The Great Hospital at Bishopgate

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

Elaine Herbert House

Named after the Hon Elaine Herbert, the wife of the Right Rev Percy Mark Herbert who was Bishop of Norwich, Elaine Herbert House is situated at the south-east corner of the hospital grounds facing the east end of St Helen's church. The building dates from 1972 and replaced the Red Ward and the laundry, both 19th century structures which were demolished. It was designed by Barry Hastings, the hospital's architect, and comprises twenty single flats and an open ward with room for nine patients.

TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Elaine Herbert House by Evelyn Simak -- TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Elaine Herbert House by Evelyn Simak --  Gt Hospital Elaine Herbert House

Prior Court

Prior Court, named after the late Colonel BOL Prior, was officially opened on 24 June 1980 by HRH Princess Alexandra. The building comprises eighteen single and six double flats designed to accommodate people requiring regular support.

TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Prior Court by Evelyn Simak --  Gt Hospital Prior Court

Youngs Green

TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Youngs Green by Evelyn Simak
View towards Youngs Green, a modern complex of sheltered housing comprising cottages and houses constructed during 1999.
by Evelyn Simak

Holme Terrace

TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Holme Terrace by Evelyn Simak
This view was taken through one of the windows in Eagle Ward, looking towards Holme Terrace, which to date is the Great Hospital's most recent development.
by Evelyn Simak

Holme Terrace, which was completed in 2014, provides eighteen flats for the elderly and incorporating natural ventilation and designed to maximise the use of natural light. Each self-contained flat consists of a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and lounge. Accessible accommodation is provided for the less able bodied. Also provided are specialist areas and facilities such as assisted bathrooms and warden call facilities.

 Gt Hospital Holme Terrace - TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Holme Terrace by Evelyn Simak

The Swan Pit

Another rare survival in the hospital grounds is the which (together with the adjoining sluice) is Grade 2 listed and the only structure of its kind to have survived in the UK. The swan pit is a purpose-built structure dating from the 18th century. Prior to that, the hospital's swans were kept in ponds. Two creeks extended into the hospital precinct from the south bank of the River Wensum, at least one known to have been navigable so that small boats were able to travel within yards of the hospital buildings to unload food, fuel and other supplies. One of the creeks also fed fish ponds and both creeks attracted many swans, which in Stuart times continued to be protected. In the Middle Ages, swans were reserved for the table of the king and a handful of privileged nobles and clerics. The hospital had acquired the right to herd swans soon after it was founded, and it had the right to mark its swans with a distinctive sign that was lightly cut into the birds' beaks. Every year in August a so-called swan-upping took place, during which ownership of all of the cygnets was established after which the cygnets were confined and fattened on grain. The hospital swans made highly acceptable gifts later were sold to the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge.

TG2309 : Swan pit sluice - detail by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : The Great Hospital, Norwich - The Swan Pit sluice by Evelyn Simak TG2309 : The Great Hospital - Swan pit sluice by Evelyn Simak

 Gt Hospital goose quarterer --  Gt Hospital swan pit

The swan pit was built in 1793 by William Ivory, a son of Thomas Ivory, who with his family lived in Ivory House (now St Helen's House) and who, like his father, was an architect. The swan pit was in use until WW2, when it was forced to close due to the grain shortage. By this time the hospital had been supplying oven-ready swans for the tables of the rich all over the country, dispatching the birds by rail, contained in wicker baskets. These days the swan pit is devoid of swans. It is adjoined in the north by a stone-sided channel with two 19th century sluice gates linking it with the River Wensum. The sluices ensure that the pit is filled at high tide, and unable to empty at low tide. It is surrounded by a pleasant green space occupied in one corner by a summer house.

An implement known as a goose quarterer (presumably it was also used for preparing swans for the table) has to this day been preserved and can be seen on display in the refectory. An article published in the Norfolk Chronicle on 17 June 1816 records that "The old people in the Great Hospital, St Helenís, Norwich, having been deprived of the dinner of roast goose on Michaelmas Day in consequence of the death of the benefactor who provided it, Mr Robert Partridge on this date signified to the Norwich Corporation his intention to give £100 as a benefaction that the Michaelmas dinner of goose may be revived and continued in future."


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