Procedure: commission
Commission for reformation of the hospitals, maison-dieus, alms houses and bede houses, and reducing them to their first institution

Concerning the supplication presented by our sovereign lord and three estates of this present parliament by the poor people of this his highness's realm, making mention that where his majesty's most noble progenitors of worthy memory, upon a godly zeal, which they and the barons and others of this realm, their good subjects, have borne, to the relief of the aged and decayed honest folks, founded and erected certain hospitals, maison-dieus, alms houses and bede houses, to the glory of almighty God and relief of the poor, and has continually maintained the same until of late days that the present possessors of sundry benefices, under colour of reformation of the religion, have appropriated the whole livings of the said hospitals, maison-dieus, alms houses and bede houses to their own uses and their heirs, or have sold the lands and rents thereof for great sums of money to others in feu ferm, and further have demolished the godly houses that were appointed for receiving and lodging of the poor and applied the same to their own particular uses, minding that never such thing shall be in time coming, to the great offence of almighty God, the defrauding of our sovereign lord and his posterity, kings of this realm, and their subjects, the founders, and to the extreme undoing of great numbers of the poor people to, were and ought to be sustained thereby, if his highness foresees not the same and put not timely remedy thereto, a deed assuredly that in no part of Christendom, yea, not amongst the very Turks, would be suffered; and albeit his majesty, with advice of his estates in parliament, appointed the chancellor and certain others to consider the foundations of the said hospitals, maison-dieus, alms houses and bede houses, and ordained the same by act of parliament to be reformed, according to the godly institutions and erections of them, yet is there nothing done therein, albeit the exceeding number of the poor that daily increases in this land cries to almighty God for reformation thereof, and most humbly seeks the same of our highness, to whom God has only given the power; wherefore our sovereign lord and three estates of this present parliament has given and granted, likewise they, by the tenor hereof, gives and grants power and commission to Colin [Campbell], earl of Argyll, lord Campbell and Lorne, chancellor, William [Ruthven], earl of Gowrie, lord Ruthven, treasurer, John [Maxwell], lord Herries, Robert [Pitcairn], commendator of Dunfermline, Mark [Kerr], commendator of Newbattle, Alexander [Colville], commendator of Culross, Master Robert Crichton of Eliock, his highness's advocate, Alexander Hay [of Easter Kennet], clerk register, and Alexander Clerk [of Balbirnie], provost of Edinburgh, or any three of them jointly, to convene themselves and sit in the tolbooth of Edinburgh whatsoever day or days, as well after noon as before, for taking cognition in the said matter until the said hospitals, maison-dieus, alms houses and bede houses within this realm be brought, restored and reduced in and to the order and estate of their first foundations, according to the mind and intention of their godly founders, so far as may stand agreeable with the laws of this realm and Christian religion presently professed within the same; and to that effect, that our sovereign lord's letters be directed upon the warrants and deliverance of the said commissioners, or any three of them, charging the possessors and keepers of the erections and foundations of the said hospitals, maison-dieus, alms houses and bede houses, or of whatsoever lands, teinds, rents or other possessions given and donated for relief and sustenance of the poor, as well within burgh as without, and of all chaplainries, prebendaries, annualrents, friars' or nuns' lands conveyed to burghs to the effect aforesaid, feuars, renters, tacksmen and intromitters therewith, to produce the said foundations, rights and titles, either feus or tacks whereby they enjoy or pretend right to any part of the living and patrimony of the said hospitals, maison-dieus, alms houses and bede houses, before the said lords commissioners at such days as they please assign, to be seen and considered by them to the effect aforesaid, under the pain of rebellion and putting of them to our sovereign's horn; with certification if they fail, letters will be directed to put them to the horn, or else to reduce for null production; and in case of failure and null production of the said erections and other writs and rights above-written at the days to be appointed thereto, to proceed and direct further charges, and put [out] the disobeyers or to reduce the pretended rights and titles whatsoever as they shall find cause worthy; and also to direct letters to arrest and sequester the mails, ferms, profits and duties of the said lands, teinds and other possessions pertaining to the said hospitals, or anything given and donated for sustenance of the poor, to remain in the hands of the tenants and possessors until the said reformation be made and perfected, then to be given to the poor and helping to re-edify the houses built to that effect by our sovereign's most noble progenitors and their subjects of good zeal, upon caution always to be found by the said tenants and possessors that the said mails, ferms, profits and duties shall be forthcoming to the effects above-written; and also with power to the said judges, the aforesaid erections, infeftments and rights being produced before them, to try the quantity of their rents, order of foundation and estate wherein the rents and houses thereof presently are; and wherein they find the yearly rents of the said hospitals diminished or any part or portion of their livings or buildings appropriated and applied to particular men's uses, contrary to the tenor of their first foundations and godly intention of their founders, by parts, infeftments, tacks or other special rights, to reduce the same as the said commissioners shall find cause worthy, and give out their decreet reductive thereupon, decreeing all the said rights given and set in prejudice of the first foundations as said is null and of no value, force nor effect in all time coming, and to return and be appropriated to the said alms houses, hospitals, maison-dieus and bede houses and sustenance of the poor being therein in all times hereafter, according to the tenor of their erections, likewise and in the same manner as if the said new dispositions of the patrimony thereof had never been made nor granted; which decreets the king's majesty, with advice of the said three estates, declares shall be of as great force and effect, and likewise execution to pass and follow thereon, as if the same had been given and granted before the whole lords of council and session sitting in full number; providing always that all parties' lawful defence be first heard and discussed as the said commissioners will answer to our sovereign lord upon the execution of their offices, giving them power in like manner to create clerks and other officers and members of court requisite, and to receive their oaths to that effect, for whom they shall be held to answer, witnesses to cause be summoned, sworn and examined and to call for the production of any writs, evidences or registers that may further the knowledge of the truth of the said matter; and likewise to direct any one of their number, or more, for visitation of the said hospitals, maison-dieus, alms houses and bede houses, if the same is found requisite by them for their better information, and generally to do and use all other things that to the execution of this present commission is necessarily required. And all the said commissioners, being personally present, accepted the said commission in and upon them, and made faith for due and faithful administration therein.

  1. NAS, PA2/12, ff.71r-72r. Back
  2. APS interpolation. Back