Thursday, January 03, 2013

Browne's Hospital, Stamford

click photo to enlarge
The first hospitals in England were built and run by monks and priests and were more like dwellings erected and reserved for the poor - almshouses - than the places of healing that we think of today. St Cross in Winchester, Hampshire, founded c.1136, is a good example of this type.What Nikolaus Pevsner describes as "one of the best medieval hospitals in England" can be found in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Browne's Hospital was founded and built in 1475-6 by the wealthy wool merchant, William Browne (d.1489) to provide accommodation for ten poor men and two poor women. It consisted of four ranges erected around a courtyard. The hospital (also sometimes known as the Bedehouse) was managed by a warden and confrater*, both of whom were secular (i.e. not monastic) priests. Remarkably, the building continues to be the home of 12 residents, though now there are more women than men, and it is managed not by priests but by a board of governors and the trustees of a charity associated with the foundation.

Today the south range and part of the west cloister range remain from the medieval building. In 1870 the architect, James Fowler, restored the original work and built new and larger ranges to replace those on the north and east sides that were lost. These are very picturesque and include a south-west turret. The original porch was rebuilt in 1808 (see photograph) in a slightly different position to allow a passage to connect the outside with the cloister. The south range is built on a terrace above the street (and market) and contains a full height chapel, audit room, anteroom, conftraters' room and a dormitory. This old part of the building is noted for its stained glass, chapel stalls, misericords, almsbox etc. The stained glass in the entrance passage window (main photograph) is restored from small fragments and complete shields, the latter displaying the arms of the Browne family.

My photographs are drawn from a collection taken on several of my visits to Stamford. The south range is quite a difficult subject to present well because of the way it is above and parallel to the street. For different reasons the quadrangle is also a tricky photographic subject, especially in winter. Here it is the deep shadows that present the challenge. However, the building has several fine details - including the porch and windows - that lend themselves rather better to photography. For more of my photographs of almshouses see this overshadowed example in Bermondsey, London and this miniature, but magnificent, example in Ribchester, Lancashire.

* "a member of a brotherhood" (OED)

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: N/A