The Hospital of the Holy Trinity is the oldest charitable foundation in Leicester. Its original dedication was to “God and the Virgin Mary” but this was changed in 1615 to “The Hospital of the Holy Trinity in the Newarke”.
The connection of Trinity Hospital with the House of Lancaster goes back to its foundation by Henry Plantagenet, 3rd Earl of Lancaster and Leicester. He decided to establish an Almshouse / hospital beside Leicester Castle. The foundation was confirmed by a Papal Bull, issued by Pope John XXII on 13th June 1330 and the actual foundation document was sealed, in London, on 20th January 1331.
It was originally designed to have accommodation for a Warden, four chaplains, fifty poor and infirm people (20 being permanent residents) along with five women to care for them. The Warden and Chaplains were all priests – they lived together and were instructed to “avoid taverns and the marketplace”. The permanent residents were to be “poor, blind, lame, maimed or suffering from an incurable disease.”
Trinity Hospital went through various financial and administrative difficulties. In the early seventeenth century the Town Corporation determined that the Hospital’s affairs should be placed on a secure and regular footing. Sir William Heyricke, a local philanthropist, “the towne’s special goode frende” succeeded in purchasing property to provide a regular income and procured from King James I the re-founding of “The Duke of Lancaster his almes-house”. The Town Mayor was to be the Master of the Hospital for his term of office, a new Chaplain was appointed and all succeeding chaplains were to be nominated by the Duchy of Lancaster.
The size of the Hospital was now increased to accommodate up to 110 residents. They had, generally, to be single or widowed and “not with any infectious or loathsome disease”. Each resident was given a special gown, bearing the badge of the Duchy of Lancaster, to wear for services on special occasions. The chief duty of the Chaplain was praying Morning and Evening Prayer in the Chapel and the Duchy arranged for the confrater (Deputy Master) of Wyggestons to preach there once a week.
A disaster befell Trinity in 1645, as a result of the Civil War – the Almshouse was badly damaged by Royalists, as were many properties in the town and the orchard by the river, on which it relied for income. During this time petition was made to the Corporation to provide a “Pott for boiling their pottage” – this is still a feature in the Entrance Hall of the present building.
By 1894, there were again 110 almsfolk, including 10 nurses – each person’s weekly allowance was six shilling. In the late nineteenth century the Corporation had borrowed the ancient “porridge pot” for a feast to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Coronation and in 1877 for a banquet given for the survivors of the Battle of Inkerman in the Crimean War.
The advent of the Welfare State brought major changes and the function of Trinity Hospital became primarily to offer sheltered housing – the offering of weekly payments to the residents was no longer necessary. One small change was that the gowns once worn by residents were no longer used but the badges from them, bearing the shield of the House of Lancaster were, instead, affixed to the doors of the residents’ rooms.
A new Governing Body was established by the Charity Commissioners in 1969. The Lord Mayor remained the Master and a Deputy Master was to be appointed by the Governors. The premises were in desperate need of modernisation but the cost proved prohibitive. De Montfort University offered to buy the site and proceeds from this sale, together with funds from Leicester City Challenge and the Hospital’s own reserves, enabled the residents to be moved to the new purpose-built building at 50, Western Boulevard. The official opening took place on 12th April 1995.
The Governors, the Deputy Master and a House Committee shared in the role of overseeing the building, financial affairs, interviewing potential residents and other matters. Over the last few years there have been fewer people offering to come forward to undertake these roles. In 2021, the future, once again was uncertain and, after considering different options the decision was made to establish a close connection with Wyggeston’s Hospital. The new administrative arrangements came into force in September 2021 and, hopefully, will enable a new and flourishing chapter to develop in the life of Trinity Hospital.
Canon Barry Naylor – based on information from “Trinity Hospital, Leicester’s Royal Foundation” by Terence Y. Cocks.
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