Monday 25 April 2016

The Hospital Of St Cross

The Hospital of St Cross in Winchester are the oldest and largest almshouses in the country. Founded in 1133 by Henry de Blois [younger brother of King Stephen], Bishop of Winchester, it now provides accommodation for 25 elderly gentlemen. Those who wear the black coats belong to the Foundation of the Hospital of St Cross [est 1132] and the red coats are from the Order of Noble Poverty [est 1445]

The site is open to the public [entry fee applies] where you can view the gardens, ancient kitchen and brethren hall. Predictably it was the church which particularly interested to me.

Architecturally it falls into the transition category- in effect this means it still has many of the traditional Norman features like chevron and zigzagging details together with repeating animal/bird motifs [in the photo shown it's a bird beak design] but the pointed arches of the Gothic period appear in the aisle.

There were moments of sheer madness....feline type carvings gurning down on you, peculiar dolphin type figures on the bench ends, an incredible Victorian painted ceiling surrounded by 16 figures who could give the current World Beard Champion a run for his money and then the moving simplicity of the plain wooden cross removed from the WWI battlefield which affected me quite deeply.

But allow me to finish on a note of lightness....a pretty standard not exceptionally noteworthy Victorian lectern except the bonkers touch of giving it a parrot's head. I have heard people laughingly say that some of the peculiar early carvings in churches may have in part been down to the hallucinogenic effects of Henbane beer....perhaps this one is down to a touch too much Datura pollen taken in their tea!


  1. Reminds me of the College at Froxfield, which is the same sort of place but for ladies. My mother was the deputy warden there for some years, then eventually becoming a resident. A haven of peace and tranquility - and some good gossip too!


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