Canterbury Pilgrim's Hospital - High Street, Canterbury, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 16.793 E 001° 04.712
31U E 365989 N 5682702
Quick Description: This old building stands on the south west side of the High Street to the west of Canterbury Cathedral and just a few minutes walk away.
Location: South East England, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 1/29/2014 10:56:14 AM
Waymark Code: WMK1DP
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member MrsMcFly
Views: 2

Long Description:

The buildings, today, are known as Eastbridge Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr but the sign over the undercroft entrance tells us:

The Canterbury Pilgrim's Hospital
of Saint Thomas
Archbishop Becket 1118 - 1170
The Pilgrim's Refectory, Chapel
Undercroft Etc
Open to Visitors

The buildings own website tells us:

Welcome to the Eastbridge Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr. It is a hospital in the old sense of the word - a place of hospitality.

Since its foundation in the 12th century the Archbishop of Canterbury has been the patron. In recent years the Master of Eastbridge was also the Parish Priest of the City Centre, this link has now ceased but the Master continues as patron of the local parish of Blean where the hospital still owns a small area of land from its medieval farms.

For 800 years the Eastbridge has given shelter and help to pilgrims, soldiers, local societies and schoolchildren. For over 400 years it has provided a permanent home to a number of elderly people.

The residents are a lively Christian community who worship together in our chapels and share in welcoming visitors. The Eastbridge Hospital cooperates closely with the City Centre Parish, making its buildings available for worship and as a centre for Christian mission to those who live and work in the city.

Through the Hospital's oversight of Franciscan Garden with its Greyfriars Chapel a link is maintained with the Franciscan community which first came to Canterbury in the 13th century.

The website also tells us:

St. Thomas Becket was murdered on December 29, 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral. Almost immediately, pilgrims came to visit his tomb and the city had to provide accommodation for them. In 1190, Edward FitzOdbold founded a hospital on the bridge in the High Street and Becket's nephew Ralph was probably the first Master. The hospital initially prospered but declined after 150 years . It was refounded in 1342 by Archbishop Stratford, and was probably at its peak in the 1380s when Chaucer was writing his Canterbury Tales. In Chaucer's words pilgrims 'from every shire end of England to Canterbury they wend, the holy blissful martyr for to seek'.

At this time, too, the Masters were even responsible for maintaining the East bridge over the River Stour. In the Reformation period, following the rift between Henry VIII and the Church of Rome, monasteries and places of pilgrimage came under government control and many were sold off to the rich. In 1538, the shrine to St Thomas was destroyed and the hospital went into decline, but in 1584 Archbishop Whitgift made reforms which were protected by Act of Parliament. The hospital had thenceforth to provide accommodation for ten poor people of Canterbury and pay dole to ten more. A school for twenty boys had already been founded in 1569, and this stayed open until the 1880s. Today the Almhouses remain and are occupied mostly by older persons who have connections with Canterbury.

The building is Grade I listed with the entry at the English Heritage website telling us:

Founded in 1180 for the needs of poor pilgrims to the shrine of St Thomas Becket. Restored 1927-1832. 12 pilgrims were accommodated here each night and were charged 4d for board and lodgings. In the C14 a chantry chapel was added, and after the Dissolution the building was turned into almshouses. The exterior is built in 2 portions. The left side is 2 storeys high faced with knapped flint and having stone quoins. Tiled roof with crenellated parapet. 3 early Perpendicular windows with reticulated tracery set in stone surrounds. 4 arched C14 door set in an earlier round-arched C12 door. The right hand side is a timber-framed building but with an early C19 facade to the High Street. 3 storeys red brick with crenellated parapet. 4 lancet windows, some double, some triple with diamond panes. Brick plinth. The rear elevation of this part is C17 and tile humg. 2 to 3 storeys with a slate roof in hips and restored sash windows. The hall and undercoft date from about 1180. The undercroft was originally the dormitory and is groin-vaulted It is 5 by 2 bays on short round piers with round ball caps and moulded bases. This is a form which was first introduced in 1179 in William the Englishman's crypt. There is C13 mural on the north wall of a seated figure of Christ in an almond-shaped surround with the symbols of the 4 Evangelists. The south wall has late C16 painted panels with strapwork and shields of arms. The chapel upstairs has a fine crown post roof.

City, Town, Village Name: Canterbury

Building Usage: Former hospital and place of worship.

Public or Private: Private

Tours Available?: yes

Website: [Web Link]

Architectural style: Not listed

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