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CARE OF THE BODY
“Let there be in the infirmary thirteen sick persons in their beds, and let them be kindly and duly supplied with food and all else that shall tend in their convalescence or comfort.”
(Statues of Northallerton.1)
(a) Food for resident pensioners.—There was of course a wide difference between the lot of the ill-fed lazar who lodged in some poor spital dependent upon the chance alms of passers-by, and that of the occupant of a well-endowed intuition. At the princely Sherburn hospital, each person received daily a loaf (weighing five marks) and a gallon of beer ; he had meat three times a week, and on other days eggs, herrings and cheese, besides
vegetables and salt. The statutes laid
stress upon the necessity of fresh food, and it was forbidden to eat
of an animal which had died of
disease. This was wise, for the constant
consumption in the Middle Ages of rotten meat, decayed fish and bread
blighted corn predisposed people to sickness and aggravated existing
disease. Forfeited victuals were granted
to the sick in hospitals at
Salt meat was
largely consumed, but it was insufficiently cured on account of the
salt. Bacon was a most important article
of food ; one of the endowments of St. Mary Magdalene’s,
households, a meat-allowance was given to each person, perhaps
week, or a farthing a day. There were
vegetarians among the residents as
and Sister Joan, “who does not eat flesh through-out the year.” In those days of murrain they were prudent, for it is recorded that an ox was killed for consumption in the house “because it was nearly dead.”
In the later almshouses the inmates received wages and provided their own victuals, which were cooked by the attendant. It was directed at Higham Ferrers :—
The remainder was served up on Wednesday by the careful housewife, who was directed to buy barm on Fridays for the bread-making.
Baking was done
once a fortnight at St. Bartholomew’s,
In most hospitals there was a marked difference between daily diet and festival fare. Festal days, twenty-five in number, were marked at Sherburn by special dinners. St. Cuthbert was naturally commemorated ; his festival
in March and on
the day of his “Translation” in September were two-course feasts ; but
first falling in Lent, Bishop Pudsey provided for the delicacy of fresh
if procurable. Both at Sherburn, and at
Food for casuals.—Out-door relief was provided in
hospitals. St. Mark’s,
also provided occasionally, on founders’ days or festivals. At St. Giles’,
Plate XX The Beggars’ Dole.]
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Henry III and of Hubert de Burgh and his daughter. The fare and expenses on such occasions are recorded, viz. :—
“Also in the daye of Seynt Pancre yerely for the soule of Hughe de Burgo one quarter of whete:
Also the same daye if it be flesshe day one oxe and if it be fisshe day ij barrels of white heryng:
annual distribution of three hundred buns at St. Bartholomew’s
“to them who study and labour with all their strength at handywork to obtain food ; and in no case shall such alms be afforded to strong, robust and indolent mendicants, like so many that wander about such places, who ought rather to be driven away with staves, as drones and useless burdens upon the earth.”
The “Wayfarer’s Dole” still given at St. Cross is the only survival of the former indiscriminate entertainment of passers-by.
2. Firing and Lights
for firing was collected from the visinitty by permission of the
lord. In Henry III’s charter to
man going daily
for dry and dead wood “to collect as much as he can with his hands only
any iron tool or axe, and to carry the same to the hospital on his back
their hearth. Early rolls record
constant grants of firewood.
The supply of
was regulated by the calendar. A
benefactor (circa 1180) granted to
the lepers of St. Sepulchre’s near
In early days,
sick and poor were laid on pallets of straw, but wooden bedsteads were
introduced late in the twelfth century. A
dying benefactor left to the brethren of St. Wulstan’s,
hundred beddes appoynted by the founder be well and clenely kept and
and all necessaries to theym belongying.
laundry arrangements are occasionally mentioned. The
regulations for the Sherburn lepers
direct a strict attention to cleanliness. Two
bath-tubs (cunæ ad balneandum)
were supplied ; heads were washed weekly ; and two laundresses washed
personal clothing twice a week. In the
fifteenth-century statutes of Higham Ferrers matters of health and
detailed. None might be received “but
such as were clean men of their bodies” ; and if taken ill, a bedeman
removed until his recovery. Every
morning the woman must “make the poor men a fire against they rise and
a pan of
fair water and a dish by it to wash their hands.” The
barber came weekly “to shave them and to
dress their heads and to make them clean.” When
“whether the bathes limitted by the founder be well obserued and applied.”
