TRINITY HOSPITAL
                                         The Founder
                        Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton (1540-1614)

Henry Howard, first Earl of Northampton, was the second son
of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, the poet and of his wife the
former Lady Frances de Vere, daughter of the fifteenth Earl of
Oxford and was the younger brother of the fourth Duke of
He was an adroit political schemer. He was also distinguished
for his learning, artistic culture and his public charities. He
was one of the judges at the trials of Raleigh and of Guy
Fawkes, in each case pressing for a conviction. In 1604 he was
one of the commissioners who composed the Treaty of Peace
with Spain. His family suffered for its Catholic faith and
politics - his father and brother were executed and his
grandfather imprisoned. Howard became a great favourite of
James I and, as his Privy Councillor, became a very powerful

  Howard purchased the site of Trinity Hospital in 1611, laid the foundation stone in
  February 1614 and entrusted it to the Mercers’ Company in his will just before his death
  in June 1614. It was completed in 1616.

                             He died unmarried and was buried in the chapel of Dover
                             Castle. The monument erected above his grave was
                             subsequently removed to the chapel at Trinity Hospital
                             Greenwich, where it still stands.

                             The almshouse was to accommodate 12 poor men of
                             Greenwich and 8 from Shotesham, Howard’s birthplace. He
                             was not a member of the Mercers’ Company yet he entrusted
                             the charity to its care. It seems likely that this was because he
                             knew Lionel Cranfield, Mercer, with whom he had many
                             political dealings and who he described as a “special friend”.
                             Henry Howard also founded Trinity Hospital Clun in
                             Shropshire and Trinity Hospital Castle Rising in Norfolk, and
                             the charity retains links with both of these almshouses.

                            TRINITY HOSPITAL
                                     The Building

                                           Trinity Hospital Greenwich is a two-storey
                                           Grade II* listed building, built between 1614 and
                                           1616. Of quadrangular design, the building
                                           reflects the almost monastic style of life
                                           originally lived within its walls with a cloister
                                           layout and central courtyard. The clock tower is
                                           inscribed with the words SANCTAE
                                           INDIVIDUAE TRINITATIS SIT GLORIA, and
                                           the arms of the Earl of Northampton.

The foundation stone was laid by the Earl of
Northampton in February 1614. By August the same
year the first walls were in place. A memorandum of
that month gives instructions for tiling and making
ready the roof of the cloisters, for floor boards, for
Purbeck stone paving for cloisters, kitchen, cellar,
larder and entrances, for the erecting of a turret at the
riverside, with clock, and casement windows
throughout. The building remains substantially as
built albeit with some additions and adaptations to
modern life, entirely in keeping with the 17th century

                        In the 1880s the Charity Commissioners attempted to persuade the
                        Mercers’ Company to uproot the residents and Warden, and move
                        the Hospital to a different building and situation within
                        Greenwich. The Company refused, gaining consent instead for a
                        large backlog of works and renovations to be cleared to eliminate
                        damp, and preserve the building to a high standard for future
                        generations. The Mercers’ understood the unique beauty of the
                        building, and its restful and pleasing location.

                                 TRINITY HOSPITAL
                                         The Warden
There have been thirty four Wardens of Trinity Hospital to date. Every Warden has had to
manage a great number of duties and responsibilities for the efficient running of the Hospital.
In the earliest days the job could be a very lonely post, as the
Warden had to be unmarried and could hardly ever leave the
Hospital premises.

    The very first warden was Richard Swale, who had the most
    difficult task of guiding the Hospital through its first year,
                                     without the benefit of any
                                     written ordinances to assist
                                     him. The Ordinances were not
                                     finalised until 4 May 1621, and
                                     by that time Swale, who was
                                     appointed in 1616, had decided
                                     that he could bear the stress no
                                     longer – he quietly slipped
                                     away in 1621 and was never heard of again. He left only
                                     a note to explain where his keys and papers were. He
                                     didn’t remove or steal anything, and it can only be
                                     assumed that he simply felt unequal to the task.

