I tweeted last week to you about how the Great Warwick Fire of 1694 devastated this medieval town. There were a few buildings that survived. Perhaps the most famous is Lord Leycester Hospital next to the Westgate (which also survived.) The hospital is a retirement home for wounded veterans and their wives, but that is not how it started. It started because of Westgate.
|Lord Leycester Hospital with Westgate and St. James Chapel on far left|
St. James Chapel on top
In 15394 Thomas Oakum, the Master of the hall, got wind of Henry VIII starting a state church, so he handed the guildhall over to the city, making it municipal and not church property, thus saving it from the clutches of the greedy king. For the next 30 years, the city used the Guildhall for meetings and a court of law.
Enter Lord Leycester, better known as Robert Dudley, First Earl of Leycester. He had a problem...well, actually he had a lot of problems, but this particular problem was he needed a building to create a “hospital” or refuge for wounded veterans. Queen Elizabeth had charged all her nobles to do more to help those injured in the “service of the Queen.”
|Robert Dudley, First Earl of Leycester|
Anyway, Lord Leycester acquired the Guildhall in 1571 and set about creating 12 apartments for aged or wounded soldiers and their wives. Dudley presented it to Her Majesty. Queen Elizabeth was pleased and gave the hospital her royal charter. I'm not sure if poor Dudley even got a peck on the cheek.
They kept the dining hall which came in handy when King James I came to visit Warwick. His Majesty had a wonderful time, but the feast put the city in debt for the next ten years.
Lord Leycester Hospital is still a retirement home for veterans in 1881. I understand that tradition will continue for a couple of more centuries. The city is very proud of this survivor from the middle ages, and it is well maintained. They also don’t mind a tourist looking about if they are polite.
The building looks long and skinny from the front. However, in typical Tudor design, there is a gate in front which leads to an inner courtyard. No attempts have been made to modernize the appearance. I can see why film crews in the following centuries liked using this as a set for their productions.
|Lord Leycester Hospital courtyard|