As my doctoral supervisor, Henrietta Leyser impressed upon me how the high middle ages, widely recognized for its emerging institutions, was also very much a peopled age and a society being actively, often consciously, forged by its people.1 Its structures did not simply emerge; they were created, as much by the beliefs or ambition of the creators as by a more pragmatic concern to ‘sort things out’. She met my interest in the constitutional forms of religious houses with her own sense of the distinctiveness of any circumstance and, especially, of the people in the midst of change who were confronted with competing challenges and often answerable to strong convictions. Their labour to find workable solutions shaped and even accidently built the structures that survived them. This awareness has been my key to the early histories of several hospitals whose development in the decades between c. 1220 and c. 1240 has been particularly opaque. The hospitals at North Creake, Lechlade, Brackley and Kersey have two long-recognized features in common: on the one hand, they were foundations by laity that developed an unusually strong liturgical element, in some cases transforming into Augustinian priories; on the other, their twisting constitutional development in these years has been seen as migratory, even rudderless. Yet both these features were due to a third, unrecognized factor:

1 I grateful to the British Academy for funding the archival work upon which this study is based and, for consultation of their archives, to the Master, Fellows and Scholars of Christ’s College, Cambridge; the President and Fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford; the Provost and Fellows of King’s College, Cambridge; and the Warden and Fellows of New

they were founded or reconstituted in these decades by heiresses in the lower aristocracy or barony.