Burghley House | Lord Burghley's Hospital

Lord Burghley's Hospital

Lord Burghley’s Hospital consists of a historic set of almshouses situated beside the River Welland in the Stamford Baron area across the river from Stamford’s town centre and close to Stamford Bridge. The almshouses have a frontage on to Station Road. The almshouses are known as “Lord Burghley’s Hospital” or “Burghley Almshouse”. Today the almshouse is still in use and is home to both men and women who have lived and worked in Stamford for a number of years.

The history of the site dates back to around 1174 when a medieval hospital was founded on the site by Brando De Fossato, a monk at Peterborough Abbey. He had reputedly sold all of his estates and possessions in order to found the hospital. The medieval hospital buildings were constructed between 1170 and 1180 and the Property was then known as the “hospital of St John the Baptist and St Thomas the martyr”.

In 1190 the medieval hospital was confirmed under the administration and protection of Peterborough Abbey for the use of pilgrims and the poor. The medieval hospital was described in 1299 as consisting of a hall, chamber, solar, kitchen and bakehouse with chambers for the chaplain and the sick. The hospital included a chapel and possessed a burial yard.

Small parts of the buildings currently at the Property date back to the twelfth century. At that time, the hospital catered for the relief of travellers and the care of the poor and the sick. By the end of the fifteenth century this function was virtually redundant and the hospital had fallen into disuse with only the chapel continuing in use as a “free chapel”.

In 1594, after the dissolution of the monasteries, the Property was bought by Sir William Cecil K.G., 1st Baron of Burghley or Lord Burghley, who was Elizabeth I`s Lord High Treasurer and Secretary of State. Part of the Property was then maintained as an almshouse or bedehouse (an almshouse for those who pray). There is evidence that the Property was in such use by 1595.

Lord Burghley Hospital 1
Lord Burghley Hospital 2

In 1597, towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth I, the present hospital was formally constituted when Lord Burghley endowed the Property and a new almshouse was built to provide accommodation for 13 men of Stamford, one of whom was to serve as warder. I annex to this statement at Annexure [2] a copy of the ordinances which effected the endowment. This is also the date on which the Charity was founded. The Property has been held on trust for the purposes of almshouses from then until the present day. The ordinance contains the original rules and constitution of the charity such as requirements that the men of the almshouse wear blue cloaks, the livery of Lord Burghley and attend St Martin’s church in Stamford every Sunday.

Parts of the medieval hospital were incorporated into the new almshouses. The main range consists of a row of two storeyed stone almshouses with provision for ten rooms in the west range and two rooms in the smaller east wing. Access to the rooms was via a long corridor to the south and the upper storey is approached by a common staircase externally. The west range has five steep dormers to the river and six tall chimneys.

The almshouses underwent extensions and alterations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A new range was added on the west side in the 17th century to accommodate 10 of the 13 men stipulated in the founding ordinance. Various later alterations were carried out. It is probably that the buildings were completely enclosed until 1845 when the outer-wall was removed as part of the laying out of Station Road. In 1964-5 the rooms of the almshouse were completely rearranged and the south façade was considerably altered. The almshouses include a small chapel in the west range although it is not used as such today.

In the twentieth century the original rules were changed to allow married couples and single women to reside in the almshouse as well as men. Today the almshouse is still in use and is home to both men and women who have lived and worked in Stamford for a number of years.

Lord Burghley's Hospital Ordinances

A transcript of Lord Burghley's Hospital Ordinances from 1595 are available to read.

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Young William Cecil Lord Burghley