The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 4 Regent's Park

St. Katharine's Lodge and Hospital

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The most interesting of the houses in the park is St. Katharine's Lodge, not from any special beauty of its own, but from the sad association of its history. On the east of the road which encircles the Park is St. Katharine's Hospital, built by A. Poynter, a pupil of Nash, in 1827, when the "act of barbarism" of removing the Hospital from the East End was committed. The home of the Hospital, with its church and alms-houses, was close to the Tower, and after a peaceful existence of nearly seven hundred years it was completely swept away to make room for more docks. There is nothing to redeem the crude look of uselessness that the new buildings in Regent's Park present. They seem out of place, and as if stranded there by accident. Even thirty years after their removal an official report on the revenues of the hospital shows some signs of repentance. The writers sum up the increased income, then about �11,000 a year, and wonder if in this faraway spot it is being put to the best uses; and the report even goes so far as to suggest its restoration to the populous East End, where the recipients of the charity would spend their lives in the cure of souls, or as nurses and mission-women among the poor. Since then, an improvement has set in as it has become the Central House for Nurses for the Poor, known as the Jubilee Nurses, as the funds to provide them were raised by the women of England as a Jubilee Gift to Queen Victoria. The Hospital of St. Katharine was founded by Queen Matilda, "wife to King Stephen, by licence of the Prior and Convent of the Holy Trinity in London, on whose ground she founded it. Elianor the Queene, wife to King Edward the First, a second Foundresse, appointed to be there, one Master, three Brethren Chaplaines and three Sisters, ten poore women, and six poore clerkes. She gave to them the Manor of Clarton in Wiltshire and Upchurch in Kent, etc. Queene Philip, wife to King Edward the Third, 1351, founded a Chauntry there, and gave to that Hospital tenne pound land by yeere; it was of late time [1598] called a free Chappell, a Colledge and an Hospital for poore sisters. The Quire which (of late yeares) was not much inferior to that of Pauls, was dissolved by Doctor Wilson, a late Master there." Such is Stowe's account of the foundation. Even in those days the district was becoming crowded, "pestered with small Tenements," chiefly owing to the influx from Calais, Hammes, and Guisnes when those places were lost in Mary's reign. Many, "wanting Habitation," were allowed a "Place belonging to St. Katharine's." The curious name, "Hangman's Gains," in that locality was said to be derived from a corruption of two of the places the refugees came from. In Henry VIII.'s time a Guild or Fraternity was "founded in the Church of this Hospital of St. Katharine to the Honour of St. Barbara." Katharine of Aragon and Henry VIII. and Cardinal Wolsey belonged to it, and many other "honourable persons." The object was to secure a home for any "Brother or Sister who fell into Decay of worldly Goods as by Sekenes or Hurt by the Warrys, or upon Land or See, or by any other means." Those belonging to the Fraternity who had paid the full sum due, namely 10s. 4d., in "money, plate, or any other honest stufe," were entitled to fourteen pence a week, house-room and bedding, "and a woman to wash his clothes and to dresse his mete; and so to continue Yere by Yere and Weke by Weke durynge his Lyfe," like a modern benefit society. The fine old church contained many monuments, some of which were transferred to the new church when the removal took place. Among them the effigy of John Holland, Duke of Exeter, and one of his wives, dating from 1447, reposes under a fine canopy. The stalls and pulpit of the sixteenth century were also brought to the new building. Thus shorn of all its associations and all its beauty, the foundation remains, like a flower ruthlessly transplanted too late to take root and regain its former charm. The Master's house makes a most delightful residence, and has always been let. Mr. Marley, the present tenant, who has filled the house with works of art, has made a very charming garden also, more like an Italian than an English villa garden, as the view reproduced in this volume testifies.