So far I've been to Romsey Abbey, Beaulieu and Buckler's Hard. The later with descriptions before they became mecca's for tourist. I'm sure Mary will be amused to hear me wondering where the motor museum had gone. This, of course, is a different world.
But it was not this that made me want to head off into the night. Morton also visited the church of St Cross in Winchester. What you ask? You just wanted to show us another church? Ah but St Cross is not just any church.
St Cross is England's oldest Almshouse. It was founded between 1132 and 1136 by Henry de Blois who was appointed Bishop of Winchester in 1129 aged 28.
Legend has it that Henry (who was a grandson of William the Conqueror) went for a walk in the Itchen Meadows where he was supposedly stopped by a young peasant girl who begged de Blois to help her people, who were starving because of the civil war. The parallel with the Virgin Mary was not lost on Henry, who apparently was so moved by the girl's plight that he resolved to establish a new community to help the poor.
It's probably all tosh but it is a pleasant story.
What is a fact is the Hospital was founded to support thirteen poor men, who were so frail that they were unable to work, and to feed one hundred men at the gates each day. The thirteen men became the Brothers of St Cross. In the fifteenth Century Cardinal Beaufort added to the buildings and provided a further foundation for more brothers.
The establishment was a secular one so it escaped the Reformation. Today if you go to St Cross you will still see the brothers. Some where black (provided for by Henry) and some Red (provided for by the cardinal).
Today St Cross has places for 25 brothers all Men who each have there own self contained flat.
To become a brother
The Scheme which governs the administration of the Hospital specifies that Brothers must normally be over sixty, no longer employed, and that preference should be given to those of low or limited income, although higher income is not a bar to entry. Emotional need is also considered. Brothers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and are typically single, divorced or widowers. The Brothers do not belong to a religious order, but the Hospital is a Christian foundation and Brothers are expected to wear their gowns to attend morning prayers in the Church each day.
You can visit St Cross, and I strongly advise that you do. The church is one of the finest examples in England of Transitional Norman it has fine gardens, there is the Bretheren's Hall and the location by the Itchen is sublime.
If you visit one medieval custom still remains. You can ask at the Porters Lodge for the Wayfarers Dole, a horn of beer and a morsel of bread to any visitors who request it.
I can't show you any pictures but can point you to the website. There is a small admission charge but I believe the Church is free.
Forget Winchester, yes its Cathedral is magnificent but the town has been savagely scarred since Morton's day. It is at St Cross by the Itchen that a small part of Old England survives.