Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Sherburn Hospital (NZ307415)

Sherburn Hospital, 1774

The site on and around the institution formerly known as Sherburn Hospital, a little to the east of Durham City, has a lengthy history. Chances are, in fact, that not even the locals realise quite how far its story stretches back.

The set-up was founded as a leper hospital way back in 1181 by the famous Bishop Pudsey, and dedicated, rather clumsily, to “Our Lord, to the Blessed Virgin, to St. Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha”. It came with extensive lands and has somehow managed to survive all that has been thrown at it since.

The Dissolution was the biggest hurdle, of course – but limp through the troublesome days of Henry VIII it did, re-establishing itself as “Christ’s Hospital in Sherburn” in 1585. In time, and with the discovery of coal reserves under its associated lands, it became very rich and was able to expand considerably during the Victorian era – branching into education, for one thing. It became what we would recognise as a ‘modern’ hospital during the 1860s-70s following construction work – though there were only 35 beds initially. However, a dispensary administered treatment extensively to the poor of the parish free of charge.

In time, its mode of operation shifted, having spent the past several decades as a care home of sorts, whilst providing financial support to establishments across the county – it closed as a hospital shortly after WWII with the birth of the NHS. It is now a pleasant enclave of Listed Buildings set around a grass court with fine gardens – the old hospital chapel being the only twelfth century survival.

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