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FIFTH SERIES-VOL. V, NO. XVII.
HOSPITAL OF THE BLESSED DAVID,
BY J. BUCKLEY WILSON, ESQ., A.R.I.B.A.
(Read at Swansea, 26th August 1886.)
I HAVE much pleasure in showing you the remains of that which once formed the Hospital of the Blessed David. A copy of the charter of the foundation and endowment of the Hospital by Henry de Gower, Bishop of St. David's in 1332, may be seen at the Royal Institution, Swansea, and is well worthy of the most careful perusal. But while you are here I wish specially to point out what constituted part or parts of the Hospital, and to convince you that these are undoubtedly their remains. I will quote a paragraph from a paper read at the Royal Institution by the late Colonel Grant Francis, F.S.A., in which he begins by saying "that Mr. Dillwyn mentions a tradition that the Hospital had a frontage in Butler Street, otherwise St. Mary Street; and the words of the foundation-charter positively confirm this." He adds, "and I believe I have discovered the very site in the present Cross Keys public house.
"Riding one day into the Castle Inn yard from Cross Street, I observed a gable of some old premises, and the outlines of arches, which struck me as similar in
5TH SER., VOL. V.
character to those in Swansea Castle; but being walled up and thickly coated with white lime, a mason was employed to ascertain whether my impression was correct. On being cleared out we found in a very old and thick wall of native rubble-work, one double and one single trifoliated arch of the early part of the fourteenth century, of the same form and Sutton stone as some of those inserted by De Gower beneath the parapets of Swansea Castle."
Possibly many here will remember these words actually delivered. Now, in my opinion, the fourteenth century windows peculiar to De Gower are those of the infirmorium, or sick chamber.
Remains of the Hospital
of the Blessed David
In front, facing St. Mary Street, and running horizontally, east and west, was, I believe, the Hospital chapel. The charter relates that "the said master or warden of the said Hospital, and the chaplains for the time being, and the other poor persons dwelling therein,
as aforesaid, do celebrate (services) for the soul of our late Lord David, Bishop of St. David's," etc.
Upon examining the roof of this infirmorium, and removing a plaster-partition gaudily papered, I have discovered some early fourteenth century oak principals. They have the simple chamfer, the flat purlins, and notched ridge, the shoulders of collars being tenoned and secured by as many as four oak pins. The workmanship is rough, as all carpentry was at that period.
The part I believe to be the chapel has a similarly constructed roof; but the principals are not in such good order, the reason being that it is floored so high that there is hardly sufficient room for headway under the collars; consequently they have been cut away or scooped out, this room being used for a sleeping compartment in a common lodging-house.
The work has been much mutilated, but after taking away the present floor, to any one standing upon the original floor, the proportion and simplicity of the design of the roof, together with the massive masonry and deeply recessed windows, would have an appearance of grandeur and solidity.
The main buildings comprised in the plan of the Hospital of the Blessed David appear to have been an irregular quadrangle enclosing two garths, a brewhouse and kitchen, with domestic offices. Of the two garths, one was probably used as a kitchen or herb-garden for the laity; the other was set apart for the priests. The old fig-tree at present in the garden is most likely a scion of an older one, although these trees often attain a great age.
As I have said, the southern side of the present buildings appears to be occupied by the chapel and infirmorium already described, with offices under. At the south-west corner would most likely be the warden's and priests' lodgings; and in the building beyond, on the west side, I should place the refectory, it evidently having been open to the roof, a portion of which
is still existing, as in the other portion of the buildings. Under this, probably, would be the calefactory or general meeting room for talk, etc. To the northern side would be the kitchen. The brewhouse still retains traces of the flue. One of the flues (approximately the kitchen) is lined with flat stones. These are easily seen. A portion of a square shaft, having every appearance of a hoist, still remains.
Plan showing the Position of the Buildings comprising the Hospital of the
I have traced now, with you, the undoubted outline of this very important semi-monastic establishment. I hope, if enabled to continue my researches, to trace the remains of still further buildings. There would appear to have been an entrance from the west side to the large garth; and near this is an aperture in the wall, which might be the buttery or serving window for giving out the doles, etc.
When Bishop Henry de Gower built the Hospital, in