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Hospitals

A medieval hospital is a group of buildings which housed a religious or secular institution that provided spiritual and (limited) medical care. Later foundations were almshouses which existed to provide shelter for the poor; some may have served a corrective function.

 

Their main components generally include an infirmary hall or group of cells, chapel(s), cemetery, domestic ranges (dormitory and refectory), kitchen, garderobe block(s), and well or stream. The components were sometimes arranged around a cloister or within a quadrangle, set within a walled close or enclosure.

 

Chantry Chapel, BuckinghamHospitals were founded by royal, ecclesiastical or secular individuals, or corporations (monastic and military orders, burgesses, guilds, fraternities), for the general poor or specific groups (for example, Jewish converts; poor mariners; blind priests). In addition to providing relief for afflicted groups, hospitals often had an intercessory role. They functioned as chantries, providing prayer for the souls of founders, benefactors and their families.

 

Many hospitals were rebuilt in the 16th century as almshouses. Probably about half of the medieval hospitals were suppressed by 1539, as part of the Dissolution of the monasteries. The smaller institutions survived until 1547, when Edward VI dissolved all chantries. Many of these, however, continued as almshouses under private, ecclesiastical or municipal control, occasionally up to the present day.

 

The Old Chantry Chapel in Buckingham was used as a hospital for part of its medieval history. The Lee family built a hospital at the great house at Quarrendon, though nothing can now be seen above the surface.