’s copy of Surtees’ Hist. i (2), 127, &c. Now in the library of the Dean and Chapter of Durham.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Allan, Coll.
  26. Wills and Invent. (Surt. Soc.), i, 6.
  27. Allan, Coll.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Reg. Palat. Dun. ii, 1224.
  30. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. (ed. 1846), vi, 668.
  31. Reg. Palat. Dun. iii, 275.
  32. Dur. Epis. Reg. Bury (in Reg. Hatfield), fol. 5.
  33. Ibid. Hatfield, fol. 129.
  34. Ibid. fol. 142.
  35. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. (ed. 1846), vi, 668.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Pat. 12 Ric. II, pt. 1, m. 21.
  38. Ibid. m. 12.
  39. Ibid. m. 22.
  40. Ibid. m. 24.
  41. Ibid. m. 18.
  42. Ibid.
  43. Wills and Invent. (Surt. Soc.), i, 51n.
  44. Ibid.
  45. Ibid.; Dur. Epis. Reg. Langley, fol. 41.
  46. Dur. Epis. Reg. Langley, fol. 41 d.
  47. Ibid. fol. 79 d.
  48. Ibid. fol. 134.
  49. Ibid. fol. 204 d.
  50. Allan, Coll.
  51. Dur. Epis. Reg. Fox, fol. 48.
  52. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. (ed. 1846), vi, 668.
  53. Ibid.
  54. Allan, Coll.
  55. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. (ed. 1846), vi, 668.
  56. Ibid.
  57. Ibid.
  58. Ibid.
  59. Surt. Hist. Dur. 1 (2), 131.
  60. Allan, Coll.
  61. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. (ed. 1846), vi, 668.
  62. Dur. Epis. Reg. Barnes, fol. 1 d.
  63. Ibid. fol. 19.
  64. Allan, Coll.
  65. S.P. Dom. Addend. Jas. I, xxxix, No. 50.
  66. Dur. Epis. Reg. Neile, fol. 54.
  67. Ibid. fol. 92.
  68. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. (ed. 1846), vi, 668.
  69. Allan, Coll.
  70. Ibid.
  71. Ibid.
  72. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. (ed. 1846), vi, 668.
  73. Ibid.
  74. Ibid.
  75. Ibid.
  76. H. A. Mitton, Account of Christ’s Hospital, p. 10.
  77. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. (ed. 1846), vi, 668.
  78. Ibid.
  79. Ibid.
  80. Ibid.
  81. H. A. Mitton, ut supra, p. 18.
  82. Engraved on title-page of Allan’s Coll.