As to hair
dressing, “tonsure by the ears” was commonly used by the staff. After profession at
habit of the staff .—The dress worn
by the master and his fellow-workers was usually monastic or clerical,
varied considerably, for the priests might be regulars or seculars, the
brethren and sisters religious or lay persons. Occasionally
the warden was not in orders [he was not a
man] ; it was directed at
clerks had more latitude in costume ; the sombre mantles were enlivened
coloured badge, a pastoral staff at Armiston, a cross at
(b) The almsman’s gown.—The early type of pensioner’s habit is perpetuated at St. Cross. Ellis Cavy, having somber tastes, provided for his poor men at Croydon that “the over-clothing be darke and browne of colour, and not staring neither blasing, and of easy price cloth, according to their degree.” This stipulation was probably copied from the statuettes of Whittington’s almshouse, which as a mercer he would know. The usual tendency of the fifteenth century was to a cheerful garb. The bedeman of Ewelme had “a tabarde of his owne with a rede crosse on the breste, and a hode accorynge to the same.” The pensioners at Alkmonton received a suit every third year, alternately white and russet ; the gown was marked with a tau cross in red. At Heytesbury the men’s outfit included “a paire of hosyn, 2 paire of shone with lether and hempe to clowte theme, and 2 shertys” ; the women had the same allowance, with five shillings to buy herself a kirtle. The two servitors at St. Nicholas’, Pontefract, wore a uniform “called white livery.”
(c) The leper’s dress.—The theory of the leper’s clothing is described in the statutes of St. Julian’s ; they ought “as well in their conduct as in their garb, to bear themselves as more despised and as more humble than the rest of their fellow-men, according to the words of the Lord in Leviticus : ‘Whosoever is stained with the leprosy shall rend his garments.’” They were forbidden to go out without the distinctive habit, which covered them almost entirely. The outfit named in the Manual consisted of
cloak, hood, coat and shoes of fur, plain shoes and girdle.
The hospital inmate in his coarse warm clothing was readily distinguished from the ragged mendicant. The brothers and sisters at Harbledown were supplied with a uniform dress of russet, that is to say, a closed tunic or super-tunic ; the brethren wore scapulars (the short working dress of a monk), and the sisters, mantles. At St. Julian’s hospital, the cut of the costume was planned ; thus the sleeves were to be closed as far as the hand, but not laced with knots or thread after the secular fashion ; the upper tunic was to be worn closed down to the ankles ; the close black cape and hood must be of equal length. The amount of material is recorded in the case of Sherburn, vis. three ells of woollen cloth and six ells of linen. At Reading the leper’s allowance was still more liberal, for the hood or cape contained three ells, the tunic three, the cloak two and a quarter ; they also received from the abbey ten yards of linen, besides old leathern girdles and shoes.
Lepers were forbidden to walk unshod. At Sherburn, each person was allowed four pence annually for shoes, grease being regularly supplied for them. Inmates of both sexes at Harbeldown wore ox-hide boots, fastened with leather and extending beyond the middle of the shin. High boots were also worn by the brethren at St. Julian’s “to suit their infirmity” ; if one was found wearing low-cut shoes—“tied with only one knot”—he wad to walk barefoot for a season.
For headgear at Harbledown, the men used hoods, and the women covered their heads with thick double veils, white within, and black without. Hats were sometimes
worn, both in
leper (with clapper and dish).]
-end chapter twelve-
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