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The Great Hospital, Norwich

The Great Hospital at Norwich was founded in 1249 by Bishop Walter de Suffield, who paid for much of the building’s original construction. Though not the largest early English hospital, the Great Hospital was quite substantial and representative of other medieval hospitals at the time. It was expanded in the 1300s, with much of the work paid for by donations, gifts and exchanges of land. The care provided at the Great Hospital was very religious in nature.

The Mass lay at the heart of hospital life, and took place in full view of the bedridden patient. The Mass was intended to comfort the sick, but also promised a cure. Spiritual medicine at this time was regarded as an effective treatment of disease. Nonetheless, patrons ensured that patients enjoyed bed rest in warm and relatively clean surroundings. Patients were also supplied with a regular supply of fresh food, often grown and cooked on the premises.

Today the hospital continues to provide a home to a number of elderly residents who enjoy sheltered accommodation and support.

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Bibliography

C Rawcliffe, Medicine for the Soul: the Life, Death and Resurrection of an English Medieval Hospital (Stroud: Sutton, 1999)

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