One of the most unusual Wardens was Charles H Tatham (1772-1842), Warden 1837-1841.
He was an architect of some repute before becoming Warden. He had fallen on hard times, so
he applied for the Wardenship, and ended his days happily at
Trinity Hospital. He carefully amassed a vast number of records
both of his own time, and of previous centuries, which largely
forms the basis of the extensive archives of the Hospital now held
in Mercers’ Company Archives. He wrote a history of the Hospital
in 1840, and often printed up his addresses to the residents so that
they had copies of his words of advice and wisdom.

Some of the Wardens were quite colourful, such as John Robinson
who was elected Warden in 1765. At the 1766 Visitation Court it
was ordered that his quarters be thoroughly spring cleaned as ‘the
same was much infected with bugs’. Robinson absconded from the
Hospital, leaving many debts, on Trinity Monday 27 May 1771.

                              TRINITY HOSPITAL
                                      The Residents

                                 Trinity Hospital Greenwich has had its fair share of
                                 interesting residents. One John Bass is described in a letter
                                 of the Warden in 1772 as being a very devout and well
                                 mannered man, but he ‘swarms with vermin in and about
                                 his bed’. When the Hospital first opened, two of the
                                 residents were discovered to be married, in contravention
                                 of the founder’s wishes. They were aged 79 and 80, and
                                 were sent back to Shotesham under a cloud of scandal.

Quarrels and outbursts were frequent within the Hospital in the early days, as men adapted
to the strict routines in such a close-knit
community. The book of correction 1621-
1657 is a revealing document. Cordall
Brewster was regularly admonished for many
years running. On 2 June 1621 he was
reprimanded for emptying his chamber pot
on the garden, and in April 1622 for using
foul words to another resident, and kicking
another in the stomach. John Hubbard on 9
May of the same year ‘reviled and said
subwarden and calinge him rascall, said he
was not worthy to wype his shoes’.

The wearing of special hats, cloaks and badges to all Chapel and Church services by
residents did not cease until 1946. Nowadays the residents only wear these items on
Visitation Court day once a year.

                                                    The Hospital garden has always featured
                                                    prominently in the life of the Hospital, creating
                                                    a restful oasis within Greenwich. In previous
                                                    centuries an income for the Hospital was
                                                    derived from the sale of produce grown in the
                                                    orchard and garden by the residents.

                            TRINITY HOSPITAL
                                 The 17th Century
                          Trinity Hospital Greenwich officially opened, admitting its first
                          20 residents, on 24 February 1617, the birthday of the founder,
                          the Earl of Northampton. The Hospital and Chapel were
                          consecrated, and the formal ceremonies were rounded off with a
                          sumptuous feast. At this meal the assembled company consumed
                          one whole sheep and four legs of mutton, seven stone of beef, one
                          ham, as well as veal, chickens, plover, teal, larks, turkeys,
                          pheasants, pigeons, 16lbs of potatoes, 16lbs
                          of suet, two gallons of cream, 6lbs of butter
                          and 230 eggs.

                          The Ordinances for the running of the
                          Hospital took many years to write, and the
                          final version was presented to the Mercers’
                                 Company on 4 May 1621.

Life at Trinity Hospital in the 17th Century was fairly prescribed – it
was semi-monastic in character, and regimented in routine. Each day
began at 6.00am in summer, or 8.00am in winter, with the residents
rising, putting on their specially made hats and gowns and saying
their prayers. At 9.00am the first service of the day took place in the
Chapel. On Wednesday and Friday mornings the residents walked to
                           St Alfege Church, where they sat in six
                           pews at the west end, for which the Hospital received a special
                           grant from the Bishop of Rochester on 4 June 1618. The residents
                           then had their own ‘free time’ until 11.00am, although they had to
                           carry out chores and housework in rotation during this time – such
                           tasks as weeding the courtyard, and working the garden and
                           orchard. Residents could not leave the Hospital grounds to go into
                           Greenwich or London without permission from the Warden. Lunch
                           in the hall was at 11.00am, followed by a further Chapel or Church
                           service at 3.00pm. There was then more free time until 6.00pm,
                           except on Saturdays when ‘weekly correction’ took place. Supper
                           was at 6.00pm in the Hall, the gates being locked at 5.00pm in
                           winter and 8.00pm in summer. Bed followed at 9.00pm, after more

