diamond geezer

 Monday, March 23, 2009

www.flickr.com: my Winchester gallery
(24 photos altogether)

St Cross
St CrossAt the southern end of Keats' daily walk, in meadows opposite St Catherine's Hill, stands Britain's oldest charitable institution. It's the hospital of St Cross, and it's been offering hospitality to travellers and the poor for more than 850 years. St Cross was established by Henry de Blois, a grandson of William the Conqueror, to provide shelter and sustenance for 13 frail and penniless men. Twenty-five Brethren still live in the high-chimneyed almshouses on site [photo], and there are many more deserving cases on the waiting list (alas many won't survive the wait). For a small fee visitors are permitted to queue-jump and look around inside, including access to the Brethren's Hall (a medieval dining room) and the walled Master's Garden (still emerging from wintry sleep). One quaint tradition is that travellers are given a free cup of ale and a morsel of bread upon request at the Porter's Lodge (but only if you ask outright, otherwise you don't get). Even though this was never a religious community, there's still a cathedral-shaped Norman church in one corner of the site [photo]. It's much too big for the inmates so it doubles up as the parish church, and the interior's mighty impressive for such a small scale place of worship. The transepts may be a bit of a mess at the moment because there's some urgent re-wiring going on, but that's all part of a campaign to get the place spick and span before the arrival of the hospital's new Master on St George's Day. He's in for a treat - this is a delightful and very peaceful place to retire.

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Life viewed from London E3

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