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Norwich Heart, Heritage Economic & Regeneration Trust

Doughty‘s Hospital

Doughty‘s Hospital - Established 1677 

Doughty‘s Hospital today, though altered and enlarged over the 330 years since its establishment, appears similar to other sheltered housing developments, until you discover the attractive Victorian cottages built around a courtyard with wide flowerbeds, forming an "oasis" in an area where 1960‘s development presently dominates the skyline.

What Are Almshouses/Hospitals?

Medieval Norwich had seven Hospitals, including St Giles‘s (now The Great Hospital) and five almshouses.  At that time most such establishments were founded by the Church and though called "Hospitals" were principally concerned with caring for the soul rather than offering specific medical treatments. Those establishments provided vital hospitality for poor Norwich citizens and for some lucky ones, a place to dwell.  In the case of Doughty‘s, established post-Reformation, the intention was simply to care for needy pensioners in the present sense of an almshouse.

The history

It began in March 1677 when William Doughty, mariner, declared to the Court of the Mayoralty his intention to reside in Norwich requesting that he be allowed to remain free of all taxes and charges.  In consideration of that favour it seems he undertook to endow a hospital or almshouse in Norwich.

In 1687 he drew up a long, complicated will.  The main provisions of the will that concern the establishment of the Hospital were:

  • He would leave a sum of £6,000 to his Trustees to be used for the purchase of a piece of land upon which the hospital would be built;
  • That land may not have previously belonged to the Church; (It has been suggested that Doughty may have made this stipulation because in the reign of James II there was fear of a return to the Papacy and that pre-Reformation church land might be reclaimed.);
  • He specified the building materials for the Hospital and the form it would take;
  • The building should cost no more than £600, with the balance being used to purchase lands and tenements in Norfolk not "subject to be overflowne with the sea" to produce an income of at least £250, for the provision of pensions and building repairs;
  • The Hospital would accommodate 24 poor aged men and 8 poor aged women, each to have a pension of 2/- every Saturday morning for food.  They were to be provided with coal and a coat or gown of purple cloth, renewed every two years;
  • The Trustees should appoint a sober, discreet single man as Master, to dwell constantly in the Hospital and to see its well governing.  The Master would receive 4/- a week for his pains;
  • Six years after the testator‘s death, or earlier if they were ready, the Trustees would convey the Almshouses, Lands and Properties to the Mayor, Sheriffs and Citizens of Norwich

Following Doughty‘s death in March 1688 his Trustees purchased an orchard in the parish of St Saviour‘s (the present site), along with twelve other plots of land to endow the Hospital. They arranged the building of 32 almshouses on four sides of a square, eight on each side, in accordance with William Doughty‘s wishes.

The provisions and intentions of the founder‘s will are inscribed on two stone tablets that can still be seen on the staircase in the north-west corner of the square. In 1694, when the six years had passed, the Trustees were still not ready to hand over the running of the Hospital. In frustration, the Court of the Mayoralty obtained a licence from King William III ordering the Trustees to hand over control.  Finally, in 1698, they were threatened with legal action if they "put in" any more alms people.

Healthcare provision

In January 1728 a Nurse was appointed at a salary of 4/- a week to fill a vacant cottage.  Her duties included washing residents‘ clothes for which she requested a "convenient Washing House" and the supply of river water instead of having to use the pump. 

The Hospital Committee had been employing Mr Johnson, who had been practising in the City as an apothecary "for surgery and physick for the severall Hospitals".  In 1737 Mr Johnson agreed to take care of Doughty‘s people without further remuneration.  It is noted that £4 out of his £30 salary was allocated to Doughty‘s.  In 1746 Charles Maltby was appointed Surgeon to the Hospitals, though the salary remained unaltered.  The records show this gentleman‘s generosity in donating, twenty-one years‘ later, a gift of one hundred guineas to the Hospital.  In 1771 he was one of a team appointed to the new Norfolk and Norwich Hospital where he served until his death in 1790.

