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Birthday Bash Part Two: Thomas Becket, Eastbridge Hospital, and Pilgrimage
Part Two of my belated birthday bash as promised.
As you may or may not be aware, in addition to my love of writing, reading, archaeology, astronomy, and the sciences, I have a passion for history which I share with my siblings, and one in particular, my youngest brother.
My youngest brother and his partner spoiled me rotten during a fantastic weekend spent with them celebrating my belated birthday.
Part One of my birthday bash found me having a look around Canterbury Cathedral with a special treat;
seeing the tomb of a family ancestor, William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury (1503-1532).
I wrote about our visit to Canterbury Cathedral last time, and I posted photos I took.
We had a fab time wandering around Canterbury, especially the pubs which my brother made a point of taking me in to.
Those buildings with history and character attached to them, not just because we fancied a drink;
though we tasted the local ciders too; yummy!
He is a font of knowledge when it comes to places of historical interest. He can tell you where famous people lived or worked, which pubs or restaurants they visited, where they wrote their books or painted, or made a discovery.
Going anywhere with him is especially fun. He always manages to find places off the beaten track few know about –
He’s always informative and makes every trip out so very interesting.
As you know we visited the spot where St. Thomas Becket was murdered on 29th December 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral. Almost immediately his tomb and the scene of his death became a focus of pilgrimage, and the city therefore found it had to provide accommodation for the large numbers of visitors drawn there.
Eastbridge Hospital was founded to meet those needs.
We were luck in having the whole place to ourselves as we wandered around. It was difficult to take photos – they asked that flash was not used which made taking any photos difficult in the gloom. But I managed a few which I hope you enjoy.
Although there isn’t any firm evidence for the founding date of the hospital, it is most likely, according to records, to have been in existence since about 1176. Ralph, nephew of Becket, was probably the first Master.
From gifts of lands and money, the Hospital soon became rich, but then it fell out of use after about 150 years.
It was refounded in 1342 by Archbishop Stratford, and was at its peak in the 1380s when Chaucer was writing his Cantebury Tales.
In the Reformation following the rift between Henry V111 and the Church of Rome, monasteries and places of pilgrimage came under government control, and many were sold off to the rich.
In 1538, the shrine to St. Thomas was destroyed and the Hospital went into decline,
but in 1584 Archbishop Whitgift made reforms which were protected by Act of Parliament.
The Hospital began to provide accommodation for ten poor people of Canterbury and pay a dole to ten more.
Shelter and care for wounded soldiers passing through Canterbury also had to be provided, and the school for twenty boys, which had been founded in 1569, was maintained, and stayed open until 1880.
The Undercroft was the Pilgrims’ sleeping area and the dividing walls form the cubicles in which they slept, possibly in pairs.
In 1332 Archbishop Stratford restated the aims of the Hospital as being ‘for the maintenance of poor pilgrims and other infirm persons resorting thither to remain until they are healed of their infirmities; for the poor, for persons going to Rome, for others coming to Canterbury and needing shelter, and for the lying-in of women.’
Today Eastbridge as an Almshouse continues to give a home and support to a group of people of varying needs.
We spent a lovely day in Canterbury even though the weather was cold and there was a slight drizzle.
Do visit The Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr in Eastgbridge (Canterbury) if you ever get chance. It is well worth it.
The next part of my birthday gift was to follow the next day, Sunday.
This was a secret which was kept right up until the moment I took my seat somewhere special.
In my next blog I will reveal where they took me.
I would never had guessed in a million years where I was going.
I look forward to sharing it with you soon. Thanks for being here. Have a fab week.
As always all photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2015
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