4 - THE CHARITABLE HOUSES OF MEDIEVAL CAMBRIDGE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS  pp. 99-147


By Miri Rubin

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The charitable institutions of Cambridgeshire comprised the urban hospitals and leper houses of Cambridge, Ely and Wisbech, and the rural charitable houses at Stow (now Longstow), Fordham, Anglesey, in the fields of Royston and in Newton. The largest and best documented is the Hospital of St John the Evangelist in Cambridge, but a survey of other hospitals in the county, which is largely identifiable with the diocese of Ely, sets this charitable institution in sharper focus. It also allows us to examine the degree of integration between urban and rural provision for the poor, and the degree of episcopal involvement in charitable activities within the diocese.

IN THE TOWN OF CAMBRIDGE

The Hospital of St John the Evangelist (HSJC)

Hospitals were founded in widely differing circumstances, but for most hospitals very little knowledge about their earliest years remains. Some time after its foundation, with the accession of an active bishop, with the grant of a sizeable donation or with the provision of a rule, a hospital emerged from the shadows. Our knowledge of the circumstances of the foundation of HSJC depends on the insecure evidence of an inquisition held some 70 years later. It is of great interest to speculate whether the hospital was founded by the community of Cambridge burgesses, by the bishop of Ely or by a pious individual townsman, even though we will not be able to say for certain where the truth lies.