In 1871 the nurse‘s workload was heavy.  She was expected to "do for" the sick or infirm as well as their washing and the cleaning of the cottages and common areas.   In January 1876 when she fell short of residents‘ expectations, there were complaints about her.  Her weekly payment was then 8 shillings and it was decided to pay a resident 5 shillings a quarter to help her fetch medicines and seek medical help.  When she resigned shortly afterwards, the duties were split between a nurse and washer-woman.  By 1894 there was a day and a night nurse.

The Residents

A majority of admissions in the early years had been worsted weavers with a few other trades such as cordwainers, carpenters, barbers, bakers and tailors.

In April 1700 the then Master, William Sydner and officers of St Saviour‘s parish, complained about seven residents for "miscarriages and misbehaviour". Those "delinquents" were brought before the Mayor‘s Court, one using "opprobrious" words to the Mayor.  All were discharged from the Hospital except one who apologised and was allowed to remain.

When the Master died in 1717 a resident, Robert Dymes, was appointed in his place.  When residents complained that he took coals from their store, it was agreed that henceforth the Master would be expected to buy his own coals with his 4 shillings weekly allowance.

One notable resident, admitted in 1791, was Blyth Hancock, a schoolmaster with a keen mathematical and scientific mind.  Two of his books of astronomical calculations had been published and he was connected with United Friars Society which was formed with a group of Norwich gentlemen interested in science and learning.  The Society considered him to be somebody of such talent that, in consideration of his poverty, they waived the Society‘s normal membership fee.  He produced many more learned, scientific papers.  One member of the Society was Alderman John Harvey who had a nomination for Doughty‘s, thus Hancock was offered residence.  He continued to write papers and the Society kept in touch with him until his death in June 1796.

Some residents had been in occupations considered at the time to be well paid such as Matthew Buxton, admitted in 1719, who had been a scrivener.  It was decreed, however, that he should not wear his sword. 

In June 1835 Elizabeth Bentley was admitted to the Hospital.  (Elizabeth was probably one of the last admissions under the old Court of the Mayoralty.)  She was the daughter of a journeyman cordwainer who had diligently taught her to read and write.  Elizabeth had made good use of this ability and had developed a talent for rhyming, writing poetical essays which were supported by the United Friars Society leading to their publication in 1791.  She had run a girls‘ school and continued to publish poems in the Norfolk Chronicle.  She died at the Hospital in 1839 at the age of 72.

Development and finances

Following a decline in the Hospital‘s finances, in 1708 The Mayor‘s Court appointed a Hospital Committee to manage all the charitable hospitals including Doughty‘s, though the Court continued to control admissions and appointments.

In December 1733 transfers between the hospitals began when the Mayoress filled a vacancy with a resident of The Great Hospital.

Francis Blomefield in his "History of Norfolk", written in 1745, noted that by 1742 and in contravention of founder‘s will, the Master was a married man, he and his wife dwelling at the Hospital.

During the second half of the eighteenth century finances improved, allowing the residents‘ pension to rise to 2/6d and six new cottages to be constructed in 1791. The Master received an extra 1 shilling a week and the nurse was allowed 18d a week to employ an assistant due to increased duties.

In 1810 Thomas Cooke of Pentonville bequeathed £6,600 to Doughty‘s;  a much needed windfall since the wars with France had led to rising costs.

Fundamental change in the control and management of Doughty‘s followed, when in November 1833, two of His Majesty‘s Corporation Commissioners arrived in Norwich to take evidence from the Court of the Mayoralty as to the running and finance of the various municipal City charities.  Those investigations led to The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 and to changes in local government. On the 1st August 1836 control of Doughty‘s and the other municipal charities passed into the hands of Trustees appointed by the Lord Chancellor. 

To meet an increased demand for women‘s accommodation, two more cottages were built in 1848.  In 1904 when an advertisement produced no male applicant, the Charity Commissioners agreed to 21 of each sex being admitted but it was not until 1934 that they allowed Doughty‘s original stipulation on the gender of admissions to be entirely disregarded.  In 1868 it was decided to convert two small rooms into one with the addition of an upper storey to maintain the same number of units.  The south side of the quadrangle was removed and the east and west sides were extended, all costing £1,303.12.0d.

