The Great Hospital at Bishopgate

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Text © Copyright Evelyn Simak, January 2020
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.



The Cloister

The Great Hospital's cloister is said to be one of smallest of its kind in England. Cloisters are covered walks running along the walls of buildings and forming a quadrangle or garth. The attachment of a cloister to a cathedral or church usually indicates that it is (or used to be) part of a monastic foundation. The cloister, which is a scheduled ancient monument, adjoins St Helen's church in the north (instead of the more usual south side), the refectory in the west and the former master's dormitory in the south and the remaining west wall of the former Chapter House in the east. Built of flint and brick rubble with ashlar dressings, it has a lead roof on an arcade of four three-light flat-headed windows on each side, linked by a continuous hood mould, a spine beam and principal rafters.

The small quadrangle at the centre originally served as a burial ground. It was John Selot, the Master of the Great Hospital from 1455 until 1479, who built the cloister, helped by the then Bishop of Norwich, Walter Lyhart (1446-1472) who was also involved in building the rib vault of Norwich's cathedral after the fire of 1463 had destroyed the earlier wooden roof.

TG2309 : The great Hospital - The Cloister by Evelyn Simak - TG2309 : The Great Hospital - The Cloister by Evelyn Simak -  Gt Hospital Cloister

The Master's House

The Master's lodgings date from the 17th century and later and probably have an earlier core. The Grade I listed building is constructed from flint rubble with brick dressings on the ground floor and rough-cast above, with a plain tile roof and two brick-built end chimneys. A two-span range links to the cross-wing of the refectory. For a list of Masters of the Great Hospital see LinkExternal link The Master's as well as the Chaplain's house fell vacant in the 1950s and were converted to flats.

TG2309 : The Great Hospital - chaplain's dormitory by Evelyn Simak - TG2309 : The Great Hospital, Norwich - the Master's House by Evelyn Simak - TG2309 : The Great Hospital - the Master's House by Evelyn Simak --  Gt Hospital Master's House

The Refectory

In the hospital foundation statutes, Bishop Walter Suffield stipulated that the master, priests and brethren shall eat in common in the same house of the same food and drink. The refectory is situated immediately adjacent to St Helen's church in the south, the cloister in the east and the Master's house in the north. A cross passage, accessed through a large projecting brick-built porch dating from the 16th century, links it with the Master's accommodation. Dating from the 15th century and later, the Grade I listed building is built of flint with brick dressings, and has a pantile roof with a red brick end chimney. There are three two-light windows with transome and Y-tracery. The internal roof is supported by beams decorated with dragons carved into the spandrels, similar in style to the lst remaining carved dragon at Dragon Hall > Link.

----- TG2309 : Cannon on display in the Great Hospital's Refectory by Evelyn Simak -----  Gt Hospital Refectory

TG2309 : The Great Hospital - The Refectory (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : The Great Hospital - The Refectory (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : The Great Hospital - The Refectory ( interior detail) by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : The Great Hospital - The Refectory (detail) by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : The Great Hospital - The Refectory (detail) by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : The Great Hospital - The Refectory (fireplace) by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : Goose quarterer on display in the Great Hospital's Refectory by Evelyn Simak

The Chaplain's House

A Grade I listed range of two houses, marked as The Vicarage on older maps and situated at the northern edge of St Helen's Square, this range dates from the 15th century, with later additions and some remodelling. Constructed of flint with brick dressings, the two-storey houses have rendered gabled dormers, a pantile roof and three 19th century brick-built ridge chimneys. The adjacent carriage passage has one first-floor casement and 15th/16th century brick dressings at the rear, and a steel bressummer (a beam employed like a lintel to support the front of a building) at front (south). The houses have since been converted into ten flats, with a two-storey red brick extension added to the rear in the 20th century. A dwelling called The Lodgings adjoins in the north.

TG2309 : The Great Hospital - carriage passage by Evelyn Simak - TG2309 : The Great Hospital - carriage passage by Evelyn Simak - TG2309 : The Great Hospital, Norwich by Evelyn Simak -  Gt Hospital Chaplains House

Carriage passage ---------- and the Chaplain's House as seen from St Helen's Square

Birkbeck Hall

The Grade 2 listed hall was designed by the Norwich architect Edward Boardman and dates from 1901. Built of flint and red brick it has red brick dressings and stone details, stepped brick gables and a pantile roof with two brick end chimneys. The hall is architecturally typical of the Victorian/ Edwardian revival. It is constructed of open timber truss which is representative of Gothic English architecture and has a decorative hammerbeam roof. An inglenook fireplace is situated at the north end of the hall and there is a smaller fireplace at the southern end. Some medieval masonry is contained in the buttresses on the east side. Its five bays are defined by the buttresses, with the south bay adjoining the carriage passage of the Chaplain's House. A small wooden Tudor-style arch in said passage bears the date 1901 and the initials 'HB' in its decorated spandrels. The initials stand for Henry Birkbeck, a Norwich banker, who from 1874 until his death in 1895 had been chairman of the trustees. After his death it was decided to commemorate his services to the hospital by building a hall for its communal activities. An older building housing the kitchen and brewhouse previously situated here had fallen into disuse and was subsequently demolished. Birkbeck Hall was funded by public subscription. The Birkbecks were partners in several Gurney banks. Originating from Yorkshire, the wool merchant Henry Birkbeck (1787-1848) had founded the Craven Bank, which in 1968 joined the Barclays family by way of Martins Bank. The Birkbecks had moved to Norfolk in 1851 and built Stoke Hall, which became their family home.

TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Birkbeck Hall (entrance detail) by Evelyn Simak - TG2309 : The Great Hospital - the west elevation of Birkbeck Hall by Evelyn Simak -  Gt Hospital Birkbeck Hall

TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Birkbeck Hall (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Birkbeck Hall (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Birkbeck Hall (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Birkbeck Hall (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Birkbeck Hall (tapestry) by Evelyn Simak

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