Browne’s Hospital is a Medieval almshouse. The word ‘Hospital’ had a very different meaning in the Middle Ages and was a place offering hospitality. Many provided care for the elderly or infirm, rather than medical treatment.
Browne’s Hospital dates from 1485 and was founded by William Browne, a wealthy Stamford wool merchant, who endowed it with property and agricultural land.
It provided a home for ten poor men and two poor women, who were too old to work. They were looked after by a Warden and Confrator, who were non-monastic priests. The inmates had to attend chapel twice daily where masses for the soul of William Browne. On Sundays’ they attended nearby All Saints’ Church.
Browne’s Hospital is an attractive pale stone building on Broad street with the chantry chapel at one end and a long common room, which was the original living quarters for the residents. Above this are the audit room where all business was conducted, and the confrator’s rooms.
Steps lead up to the entrance with a cupola bell tower above. The statue above the door is of William Browne. The heavy wooden doors had a massive lock as well as bolts.
Inside the doorway, a stone staircase on the right leads up to the audit and confrator’s rooms. A long vaulted passageway leads down the side of the cloister gardens.
Victorian cottages round two sides of the gardens replaced the communal common room living quarters.They now providing accommodation for thirteen residents although there is no longer a Warden or Confrator living on site.
Browne’s Hospital is a short walk from the centre of the town. There is on road parking outside and the post code is PE9 1PF. It is open Saturdays July-September when the common room, chapel, staircase, audit room and Confrator’s room can be visited. Alternatively it is possible to ring to arrange a pre-booked tour.
Although it wasn’t open the day I visited, one of the resident’s was coming out of the door and kindly said I could go inside to look at the cloister gardens and alms cottages.