Those improvements so depleted the Hospital‘s finances that throughout the 1870‘s vacant cottages were left unoccupied to avoid paying the pensions and other costs. The Trustees sought help from other charities. An advertisement was placed in the parish of St John de Sepulchre and by 1884 four men were accepted to fill vacancies.

A necessary reduction in the land rents to tenants further depleted income.  In 1892 six cottages were reserved for Freemen of the City and their widows.  The Town Close Estate Charity, which belonged to the Freeman, then administered on their behalf by the old City Committee, agreed to pay the alms people‘s maintenance on the basis of a five year average annual cost of £25.

In July 1897 when income was insufficient to pay the 5/6d weekly pensions for the 42 alms people, the Trustees agreed to fill vacancies with deserving poor already receiving a pension of at least 5 shillings a week.

During the period 1900 to 1950 more modernisations took place and a number of other parochial charities and their trustees were further consolidated resulting in greater financial stability and to the Norwich Charities Scheme Confirmation Act of 1910, which led to the formation of Norwich Consolidated Charities.   

The Norwich flood of 1912 caused rain penetration at Doughty‘s and flooding at Cooke‘s cottages.  Another legacy of 1914 enabled further building at the south-east corner of the courtyard and the provision of a reading room on the south side.  In 1922 when a bathroom was installed it was not altogether popular until a few months‘ later when an electric radiator was fitted.

Cooke‘s suffered more war damage than Doughty‘s.  Nurse Thompson was praised in 1941 for dealing promptly with an incendiary bomb falling on the green.  In 1948 each cottage had plumbing installed and other improvements followed.   In 1950 a licence from the Government enabled Doughty‘s reading room to be re-built at the expense of the War Damage Commission.

Cooke‘s and Doughty‘s merge

Cooke‘s Hospital began around the same time as Doughty‘s. Cooke‘s was built on land once owned by the Greyfriars, (where the NFU building now stands at the top of Prince of Wales Road although the Greyfriars covered most of the area between Rose Lane and Prince of Wales Road) passing to the Duke of Norfolk post-Reformation, who sold it to the City.  It then came into the possession of brothers Thomas and Robert Cooke.

In 1881 the Lynn and Fakenham Railway Company acquired the property through which they wanted to build a line.  That enterprise failed but as the cottages were in a perilous state of repair the alms people were moved to a new site in April 1890 at Gildencroft.  In April 1899 the Trustees merged Cooke‘s and Doughty‘s Hospitals.

Cooke‘s pensioners now live at Doughty‘s site in the additional flats that were built to accommodate them.

Entry qualifications

Today‘s residents should be a minimum age of 60 and have lived within the boundaries of the City of Norwich for four years or more at the time of their application and be in financial need. 

The Hospital is owned by Norwich Consolidated Charities and it is governed by 14 Trustees.   The Charity has a governing document (Scheme) which defines who may be supported by the Trustees.  Doughty‘s Hospital is managed by the Matron and her team.

Accommodation and services

There are 58 one bedroom flats where residents can choose to receive a supervisory visit twice daily.  The accommodation can best be described as sheltered housing with care.  There is a team of helpers, cleaners and maintenance staff making the Hospital quite self-contained.  As residents‘ needs change they are met, though Doughty‘s is unable to provide the level of care given in a nursing home and residents must be able to remain alone safely.  Short-term terminal care is provided if it can be managed.

Some residents are entirely independent.  For emergencies, there is a buzzer call system.  A chiropodist visits Doughty‘s and residents can be driven to hospital appointments elsewhere. A maintenance man is on the site to carry out repairs and re-decorating.  A mid-day meal can be provided for those unable to cook for themselves, or for those unable to get shopping, food can be bought for them and the staff will prepare meals from residents‘ own ingredients as required.

Residents can join social events like coffee mornings, take part in exercise classes or pursue a craft or other hobby

The ethos of the hospital is to provide choice and independence. As has been recorded in the visitors‘ book by such visitors as Jeremiah James Colman, there is a general air of cheerfulness and contentment about the Hospital, which remains today.

Sources/Further reading: 

  • Doughty‘s Hospital by Charles Jewson
  • William Doughty 1629(?) - 1688 by Howard John Hunter: L DOU

Kirsty Way

February 2008