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Friday, January 18, 2008

In search of England

I've started H. V. Morton's "In Search of England" a motor car trip around England first published in 1927. I've read 39 pages but last night I wanted to hop off my bed, grab my camera and share something magical with you gentle reader. Of course sanity prevailed and I turned the light off and snuggled under the duvet.

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.


Toffeeapple said...

What a great read, thank you. I shall be investigating the web site later, it look very interesting.

It's still raining here...

Tricia said...

That's fascinating stuff. And it's only 10 miles away from the M27 when I'm enroute to Devon later this year. Food for thought!

Mary said...

OOh I had never heard of this..I have added it to my places to visit......greetings from the very wet new Forest!

oldcrow61 said...

A great story. A place you must visit Pete. Will wait patiently for pictures, (grin)

Island Rambles Blog said...

Very nice link and the Master Gardens look lovely for a spring visit perhaps Pete with a new lens and all...cheers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for visiting my post about St Swithuns :) I hope you enjoy your visit. I don't know how you are planning to get there, but parking is a bit of a problem.

Of course I've been to the Hospital of St Cross a few times too - a wonderful place. There is a great walk from the Winchester City Mill, all along the river to the Hospital. Quite a way but on a good day it is lovely. And of course there is St Catherine's Hill too....

Pete said...

hi A

by car I'm afraid! I'm printing off a few streetmaps. any clues on parking will be a help