                               TRINITY HOSPITAL
                             The 18th and 19th Centuries
Life at Trinity Hospital Greenwich settled down in the 18th and 19th
centuries. The duties of the Mercers’ Company, as trustees of the
Hospital, include appointing residents and making an annual Visitation
to the Hospital. The annual Visitation Court consists of 12 members –
two must be wardens of the Company and six must be members of the
Court of Assistants. The first Visitation took place on 28 May 1621. In
1791 the Visitation Court was a dangerous affair – the General Court
was informed on 24 June that one of the carriages was overturned
                                                 returning from Trinity
                                                 Hospital on Trinity
                                                 Monday last, whereby
                                                 the coachman was so much hurt as to be under
                                                 necessity of having his leg immediately taken
                                                 off’. The Company paid towards the expenses
                                                 of his operation.

                                                The Warden’s letterbook of
                                                1837-1841 records on 12 June 1837 that the Hospital
                                                wanted to get rid of the enormous kitchen range, 5 feet and
                                                10 inches long, which was required for the annual roasting
  of a baron of beef at Visitation. The range was so inefficient it smoked out the whole kitchen, and did
  not actually cook the beef that well. But it was decided it must be kept as it was traditional. In the
  account book of petty expenses 1837-1866 it was recorded on 11 December 1841 that two large bowls
  of punch were drunk by the residents and nurses ‘to solace and drink prosperity to the Mercers’
  Company for granting a new clock’ to the tower of the Hospital.

  At the end of the 19th century the Mercers’
  Company acknowledged that the practice of
  moving men from Shotesham in Norfolk, to
  Greenwich, under the terms of Howard’s
  bequest, was not proving successful. It was
  therefore decided that a separate Trinity
  Hospital be built in Shotesham, and work
  began in 1880. The new almshouse opened in
  June 1885.

                            TRINITY HOSPITAL
                                The 20th Century

                           On 19 January 1928 the Warden wrote that 100 feet of
                           river wall in front of the Hospital had given way due to
                           high tide at midnight on 6 January. 18 inches of water
                           rushed into the courtyard, and the force of the water burst
                           the cellar doors. The residents were swiftly moved to
                           safety and placed in private houses in Greenwich. The
                           Borough Engineer sent a water pump and men to clear
                           the water and debris, and the Court commended the
                           Warden on his prompt actions.

Like many Londoners the residents had an eventful Second World
War. Enemy action in September 1940 caused a bomb crater in the
garden, and blast damage to the Chapel windows. Twelve Trinity
Hospital residents were evacuated to Trinity Hospital Shotesham
on 21 July 1944. Four residents died whilst there, and a memorial
to their memory can be found at St Mary’s Church, Shotesham.
The remaining evacuees returned to Greenwich on 10 October

                                                 By 1999 information technology
                                                 finally arrived at Trinity Hospital, and
                                                 the Warden was given an email
                                                 address to keep in modern contact with
                                                 Mercers’ Hall!

                          TRINITY HOSPITAL
                             Into the 21st century

                                The accommodation at Trinity Hospital in the year 2000
                                consisted of 20 flats, each comprising one main room
                                with a small kitchenette and bathroom. This
                                accommodation no longer matched the quality of
                                accommodation that the Mercers’ Company provided for
                                its elderly residents elsewhere. The Company therefore
                                decided to carry out a substantial refurbishment to
                                upgrade the almshouse to provide two roomed flats,
                                improve the bathrooms and kitchens and to install a lift to
                                the upper floor.

                                  As a first step, the Company decided to construct a new
                                  building providing 30 sheltered housing flats at the north
                                  end of the Hospital grounds. It took several years to bring
this plan to fruition however in October 2007 the new building opened its doors to
welcome the fourteen existing residents from the original Hospital and by December
2007 the building had become home to more than 40 Greenwich residents. There are 24
two-bedroom flats and 6 one-bedroom flats in the three storey building, each with an
attractive outlook, a high quality kitchen and bathroom all with features that assist older
people to live comfortably in their own homes. The building includes a wide range of
communal facilities that include a
resident’s lounge, with attractive garden
terrace, an exercise/dance room, arts and
craft room, I.T suite, library, personal
care room and fully equipped

The Mercers’ Company plans to proceed
with the refurbishment of the original
Hospital and convert the bed/sitting
room flats into one-bedroom apartments
to provide a further 12 homes.


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