The Hospital of St. Cross is a medieval almshouse located in Winchester, approximately a mile away from the city center and Winchester Cathedral.
Winchester itself is easily reached from the M3, and a 1 hour 15 train ride from London Waterloo.
Founded in the 12th century, it is the oldest and the largest medieval almshouse in Britain.
It is a surprise and truly one of those places that completely exceed your expectations. Please check the website for visiting times.
The land that the Hospital of St. Cross stands already had a religious background
when Henry of Blois founded the hospital between 1132 and 1136.
This makes it one of England’s oldest charities.
Henry of Blois was one of William the Conqueror’s grandsons, and in 1129 he was created Bishop of Winchester.
The Hospital was created to support 13 men who were too ill to work, and also to feed the local poor. Up to 100 men would show up to the gates every day to receive food.
The 13 men became the Brothers of St. Cross, and the Hospital remained a secular foundation rather than a monastery.
In medieval times, it had plenty of land to cultivate and farm, including a mill to support its need to feed many people.
Cardinal Henry Beaufort, a son of John of Gaunt become Bishop of Winchester in 1404 and later founded the Order of Noble Poverty at St. Cross.
He is responsible for adding the Almshouses to the complex.
The hospital was also a stop for pilgrims on their way to Canterbury, and they could take advantage of the ‘Wayfarer’s Dole’
The Wayfarers Dole was a gift of bread and ale to travelers and you can still request it at the Porters Gate! – Wish I had known this at the time 🙂
Today, there are 25 brothers living in the Hospital.
The buildings in the complex date from the 12th century, and include a 16th Century gatehouse and guest wing, kitchen and brewhouse, plus the Cardinal Beaufort tower, which dates to 1450.
On the north side of the Inner Quad is the 14th-century hall, where the brothers and poor men used to dine. It has a wonderful timber roof and looks very much like how I imagine it did 600 years ago