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The Lord Leycester Hospital (often known simply as the Lord Leycester) is one of the best preserved examples of medieval courtyard architecture in England and is a charity supporting ex-servicemen. It is located in Warwick, England, next to the West Gate, on High Street. It is a Grade I listed building.[1] The Hospital is a prominent and internationally famous feature of Warwick. For almost 900 years buildings have been erected and civic activity has taken place on the site, starting with the chapel built in 1126. The site was donated by the 12th Earl of Warwick in the 14th century to the United Guild of the Holy Trinity and St George. The Guild Hall, Great Hall and Master's House were constructed in the late 15th century. Over the centuries, the ancient buildings and 500 year old gardens have been admired by many famous visitors such as Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde, by Kings and Queens, such as King George V[2] and the Queen Mother[3] and ordinary travelers from around the world.[2]

Lord Leycester Hospital
Native name Chapel of St. James the Great
Lord Leycester Hospital -Warwick3.jpg
Lord Leycester Hospital
LocationWarwick, Warwickshire, England
Coordinates52°16′47.05″N 1°35′27.62″W / 52.2797361°N 1.5910056°W / 52.2797361; -1.5910056Coordinates: 52°16′47.05″N 1°35′27.62″W / 52.2797361°N 1.5910056°W / 52.2797361; -1.5910056
Founded1571 by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Builtfrom 1126 to the late 15th century
Built forThe United Guilds of Warwick
Architectural style(s)Medieval courtyard architecture
Governing bodyThe Lord Leycester Hospital (charity)
Listed Building – Grade I
Lord Leycester Hospital is located in Warwickshire
Lord Leycester Hospital
Location of Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwickshire


Courtyard of the Hospital

The Chapel of St. James the GreatEdit

The Chapel of St James was built over the West Gate of Warwick in 1126 by Roger de Newburgh, 2nd Norman Earl of Warwick. In the late 14th century, it was rebuilt by the 12th Earl of Warwick. He granted the benefice of the Chapel in 1386 to the Guild of St George, a guild created on 20 April 1383 under licence from King Richard II. The Guild of the Holy Trinity and the Guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary joined them to form the United Guilds of Warwick.[4] Living quarters and public rooms were added to the chapel. These form the courtyard of the Lord Leycester that we see today.[4] The chapel was extensively restored by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1860. The story goes that a representative of his was called from dinner by worried townspeople who thought the chapel may fall down into the High Street. This included the addition of the flying buttresses which today skirt the chapel.[4]

The carvings, notably the bear and ragged staff (or "baculus") and the two-tailed lion from the Dudley family coat of arms, illustrate the renowned craftsmanship in wood of Warwick men. The fine stained glass in the eastern window is the work of the Birmingham firm of Clayton & Bell. Above the south door is a gem of a window by William Morris who also designed the hangings around the altar. Every weekday morning (except Mondays) the Master and Brethren gather for prayers in exactly the same wording directed by Robert Dudley almost 450 years before.[5]

The GuildhallEdit

The Guildhall was built in 1450 by the 16th Earl of Warwick.[6]

The 1571 Leicester Hospital Act, licensing the Earl of Leicester to found a hospital in Warwick[7]

The United Guilds were dispersed by King Henry VIII in 1546.[4] However, their property had already been transferred to the Burgesses of Warwick by Thomas Oken, Master of the Guilds. The burgesses used the property for meetings and for teaching as, what is now, Warwick School.[8] The 1st Earl of Leicester acquired the buildings in 1571, founding therein a hospital for aged or injured soldiers and their wives, under royal charter from Queen Elizabeth I, run by 12 resident "Brethren" (originally soldiers) under the charge of a "Master", and funded from the income of various estates.[4]

In 1956 the Corporation of the Master and Brethren of the Hospital was abolished by Act of Parliament and replaced with a board of Governors. On 3 November 1966 a restored Hospital with modernised quarters was opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother,[9] and today the Hospital is run by the Master, a retired officer of the Armed Forces. Eight ex-servicemen and their wives are provided with flats in return for their past services: they act as guides for visitors.[10] The Hospital is funded by visitor income, the original estates having been sold over the years.[10] Heidi Meyer, the first woman to hold the office, was installed as Master in November 2017.[10]

Egyptian Urn

Other historical notes of interest include the fact that the Grade I listed stone urn in the Master's Garden is 2,000 years old and was originally part of an Egyptian nilometer.[11] The Museum of the Queen's Own Hussars formed part of the collections of the hospital until it closed in 2016.[12]

The BrethrenEdit

The soldiers living within the walls of the medieval building are known as the Brethren. The Master and the Brethren share a legacy of almost 450 years of history. They meet in the Chapel every day to pray together the words written by their founder the 1st Earl of Leicester. They are dressed in ceremonial uniforms and give tours through the buildings and gardens to the visitors.[13] The public cafe based in the hospital is named The Brethren's Kitchen.[14]

Television appearancesEdit

The building has been used in many historical-set television productions including Pride and Prejudice,[15] Tom Jones,[15] Moll Flanders,[15] Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators,[16] A Christmas Carol[17] and the 2007 Doctor Who episode The Shakespeare Code.[18]


  1. ^ Historic England. "Hospital built for the United Guilds of Warwick from the early 12th century and transformed into the Hospital that it remains today by Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester in 1571 (1035441)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b Lord Leycester Hospital Guest Book.
  3. ^ Photograph of a Brother meeting the Queen Mother.
  4. ^ a b c d e "History". Lord Leycester Hospital. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  5. ^ Dudley, Robert (1840). The Ordinance, Statutes and Rules.
  6. ^ Fisher, Stuart (2015). "The Canals of Britain: The Comprehensive Guide". Adlard Coles. ISBN 978-1472918529.
  7. ^ "1571 Leicester Hospital Act". UK Parliament. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  8. ^ "History". Warwick School. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Get inside Warwick's secret historic film set". BBC Coventry and Warwickshire. Retrieved 26 July 2005.
  10. ^ a b c "Caring for warriors". Church Times. 17 November 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  11. ^ Historic England. "Egyptian urn in the garden of Lord Leicester's Hospital (1364812)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  12. ^ "Queen's Own Hussars Museum". Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Visit Warwick's Medieval Gem". The Lord Leycester Hospital.
  14. ^ "Brethren's Kitchen". Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  15. ^ a b c "Get inside Warwick's secret historic film set". BBC. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  16. ^ "Shakespeare and Hathaway BBC Drama stars Mark Benton and Jo Joyner". Farm Cottages. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Here's a look at what the BBC is filming at Warwick's Lord Leycester Hospital". Warwick Courier. 6 June 2019. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  18. ^ "Lord Leycester Hospital". Dr Who Locations. Retrieved 5 June 2018.

External linksEdit