Not Sons of the Church, But Citizens

Some more details from the history  of St Bartholomew fair:

The 13th Act of the 31st year of the reign of King Henry VIII confirmed the surrender of religious houses and gave the king power to seize those still standing. This did not just hand over power of religious practice to the king which continues to this day, it also separated charitable institutions from their sources of income, ie by selling off properties, the care of the sick and poor which they funded, then became unviable, forcing new measures to be made.

Rayer had founded St Bartholomews to care for the sick and infirm, for lying in women and children born in the precincts up to the age of 7. The hospital received rents from properties in London, Middlesex, Esexx, Berkshire, Northampton, Somerset and St Albans, which raised about £300 per year.

“The suppression of religious houses threw upon the roads and streets many sick, lame and impotent people; for the place occupied by almsgiving in the system of the ?Roman Church was one means of its happy adaption to the wants of a more barbarous time, and when the endowed asylums maintained by the church, on behalf of sick and poor ceased to exist in England, sudden thought had to be taken for the discharge of a new duty imposed upon men, not as sons of the Church, but as citizens. Anticipating the suppression of religious hospitals in London, Sir Thomas Gresham, the lord mayor, with the aldermen and citizens, in the year 1537 prayed to the king for the governance of the three hospitals of St Mary, St Thomas, St Bartholomew and the new abbey at Tower Hill, “founded of good devotion by ancient fathers, and endowed with great possessions and rents, only for the relief, comfort, and aid of the poor and indigent people  not being able to help themselves; and not to the maintenance of priests, canons and monks, carnally living as they of late have done, nothing regarding the miserable people lying in the street, offending every clean person passing by the way, with their filthy and nasty favours.”

In 1544 the king, in order that there might  be comfort to the prisoners, visitation to the sick, food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and sepulture to the dead, established on the old site a new hospital of St Bartholomew, under a master,who was a priest, and 4 chaplains, …. but the place was neglected and mismanaged. The king offering to give the city charge of hospitals, if it would provide a portion of ht necessary funds, the Corporation at once passed a prospective and conditional vote of 500 marks per year. ”

Care was to be provided for 100 poor men and women, with 8 beadles who were to traverse London to fetch in the poor, sick, lame and impotent in the city and suburbs, but to expel valiant and sturdy vagabonds and beggars. …There was no profit but there was a brave outlay of money and exertions. the hospital was in disrepair, and applied to the use only of a few women and their infants born there under questionable circumstances.

Thus the work that had for centuries been carried on by the church had to be taken on and paid for by the state. The church’s role in local government, land management, legal disputes, arts patronage, education etc also had to be taken on by others, with varying degrees of success. the  clerics had been long demonised as preying on their flocks. but in their absence, people were forced to learn and learn quickly, many of the tasks that they had previously taken for granted when done by the clerics.

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2 thoughts on “Not Sons of the Church, But Citizens

    • indeed. but the church does stuff cheaper, always has. you pay your pennies you takes your chances. when there were no other choices, the church atrtracted the best. A far cry from today – apparently the average age of priests in IReland is 65. what are they going to do? does it matter?

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