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CHRIST'S HOSPITAL, NEWGATE STREET. CHRIST'S HOSPITAL was originally a religious house of the Mendicant order of Grey Friars, or Friars Minors ; of whom, five priests and four lay men came from Italy, early in Henry the Third's reign, anno 1224. The priests settled at Canterbury, and founded a monastery there, the first of that order in England; the others, proceeding to London, were, according to Stow, “ for some short while lodged with the Friars' Preachers in Oldborne ;" but shortly afterwards they obtained a mansion in Cornhill, which belonged to John Travers, who was then Sheriff ; " in which house they made themselves celles, and inhabited there for a certain time." But their numbers rapidly increasing, they removed, through the liberality of John Ewin,
a voyd plot of ground, neere to Saint Nicholas' Shambles," (the present site of Christ's Hospital,) “ and erected there very beautiful buildings.” Ewin, besides the purchase of the ground, * builded a great part at his own charge,” and afterwards entered the order as a lay brother. *
From the donations of the rich and powerful, a splendid Church, and other edifices, were progressively annexed to the original foundation, until it became one of the most extensive houses in London. An important addition was also made by the executors of the far-famed Whittington, who, in 1429, founded a Library, which was109 feet in length, and 31 feet in breadth. This was
mercer, to "
Survey," p. 589, edit, 1618.
completed in the following year," and all seeled with wainscot, having twenty-eight deskes, and eight double settles of wainscot." Within three years afterwards, it was furnished with books, at a charge of £556 10s.; of which, the founders" bare foure hundred pounds."*
This Friary was surrendered to Henry the VIIIth, on the 12th of November, 1538; when its annual valuation was stated at £32. 19s. 10d. The Church was, for some years, used as a depository for French prize goods, and all its splendid monuments were, in consequence, either defaced or destroyed. Stow, who has given a long list of the noble persons interred here, concludes his narration with these words:
"All these, and five times so many more, have beene buried there, whose monuments are wholly defaced; for there were nine tombes of alabaster and marble, environed with strikes of iron, in the quire, and one tomb in the body of the Church, also coped with iron, all pulled downe, besides sevenscore gravestones of marble, all sold for fiftie pounds, or thereabouts, by Sir Martin Bowes, goldsmith and alderman of London, of late time buried there."
Among the numerous individuals of rank and affluence who were deposited in the Church of the Grey Friars, were four Queens; namely, Margaret, second consort of Edward I., 1317; Isabel, wife of Edward II.,
* Stow's "Survey," p. 590. "The rest was borne by Doctor Thomas Winchelsey, a friar there; and for the writing out of D. Nicholas de Lira, his Workes, in two volumes, to be chained there, 100 markes," Ibid.
who expiated a maturity of crime by an imprisonment of twenty-eight years, in Rising Castle, 1358; Joan of the Tower, Queen of Scots, her daughter, 1362 ; and Isabel, wife of the Baron William Fitzwarin, and some time Queen of the Isle of Man, Beatrix, Duchess of Bretagne, daughter of Henry III., and many potent noblemen, knights, and esquires, were also buried here, together with several Lord Mayors.
The necessities of the poor, after the dissolution of the Monasteries, (from which for ages they had been accustomed to receive their daily alms-dole,) became more and more calamitous with every passing year, until, at length, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it was found requisite to devise a general plan of relief by instituting the poor laws. Prior, however, to the introduction of that necessary measure, several important establishments had been founded to mitigate the sufferings of the indigent, to instruct the uneducated, and to check profligacy. The credit of those founda- . tions has principally, and deservedly, been given to King Edward the Sixth; yet it should not be forgots ten, that the “stern Harry,” his parent, was the first to begin this benign work of charity, by assigning the Church of the Grey Friars, and the Hospital of Sta Bartholomew, in Smithfield, to the Mayor and Commonalty of London, “ for releeving the poore.” This gift was publicly made known to the citizens, in a sermon preached by Bishop Ridley, at St. Paul's Cross, on January the 3d, 1546-7. Within a twelvemonth afterwards, an agreement was made between the same monarch and the City, by which the Church and
precincts of the Grey Friars; the Hospital, Church, and appurtenances of St. Bartholemew; together with the parishes of St. Nicholas in the Shambles, and St. Ewin in Newgate Market, and so much of St. Sepulchre's parish as was within Newgate, were consolidated into a new parish, to be called Christ Church; that appellation was to be given to the Church of the Grey Friars and Henry endowed it with lands for the maintenance of divine service, reparations, &c. to the amount of 500 marks yearly.*
King Henry died about a fortnight after the signing of that agreement; and it is probable that the confusion of the times, during the early years of his successor, prevented any immediate steps being taken to complete the monarch's intention. But at length the good Bishop Ridley (who had been translated from Rochester to London), in a sermon preached at Westminster before the young King Edward, so forcibly exhorted the rich and powerful to be "mercifull to the poor," and to "travaile by some charitable way and meanes to comfort and relieve them," that the attentive sovereign "did suddenly, and of himselfe, send to the said bishop, willing him not to depart until that he had spoken with him."
- Stow, who gives us this information, from the "very Report of Bishop Ridley, (wherein we may see what
*Stow's "Survey," p. 591. "Moreover, he gave them [the City] the Hospitall of Bethelem, with the Laver of Brasse, in the Cloister, by estimation, eighteene foote in length, and two foote and a halfe in depth." Ibid. p. 592.
fruit followed upon his Sermon,) set downe by Mr. Richard Grafton," continues thus:
"And so soone as the King's Maiesty was at leisure, hee called for him, and caused him to come vnto him in a great gallery at Westminster, where (to his knowledge, and the King likewise told him so,) there was present no more persons than they two; and therefore made him to sit downe in one chaire, and hee himselfe in another, (which, as it seemed, even before the comming of the Bishop, there purposely set,) and caused the Bishop, maugre his teeth, to be covered, and then entred [into] communication with him." *
In the conversation that ensued, the King, with much earnestness, requested information as to the best means by which the duties inculcated in the Bishop's sermon could be performed. Ridley, who had had no idea of the purpose for which he was delayed, was so surprised at the question, and at the King's evident zeal, that "hee could not well tell what to say;" but after a pause, he suggested, that the King should send a letter to the Lord Mayor, "willing him to call vnto him such assistants as he should think meete, to consult of this matter, for some order to be taken therein.”
Edward immediately adopted this advice, and made the Bishop "tarry untill the letter was written, and his hand and signet set thereto." He then commanded him, "not only to deliver the sayd letter himselfe, but also to signifie vnto the Maior, that it was the King's especial request, and expresse commandement, that the
• Stow's "Survey,” p. 593, edit. 1818.